After 16 hours of travel from Hanoi, I finally arrived in Montpellier just in time for my 8am Saturday morning talk (one of the actual reasons for this round-the-world trip). Like its comatose neighbor, Narbonne, there aren’t a whole lot of things open in Montpellier on the weekend, but it's a good city to walk around in, and a curiously hipster one at that...
From here, it was back-to-back flights home, the first leg of which involved an overnight layover in Paris. It's been a while since my last sleepwalking (after a hefty dose of Benadryl, at the height of allergy season) tour here... I'd forgotten how much history and grandeur are written into the layout of every city block, and was surprised by how nice and understanding the drivers were towards the masses of tourists. But at the same time, by god, Parisians, get your shit together! In the course of one evening four. Four! people went out of their way just to say something racist to me, and I narrowly avoided a deaf-mute scam (“but it’s for the children!”).
Hardly twelve hours later, I was somewhat relieved to leave Paris, and inordinately excited about the next leg: my third and first solo visit to Iceland. Unfortunately it was just another quick stopover, but enough for an attempted viewing of the Northern Lights and a half-day trip to the "highlands-lite."
The next morning I rode in one of those monstrous Superjeeps to Thorsmork. On our way there, I had the window down to take photos when our driver decided to show off his river-fording skills: a glacial baptism. At least it was clean?
He dropped me off just north of the Krossa Fljót* at the base of Valahnúkur. After a short hike I was rewarded with this magnificent view of the glaciers in the mountains, flood plains below, and Landmannalaugar in the distance. (These are panoramic stitches from the Leica 50mm/f2 and Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6 lenses. So sharp that you can zoom in on the rocks across the canyon.)
Anyone up for a multi-day Landmannalaugar–Skogar trek some time?
We got some time to walk through the Húsadalur Valley and Stakkholtsgjá canyon (and another random, headless waterfall), before getting to the Gígjökull glacier, an outlet of the unpronounceable Eyjafjallajökull. Before the massive 2010 eruption this vast area was a lake, and now it’s been filled by volcanic sand. Humans felt very small…
*I learned that the Icelandic world Fljót describes a particular kind of glacial river or collection of rivulets that meanders its way through a flood plain. They can change courses post-thaw every year, requiring marked tracks to frequently get re-routed, and thus are not really possible to map with any accuracy.