What It’s REALLY Like to (Almost) Walk Iceland’s Ring Road, Twice

Do you want to know what it’s like to hike around Iceland’s ring road, twice? The 1,332 km road that everyone loves to drive (or cycle!) through to get to Iceland’s most popular tourists destinations? Well, I couldn’t tell you – because I didn’t. (Although I walked enough of it to know it would’ve been a boring feat…)

But I did spend last summer walking a continuous route of more than 2,500 kilometres all over the country, meandering around the ring road, in and out of the highlands. This ended up being the rough equivalent of walking the ring road, twice. Yes, a pretty crazy adventure, but perhaps you are planning something similar to this, so I figured I can tell you at least a little more about my experiences!

First a few fun facts:
Start date + point: 31 May 2017, Vatnaleið bus stop (Snaefellsnes Peninsula)
Finish date + point: 10 September 2017, Goðafoss
Total km / mi walked: 2,532 km / 1,573 mi
Total days: 103
Walking days: 86
Zero days: 17 (Of which, Rest/Resupply days: 10, Sitting out bad weather: 4, Waiting for packages: 3)
Average km / mi per day: 29.5 km / 18.3 mi
Days slept in tent: 101 (Home: 1, Mountain hut: 1)
Days wild camped: 46
Total showers: 23
Longest time without shower: 12 days
People spoken to: ~ 10
River crossings: ~ 40

Allover, my hike proved a fair adventure through endless fields of rock and desolate landscapes divulging into black ash mountains covered in grey moss. It took me 3.5 months to cover the distance and it was somewhat of an insanely lonesome but crazy exploration.

I know quite a few people would be interested in doing some extended hiking in Iceland, so in addition to my journal blogs, I thought I’d put together a Q&A post to answer what’s it really like to walk 2,500 km around a country that is notorious for being icy cold and always wet… So let’s find out!

The route I followed, starting west in Snaefellsnes Peninsula and ending north at GoðafossThe route I followed, starting west in Snaefellsnes Peninsula and ending north at Goðafoss. I plan to update this picture with a much more detailed one!

• Why in the world did you decide to walk some crazy distance around Iceland?
• So what was the plan?
• What made it all worth it?
• What was the toughest part?
• Describe a typical day on the road?
• What did you do about food and water every day?
• How did you possibly stay warm?
• Being in the wild all the time, how did you stay clean?
• Okay, so what’s it like to be dirty all the time?
• So what about Iceland’s famous otherworldly landscape?
• Would you recommend a long distance hiking trail in Iceland?
• Is Iceland safe for a solo female hiker?
• What about the practical side of things: how did you deal with your phone / charging batteries / finding routes / GPS / PLB?
• Apart from the landscape and weather, how would you compare your experiences in Iceland vs Tasmania?
• Would you hike Iceland again if you knew what it was going to be like?
• I hear you had a mantra to get you through difficult sections? Share!
• Describe your trip in a few words!

Picking wild blueberries in the East Fjords.

Why in the world did you decide to walk some crazy distance around Iceland?

My first long distance hike was when I walked around Tasmania, following the coastline as much as possible. It was a huge adventure – walking around with my life strapped to my back, I was terrified of my own shadow and camping in the wild was completely new to me. But afterwards, I wanted more of it. I figured Iceland, being another small island, would be a great second adventure. I knew the weather would be a challenge, but I was totally up for it!

Yes, definitely a crazy adventure…

So what was the plan?

This time I wanted to approach it a little differently. Instead of following the coast line, I wanted to explore Iceland’s most impressive landscape, which is inland, in the highlands. I stumbled upon this concept presentation for a long distance hiking trail in Iceland, linking popular tourist sights and existing hiking trails. So I took this idea and created a plan for myself, figuring out a suitable route by researching local hiking maps I found online. It took a lot of planning and I went all geeky and created an excel sheet with resupply points, possible campsites and any other information I might need along the way. Next I got myself four-season rated gear and was finally ready to go.

