South and East Iceland

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Glaciers and Beaches: Day 2

The wonders of today’s drive include the great Mýrdalsjökull ice cap which we are told covers the most feared Katla volcano which violently erupts every 40-80 years with the last such disturbance in 1918.  Obviously overdue, it is being closely watched especially since the 2010 volcanic activity from a different volcano closed down the skies over Iceland and much of Europe for a while.

Shore of glacial lake

The group is scheduled to go on a 3-hour glacier walk in the Vatnajökull National Park but after speaking with the glacier guide about the physical requirements, I decide for an alternative outing.  But I first walk with the group over a field of black lava rock to the base of the traverse up the hillside.  At the top of the switchbacks, I was told that everyone was required to put on crampons before following the guide onto the ice.

Site of glacial walk with walkers in far background on first white strip of ice

I walk back to the bus around the base of the glacier over fierce black sand next to cold glacial water.  Upon returning to the park information center, I am happy to take a solitary 4-kilometer hike over shrub and glacial deposits to a spectacular viewpoint over part of the glacier.  It is cold out although there is some sun and I am glad for the exercise.   I am especially happy in my choice as upon the group’s return I hear the 26 year old express how difficult the walk was with the crampons and Bill later expresses how much stress was put on his leg muscles and knees in walking on the ice and up steep ice steps along the way.  I am glad I saved my knee for future travel.

Panorama from Viewpoint in Park

Next Stop: The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon was at the end of a long run of water into a lake that ran into the ocean and in it floated icebergs of all sizes.  We were able to walk on a hillock above it and then move down to Diamond Beach.  We heard this names spoken about but didn’t understand it until we walked by the black sand and could see the sparkling of numerous pieces of small diamond ice that had broken off from larger icebergs and had been swept onto the shore.  There were families walking along and little ones were picking up the crystal clear ice pieces and throwing them back into the water.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

We stayed overnight near the town of Hofn and Bill and I had an enjoyable impromptu dinner of hummus with tomato and arugula on brown rice crackers while sitting on hallway couches.  

East Iceland:  Day 3

We have a big advantage with such a small group in terms of the time to get everyone on and off the bus for the breaks and rest stops as well as more flexibility in timing of when we go and even where we go.  Our guide/driver is excited about taking us special places although he can not give us an historical perspective or insight into the Icelandic way of life.  Fortunately, Iceland has numerous sign boards in 4 language at every tourist site making it easy to understand something about the geologic formation and historical location.

Bill and I have befriended our young friend from Sunnyvale but the two Bulgarian women keep their distance, eating separately and staying together and apart from us during our various viewing experiences.  And they smoke, often, when we are outside on breaks unfortunately.

In the morning, outside Hofn, we stop at Skutafoss, a small waterfall that is not on our itinerary and we follow the Bulgarian women who end up taking a walk through small rivulets of glacial runoff and soggy turf beyond the usual viewpoint.  What is special about this is the we are the only people here.

Our group at Skutafoss

We make another stop briefly along the coast at the viewpoint above the Hvalnes Nature Reserve Beach and marvel at the scenery.  

View from Lighthouse

And then we are at the Djupivogur fishing village where there is a bird lovers art installation: large smooth eggs designed to replicate the shape of 34 different local birds eggs, all made out of different kinds of Chinese granite.  There our guide leads us to an excellent small restaurant, the Hotel Framid, where we have another $45 lunch but this time at least it is of excellent quality.

The next large town is Egilsstadir where 4 of us are left off to wander while Yuqui goes to the Vox Baths, modern infinity hot bathing pools around a beautiful lake at additional cost — except that the weather is so cloudy and rainy she reported she could not see very far.  Bill and I have the cultural experience of spending a good deal of time in a large supermarket which supplied not only food needs but general household stuff and clothing as well.  Everything is expensive and we continually question how people manage to live here.  It is too cold to walk around outside so we sit at a small cafe  Everyplace is modern and new and tasteful as almost everything was developed for tourists in the last 10 years.  I have been expecting to hear Bjork in the continual music stream in indoor places but I can’t recognize her voice and wonder whether she is more popular out of her home country or time and taste has just moved on.

Because our tour operator is running two buses for this tour, there are not enough rooms for us in this busy tourist season in the nearby hotel so our small group travels quite far up a beautiful valley to get to a very secluded small hotel in the hamlet of Stadarborg.

On the way to Stadarborg

The twin-bedded rooms are clean and very small but the main problem is the bright sky at night and the insufficient curtains that close but still let in a great deal of light around the bottom.  I have been trying to get to sleep by 10 pm as I always wake up at 5.

Until tomorrow.