Sunday, August 18, 2013

Iceland - Eldborg Crater

August 4, 2013

Distance: 4 miles
Time: 2.5 hours
Year to date miles: 178.8

Directions: Road 54, 38 km north of Borgarnes (north of Reykjavik)

Map: None really needed. The trail is pretty obvious, and the crater almost always in site.

Parking: Plenty of parking at farm/lodging near crater.
N64 46.442 W22 18.124

More info:

Restrooms: We saw a sign for them near the parking area. In Iceland, we tended to see "WC" used to indicate restrooms. This hike had plenty of bushes though (one of the few hikes that did) - so easy to find a spot to go outside.

Directions: From the parking area, cross a bridge, and see a sign for the trail on the right. The trail follows a stream at first, and when it gets closer to the crater, turns left towards the crater. The trail is level until you reach the crater, where it is steep, but very easily doable.

This was a short hike, very good for our first day when we were tired.

Lodging before: Keflavik Airport hotel
Lodging after: Hotel Egilsen, Stykkisholmur

August 3rd:

We flew out of Boston instead of NY - related to where we board our dogs, and that NY no longer had any direct flights by the time we booked our tickets. We exchanged some money to Icelandic Kronur right at Logan airport, so we wouldn't need to after we arrived. We ended up using our credit card for 95% of our purchases in Iceland though. To get a very rough estimate of how much things cost - we'd take the Icelandic price in Kronur, and move the decimal two digits to the right.
e.g. when they ask for 21,000 Kronur, think $210. Certainly not exact, but was a good way to do just a very rough estimate.

We flew to Iceland on Saturday, opting for a daytime flight, since I am unable to sleep on a plane. The flight took about 5 hours from Boston, which is shorter than flying to California. We arrived in Iceland at 11:30pm. It was still light out. At the airport, there were various hotel representatives waiting to pick up people who were staying with them. Our hotel shuttle bus was quite late. We must have waited for an hour. We had arranged a phone rental, but we didn't have a phone yet, so we couldn't call them. We found a pay phone, but it takes a phone card (no coins/credit cards), and there was no sign of how to get a phone card. Ack. Eventually the shuttle van showed up, and drove us the 10 minutes or so to the Keflavik Airport hotel. The hotel is a budget hotel (everything in Iceland is expensive, so we tried to cut expenses where possible) - reminding me of a Motel 6. The room was a bit noisy, as there were still some planes flying close overhead after we went to bed. But, it was large, and we had our own bathroom (both not always common in Iceland).

August 4th:

We woke up in at Keflavik Airport hotel, both tired, trying to adjust to the new time zone. We stuck to waking up at 8am every day in Iceland - to try to get ourselves used to the different time zone and the crazy long daylight hours. There is a 4 hour time difference between Iceland and NY. We had a free buffet breakfast at the hotel. It worked well for me, Glen had bread and jam. Iceland isn't geared for vegans. Typical breakfast we were served everywhere - coffee, juice, bread, jam, rye crackers, cheese, meat slices, yogurt, muesli, banana slices (still in the skin), orange slices. We got our rental car at the hotel (the rental car being the most expensive part of the trip). We opted for a Corolla. We bought gravel protection insurance & rented a GPS. More on the car later.

Off to Reykjavik and picked up some items we rented through Icelandic Camping Equipment. Sleeping bags for the hostels/cabin we are staying in, a cell phone, and a wifi hotspot. We never used the phone, but the sleeping bags and wifi hotspot worked out great! We stopped off at a gas station and picked up fuel for our Jetboil backpacking stove. Many gas stations have fuel canisters, since backpacking is so common here. Since I can't experiment with weird Icelandic food (rotten shark, rams testicles, sheep heads, blood pudding, puffin, horse, whale), I decided I'll have to experiment with Icelandic chocolate/candy. So today's experiment was chocolate covered black licorice liquid. It isn't as bad as it sounds. And we got to see the Viking ship statue next to the ocean (it is a common photo you see for Iceland). The city was not to exciting - most of the houses look like they are made of concrete. I was happy to leave and start our adventure.