I’d planned a 4.5 month route, but I knew there was a chance I wasn’t going to be able to complete all of it – the weather conditions were a major unknown, so I was ready to make changes along the way. After the first week on the road (I started at the end of May), I experienced such cold conditions that I knew I could never hike outside of the ‘warm’ summer months! I adjusted my route as I went and cut out some extended boring sections. I thought of turning the trip into a ‘West to East’ journey, but in the end I kept on going and finished the hike at Goðafoss in the north. It was mid September by then, and I had hiked 3.5 months.

I finished not a moment too soon. Those final days the temperatures dropped significantly and hiking was extremely taxing in the cold (especially for someone who runs very cold as a person.) At night the temperatures dropped below freezing – it was so cold I couldn’t fall asleep!

You have to visit Iceland to see something like this!

What made it all worth it?

The views!

Now and again I would hit views that were simply mind-blowing. It looked like someone had taken a paintbrush and filled in the skies in front of me. That I loved. I got mesmerising views on trails in Landmannamaugar, Lónsöræfi, Lakagígar, the East Fjords and Askja. I loved those moments.

Wild blueberries

Finding and eating wild blueberries was a tiny but lovely part of the trip. Small pleasures! Once I hit the East Fjords I walked past endless fields of them. They were tasty and huge and made me a happy hiker. I just wished I had all day to stay put and pick them!

Facing the challenge alone

Looking back, I also consider the loneliness a good experience. Being alone and simply surviving! Forging my own way across the country and making it through. It was a huge challenge to do without any backup or help from outside, but I managed through the storms and the hunger and the cold. It was tough at the time, but who gets to spend more than 3 months being almost completely on your own, without distractions from people around you or dealing with societal expectations? I’d say that’s a pretty valuable experience.

Alone in a raging storm, but HERE.

What was the toughest part?

Weather conditions

There were a number of tough aspects. First there was the the persistently bad weather. I had a lot of rain and was often wet. It would rain all day and nights would be cold and damp, so all my gear would still be wet in the morning. My feet were constantly wet due to river crossings, rain and walking through wet grass.

I got stuck in a storm in the mountains several times. Thick fog, howling wind and rain. I had to stay in my tent, hoping I wouldn’t get blown away or my tent would get destroyed by the gusts. Some days I hiked in wind that was so strong that I got literally blown off my feet. I had to forego a hiking trail once because it was just too dangerous to sidle along the steep slopes with the wind blowing that much.

On top of that, there were nights it was so cold that I couldn’t even sleep. And this was summer! The weather conditions were certainly demoralising and a huge factor to consider for anyone planning an extended trip out there – it’s not such a big deal when planning a short trip, but it gets more and more difficult to cope with in the long run.

Road walking was a pain

Soon after I began my trip, I was faced with extremely monotonous road walking sections with unchanging scenery for days. It made me question the reason I was out here for. It was a tiring and dull exercise. Then there were the busier roads, like the ring road, where I’d have to deal with other road users. I hated cars that don’t give space to anyone slower than them, and find the drivers’ arrogance infuriating. Often there was little shoulder to speak of, and walking in the lumpy grass or post-holing the gravelly horse tracks was a painfully frustrating and slow alternative.

Hunger

It wasn’t long before I realised I wasn’t eating to satiate myself anymore – I was only able to carry an amount of food that would silence the worst hunger pains, but I remained hungry at all times. Unfortunately, this was due to the distinct lack of supermarkets. It’s fine when you have a car, but as I was walking in and out of the highlands (with all the supermarkets dotted around the ring road), I sometimes found myself hauling two weeks worth of food. And that’s a lot!

Loneliness

I’m sure I can count the conversations I had with real people (as opposed to the conversations I had in my head…) during those months on two hands. I really enjoy being on my own, but woah this was a different thing altogether. I found myself at some busier campsites staring eagerly at groups of friends from a distance, wishing I had someone to talk to. It was a pathetically lonely journey.

Iceland in summer: hiking solo, it’s cold and windy and watch me wear bin bags around my feet to keep them dry and warm despite all the rain and river crossings.

