The journey was windier than I could have possibly imagined. The road leapt over mountainsides, through chalky gray rivers swirling with metallic reflections of the sky. Emblazoned, minted. As we traversed Sur Lipez, the water diminished, reminisces of the last rain gashed into the rivers edge. A drawbridge spanned sandpaper. Windowless mudhuts dotted the hillside. The only variance from the muted terra firma was the shimmer from the corrugated steel roofs and the darkness of an impending storm.
Remote outposts, destinations for mere minutes, inferred generations of life.
Some were narrow passageways between rows of connected camel row-houses, where squatting old ladies retreated like turtles into their rainbow woolen ponchos. Tiled public squares freckled with energetic children wreaking havoc on a brood of hens. Teenagers lazied on abandoned metal sheets jutting from the ground burning holes with their universal bored stare.
Other villages were mere dots on a map, an analogy for the particles of dust that swept and stained everything - not a color besides blackening bananas in sight.
A strange alagam of diligence, exertion and tedium extended everywhere. A fence marked by rocky cairns extended for a mile. Road hazards were recognizable by strewn rocks or metal abruptly positioned in a lane. Road maintenance was done by the hands of leathered, shrinking men in whose vests had nearly lost their reflective sheen. One man pushed, rolled, scooted a boulder across the nadir of a winding valley, valantly entrusting oncoming drivers to anticipate and react to sudden hazards in the road.
On top of a snow-speckled mountain, the wind smacked like waves and we came to an abrupt stop. At each unsuspecting town or approachment to a random site of interest, there was always a kid and a man to pay. Their scattered system of tolls. Donde vas?
That was a good question. Where were we going? Yes, there was an itinerary that we had, places to be by the end of each day. Towns were supposedly our end destinations. The dusty, ragged frontier of Tupiza. It’s colors faded like an old shoe, all of its white yellowed, smelling of everything it’s been through. Sol de Manana, a town spaced between two smooth volcanoes whispering a bitter wind between the quiet streets. The gigantic palms of Villa Abecia shading the bodegas peddling mapley sweet wine, it’s streets echoing the crackle of parrillas and the squeaking of one little boy’s bike. But these were simply the cornerstones to the pocked dirt roads atop endless mountain-passes in the clouds.
Over the years, I have come to shun a constant travelers proverb. It seemed to emit from tongues like the greeting ‘How are you?’. Yet I found myself reflecting over the hundreds of miles/hours as I stared into the endless valleys, watching the shadows of the various peaks play out on the hillsides.
No other expedition had the saying ‘It’s more about the journey than the destination’ been more applicable than that of Bolivia.
If you go, practicalities:
THE ROADS: If you want to be able to take in the scenery and get through the long distances each day without wanting to scream, I highly recommend hiring a driver.
Highly recommended stays:
// Circling the roundabout for the fifth time, my patience began to wane. The backpackers that I had seen walking from the bus stop on the main highway had almost made it to their destination. I knew were they were heading. The one hostel in town, the Ginger Monkey, where I had originally planned on staying but decided last minute against for seclusions sake. I cursed myself, if I had stayed there I would be drinking wine by now! Finally, I parked at the one restaurant and desperately waited for a passersby. Two little old ladies, each draped in floral prints (red poppies and yellow daffodils), shuffled on their evening stroll up the solitary road with a panoramic view of the High Tatras to their right. I attempted my best Slovak pronunciation. An instant click of comprehension and she was off pointing and motioning. ‘Obviously it’s up that side gravel alley behind these abandoned buildings’, she implied.
Relieved, I pulled up to the lodge - reminiscent of a kitsch wooden lodge you’d find in the Appalachians, adorned with all types of multicolored windmills and objects. The owners were gathered inside talking loudly, inattentive to the tv that blared out the open doors. I excitedly put off dinner to share wine with a supposedly English-speaking Slovak. ‘What time does the restaurant close?’ He assured ‘10pm’. Since the options were abounding, I was hankering to get his local take on hikes. But, surprisingly, his were identical to the English blogs that I had read: ‘Zelené pleso’. Only when he repeated the directions to the trailhead did I realize what little English he spoke. At that minute, I dashed down to the restaurant.
