Europe | Iceland
March 6, 2008
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1981, Wednesday 29 July: stumbling through lava at Myvatn, Iceland

Lake Myvatn, Iceland
Camping at Lake Myvatn in northern Iceland, I had some time free. Being still at a young age and therefore blithe of spirit, I decided to make the most of the minutes by climbing to the top of a nearby volcanic crater. I reasoned that even its modest elevation - perhaps a hundred feet - would be enough to provide a prime panorama. Also, since the crater wall rose up only a few hundred yards away, I would be up and back in no time. (This second point was in fact a mixed blessing, since what really sold the outing to me was, thirdly, that there would be absolutely no possibility whatsoever of catching Charles and Di's wedding, to my horror then currently being broadcast on the campsite blockhouse TV. ("I didn't come all this way.."))

Well, as the photo shows, I was right on the first count. But how wrong was I on the second. Never before having had cause to cross a recent lava field, I had no idea how fiendishly impossible the terrain could be. The rock - volcanic glass - kept an edge switchblade keen, while the loose flour-fine ash flowed like abrasive water into clothes and, most painfully, shoes. Yards became miles as I scrambled into concave pitted gullies twenty foot deep, then hauled myself over sharp intervening ridges bearing crests like storm-tossed waves.To this day I haven't encountered anything as bad again. Only youthful energy and stubborn pigheadedness kept me going - that and the thrill of being out of range of even the most ardent commemorative tea-towel vendor.

Two hours later, I finally returned to the campsite bloodied and very bowed, having covered all of half a mile in total. Not only did I have the photos to prove it, to boot I also had stinging lacerations to hands and legs and one totally ruined pair of trainers (soles torn to shreds) as corroboration.
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