Words and pictures by Yanshu Li who is a storyteller who focused on business and economics journalism at Boston University in the U.S. Follow her on Twitter, on the web and on Flickr. She went hiking in Iceland in winter.
Hiking in Iceland in Winter at Búrfellsgjá crater
Búrfellsgjá is a crater that was formed 8000 years ago. The highest rim is 180 meters. The lava channel and the vast land stretching out from the cone contributed a great hiking trail near Reykjavik. It takes approximately 20 minutes to drive from the capital via Route 41.
Magnús, an outdoor enthusiast, took me on a hiking trip to this ancient field in a snowy Christmas afternoon. The snowflakes were elegantly falling and covering the lava trace quietly and determinedly. The trail became invisible.
Magnús is a volunteer rescuer for Flugbjörgunarsveitin in Reykjavik.
He turned into a walking machine the minute his feet touched the ground. We traversed an open land where they used to keep the sheep, now they looked like some deserted stone walls.
Home of the elves?
The land that was mossy green in the summer now was completely white. Passing by a lava hill where the piled-up snow was cracked and shattered, which revealed the black part. Magnús pointed at the concave and said, “the elves live in there.” Then he looked at me, with an observable expectation of me going “Oh really? Amazing!” But, no, I just laughed at him. I thought he was joking.
The wind was strong on the higher field. The snowflakes felt sharp against the face. Dodging the wind with heads down, we were only focusing on the path one meter ahead. But something was telling us to look up.
The view through the lava channel transformed into a panorama when we reached the highest point on the rim. The sound of wind occupied the ears. The outline of things disappeared. The horizon divided the world into the vast snowy land and the gloomy blue sky. Magnús was silent. I looked at him and wanted to say somethings. Then I decided not to. Language was redundant. Wordless was the word.
Listening to my heartbeat
We began to run down the hill. Running in the snow land was more like a feeling of the feebleness in the legs – no matter how I pulled myself together, the legs only got attached to the snow more.
Without a thought, I threw myself in the air to let my body fall on the snow, although the snow didn’t cushion much. What’s left in my eyes now was the dimming sky. While the Nordic sunset dashed out the color of the red wine, the rest of the world was in dark blue. The two colors mixed with each other in the chilly air that I was drawn into.
Everything went quiet down. There was absolutely nothing to think about. I felt my heart was beating stronger against the firm ground. Till the heartbeats went steady, I heard the snow was falling. The reflection of the disappearing sunset brushed the blurry sky in the color of maroon.
Overwhelmed by the scene, I forgot I had a camera. Without the interruption from the shutter sound, I had the tranquility of the pure nature all by myself. I felt an animal inside of me – a living creature that could be satisfied by living itself.
Magnús was lying down somewhere closer. He made no sound.
Becoming obsessed with Iceland
The first hiking trip I had in Iceland ended when the daylight completed faded. The 5.5 kilometers trail of Búrfellsgjá unveiled the natural wonderland for me. I became obsessed with Iceland ever since.
It said that the best time to visit Iceland was from May to August. That was not false. The Icelandic national bird Puffins are back. The daytime gets long, and it’s perfect for outdoor activities. It was also true that visiting Iceland during the winter time can be a unique and extraordinary experience.
As I looked afar, thinking about the joke Magnús told, maybe he was not joking. Maybe the elves were there. The magnificent landscape was just like the story of elves. It was too good to be true.