Describe a typical day on the road?

Pre-hike

In Tasmania I always rose with the sun, waking up by 6 and moving around 7.30 or 8. In Iceland I quickly adopted a very different approach. When I arrived I had 24 hour daylight, and with a lack of official campsites, I was often looking for spots to wild camp. I was too scared to set up camp too early in case anyone would spot me, so I began to start my days late, often leaving after 10am, and a couple of times even after 2 in the afternoon. This meant that the roads were less busy by the time I called it a day and tried to camouflage my tent behind a big rock.

Ultimately, these late starts kind of stuck, even when the evenings began to grow dark and I secretly wished I could get myself to get up earlier. But even if I did, I found myself huddling in my sleeping bag, blocking out the morning cold and sneakily reading a book instead of leaving. I only got up early for the popular hiking trails, to avoid the trails getting too crowded.

When I did get up, I would eat some breakfast (never enough…), prepare a bottle with water and coffee / chocolate milk mix and break camp. Then I’d walk.

Hike

Once I started walking, I usually wouldn’t stop. I mostly don’t sit down to break either, so I usually just snack along the way. This was quite convenient in Iceland, as it was always cold and wet, so sitting down for lunch or snacks wouldn’t have been very practical or enjoyable.

I’d sometimes listen to music while I was walking boring road sections. It was always a gamble to know where the next campsite with charging points would be, so I had to ration the power on my phone and battery pack. If the scenery was good, I’d leave the music. I have to say I’m not a big music person and I did get pretty bored of my playlist, but then again, sometimes the one song would get me through a difficult day and push me further along, I loved it when a song was able to power me up!

On average I’d walk 30km a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I gave myself complete freedom in how much I felt like walking. Sometimes I’d crave a short day, and I’d stop early. Sometimes I felt like I could walk forever and go on and on. So I’d do whatever I felt like on the day, as long as I knew I had enough food to get to the next resupply point, and some extra in case I had to wait out a storm.

I’m not like some long distance hikers who will walk dusk to dawn and are able to do 50km+ a day. I wish I could (I wouldn’t have to carry so much food!) but I don’t enjoy being out for that long, plus my body simply gets too tired! I like to relax and sit in my tent for some time every day, and read a book. Not just walk and sleep.

Post-hike

Once I’d done enough mileage for the day, I would find a campsite. A paid one in town or a stealthier site somewhere hidden from plain view! Finding wild camping spots was quite tricky at first – the landscape is so vast so hiding a tent isn’t always easy. But in time I got less worried about people spotting my tent, and began to recognise landscapes that would usually house a decent place to hide.

After erecting my tent I’d make dinner whilst staying warm in my sleeping bag. Luckily I don’t have a stove so there is no need to go outside in the cold to cook, it always looks way too miserable to me. Instead, I wear my camp clothes and get cosy. I eat, read my kindle for way too long and then sleep.

Zero days

Now and again I’d have a zero day in town. Technically a rest day, but in practice they are usually action-packed: uploading hundreds of pictures, organising my resupply and putting everything into little ziplock bags, writing emails, messages and updating Facebook and Instagram, laundry, shower, eating (!!) and the like. Never as relaxing as I want them to be!

Hiking in Lónsöræfi.

What did you do about food and water every day?

One of the things people always ask me about is where I found water and food. It’s true – it’s not so straight forward. Supermarkets are far and few between, and if you are on foot and walking a continuous route (and don’t except hitchhikes ever) you are going to struggle to get to supermarkets regularly.

Water

Let me deal with the easy part first, cause finding water is no problem! Except for the silty water found in a few selected areas, such as along the Askja trail, all the water in Iceland is drinkable. There are streams everywhere and they are safe to drink from. I’d always filter the water through my Sawyer filter though, which is easy to use (you never know if an animal was just pooping in the water upstream!) Once I even took water from a rainwater puddle. It had just rained and I simply had no choice, but it was fresh and fine. There were only a few days where I had to carry water for more than a day because there was no water source along the way.