The place was as dark as a medieval tavern, one obviously drunk couple remained, their heads swaying to & fro while they attempted to gaze in each others’ eyes. I begged for bread. The waitress replied that they only had frozen loaves. I could try the restaurant in the next town over - 20 minutes away. She must have seen the desperation in my eyes, she rushed back to the kitchen and returned with the drunk couples discarded bread basket. I was overjoyed.
// I knew from the start that I was going on the wrong hike. None of the names matched up - not the chata, nor the medley of hikes stacked on the posts. But, I reasoned, I signed up for this hike. One I didn’t read about in countless blogs - it felt more adventurous, more mine.
Ahead, a Slovak man ferociously trekked through the forest with his poles swinging, it appearing to be his morning routine. The trail overlooked a stream rushing with winter’s water, sprouting wreaths of yellow flowers. I soon reached a chalet hunkered in the one nook the mountain had to offer. Every hike in Slovakia has a beer chalet waiting to reward you.
Nearly down, I ran into a shirtless man starring at the trail pole. ‘You are alone?’ Well, there is no denying it. We are in the middle of the woods. I asked why he was so shocked. His frightening reply, ‘Sometimes it’s good, man and woman being alone. Sometimes not so good.’ Broken English can have wondrous implications.
It was a breezy hike that I decided was to be the warm up before Zelene pleso, I was craving more of a reward than beer. 5 minutes away was the unmistakable trailhead for Zelene pleso. Cars lined a dedicated parking area, a large wooden map showed the path. Along the way, several crews of men were constructing new bridges - pulling the timber from the forest, halving the logs and sawing them into place. Dust & shards of wood flying through the air, none of them sporting eyewear or protective gear of any kind. I passed a dipshit wearing a ‘Budafuckingpest’ shirt, one earphone dangling out of his ear. I wondered if the construction guys would give him a go on the saw.
// The trail wound through the lush, bright green forest and emerged in a col-de-sac of limestone peaks spotted with snow. The lake an emerald green, reflecting the surrounding foliage. A barrage of tourists had schlepped their photography gear up and were manically snapping photo after photo of the lake as the clouds rearranged its overhead lighting. I tried to sit in seclusion and reflect myself, but each time feet would find their way to me. I had to keep myself from snatching at their ankles.
After a dozen miles, the chalet was definitely calling me. I counted my euros, and realized the parking fee had dissolved my chances of beer. Defeated, I began to turn back when I heard a manly roar, ‘Colorado!’. It was the group of Slovak men I had seen hiking in the low Tatras a few days earlier. They summoned me over for beer and tripe-stomach soup.
If you go:
- Stay in Štefanová and hike the Veľký Rozsutec loop (it is technical at the top). It is an amazing quaint town in the middle of Mala Fatra that has unlimited hikes. I could have stayed here for 5 days alone. I highly recommend Penzion Sagan.
- Make sure you pick up groceries & wine before heading into the High Tatras.
- Stay in the new building at Hotel Nad Przełomem in Sromowce Niżne, Poland. Kayak the Dunajec, hike Trzy Korony, you can bike along a river trail forever. Pieniny was amazingly underrated.
// Mt. Rushmore Road had a new median: rows of bumbling motorbikes. Each with the heft of an antibiotic, force-fed cow. And the same went for their owners, who were parading around like Macaque monkeys in their cheek-perforated leather pants. One of every two bikers tramping around was grossly overweight and the same statistic was applicable to the quantity of bored, stupefied facial expressions on the passersby as they peered into Rattlesnake Jakes, Full Throttle Saloon, and Dakota Leather Outlet.
