Iceland: Part 2, Days 4-6

DAY 4: 2nd Day of Christmas – no, seriously.
(Skogafoss to Jokulsarlon)

Dan had his mind set on conquering Skogafoss and the Fimmvörðuháls trail (12-14 hr duration as per the internet). Unlucky for him (but lucky for me) it was raining really, really hard that morning. Had my camera not been in my pack, I think we would’ve gone much further, but it was too risky to continue. Regardless, this was by far Daniel’s favorite day.

Still – I guess our hike didn’t get us wet enough, so we ran as close to Skogafoss as possible. Witness our ridiculousness here:

The editing was done before we realized you could pick what highlights to use on the GoPro App, but it still turned out pretty good.

Our initial plan was to head to Vik en route to Jokulsarlon, but Dan only had one set of baselayers, so we decided to save Vik for the drive back. We toyed with the idea of seeing the DC-3 plane wreck, but upon arriving, were still soaking wet and met with too many people for our liking.

We stopped at the Kronan (second cheapest grocer in Iceland) instead, got Icelandic hot dogs, attempted to fill our van’s water tank to no avail, then got ready for the journey east.

As scenery drastically changed, I was enthralled with this especially beautiful black beach that we passed. The desolation alone was jarring, but I loved how the fog engulfed the world around us.

The following three photos are not black and white (!!!)

Without a recent refill of water, I Googled the viability of drinking Icelandic river water. I figured our young age and strong immune systems could handle any potential issues. I suggested the idea to Dan and he was (almost too enthusiastically) on board!

After passing a few backyard waterfalls (seriously – people build houses next to waterfalls all over Iceland) we saw a rushing river and an adjacent place to park. We threw on our soaking wet coats, ran across the street, and filled up our tank. The water was, and still is, some of the best water I’ve ever had.

The bubbling water was definitely not geothermal.

Nearly to Jokulsarlon/Diamond Beach, we noticed something on the side of the road that piqued our interest and decided to turn around to check it out. To this day, we don’t know what it was, because we got distracted by a sign that mentioned a glacier nearby. Though the distance from the sign to the view point was only half a kilometer, it took us half an hour to navigate our van around the various potholes.

When we finally arrived, a small group was leaving, and I couldn’t contain myself — I screamed out in awe. This random little detour lead us to an unscathed lagoon, which we were able to enjoy all by ourselves.

On the way out, we noticed a glacier in the distance, but weren’t able to enjoy it fully due to the fog, so we drove on.

Once in Jokulsarlon we received an aurora alert. We were elated, because the entirety of our trip had been inundated by cloud cover — finally we’d see the glowing green! Turns out that most low intensity storms are seen as black and white to the naked eye… shit. At least I was able to snag a quick shot before bed.

DAY 5: Boomerang! (Skogar to Jokulsarlon)

There’s nothing quite like seeing the sun rise over a black beach with the moon still in the sky, at Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon.

Our morning started in the parking lot at Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon — we had booked an ice cave tour, which was to be our first guided tour in Iceland.

This was the tour that I had been really excited about, and let me just say that it completely exceeded my expectations. (Thanks Arctic Adventures!)

First of all, this is what you get to ride to/on/around the glacier in:

I never knew I needed to ride in a modulating-tire, monster-truck, Mercedes Benz, but now I don’t know how I ever lived without one. Though much of the tour en route was hard to hear, we didn’t mind, because we finally saw our first sunrise of the trip.

Jokulsarlon

Once our group was ready, we were lead into a blue ice crevasse, where the pinks of the sunrise punctuated each scene.

Morning sun.
Blue ice in Iceland.
Jokulsarlon
A guide waiting for his group.

After lumbering back out of the crevasse, our tour continued on the other side of the glacier in an ice cave below the surface.

Definitely pretended I was on Mars.
Layers at the entrance of the cave.

With limited light we followed our guide throughout different passages of the cave, learning about how some of the first settlers slept in the tunnels to avoid the harshness of winter. After a moment of silence in what seemed like complete darkness, we were lead towards the exit where our tour guide indulged all of us in pictures.