Besides drinking water, I’d always prepare a small bottle with an instant coffee and chocolate milk mixture. I never drank enough water during the day, but I’d always drink this!

Fetching water right from the source!

Food

Food was my main concern. First of, I never ate out if I was in a town. It was simply too expensive, and paying such a premium price for just a warm, average meal really wasn’t worth it to me. I only ate at a cafe a few times during my trip.

With the limited supermarket options in Iceland, my schedule included all the possible resupply stops. It proved invaluable! I knew exactly how many days I would need to resupply for before hitting the next supermarket (plus a buffer in case I got stuck in bad weather, which happened a lot!) This did mean my route kept looping back to the ring road, because there are no shops (or people) in Iceland’s interior, the highlands. Luckily I never had to hitchhike or take a bus to and from a supermarket, but I always carried between one and two weeks worth of food. And that’s a lot!

It took some time to figure out what worked best. I’m stoveless, so at times I had to get creative. With weight and space saved on cooking equipment, I substitute for some heavier, fresh food. This means I don’t have to deal with replacing gas canisters, which I prefer. I’d read all about stoveless hikers in the US eating dehydrated foods like refried beans and powdered eggs and whatnot. These things just don’t exist in Europe. If you can only add cold water to your food, you are kind of stuck with oatmeal, couscous and mashed potatoes.

At first, I was eating a bunch of random things. Like mashed potatoes with beans and tomato soup from a can. Or a wrap with cream cheese, fried onion crisps and mackerel in tomato sauce that had inadvertently gone off. About halfway through I figured things out pretty well and I ate the same things for the rest of the trip:

Breakfast:
Cruesli. A mix of a chocolate and a berry variety. I couldn’t find any milk powder at first so I would add chocolate milk (Swiss Miss was tastier than Nesquick!) and cold water. In the end I found some affordable chia seeds that I would add to create a bit more mass.

Snacks:
Nuts were too expensive, I was only able to buy some almonds and cashew nuts once! Instead I’d get roasted corn, chocolate covered raisins, chilly covered peanuts, breakfast bars (cheaper than energy bars!) and Japanese snacks. And I’d buy some biscuits to eat in my tent at night.

I carried wraps and Nutella a few times which was also a good daytime snack, but I only had good enough weather to sit down comfortably and prepare it during the day a couple of times so it wasn’t the most practical food. And often I didn’t have enough space in my pack for all the wraps I’d need.

Dinner:
Wraps with couscous, tuna, tomatoes, cucumber or pepper, sundried tomatoes, red pesto, olives and beans or chickpeas if I was able to get them. I spent a lot of time taking everything out of the original wrapping and redistributing the food into ziplock bags (and anything oily into two ziplock bags!)

Resupply for 8 days… a lot of food, but never enough!

How did you possibly stay warm?

Honestly, I’m not sure how I did it! I didn’t even realise it at the time, but compared to others, I really run extremely cold as a person. Iceland shouldn’t have been on top of my list of places to hike, but I’m still happy I did it!

I was very careful about bringing the right gear: I did a lot of research and got a double-walled four season shelter (Hilleberg Akto), which certainly helped to keep me warmer when I was inside. I had warm camp clothes (fleece top and down trousers – yes, down trousers!!), and I wore a lot of layers during the day. Most days I wore every layer of clothing I had brought for hiking. And that was a lot: two merino wool long sleeves, a wind breaker, a sleeveless down jacket, a down jacket and a waterproof hardshell. I also carried a merino wool buff and down gloves for the really cold days.

I did have some warm days, when I didn’t have to wear any jackets. But invariably it would get cold between 4 and 6 pm, and I would have to pull out all my layers once again. Even if it was sunny, there was mostly a strong wind that carried a definite chill. Actually, I will do a complete gear post soon and update with the link here!

