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 relaxing 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 make some lovely racist comment at me, and I narrowly averted a Roma deaf-mute scam (“but it’s for the children!”).
In the end I was somewhat relieved to leave Paris, and inordinately excited about 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. I gotta say we really lucked out that first time we came in November, as this was nice but nowhere nearly as brilliant as that first time.
And finally, the highlight of the trip home was a ride 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, and... baptized me in glacial meltwater. At least it was clean?
We were dropped off just north of the Krossa Fljót* at the base of Valahnúkur. After a short hike we were rewarded with this magnificent view of the glaciers in the mountains, flood plains below, and Landmannalaugar in the distance. (Also, these are stitches from the Leica 50mm/f2 and Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6. So sharp that you can click and zoom in on the rocks on the far side.)
Anyone up for a multi-day Landmannalaugar–Skogar trek next 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. Prior to the massive eruption of 2010 this vast area was a lake, and now it’s been filled by volcanic sand. Talk about feeling 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.