Cabo San Lucas t-shirt vendors had made the journey north for the month of August, and left behind their beachcombing, shot-sipping and sunburnt gregarious customers for, well, the same. Only this time their patrons digressed to hair metal instead of chicano rap.
They had reassembled their hawker stands with banners loudly pronouncing their menu del dia: Sleeveless Denim, and Gun Pocket Vests (which pictured a sinister pocket knife emblazoned with the American flag).
Two Polaris mules pulled up and parked, three more inches and they would have made it inside. The drivers were clad in fuzzy house slippers and carried themselves with the implied attitude associated. As the man picked over the merch, he revealed the ink show on his arms: a hollowed skull bedazzled in a headdress next to a PBR. Thirty minutes later I would see them processing behind a skinny Indian boy carrying a wicker replica of a motorcycle.
The absurdity of Custer was soon to be trampled by the Crazy Horse Memorial - yet another monstrous human defection on the granite walls of the Black Hills. This memorial seemed even more outrageous and hypocritical than Mt. Rushmore as it ran contrary to the Native American tenant of good stewardship of natural resources.
// All night long, sleep was interrupted by the rumbling of motorbikes on their pilgrimage. I awoke the next day with an annoyance and desire of flight similar to how one feels at the end of a soured relationship. I had to get out and take refuge somewhere where the sound would not carry or a knife fight would be imminent. The strangeness had also reached another level as an 8 y.o. child had been running through the campground at the break of dawn wielding an axe shouting ‘DIE’. I peered at the map and headed to the nearest trail system and body of water, Sylvan Lake.
After a nice respite, it was finally time to head west towards the Badlands.
Beheld on the drive west:
// Everything is gargantuan in South Dakota, the road signs, the parking lots, the baby blue sky. And then, at once, the vastness becomes meticulously fine-tuned. The Badlands is its own space, with its own canon. The sky grays, colors fade into a matte, dusty palette. The crusty earth exposed, frothing up, writhing. Soft yet stolid. Hints of green swaths providing the only depth perception.
If you go:
Horse Thief Lake Campground
Sylvan Lake - Cathedral Spires Trail
Sage Creek Campground - Badlands (enter from the east side of the park)
Castle Trail - Badlands' longest trail, it's easy to complete all the trails in one day/ one attempt
We we’re in a time crunch. The storm had maniacally thrown remnants of ancient trees onto the road, blocking the only route to Cochamo. Highway 65 stitched along the Estuaria Reloncavi fjord and, on its left, a wall of ancient trees towered. Row boats bobbed, a lone cow stood motionless, stranded by high tide on a sliver of land in the bay. One goofy orange-clad attendant stood pushing around the limbs, either meticulously or lazily, I could not determine.
The directions per Refugio Cochamo denoted the entrance closed at 4:00 pm. It was 3:51 and we were dodging buses and babies in a Versa on a gravel road. At 3:58 we pulled up to the parking area, rushing with impending doom to get to the trailhead. The lot and sandwich steward assured us that the trail would remain open until 8pm. How foolish to think that there were actual time restrictions imposed in South America.
We prepared our sacks and stuffs, opting for more than necessary - denoting the distance of the hike and not the elements and obstacles that existed along the way. It was amateaur packing at best. Cloth napsacks weighed down with inessential rubbish. My shoulders shrugged at ear-level while my arms hung - lifeless pendulums. The first hour was gruelling for what was normally such an easy trail. The rain from the days prior packed the crevasse with feet of mud. It was hard to adjust to the weight of the packs. Footwork wasn’t trustworthy, balance faulty.
During the 3 miles of mud-tunnelled Viet Cong canals, we encountered, at a minimum: 30 high lunge steps, 50 pole vault body- thrusting swing arounds, thousands of Satanic horseflies, 20 rolling log river crossings (with false sense of safety), 15 false checkpoints and 100 minutes of cattle-crossing planks.