Most people would say they enjoyed warming up through hot food at the end of the day, but I’m stoveless, so can’t make such claims! However, food doesn’t need to be hot to warm you up, just eating food gets the body going and I never felt as though consuming hot food would’ve made a major difference in my experience – I’m so used to my cold hiking diet, that I don’t even think about it anymore! I will say that my usual town treat is a hot coffee, and I treated myself to quite a few of those, especially at the start. But now that I think about it – I had less and less of those towards the end. I didn’t even crave the hot coffee anymore!

Wearing all my layers, as usual.

Being in the wild all the time, how did you stay clean?

I often didn’t! Okay, tooth brushing, yes. Always. But showers? Not all campsites come with showers. Sometimes they were close to a swimming pool so you could pay to use the showers there. I did that a few times. If I stayed at a campsite and showers were included in the campsite price, I would obviously take one. But often there was an extra charge for showers on top of the campsite price, and I wouldn’t. Unless it was relatively cheap and the showers weren’t timed. But often it cost 500 ISK for five minutes. Just imagine, if I hadn’t showered in a week, there was no way I could clean myself in five minutes! I’d just wait for a cheaper or free shower.

I remember quite a few places with electrically heated water. Only a few people would be able to shower until the hot water ran out. I sometimes set my alarm at 4 AM or something, just so I could use as much hot water as I liked, and there’d be enough time for a new batch of water to heat up before the first people would get up in the morning. Don’t worry, I’d go right back to bed afterwards!

A lot of the mountain huts on the hiking trails charged the same. I never used them. The campsites were already very expensive at 2000 ISK, and you only got cold water taps and a flush toilet for that price. I would never pay an additional 500 to queue up for a five minute rinse.

And while wild camping? Forget it. I often camped near a stream but only once or twice found the weather warm enough to throw some over me. Besides, you can’t use soap in the streams or rivers (and no, not even biodegradable soap!) so it doesn’t help much. There was no cleaning in the wild!

The figures? Out of my 103 days on the road, I only took 23 showers… that’s one every 4.5 days!

A rare early morning rinse!

Okay, so what’s it like to be dirty all the time?

It feels awkward, especially the first few days of not showering and wearing the same clothes, socks and underwear. After a few weeks though, I got annoyed if there were campsites with free showers two days in a row. I mean, I only just showered the day before! Besides, my clothes don’t get any cleaner so what’s the point? Luckily I was wearing good fabrics (merino wool!) and I never smelled much.

After a while, you realise that town people stink more than hikers. In a different way though – I could smell people’s shampoo lingering in the air when walking a fair distance behind them and it was overwhelming, this unnatural scent clouding its immediate surroundings. It changed my perception of what is considered a nice smell.

To be honest, I actually began to take a certain pride in looking a bit haggard and walking in shoes that were on the verge of falling apart, yet not caring what the latest fashion demanded, functionality over everything else (hiker trash!) Being free and not caring about societal expectations makes you feel like an outsider – appearance wise and mentally. I find it refreshing and important. You are taken back to basics and are reminded of what is important in life. Not smelling like mango-chocolate body wash, but engaging in physical movement, being in nature and dealing with all the thoughts that creep into your head all the time.

The only thing you need to think about is this…

So what about Iceland’s famous otherworldly landscape?

There are some visually stunning places and there are a lot of forlorn landscapes that don’t seem to change for days. I loved it when it looked like a painting. Some sections stood out: Laugavegur, Lónsöræfi and the East Fjords. But other hiking days were filled with endless traipsing on lava sand and rock and didn’t have much redeeming features. Askja and Lakagígar were a few places where I felt like I was on another planet. They were impressive!

What I hadn’t expected was that I began to miss trees. A lot! I never knew I cared much about them, but apparently, they make all the difference. Whenever I was headed towards a national park, I couldn’t help but expect trees. And I was always disappointed. Even the picnic sites were signposted with a pictogram of a picnic table and a tree, but the tree was never actually there (at least they never added a sun, that would’ve just been cruel!)

