28 Jul 2018

Iceland #14 - Day 9: Jökulsárlón to Vík

I had a nice lie-in on my ninth day, deciding not to bother getting up for sunrise, since there wasn't going to be one; it was forecast to be gloomy, cold, snowy, windy and increasingly stormy. Instead I got up late, had a leisurely tea and breakfast, chatted to Annette and her husband, before packing up and heading back to Gerði to check out; the mad dog wasn't around, so I could drive away unencumbered.

Next stop was the lagoon. Occasionally I resist the temptation to go back to the beach, yet again, and instead head to the lagoon at Jökulsárlón. I don't like it as much, as there's no sea, no action. Instead there's often beautifully sculpted icebergs drifting almost imperceptibly towards the shore or the river, peaks coming in and out of view under fast-moving angry clouds, the vague turquoise blue hue of the glacier tumbling down into the lake just visible in the far distance, a few birds flitting around, and the occasional snort from a seal coming up to have a look at what's going on. And, of course, there's the other tourists - always plenty of those.

The car-park has been enlarged just up from the gift shop, and worked better than the previous year, when it had been stretched along the river bank. The gift shop, café and toilets, however, hadn't been extended, which surprised me, as they are woefully inadequate for the numbers of visitors passing through (the queue for the loo is generally just too long to bother with now - another benefit of staying nearby!). I parked up and headed down towards the edge of the lagoon - it was cold, blustery, snowing a little, the sky was a weird browny-grey tone, and it was generally fairly miserable; not ideal photography weather. Not ideal anything weather. The lagoon itself was also fairly miserable, with only a couple of large turquoise icebergs miles away in the distance, with a few other small ones hidden under snow. It was a far cry from my final day there the previous year, when I saw the most incredible symmetrical reflections from a wonderfully jagged berg, under superb blue skies. New signs were up warning people of the dangers. I had seen for myself a few people walking right out on icebergs some years earlier - they had been okay, but wouldn't have been had the ice broken beneath them. People clearly have to be told not to endanger themselves to prevent the Darwin Awards kicking in!

I walked up the first little hill where a few visitors congregated. It was snowing quite heavily by now, and the hills in the distance were empty, oddly. People seemed to be climbing up the first hill to see the view, or wandering along the first stretch of beach, but not venturing any further. I did, and soon everyone else followed!

I wandered further, with others now following. As the icebergs were a little disappointing (even if one did look like a jellybaby) I took a few shots of the lovely greyness of the scene behind me.

I got a bit cold, with the snow and wind incessant, and headed back to the car to continue my journey westwards.

I waved goodbye to my beloved Jökulsárlón and headed off. It wasn't too long before I stopped, as I noticed some beautifully snowy trees near the petrol station at Oræfi, as well as some stunning crepuscular rays over the ocean to the south. I've always noticed a little promontory in the distance, and finally managed to find a map with its name (Ingólfshöfða - I think!).

I continued on, the roads looking much like this for most of the journey. 

After an obligatory stop for the burger at the Shell petrol station at Freysnes it was on towards Lómagnúpur. It looked rather different from my journey there exactly a week earlier, where I'd pranced around in my blue cotton top. This time I was completely layered up and didn't manage to venture very far. Certainly no selfies taken on this occasion. As is often the case, the wind there was stronger than on other stretches of the road. It still looked magnificent; how I love that mountain!

A quick stop at the side of the road was made to see pretty Foss á Siðu in the hamlet of Hamrafoss. There were some wonderful icicles clinging to the frozen cliffs; the waterfall itself was barely visible.

I was keen to crack on, aiming to be on Vík beach before sunset, which didn't leave a great deal of time for stops (this early in the winter was certainly frustrating from that perspective). As I approached Hjörleifshöfði I became increasingly worried about the blowing snow. There was plenty of it around, and driving was therefore slow. Opposite the turn-off (which was completely snowed-in) I pulled off into a lay-by, which wasn't sloping off to the side (and therefore didn't have a pile of deep snow for my tyres to sink into). The view was wonderful, with the sun streaming through the stormy snow-clouds and the needles of Reynidrangar just visible on the horizon. A few cars pulled in behind me to capture the same view (always happens these days!). It was still bitterly cold, so I didn't linger outside the car for long.

I arrived in Vik with enough time before the sunset to get a few shots of the church, perched neatly on the hill, as a beam of sun broke through the clouds. I was also greeted by a cute bird in the snow piled up above the car-park that I stopped at.

I didn't fancy my chances driving down the usual track at the end of the town to the car-park in this snow, so left the car at the petrol station car-park and decided to explore the view from the rocky jetty instead. In the distance I could see waves crashing against it at the end, with a few people jumping out of the way to avoid being soaked. I wandered through sunlit dunes and headed along the pier. While the sun was out there was a glorious golden hour hue.

Clouds came and went, giving some challenging, but interesting light conditions. I set my tripod up in a few places and experimented with different views, lenses and filters. At one point I became panicky as I couldn't change the exposure, but soon realised I had accidentally pushed the lock button. I thought the 5Diii was on its way out, but it has some life left in it, thankfully!

Eventually the sun disappeared behind Reynisfjall and the light was a little easier to capture. I was in heaven, mesmerised by the crashing waves and the picturesque stacks in the background. Occasionally the tide would reveal some rocks in the shallows. It was nice to get a different view from the usual one with the black sand (the beach was dotted with photographers capturing that view!).

The sky darkened and I wanted to get some pizza before heading around the headland to my guesthouse, the Farmhouse Lodge, before it got properly dark. I'd left it a little late, and ended up leaving the Suduk Vik restaurant (with my half pizza for lunch the next day in a box) in proper darkness. I'd also had a beer, which in retrospect wasn't the smartest idea. As I left town the weather wasn't too bad, but as I climbed snow began to hit the windscreen. You'd think after my previous experience of driving in heavy snow in the dark - which was pretty much the scariest thing I've ever done! - that I'd have known better, and totally avoided the chance of a repeat, but no. Here I was on a windy road in the dark with snow driving towards the windscreen. Fortunately I didn't have too far to go, and I knew exactly where I was going, otherwise I might have been in trouble. I hoped that at the top of the hill the change in direction of the road might help, but the snow still came straight at me (like flying through a meteor shower!). A little after the bottom of the bendy pass I passed a small car at the side of the road, stuck in the snow. I momentarily thought about stopping to help, but what could I have done? Leaving my car in the road would've been dangerous (visibility was practically zero), and I didn't have any ropes to tug them out, so I continued on. It seemed like an eternity - just like the last time - and I was so relieved to get to the turn-off and arrive at my home for the night. Next time hopefully I'll make sure I get home before dark! The storm was forecast to last all night and a good part of the next day; hopefully the winds might drop enough for me to continue my journey to Álftanes - fingers crossed!

Click here for my blog from Day 8 - Jökulsárlón Yet Again
Click here for my blog from Day 10 - Driving from Vík to Álftanes

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