In return for our miserable existence, we reaped a river-bed lined with smooth, bleached logs, clear to the depths, a valley cradled by sculpted granite trickling with linear waterfalls, a sublime palpa filled with an idyllic commune, and the sole satisfaction of seclusion from the leeches of modern society.
// The light slowly made its way to my eyes. The short night had finally fallen near 10:20 and speckled the sky with glistening sequins and smocks of blackness. I had awoken during the night, convinced it was time for morning but was mistaken. For when day lasts for over a dozen hours, day becomes the norm.
The dorm’s window that had earlier framed the gargantuan granite kings of Anfiteatro and Laguna displayed a dense fog – a disappearing act. I lay relieved, for if the granite was too wet the route to the top would be foolhardy to attempt. A reprieve from testing my courage, a cop-out. Only after studying the map and evaluating alternative trails did I realize that it would be foolhardy not to attempt the Acro Iris. A regret that would last infinitely.
// The Arco Iris did not offer an introduction, it began in the crux of the plot. The earth ascended straight to the sky, aligned with the trunks of the Alerces. Bamboo shot out of the mountainside, flimsy and silly compared to the thousand-year old Alerces that dominated the sky (whose roots had sprouted ‘new’ trees older than all the trees in Louisiana combined). We climbed for hours until we reached a slab of wet granite. A deteriorated rope lapped with the streaming water that ran down the center, the route up. There was no margin for error, we were on the edge.
If you go:
Refugio Cochamo - Book in advance and plan on delays getting there. They offer pricey meals each day and if you're vegetarian you will be eating a lot of rice. Warm showers! Bring insect repellent and a towel. Booze too.
Arco Iris - The trail became impossible, unkempt and in rough condition from the elements. No one that day was able to summit but the views were still worthwhile. Check out the trail description here.
Rental car - we found Seelman to be fairly priced and flexible.
In and around:
Volcano Osorno - Amazing place to ride or run. Plan at least a few hours, if not a whole day and night in Petrohue. The beaches may seem like a great idea but you will be harassed by gigantic horse flies.
The Highline Trail is synonymous with Glacier National Park. The 11-mile trail follows the Sun Road – curving through the pass to bestow immaculate views of the Continental Divide and surrounding peaks. The trail profile is practically a straight decline from Logan’s Pass to the Loop. The route follows along the mountainside so that you can see every nook and cranny of your surroundings.
Like the weather or traffic in the city, there are two impending dooms that are staples of everyday conversation in GNP – bear sightings and wildfires. During my first day in the Park, a local calculated my fate: at the rate of hiking 12 miles a day for 10 days, I was destined for at least three sightings. Maybe four.
Like any other runner (or human), I used my biased rationality to prove why this trail was an exception to the GNP tenet ‘avoid running’ (running increases the chance of a bear attack). Since this was a popular trail with unimpaired panoramic vision - it was safe for me to jog along this trail. Plus I had bear spray and a bear bell*, this was my chance.
As I galloped along the ridge, I couldn’t help but concentrate on the dry river beds, streams, waterfalls, glaciers. Smoke filled the air and a wraithlike haze lingered - a cornea over the landscape. The land dry, too. Dirt whirled around my feet. Is this a snapshot of the world that lies in our future?
The Sun Road is usually known for evoking a humbling sense of wonder in the face of nature’s grandeur. Below along the Pass, motorists stood on the side of the road with their binoculars hanging idle. Midwesterners seemly stymied in more of bewilderment than awe while looking out at the landscape. Although it was nonetheless still gorgeous, there was a deep sense of loss for the land.
I emerged near the historic Granite Chalet without even realizing that I was near the final decent - somewhat surprised that my half-baked timing was actually going to get me where I needed to be before sunset. I stopped to admire the view with a family that was perched on a rock in the bend. Five minutes later I was invited to stay in their extra bunk bed at the Chalet. The Chalet’s entire lodging for the season typically sells out within a few days of going live. I won the lottery.
