Iceland - Retrospective
The solitude and self-sustainability I had experienced during the hike was awesome. It had been a really special experience and I had hardly felt lonely. I have also never felt so free and without worries. As soon as I became confident I was physically capable of finishing the hike in time there was absolutely nothing left to worry about. Iceland itself was also beautiful, and while the desert in its interior started to get a bit monotonous after one week, the rest varied quite a bit. Below is a map of Iceland and the Netherlands on the same scale to indicate the route and distance I walked:
Hiking and transportation
Hiking with so much gear hadn't been easy but was less though than I had expected. The weather also wasn't bad. In the morning it was cold and super windy everywhere, but I hadn't expected to be sunbathing in shorts. Of course I hadn't seen much people during the hike but the ones I did meet were all very friendly. The roads were deserted enough to feel self-reliant without starting to talk to myself. Flying by myself had gone wrong in about every possible way, but most of the times that had actually turned out to my advantage (I had gotten a free hotel stay, breakfast, day flight, and managed to keep my stove). The public busses in Iceland were a nice way to get from A to B, but not a great way to experience the country.
Food and drinks
The 2550 kcal/day I brought were enough to not starve to death. I hadn't been super hungry expect the last couple days when I walked 30+km per day. I estimate I ate about 2200 kcal/day and "only" lost 3,5 kg over 26 days. The granola was doable for breakfast, but near the end I really couldn't force myself to eat the mixed nuts I had brought for lunch any longer. Next time I will bring more snickers and eat more in general. The expedition meals I had for dinner were relatively expensive at 3.50-4.00 euros a piece, but worth it. It felt good to eat something warm at night. Perhaps next time I will try making some myself. Water had been easy to find, only the first week I had drank too little because it was unusually warm. Carrying a 1L bottle was more than enough as long as I regularly refilled it at streams. Thibaut had given me chocolate milk once, which was a nice change, but bringing a white powder through customs is perhaps not the best idea.
I had spent a lot of time on selecting my gear. In hindsight I wouldn't change much, perhaps I would have bought lighter equipment if I wouldn't be a poor student (this is a list of the gear I carried). At 24 kg my backpack wasn't light. Next time I will bring an adapter for a gas stove (for people with a petrol stove, I burned about 1L of fuel to cook 20 meals). In addition, I will only bring some ground spikes instead of tent pegs. The flat pegs I carried hardly made it into the ground in many places and my tent is free standing anyway. In hindsight I should have brought much lighter clothes. During the day it didn't really get below 10-15 degrees and it was often sunny. Lastly, next time I will leave my solar charger at home and buy a battery pack. There just wasn't enough sunshine.
In addition to the above statements I would likely hitchhike more if I had to do it over, as this seemed pretty easy in Iceland. Furthermore, I would assume to walk a bit farther per day and investigate sending a food package to some cabins ahead to save weight. I would also take a closer look at how to obtain foreign currency, as my bank had told me they charged only a 3,50 euro fee, but 'forgot' to mention they used their own exchange rate. In the end I paid 26,70 euros to exchange 170. Of course, I would also plan my flights differently. As this was one of the first times I flew, and the first time by myself, I had definitely not handled things well. Next time I will make sure I have much longer layovers. Lastly, I would bring a better camera and lens wipes. It was very had to clean the lens when everything was dirty. Taking nice pictures of the black volcanic landscape with the white glaciers or sky in the background was also nearly impossible with a cheap camera. On the other hand, a better (larger) camera would not fit in my jacket which would likely have resulted in fewer photos, because I would have had to take my backpack off every time.
I am confident I will go on more hikes and cycling vacations. Those are both very different experiences but both very rewarding. I also want to go on a multi-day canoe trip sometime. In a few weeks Bart is going to cycle Diekirch-Valkenswaard again but after 5 times I am ready for something else. That's why I will be walking the Kennedy March (80 km). After this trip that should be doable.
Usually these type of blogs end with statements as 'Just do it'. It would indeed be good if more people would experience something like this, but on the other hand I like that most other people go on beach vacations. Otherwise all roads in Iceland will soon be asphalted and filled with McDonalds'. As a closing remark I have composed a list of excellent Iceland hiking songs:
The Police - Walking on the moon
Genesis - Dance on a volcano
Stephen Wolf - Born to be wild
CCR - Sweet Hitchhiker
Peter Tosh & Mick Jagger - Walk and don't look back
Industries of the blind - Waiting and waltzing in airport terminals
Complete 'Into the wild' soundtrack
America - A horse with no name
Rod Steward - Sailing
Bob Dylan - Like a rolling stone
Neil Young - Rockin' in the free world
The Proclaimers - I'm gonna be
Steve Miller Band - Jungle love
City to city - The road ahead is empty
Canned Heat - On the road again