It reminded me that I actually love hiking mountains in the trees. Whenever I got above tree-line, the hike would get boring and tiresome, and I would loose interest. And Iceland, essentially, is a country that you-could-say sits above tree-line in its entirety. And while some of that moonscape is indeed really quite interesting, it is never as riveting as hiking along the trees and climbing up boulders. Just like volcanoes never much grabbed my attention. You hike straight up and straight down. I never quite understood it.

Askja, where astronauts go to train.

Would you recommend a long distance hiking trail in Iceland?

Hiking in Iceland isn’t easy. I would never oppose the idea of a long distance trail, but this experience isn’t for everyone. Every long distance hike will have its adversities, but in return you receive a unique, individual experience of being in the wild. In Iceland, the route I followed was a mixture of roads and hiking trails. Road walking is never ideal, but even if the road sections were replaced by trails, the route would mostly sport a very bleak and remote landscape.

Often, views don’t change for days. Then there are the weather conditions to content with: it’s always cold and wet and often foggy, obstructing the views. Temperatures are low, even in summer. At times they were too low for me to deal with, despite my four-season equipment.

I personally don’t think the returns are big enough for a long distance trail. Iceland is great for hiring a car and driving through the endless, unchanging, forlorn landscapes and then doing multi-day hikes. I doubt many people would suit a five month long ordeal in these conditions. I did see a lot of Iceland, but truth be told, I would be bored walking along a stretch of road for a week and then get one day of hiking on a nice trail. There simply wasn’t enough stimulation.

That being said, there are a fair amount of people that do a cross-country hike, finding their own route and hiking north to south (or east to west, like Alistair Humphreys). Those are great month long experiences. I think perhaps that suits Iceland better; perhaps that is good enough. A month will provide the opportunity to experience the extremities of Iceland, keep the journey interesting and it will be a true adventure.

If someone is interested in an extended hiking trip for more than, say, a month, I’d say: don’t go alone. When you’re with someone else, you can turn everything shit that is thrust upon you into an adventure. You’ll need it.

Prepare for days of this…

Is Iceland safe for a solo female hiker?

It’s safe for everyone! Iceland is ranked as the world’s safest country, and I felt completely at ease from the moment I arrived. That was whether I walked around Reykjavik or whether I hiked remote trails or walked alongside hardly used F roads in the highlands. Of course, you can start to overthink everything and freak yourself out with all sorts of horror scenarios. But my personal experience was a very good one.

On top of that, I wild camped half the time I was there! While I initially did worry about being seen from the road (although I was mostly worried about locals seeing me and telling me to leave), nothing ever happened. Towards the end of my trip I got less and less concerned about being spotted when wild camping. If I didn’t have a choice, I’d just have to go with it and hope for the best! In the end, I never had a bad experience or altercation with anyone. (I mostly didn’t even speak to anyone!)

A wild camping spot off the ring road, whilst successfully disguising my tent as a rock!

What about the practical side of things – how did you deal with your phone / charging batteries / finding routes / GPS / PLB?

I use my phone for almost everything! I used the GPS and the maps.me app to know where I was. Sometimes I was in areas without a trail, and I had screenshots on my phone of the more detailed maps I’d found online. I never carried the proper local paper maps, although in a few areas, like Lónsöræfi, they would’ve been useful: they included a lot more trail options, but they were expensive, heavy and useless after about a week, because I would’ve moved into the next area.

I carried a SPOT GPS Tracker to track where I went during the day, and to be able to send out an automated message to a list of friends and family stating my GPS coordinations once I’d reached my location at the end of the day. Although the SPOT is not technically considered a PLB, it has an SOS button to alert Search and Rescue services if I’m in danger and out of cellphone range. Don’t leave without one!

Phone-wise, I never got a local SIM card, as I was on ‘pay as you go’ with my UK EE SIM, and they had just abolished roaming costs within Europe. I ended up just buying data packages. With Icelandic prices being so high, I doubt a local SIM card would’ve been cheaper, although I never checked. There weren’t many places with WiFi, so I would just use the data I had bought.

