Snaefjallaströnd Circuit (Iceland)
On the Westfjords there is Hornstrandir, a deserted region of Iceland, which offers excellent conditions for hikes away from the tourist areas. It can be reached with a boat from Isarfjordur. Some hiking routes can be researched in advance in the Tourist Information of this town. However, paths are little marked or not at all, which is why a GPS or compass and a topographic map are indispensable. The boat trips are seasonal. If these don’t cross due to it being the end of the season, there is an alternative route, such as the Snaefjallaströnd Circuit, on the smaller peninsula, which can be reached by car.
On this trek I am accompanied by Miko, a muscular hitchhiker from Poland. Yesterday, a wiry gray-haired Icelander warned us that the winter was coming and that this was not the ideal time for a hike. “Winter is coming” … The motto of the house of Stark from Game of Thrones fits perfectly into this barren landscape and lets me immerse myself in a fantasy world. The first part leads along the disused telephone masts over a rough meadow. A varied, uphill half an hour later, the earthy ground gives way to a rocky surface. Green moss and white snow stains, accompanied by creeks, complete the scenery which I had already encountered on other hikes in Iceland.
After 2.5 hours we reach the top and can look to the other side of the fjord. Exceedingly, a glacier sits on my right and seems to merge with the sky because of its white-gray color. The next piece is made of a white, fairly steep ice field. Miko gives me a questioning look when I step onto it, sit down and push myself off, an exciting, though slightly painful, experience, as I realize too late that there are some small creases in the ice. As the world finally stops blurring, we continue the path.
On the horizon three tiny buildings appear on the edge of the fjord. The clouds have now gained the upper hand and yet a single sunbeam passes through and paints a small bright circle directly on the white houses in front of the huge watercourse. A deep cloud floats directly above them – an impressive sight. We take a shortcut to the left over the hill chain instead of following the way that leads down the beach. When we find ourselves in a deadend on a steep precipice, we correct the decision made. The beach path is easier. We pass apparently abandoned buildings and decide to camp on a river. On one side there is a survey which seems to be made especially for that, as it saves us from the worst wind. With drippy shoes and socks, I immediately return to my tent, which I pitched on a slightly uneven ground.
The day begins with the sun waking me. After yesterday’s rain, I did not expect this kind of nice weather. However, my good mood disappears a short time later, when I realize that a zipper from my tent is broken. The result is an insufficient weather protection, so I decide to make it the whole way to our destination.
We pack our stuff together and reach an abandoned village an hour later. The first glances fall on a house and a church with a lonely cross in front. In the background, the waves are whirled to the beach, on the left a mountain rises, which we must overcome. At this point we walk separately for some time as I shorten the trail and find an old gondola stretching over the 3-meter-wide river. The steel ropes still seem to be in order, so I pull the vehicle to me and get in. I pull on one of the ropes and find myself a short time later with dry feet on the other side.
On the other is a grass section with knee-deep furrows, overgrown with grass, which has to be conquered before a recognizable path appears on the north side of the mountain. The taste of the blueberries growing here brightens the mood. At the top, we are guided by clearly visible stone piles. On our right the mountain descends steeply into the sea. Thanks to the good weather, this offers an impressive view of the other side of the fjord.
An hour later the rock lies behind us and we go down to the sea. The salt water has retreated so far that we can move on the wet sand without any problems. Accompanied by the sunshine, we can see on our right side some seals observing us. After their curiosity is quenched, they disappear quickly with an audible splashing under water. On our left is a mountain landscape. Steep basalt towers form the top part, and every 100 meters waterfalls of varying width, length and strength appear.
It is late afternoon, when the path is crossed by something white, running at a fast pace. We are just able to identify the arctic fox before it has already disappeared. A few minutes later I glance towards the sea. Surprisingly, we can spot there the small white creature again, surrounded by the algae rinsed on the shore, and apparently looking for food. We leave this scene after some photos behind us and follow the path that has been overgrown by the scrub.
Around 7 pm and after 9 hours of hiking, we see the first buildings from the place where I parked Leo, the van that I live in. Exhausted, I wash myself briefly in the nearby cold river, prepare a small dinner and disappear for the night in my bed.