22 Mar 2016

Iceland #10 - Day 3: Playing Tour Guide on a Snowmobile

I actually managed to wake up early on day 3 of the Iceland trip, my last one with companions. We had to get up fairly early anyway, as we had to have breakfast and then drive to the snowmobiling place about 10 minutes away by 9.30am. Sunrise was at a sociable 8.23am, so getting up for dawn wasn't too hard, especially after an early night. The view from the window was lovely, but I couldn't help steaming up the window with my breath, so I made myself get outside and finally get the tripod out of the boot of the car and on its feet. The crescent moon was just visible above a hill to the south-east. It was a perfect day to head up into the mountains on a snowmobile.

Breakfast passed the test, including some stewed red fruits - my favourite accompaniment to granola and Skyr! We managed to stuff our faces before packing up the car and driving to the Arcanum snowmobiling centre nearby. I'd been on snowmobiles a couple of times (in Antarctica and on dog-sledging trips in northern Scandinavia) but this was a new experience for Scott and Bryon. It was a bit pricey but we decided to go for it anyway. I'd only booked it a few days earlier, waiting to see what the weather-forecast showed (it was good) and hoped it would hold out; it would've been unpleasant in cold wind or driving hail (which is common!). There were low clouds over the coast, but towards the north over the glacier it looked clear.

We kitted up in enormous hi-viz orange jumpsuits, balaclavas and motorbike crash helmets and headed up the hill in a monster truck (Murray was quite impressed with that bit). And then we were given a quick lesson about how to drive the snowmobiles, which pretty much involved pressing the right handlebar lever to go and the left one to brake (or just releasing the right one to slow down). Most importantly we were instructed to keep our legs tucked in, especially if the vehicles turned over.

And then we set up off towards the Sólheimajökulll glacier, a little tongue that flows downhill from the Mýrdalsjökull ice-cap. I had my camera around my neck and was trying to get shots in front and behind to get a sense of what it was like; it was a little challenging (as I was also trying to hold on to Murray), and a good portion of the photos ended up out-of-focus and had to be binned. After a while we stopped and our guide gave us a few facts about the ice-cap and glacier and volcanoes that lie underneath, threatening the country with large floods of ice and water should they erupt.

Then it was my turn for a spin. It was exhilarating driving fast across the glacier, although I was happy to hand the driver's seat back to hubby when we stopped again and continue to take more photos.

Soon we headed back downhill towards the cloud and the truck and passed over a dozen more snowmobiles that had just set off. Once we were back at the office a coach-load of people arrived. Definitely advised to stay nearby and go early - it was far more enjoyable with only a handful of snowmobiles out there.

Next stop was Reynisfjara beach, the site of the tragic accident a few weeks earlier. It had made me feel a little nervous, and again I warned the guys not to get too close to the shore line.

When we got to the beach I was horrified to see at least a dozen people nip around the edge of the basalt columns to the other side when a wave went out. Utterly stupid behaviour! The only time I've been further than the line of columns on about 5 or 6 different visits was when the tide was well out. These people were putting themselves at unnecessary risk, but presumably hadn't read about the recent drowning. The beach was unsurprisingly busy, so we didn't stay long. It was pretty nippy down there too, as usual.

We drove back around the headland into Vík, had a quick trip to the windy beach which looked pretty which a light covering of snow, took a few shots, and then got a bite to eat in the Grill bar.

The boys were taking the daily bus back to Reykjavik, which all worked out quite well with my plans to continue east in the Vitara alone for a week. After lunch we had a little time to kill before the bus arrived, so we wandered up through the snow to the pretty church. In all my visits to Vík I'd never actually been up there, so it was an achievement to finally make it. The view of the town is nice from up there.

The bus eventually came and off they went, sitting in the back row like school boys, drinking vodka out of plastic cups. And then I was off, at the beginning of the next chapter in my trip: the photography trip, alone with my music, heading into the gloom...

Click here for Day 2: Playing Tour Guide around the Golden Circle
Click here for Day 3: Heading East, Alone, to Disappointment

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