To keep my phone powered up, I brought a 13,000 Mha Anker battery pack, which I recharged at campsites, whenever outlets were available. Not all campsites are equipped with power outlets, so I always had to ration my power, just in case. Often I knew I wouldn’t pass a campsite for at least a week, so I kept my phone on airplane mode, low battery mode and often switched it off completely at night. During the day I used it a lot. For taking pictures and finding my way around using the GPS. The power bank had just about enough capacity to keep me going – I think the longest stretch without being able to charge was about ten days.

Always carry a SPOT or PLB!

Apart from the landscape and weather, how would you compare your experiences in Iceland vs Tasmania?

Tasmania was filled with physical pain and mental fear. I wasn’t really (mentally) prepared to do that journey on my own. I was afraid to camp by myself all the time, even if I was at holiday parks in towns! I only truly wild camped a few timed, although Tasmania does have a plethora of free, unattended campsites that I did make use of. In contrast, in Iceland I wild camped almost half the time. But I felt safe and I didn’t worry about being alone, and not seeing a soul for long periods of time. This wasn’t because Iceland was safer: it was because I now had experience and I had prepared myself much better mentally.

Physically, my feet were a huge struggle in Tasmania. After the first ten kilometres I would be in pain, and it only increased as I went on. I don’t know how I continued to walk. Every morning I woke up and hobbled along, my feet taking their time to warm up. Iceland was different. Yes, my body and feet hurt, but they didn’t overpower the experience. In the end, my average mileage was similar, but it was a lot easier to walk longer days than it used to be. My feet definitely improved.

Another major difference was the interactions I had with other people. Tasmania was filled with the ‘warm’, type of people. I got offered rides constantly and people chatted to me on the road, asking what I was doing. People would offer food and take me into their homes. Iceland sports more of the ‘cool’, laid-back attitude, with people leaving me in peace most of the time. I got taken into someone’s home once, but generally, I was surprised if anyone acknowledged me or offered me a ride. The few times people stuck up their thumbs at me or smiled in support as I walked along the highland roads stood out, and because it happened so seldomly, it really made a positive impact on my day.

Very different from Tasmania…

Would you hike Iceland again if you knew what it was going to be like?

In a way, that’s a redundant question – because if you knew how anything was going to pan out, there would be no need in doing it anymore, right? You wouldn’t have that authentic experience and learn from being in a particular situation in the moment, would you?

But okay, I’m side-tracking. In a way, no I wouldn’t. Iceland’s temperature or landscape doesn’t quite suit my personal preferences. But at the same time, I think it’s good to get outside of your comfort zone and experience something that isn’t necessarily your ideal scenario. It’s interesting to see for yourself how you fare in those situations. Whether your initial reaction is to get out, or to try and make it as far as you possibly can. I guess I’m stubborn enough to stick things out as well as possible. My friends kept telling me that I could just call it quits and come home, but I didn’t have a good enough reason to give up: I wasn’t in immediate danger of any sort and I hadn’t run out of money. I was cold, but my gear was up to the job. I had no good reasons to stop, even if I wanted to.

So maybe yes, maybe I would have gone if I knew what was going to happen. Just to test myself. (But that doesn’t mean I’m not glad I’ll never have to go back and do it all again.)

Typical Iceland mountain scape.

Did you spot any cool animals?

Only a few! A flock of about 50 black and white reindeer caught me off guard around Snaefell mountain, and I spotted a black arctic fox late at night on the way to Askja (it was howling and quite annoying, then snuck away like Gollum…)

In the middle of nowhere, where I spotted a black arctic fox outside my tent. It freaked me out a little bit!

I hear you had a mantra to get you through difficult sections? Share!

Yes! I started out with a very lame ‘it’s okay, I can do this’ repeated over and over in my head. But once I reached the unmarked trails in Lónsöræfi, I switched it for a much better (albeit perhaps not actually accurate) one: ‘if sheep can do it, I can do it’.

Describe your trip in a few words!

HARD. WORK.

My trip was a bit like this picture: lots of volcanic rocks, the weather grey and moody and me falling in the midst of it all.