Normally I would say yes immediately, but I’ve grown somewhat weary about whether invitations are sincere these days. I thought about this invitation for the half-hour as I climbed the steep trail up to Grinnell Glacier. The sight was if I was beholding a fragile, fragment of scenery. The glacial lake below looked broken, shattered bits and slivers of ice cut their way through the lagoon. The red faced peak looking straight at me behind its defeated body. Spectacular. As I crumbled down with the mountain. I saw the stone Chalet in the background. An patriarchal presence. In the foreground the family was waiting for me.
Dedicated hikers share a common bond which is rooted in underlying appreciation and willpower. That night we watched the sun set until 10pm with about 30 others then laid on our backs to catch the meteor shower. At sunrise the next morning, I tiptoed out of my bunk and ran down the mountain like a little kid who spent the night in an amusement park.
If you go:
Granite Chalet & Highline Trail details
Your calves will be burning but no bother, the trail is grassy and the endless array of mountains will keep you distracted.
Wear layers - storms emerge out of no where.
Stay: Te Wanaka Lodge
Dine: Relishes Cafe
Cheers: Kai Whakapai
An endless array of terrain over bridges, through the valley leading to the glacial lagoon.
Lush tropical forest. Depending on the weather, it feels like somewhere between upper Atlantic Ocean and Polynesia.
Stay: Furneaux Lodge is spectacular This is a difficult call though based on the length of your stay in the Sounds. Ferries leave from Picton in the am and pick up early evening. The schedule changes according to season. If you stay in Anakiwa backpackers you'll be isolated and nestled at the end of the track, but the curvy roads are mind-numbing at night. Only bonus is the glowworms and dolphin songs at night, which you can find anywhere along the track.
Dine: Furneaux Lodge at the end of the trek, especially if you're heading back to Picton.
Cheers: Bring you're own wine from one of the vineyards you past in wine country.
Mt. John Summit Track, Lake Tekapo
Run this route through the meadows, vie to take your own path to the summit and run down on pine needle trail then through meadows surrounded by the white-capped foothills of the Alps.
This place is tiny and does not have a ton of outdoor pursuits, best bet is a one night stay after you catch a golden sky and a starry night.
Stay: The Chalet
Dine: Tin Plate
It's like a dream. No, better. Porto is separated by the Douro River, that is made all the more splendid by its six bridges. At the base of the Dom Luis I Bridge near the Sandeman Port Distillery, colorful women dressed in traditional Portugeuse dress dance through a specialty market offering olive oil, wine, port, cheese, bollo pastries, boudain-like sausages. Inside the Sandeman Distillery, groups of tourists tour and hear the story of how an Englishman conquered the port industry two hundred years ago. After paying penance and completing the routine tour, everyone eagerly tastes the sherry and tawny. Too sweet for my taste, I prefer the dark red wine and salty olives of the Portuguese in the gardens of the Serralves.
During the Serralves em Festa, the Parque de Serralves are filled with art of all traditions- artists, musicians, and contemporary art demonstrations span the grounds. Giant plush Royal thrones sit patiently in the middle of a field. Women untangle from the limbs of a tree, their silky dress flutters in the breeze. Photographers appear out of nowhere with wide lenses, snapping up the beauty from all angles. The soundtrack of a live jazz chantress with an orchestra accentuates the fluctuating smells of minty herbs, geraniums, and mossy leaves. Artist hang their crafts, their flamboyant colors mosaicly broadcast amongst the dark greens of the forest. We relax in between the gentle foliage facing a quartet of jazz musicians that emit lazy Spanish beachcombing tunes ideal for cracking that first cerveza of a hot summer's evening.
Afterwards, we meander over to pop into the Museu de Arte Contemporanea, which reveals characteristic portrait of Porto's contemporary art timeline. An exhibit on 'Teatro Sombras', or shadow theatre, by Lourdes Castro is colorful, sexy, mysterious yet all-telling. A women's outline lit in the doorway by the light of the moon. On the screen, an unidentified body moves through the shadows, much like the alleyways of Porto.
