Monday, November 07, 2011

Iceland Day 3 - Black sand and blue ice.

We woke to the sound of dozens of alarms going of on our various mobile phones. Today’s trip was to be the longest, and we would have driven a total of 800 kms before the day finished. Consequently, we were to be picked up an hour earlier than normal, which was why I was pulling on my pants while half asleep. 

The brisk chill outside soon woke us up, and before long we were on the coach retracing our journey from yesterday. Today’s trip was to culminate in the amazing glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón and would give us a south coast tour too.

We booked the trip via IcelandExcursions and it cost us 23,655 Icelandic Kroner per person.

We would follow the same path as the day before, but the glacial lip where we stopped the day before was only about halfway to our final destination. Predictably, the first stop was Skogarfoss, which we had visited the day before, but what a difference was there today! The sky was grey, and the waterfall which was bright and sparkling with rainbows yesterday, was broody and menacing today. After a few photos, we whizzed on.

Our guide today was not a native Icelander, but a German girl who had come years ago to Iceland to work as a farm hand, and had fallen in love with the land. She told us more of the story of Iceland, including some of the Sagas. As we listened, we watched the landscape go by. Geologically speaking, most of the features in Iceland are brand new, and the twisted cliffs and jutting crags have not been worn smooth by rain and wind.
Lava fields and green hills

Around 12, we stopped for lunch in a cafeteria in the mille of nowhere and with a view of the glaciers. It looked pretty bleak from outside, but there was a extensive cold buffet with varieties of fish, along with a hot soup of Icelandic lamb.

Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon formed by meltwater off the Vatnajökull glacier. The lake is the deepest in Iceland, and is growing bigger as the glacier lip melts. The most interesting this is that the lip of the glacier slowly breaks off into icebergs which then drift down the lagoon till they eventually reach the sea. This results in a lake full of the most amazing and bizzarely shaped blocks of ice. This is the most unearthly beautiful place I have seen.
Iceberg ahoy


And to add to this, there were plenty of seals fishing in the lake. We were to take a cruise around the lake to see it better, and after wandering around the shore, our boat trundled around a nearby hill and stopped near us. I say trundled, as it had four wheels! It was actually an amphibious craft, and once we boarded it, it slowly dove down to the shore and into the lake and we were off. 

A Seal

The amphibious craft
The Glacial lip in the background

The icebergs were even more beautiful close up, and were a variety of colours, from briliant white to black. The most beautiful ones glowed with a serene blue light. Our guide, this très cute Icelandic girl, proceeded to fish out this chunk of ice from the lake and gave us a quick talk on the icebergs, after which she broke it up into chunks for us to taste. The ice is pristine 1000 year old, and supposed to be really good in whisky as it is so compressed it melts very slowly. Whisky unfortunately, was not served.
Our guide cradling some ice
Check out the video of her talking about the lagoon.

As a treat, have a look at this BBC video likening Jökulsárlón to Saturn's rings.

On the way back, we stopped at the village of Vik to take a stoll along the famous black beach. It was very windy and the waves crashed into the shore making it a desolate yet beautiful scene.
A close up of the beach
The black beach at Vik

And after a short stop at another waterfall, we were on our way back listening to our guide tell us about Icelandic trolls and elvelore. We finally staggered into bed around 11pm.

As usual, click on the album below to view it full screen (v reccomended).