Just outside the city, you start getting views of huge mountains. Beautiful! It seems like a flat country, except for huge steep mountains. The sides of many of them look like pure scree. There is so much land here. Fields with Icelandic ponies & sheep. We took the Ring Road (Route 1) north. It went under a long tunnel under the ocean - much longer than the tunnel in Baltimore that we sometimes drive in. We stopped in Borganes to try out a grocery store - Bonus. They did have a selection of veggies, but it is so small compared to a US grocery store. It makes me feel spoiled. We have so much produce at home, and so much variety. Here they had canned strawberries. We bought oranges, rolls, cookies, water.

After our grocery store stop, we finally got to go hiking! What we came here to do! We did a short hike (maybe 2-3 hours) up the Eldborg crater. It is a caldera, that you can hike up, and look down into. You can't climb into it - way too steep. So awesome!!! The weather was frigid today. It got up to 55 degrees, but the wind here is brutal. I was wearing fleece hat, base layer, fleece layer, thin outer layer, hiking pants, rain pants, neck warmer, gloves. Brrrr. It got better once we were moving. The wind was so strong, we would lose our balance.

As we drove, we make up our own names for the towns we pass. The Iceland language is difficult to learn, and difficult to figure out how to pronounce. So, Stykkisholmur became "stickish."

After our hike, we headed to our guesthouse in Stykkisholmur. We had our own bathroom (not so common here), but the room was tiny and expensive. We also found it very noisy, since it is right on the main road in town, and there are a lot of people out on the street at night. There are 3 restaurants here, none have food that Glen can eat. So we drove to a spot next to a lake, and set up our backpacking stove. We had to use Glen's backpack as a screen, because it was so windy it would just blow out. This was a new purchase for us - since we don't backpack. But I am so glad we got it! I just don't think there is much restaurant food we can eat. We cooked dehydrated pea soup, and ramen noodles. Then ran back into the car to eat it, because it was too frigid outside!

After dinner, we returned to Stykkisholmur and took a walk onto a cliff above the harbor after dinner. Bed time now, but still very light out!

Famous Viking ship statue in Reykjavik, very close to the camping supply company.

View of the mountains from Reykjavik - I'm guessing this is Mt Esja.

My first experiment in candy - chocolate covered licorice.

Wait - is that a guard rail? These are pretty non-existent in Iceland!

Sign at the parking area. We really had very few issues reading signs here.
WC = water closet/restroom, P = parking, person = hiking trail. Easy!

Very windy - Glen's pants flapping in the wind.

Parking area. The road in Iceland are usually marked by these plastic yellow markers.
I'm guessing they help you find the edge of the road when it is snow covered.
A necessity since most roads have drop offs, and no guard rails.

Start of trail.

Map showing the trail. Almost all of the  tourist signs we saw had both Icelandic and English text.

Glen's first rock picture. First hiking day - lava was rather new to us. Hahahahaha
So, lava is everywhere here. At first it was super novel.

More lava excitement....

This hike had areas with bushes. Lots of vegetation compared to a lot of areas.

Starting the hike up Eldborg. There are smaller craters next to it.

The trail gets steep, but has chain ropes to help you keep your balance. What we noticed in Iceland is
that there are many, many mountains. Wherever you are you can see mountains. However, many are not hikeable
because of the steep sides & scree.

On top of Eldborg

Super windy - so much that it was easy to lose your balance. The caldera is steep.
Not standing too close to the edge.

Inside - lava, moss covered lava


Glen - maintaining balance in the wind

View of smaller caldera next to it. Not very deep inside. You can see a couple people on the trail for perspective.

This is what I mean by Iceland being flat....basically small flat lava covered land with short vegetation.

Smaller caldera.

We drove further south again to a roadside pull off with a view, and tried out our Jetboil stove for the first time.
Very, very windy, so we had to use the backpack as a screen to get it lit.

Common dinner for us here - ramen noodles.

View from the parking lot

And here is where we headed - Stykkisholmur. We were interested in doing some hiking around
Snaefellsjokull, where we had found an online resource for pre-planned hikes. If we were to do it again,
I would have tried to stay in Grundarfjordur.

Harbor in Stykkisholmur. We walked along the road to the right, and did a short hike up to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse - very windy up here too.

The sun still quite high, even though it was late.

View of this quaint city.




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