If you go, don't miss:
Douro River Cruises
Speedy boat trip under the six bridges and almost to the ocean, quick and beautiful.
Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves
Rua D. João de Castro, 210
Show on MapTel: +351226156500
Shadow Theatre YouTube
Rule One: Never enter into a Shopping Mall, no matter how badly you need to use the restroom or crave the air conditioning. If you're body starts to gravitate towards Sim Lim, try to conjure memories of the valleys and creeks that you will never set your eyes on again after being sucked into the materialism that is Sim Lim.
Rule Two: Hawker Centers, food centers comparable to cafeteria style food courts, offer an array of food choices and give you the opportunity to try a variety of local delicacies. There are numerous Hawker Centresthroughout Singapore, typically one per neighborhood. Each food stall is graded according to cleanliness, housekeeping, and hygiene. If you end up choosing one of the more touristy Hawker Centers, beware of the vultures that will circulate you for business. I recommend the Hawker Centre in Chinatown, the Bukit Timah Market. Climb to the highest level for the Hawker Centre, the lowest level is the food market (grocery) and ground level is a clothing market.
Rule Three: Take a journey to the outskirts to the European-style Singapore Botanical Gardens and let yourself breathe before entering into the Marina Bay Sands complex, which has followed Abu Dabi and constructed its own landmass featuring a indoor-garden monstrosity surrounded by a resource-sucking 250 acres of gardens. It is, however, a extravegant sight and features massive tree-like structures that put on a light show to music at night. If you end up getting an hotel room to enjoy the infamous infinity pool on the roof at the Marina Bay Sans resort, you can watch and hear it from the rear bar.
Rule Four: Venture to the Arab Quarter (Kampong Lam) for everything. It is a tiny oasis that transports you out of the hustle and bustle. There are various shops, restaurants,eclectic spots with nightly live music and art happenings, and cafes. Remember that in the Arab Quarter, no alcohol is served or allowed. It is only allowed on the outer streets. While you're there, swing into Blu Jaz Cafe for a myriad of art and live music happenings.
Rule Five: There are plenty of architectural splendors and oddities that can serve as your escape route from the heavy metal and concrete. Below are a few traditional architectural hideouts, inquire for more...
#1. Parkview Square ("Gotham Building")
- Art-deco like structure, square features bronze statues of notable scholars, philosophers, and scientists. The ornate lobby has is simply breathtaking. Have a drink at the bar.
#2. Central Fire Station
- Candy stripped
#3. Raffles Hotel
- The atmosphere simply invites old-fashioned class and provides a refreshing breath of air, reminiscent of the past.
If you go:
Drink & Dine
Bukit Timah Market - (Coffee stand up the stairs and to the left is amazing. There should be a line.)
116 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 588172
Raffles Hotel (They do have happy hour at the back bar, though not as special as the courtyard.)
1 Beach Rd, Singapore 189673
Maharajah (North Indian Tandori Restaurant)
Cuppage Rd, Singapore 229461
- Singapore Botanical Gardens
- National Museum of Singapore (Wonderful collection of contemporary art.)
- Fort Canning Park (Great view of the city on this little, historic hilltop)
70 River Valley Rd, Singapore 179037
The moment you land in Calgary and approach the city, you can instantly tell that it is a gateway to a natural landscape. The river, which separates the city into two distinctive parts, leads the eye to meet the peaks of the Canadian Rockies into the distance. Beyond that, the dubbed ‘Glacier Highway’ and miles of preserved lands await for exploration await within Calgary’s expansive natural preserves.
Calgary is a tiny city that has all of the precursory traits of a metropolis, however in infancy: an emerging neighborhood with art and subculture (Kensington), a chain-filled pedestrian mall downtown where tourists graze on fake-local dishes, the young professional zone with the newest farm-to-table cuisine and high-end cocktails. However, what makes it a truly enjoyable city was set years before the recent population boom. The most notable aspect resides in Calgarian’s love and appreciation for nature. A bike-friendly city with miles of running and biking paths and an efficient tram system connects the pockets of the city, making it easy to jump around town.
