15 Nov 2015

Iceland Nov 2015 - Day 2: from Vík to Jökulsárlón

I woke up to the sound of heavy wind and rain; not an uncommon occurrence. The view of the church on the hill opposite me could only just be seen through my rain-covered window (once it had got light). The winds were forecast to die down at around 10am, though, so at least the whole day wouldn't be too bad, and the drive wouldn't be dangerous.

Before packing up and heading off from the Guesthouse Carina, I had a delicious breakfast of a tasty waffle with maple syrup and bread with homemade rhubarb jam. I set off at about 9.30am, knowing the journey ahead pretty well by now. Sometimes when I can't sleep I picture it, trying to remember each landmark along the way until sleep gets the better of me. Today the landmarks were shrouded with mist and drizzle, with the tops of the hills hidden by low cloud; at least there was some contrast in the grey clouds from time to time. I drove without stopping much, given how nasty the drizzle was - and also given that I was rather excited to be returning to my beloved Jökulsárlón. I drove straight through Kirkjubæjarklaustur and didn't stop until I reached Foss á Siðu, the rather nice little waterfall that sometimes seems to flow upwards, when the wind catches it. I pulled off the road and caught it blowing to the side a bit, but the wind wasn't strong, so no upwards movement. 

Not far from there is my favourite Icelandic mountain - the mighty Lómagnúpur. I was actually surprised to be able to see it all, as the cloud was getting a little denser, but there she was, proudly jutting out of the land. Usually I drive along a small track that runs perpendicular to the road, and take a few shots of the mountain reflected in the ponds, but given how damp it was I pulled off the road before the track and just took a couple of quick snaps before racing back into the dry car and heading onwards.

The next stretch is pretty barren, particular when the weather's poor, so I just continued on until Skaftafell came into view. The glaciers that pour off the Vatnajökull were glowing brightly, in spite of ominous clouds above. I could just see the two waterfalls that I've passed in the Skaftafell park - including Svartifoss, but had no intention of visiting them today, in this weather.

I was making pretty good time, so I decided to take the little detour to Svínafellsjökull and see how it was looking. Unfortunately, I arrived at the same time as a shower hit, and the tops of the mountains weren't visible under the mist. There were a few other cars in the car-park, and I could see couples silhouetted against the glowing flow of ice. I took a few photos from the car (through the window between windscreen-wipes!) and drove back down the very pot-holed road, stopping to get a shot of the car against the rugged background.

I found out a few days later that on either that day or the next day two huge icebergs in the lagoon at Svínafellsjökull turned over (I watched a video on youtube) - so if I'd made the effort to get out of the car I might have witnessed the spectacle myself. Ho hum; being so close to Jökulsárlón made me just want to hurry away to the icy beach as quickly as possible.

And so I drove the final 65km to Jökulsárlón, feeling increasingly excited, wondering what I'd find on the beach. Would there be icebergs on both beaches? Would there be many, would they be small, big, interesting shapes? Would the tide be in and create beautiful trails over the bergs? The journey is pretty quick, in spite of a few windy sections and soon I passed the turn-off to Fjallsárlón and knew that I was close. I drove with the moraine on my left, knowing that the lagoon was hidden behind the dark mounds, clouds still obscuring any of the mountains behind the glacier. I saw the electricity pylons converge and then finally the two white structures of the small suspension bridge came into view. I actually had a few tears in my eyes as I trundled across the bridge and turned right towards the east beach. If I had to think of my one favourite place in the whole world (and I've been to some incredible places) then this would be my pick every time. It is just so special to me! Having said that, I parked up and looked down towards the sea, which was blocked by a massive clutter of icebergs and it didn't look that pretty! I got all geared up, picked a lens to take (the 24-70mm - my go-to lens) and my bag filled with filters, grabbed the heavy tripod and headed down towards the ice.

It was actually a little disappointing, for once, mainly because the beach was so cluttered full of bergs that it was impossible to get to the sea shore, picture any individual bergs, or really appreciate any of them individually. I did find a few that I rather liked, but none of them won the prize for "favourite iceberg"! I'd seen it like that once before, and it just made photographing it a little unsatisfactory. It was also drizzling slightly, although it was directional, so I managed to avoid getting the lens wet by photographing away from it (and also using the hood). I took a few close-ups of the detail in the ice, which can be wonderful.

The sun began to break through and there was some break in the clouds to the north, so I headed across the road and the bridge to see how the lagoon was looking from the west side of the river. It had fewer icebergs than I'd seen before, although there was some large ones near the shore (which would be washed up on the beach in smaller bergs over the next few days or weeks, presumably). As I arrived the cloud and fog began to lift from the tops of some of the mountains behind the glacier. Visitors on the hill were silhouetted, often taking selfies using selfie sticks, and looking ridiculous.

I decided to head across to the other side of the bridge just as the wind began to increase. In just a few minutes the weather had changed from fairly calm to gale-force gusts! A man had set up a time-lapse a couple of minutes earlier and had to abandon, as the tripod wasn't strong enough versus the wind.

I parked on the other side overlooking the lagoon and a shower battered the windows. My view was obscured, but there was no way I was going out in that. I was amazed to watch a man struggling along the shore wearing jeans. Seriously, the amount of people I see in Iceland wearing jeans is just astounding. Have these people never experienced wet jeans before??!

The rain finally stopped and the storm clouds moved on, but the gusty winds prevailed. I took one last shot before heading off to my lovely little refuge nearby, Hali.

As always, the forecast was for wind, rain and 100% cloud-cover overnight, and there were no northern lights forecast either, although this didn't stop me checking the forecasts every five minutes. I chatted to a friendly Taiwanese guy as I ate my pasta and later on did the usual Skyping home and enjoying a couple of nice Icelandic beers. I set my alarm early enough to be up a couple of hours before sunrise, in case of nice morning skies on the beach and had a nice early night and long sleep, happy to be back in this part of the world, that has somehow become my spiritual home.

Click here for my blog from Day 1 - From Keflavík to Vík
Click here for my blog from Day 3 - Just Jökulsárlón

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