Peering out of the cave.
Ice cave detail, up close.
Ice cave detail, up close.
Where we exited the cave.

Following our tour, we stopped once more at the ice lagoon — seeing it for the first time in daylight.

With warm coffee in hand, we quickly crossed the street to Diamond Beach — a black sand beach littered with chunks of glacier melt.

Surreal.

Even though it was only mid-day, it seemed like we had burned through a lot of daylight so we ran back to the van, only stopping once to get this quick shot of the lagoon rushing into the ocean.

Camera in hand, Dan drove us to a spot we had scoped out from our Bitchin’ Benz. After cresting a small hill on foot, we were met with a view of two mountain ranges, a gigantic glacier, a lagoon, and complete silence. We both had to take a moment to take it all in.

Glacier shelf near Vatnajokull.
Glacier melt from Vatnajokull.
The glacier we couldn’t see the day before, now in full view!

On our way back to Skogafoss, we were stopped abruptly at intersection. We were told there had been an accident and the only road to Skogafoss was closed. She kindly, and hospitably, suggested we check out Svartifoss — a waterfall we had taken off of our itinerary because it required a hike and we weren’t sure we’d be able to fit it in.

By now, we had maybe an hour left of daylight and decided to run up the trail, which was only a short 1.5km. Thank goodness we did, as we managed to arrive with enough light to see it with very few other people.

This waterfall was the inspiration behind Reykjavik’s Hallgrimskirkja church.

By the time we got back to our van, it was nearly true night, and the accident had been cleared. We later learned that it was a pretty tragic fatal accident — our deepest condolences go out to the families affected by this event.

DAY 6: Tour two. (Skogafoss to Hveragerdi)

Our second tour was the one that Dan was most excited about — snowmobiling on a glacier. We were ahead of schedule again and decided on coffee with a side of Reynisfjara basalt columns to start our morning. Arriving at scenic points before the sun rose was one of our best moves throughout the trip, since it insured that there wouldn’t be a huge onslaught of people.

Basalt columns on the beach.
Looking up the basalt columns, I noticed this flower growing through the cracks.
The sun and the rain battling it out for the day.

Once people began to pour in and test their luck with the treacherous undertow, we felt it was the right time to make our way to Arcanum tours. We had our normal breakfast — Skyr with a messy gloop of now thawed berries, and sat in the parking lot while we waited for our time slot. While brushing our teeth, we were met with our second Icelandic sunrise, and danced to celebrate. Lucky for me, my husband’s a huge troll.

Our tour took place during a complete white-out blizzard. Though we didn’t get to see the glacier, it was pretty exciting (terrifying) not knowing how far (or close) we were to flying off a cliff to our potential demise! Visibility was very low, making the ride simultaneously exhilarating and absolutely insane.

Myrdalsjokull Snowmobiling. What a view!

By the time the tour was done, it was almost two PM, which is only two hours from the end of the day (though dusk provides a fair amount of light). We decided that visiting the Solheimasandur DC-3 wreck would be our best use of time. Rather than meander, we opted to run the never-ending 4km from the parking lot to the wreckage.

Solheimasandur Planewreck
Solheimasandur Planewreck
Dan, with the hat he stole from me. 😛
Solheimasandur Planewreck

By the time the wind picked up and it started to get cold, it was close to dark. The running towards the wreckage had caused some pain in my bad ankle, which forced our pace down on the walk out. The 4 kms were deceiving since the path was flat and there were no points of reference. It really seemed to drag on forever.

After finally getting back to the van, we hauled ass to Hveragerdi to make it to our first Bonus. Bless my sweet husband for dealing with me looking at every single damn thing at this grocery store, while being exhausted from a long day! I love grocery shopping had been looking forward to going to a Bonus since we had arrived.

We eventually made our way to the Hvergardi campsite for the night and began to plan our next few days. Mid decision making, we received an aurora alert managed to find a dark spot away from the city center. The storm was quickly covered by the clouds, but I managed to grab some shots!

Hveragadi – Reykjadalur River Entrance

here!

Equipment used: D600, 24-70 f/2.8, 20 f/2.8, iPhone SE, GoPro Hero Black, CPL, AUKEY tripod

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