Calgary is a day-city that acts as an overture to nature-enthusiasts to the plethora of natural parks in the Canadian Rockies. Alberta is home to five immense National Parks. Banff, the first, is only 70 miles away from the city and the journey goes on endlessly from there.
If you go, you simply must:
314 10 St NW
- When you walk into the door of this tiny dark coffeeshop in Kensington, it feels like you've uncovered a traditional shop whose purveyors have been roasting for centuries.
Dine & Drinks
Ox & Angela Tapas Bar
528 17th Ave SW
Bike west of the city along the Bow River and up to McHugh Bluff Park for a dazzling panoramic view of the skyline and the endless landscape beyond.
Head out of town
- Head Northwest to Jasper National Park & Banff.- Stop in Lake Louise for a quick trail run and keep heading northwest towards Banff on the Plain of 6 Glaciers
- Camp along the North Saskatchewan River off of Hwy 11
The world anthem for indie soulful wanderlusters is the same in every country – a combination of folksy rock whose singer bellows with a heart heavy of disdain and longing. However, in Iceland, the music is overlaid with an eerie psychedelic haze that seems to synchronize with the climate and landscape.
The nation is one whole amusement park. Around every bend there are dutiful signs indicating a place of interest. A seal colony, glacial lagoon, lava field, geothermal lake, countless fjords, magnificent towering waterfalls, a rift between tectonic plates, black volcanic beaches…. After three nocturnal days in Reykjavik, I embarked on a clockwise journey around the island encompassing the Snaefellness Peninsula and the absolutely, terrifyingly desolated roads around the West fjords. The geothermal influence got particularly interesting as I approached the northwest corner.
Turning the bend towards Krafla (a still ragingly active volcano), I tried not to be distracted into driving my Yaris off the road when I saw dozens of steaming chutes jutting out of the landscape. Due to the high volcanic activity further South and speculation of potential eruption, this was especially fascinating. Like awakening from hibernation, the Earth seemed to be rousing from its slumber. Numerable mudpots and live steam vents were backed by Krafla’s muted-red slope and which gave way to barren lavafields.
Two hours later, I found myself huffing volcanic debris as I puffed up the Hverfell crater. The ash from each step formed clouds of charred life in the air, and in my lungs. At the top of the semi-cone, the views from the rim of the crater exposed various stories of creation and destruction. To the west, Lake Myvatn shimmered with verdant coasts, and to the east, the total annihilation and scared earth from the various volcanoes laid out for miles.
About 45 km away, as if mimicking the same contrasting tone, the lavafields opened up to reveal a canyon containing Europe’s largest waterfall, Dentifoss- a 45m, gargantuan waterfall pouring between two sheer basalt cliffs. I stood there laughing at its ridiculousness, unable to comprehend how it was completely hidden, unexposed nearly 500 ft away.
Although it was mid-day, it seemed as though it was dawn. All of the air was heavy and tasted like the earth. Water was stirring everywhere. Further up the path was another massive waterfall- Selfoss, whose five giant 30 ft drops bellowed. Its splendor only mildly toppled.
If you go:
Rent a car online prior and pick up wine from a Vinbudin before you get into town.
Remember that you can only buy gas and alcohol within certain hours.
Save your receipts for a tax-refund.
Late August is a great time to go- you can catch glimpses of the Northern lights, Reykjavik culture night, and the best firework show on the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon.
Eat & Drink
Pick up food from the market before 10pm & grill at your mainstay
Dimmuborgir Guesthouse - spectacular cabins, breakfast with house smoked trout and hotspring bread, & ownership
Catch the sunset on the lake.
Jarbodin - bring a towel, water, & a book to take advantage of the sun and patio