Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I've had the good fortune to visit a lot of beautiful places. Thórsmörk in Iceland might just be my #1. I like bold, rugged scenery. Greens and blacks. I like to feel overwhelmed by nature and to lose all sense of scale. Thórsmörk was perfect for all of this.
Thórsmörk/The Forest of Thor is an area in southern Iceland enclosed by three glaciers: Tindfjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull. If you were alive in 2010, you may recall Eyjafjallajökull and its ash-spewing, airplane-halting eruption. (I have learned to pronounce the word correctly - test me next time we meet!)
Driving into Thórsmörk valley can only be done in a serious off-road vehicle. There were sizable glacial rivers to ford, and we hung on tightly while the van bumped over banks of sediment left from previous floods. During our one hour plus drive in, we only saw two other vehicles, both driven by very beard-y men dressed in woolen jumpers who were searching for a wayward dog. I wonder if they found that dog out there in all that space...
By chance, it was my day to ride in the front seat of the van so I had the pleasure of the perfect view across the landscape. It was the colour contrast that struck me most. The ground surface is black, fine sediment and pebbles deposited by the volcano. Braided rivers meander across the valley floor and on this day, they were reflecting the orange-pink sky. Colossal blocks of black rock tumble and jumble along the horizon, their texture highlighted by dense green moss. Finally, at the perfect level to dazzle your eyes, the three glaciers blaze in brilliant white against the black mountains.
Naturally, my photos don't do the place justice. I couldn't capture the scale or the colours.
The night we spent at the Götaland Basar Hut was a little rough but in the morning, we were faced by this view which we'd missed by arriving after dusk the night before. Apart from a couple of huts and picnic tables, there is no other sign of human interference in this valley.
Finally, we took what ended up being my favourite hike of the trip (and not just because it was flat!). We went all the way back into one of the hundreds of canyons. This felt like a real adventure! We had to figure out our own way across the creeks, and we could venture into any of the small caves and side-canyons.
At the very back of this canyon was a cave:
and a waterfall of melt-water from the glacier:
The word 'awesome' is very much overused but, for me, Thórsmörk is truly awesome.