An Iceland Expedition (part 16) : To the Waterfall of the Gods, walking from Ásbyrgi to Goðafoss

Day 84 : Ásbyrgi – near Þríhyrningur (33.7 km / 20.9 mi)
Day 85 : near Þríhyrningur – along road 85 (38.8 km / 24.1 mi)
Day 86 : along road 85 – Goðafoss (37.1 km / 23.2 mi)

Total walking days: 3
Total km: 109.6 km / 68.1 mi
Average km per day: 36.5 km / 22.7 mi
Overall total km : 2532 km / 1573 mi

Route key:
Trail – GREEN
Dirt road – BROWN
Road – BLUE

I had reached the north of Iceland, Ásbyrgi, which unbeknownst to me at the time, means Shelter of the Gods. It had taken days of walking through the merciless, rocky land and persistent rain to make it, and it proved a tough deal to get going once again.

It was 13:30 when I finally left the deserted campsite and continued my route. Too late, really, but I was tired, physically and mentally. The lone journey and weather conditions were a consistent battle and the nights were getting colder and more difficult to handle. I couldn’t stay warm anymore.

I packed up camp in the drizzling rain and found my way to the main road leading west. I hesitantly filed along the gravelly shoulder, cars hissing by regularly. I thought of Akureyri. My final destination. The end to my journey around Iceland. I had just finished my last hiking trail and I thought of the road walking I’d have to do to get there. Another six days.

I looked around me. It was raining, grey clouds hung low, and there was nothing of interest in the terrain surrounding me. I wasn’t looking forward to these final days. In fact, I felt miserable about them. While I’d had a tough time all the way through, I’d always considered it as part of the challenges of the trip. But this time, I had reached my limit.

I didn’t want to walk all the way to Akureyri. Other than reaching the 2,600 km mark, there was no good reason to make it there. I was intensely unhappy. I had to draw the line somewhere.

I checked my map in search of something catching my eye as a suitable alternative finish. I scanned the names of the towns and places nearby. And there it was. Goðafoss. Waterfall of the Gods.

It was perfect.

It was another three days.

So I continued. My despondency momentarily lifted by my new plan. I can do this, I thought. Three days. I can do this. I walked the road until, powered by barking farm dogs running loose onto the road, I jumped a fence onto the hillocky land next to me, covered in low shrubs and blueberries.

I navigated carefully, hopping from hillock to hillock, towards the dirt road I intended to take in the direction of Húsavík, an eerie path really, desolate and surrounded by nothing but a thick fog.

It was painfully cold. Too cold to rest or eat or drink, despite desperately wanting all of those things. I needed to keep moving.

I walked until I could no more. I hadn’t seen anyone else that day, so while the fog thickened, I camped right next to the dirt track. I was in a true no man’s land.

The next day I continued down the track until slowly finding myself amongst farms and life and passings cars.

It was evening when I reached a busy road, surrounded by a strange, yet fairytale-like landscape of rock and trees. As it got later, I began to realise I’d have to find a spot to camp in the midst of it all. There was nothing else around.

I jumped a fence and found myself in a tiny forest, climbing up and down rocks and fallen trees. It was the sort of place Elves would go. But due to the lack of soil and flat spaces, there was nowhere to set up a tent.

I wandered around until I spotted a somewhat flat spot in the midst of blueberries and autumnal trees, quite visible from the popular road.

I didn’t care, my tent hid well in the autumn colours and soon I went through the usual motions, those that had become so automatic, setting up my tent and unpacking for my last night on the trail.

I fell into a deep sleep, but woke up to a bitingly cold day. Small leafs coloured browns and yellows stuck to my wet tent. Summer was definitely over, it was fall now. It was my last day on the trail, and that evening I would reach the Waterfall of the Gods.

That final day was a long, unrelenting road walk. My thoughts were like the clouds, grey, numb, somewhat desperate. I knew I was almost there, but there was no celebration. A faint internal sense of achievement fluttered about, yet never stuck. Reality was too concrete. It had been raining non-stop all day, I was soaked to the bone and the cold had taken a strong hold of me. Yet all I could do was walk.

When I turned onto the ring road that would lead to my destination, I finally found an opportunity to steer away from the road. There was a dirt track on my map, which ran parallel to the main road. I left the busy road behind and climbed through the thick, low vegetation up the elevated section, drenching myself in the grass.

I walked and walked and looked for the trail until I checked my GPS, but the path on my map wasn’t there. I’d been chasing an old path that no longer existed, but for the stone markers appearing in the field that had become a swamp in the rain.

I slogged through the swamp back to the road, colder and wetter than before, almost defeated.

I don’t remember how much longer it took for me to reach Goðafoss after that, but I remember the meandering road moving up and down, until a small ascent suddenly opened up the view before me, and I watched the vast land and the waterfall from afar.

It was early evening. A break in the clouds shone light onto the land ahead of me and I watched as if it was a marvel. Each step I took, moved me somewhat closer, until suddenly, I was there.

I stood in front of the river flowing from the waterfall, the water flowing fast from the rocks, the water bright and blue, violent and serene. I’d made it. I was so cold my body was numb and my hands had grown stiff.

That night I never make it closer to the main site of the waterfall, I was going to have to return the next day. But I was there. The end of my walk around Iceland. And just in time, as well. That night was so cold, I couldn’t sleep. It was only going to get colder.

The next day I joined the crowds and viewed Goðafoss, Waterfall of the Gods. Water cascaded down black rock, a solid force dedicated to that which is all encompassing. It was the end of my journey.

I was surrounded by many people but I was alone. No one spoke to me, no one knew who I was, what I’d just done. What a lonesome and beautiful accomplishment. What an ending.

2,532 km around Iceland.


Previous: An Iceland Expedition (part 15) : Going North, walking from Mývatn to Ásbyrgi
Overview: An Iceland Expedition

More Iceland blogs:
Gear List For A 3.5 Month Hike Through Iceland
What It’s REALLY Like to (Almost) Walk Iceland’s Ring Road, Twice
81 Places to (Wild!) Camp in Iceland (Stories & Advice for Future Hikers)

2 thoughts on “An Iceland Expedition (part 16) : To the Waterfall of the Gods, walking from Ásbyrgi to Goðafoss

  1. Geweldig Rosanne! Tot het eind toe een prachtig verhaal vol ontberingen en schitterende foto’s. De foto met je tentje in dat bosje vlak onder of naast die herfstboompjes vind ik echt geweldig. Zo’n mooi plekje tussen al die ellende. En dan tot slot die fantastische waterval, echt schitterende foto’s.
    Ondanks alle kou en regen heb je doorgezet! Bravo, bravo, bravo!!!!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s