Denise Goldberg's blog

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A lucky day

The weather wizard was quite cooperative today. The skies stayed gray, and much of the rain fell was while I was driving.

I was joined today by Marion from Köln, Germany. She also stayed at the hostel in Vik last night. Since her destination today was Skaftafell, also my end point, she asked if she could join me. When I told her that my camera directs me to stop along the road, she initially said that she'd stick with the bus. She came back a few minutes later saying that she'd like to join me, that she didn't mind extra time in beautiful places. I'm glad that she changed her mind; we both thoroughly enjoyed the day.

We left Vik in a light rain, heading east and a bit north. Stopping points were (as always) driven by my desire to grab photos of interesting viewpoints when they were also supported by a reasonable place leave the car. There was actually enough of a shoulder in some spots to pull off of the road. Marion noticed things off to the side of the road that I sometimes missed. One of those was a beautiful spot down a just wider than a single lane, poor condition dirt road. Green decorated the ground leading to a jagged drop to a river valley. The shapes of the cliffs were amazing. The walk was good until it was time to turn around. That's when it started raining - not a sprinkle, real rain. Both of us were pretty wet by the time we got back to the car. Luckily cranking the heat up cleared the windshield, warmed us, and eventually dried our wet attire.

We knew were were close to our end point when we saw glaciers in front of us.

We pulled in to Skaftafell after about four hours of driving. From Vik to Skaftafell is 139 kilometers. With a speed limit of 90 kilometers per hour, two hours should have been enough to complete the drive. I seem to be pretty consistent in taking much more time than expected to arrive, which is a good thing considering my goal is to enjoy the sights as opposed to hurrying to a destination.

It was time for a sit still moment, accompanied by coffee and a snack. While this was our final destination, I wanted to see Jökulsárlón, also known as the Glacial Lagoon. Marion was interested too, so she came along too. It wasn't much further - about 59 kilometers down the road - but the drive out felt long. That was probably due to the very heavy rain that started soon after we left Skaftafell. Heavy rain, light rain, then a quickly appearing and disappearing heavy fog. Marion checked the map and was able to confirm that we were getting close. Suddenly we saw the expected bridge, and ice floating off to the left of the road. The clouds came down to the water's surface. The water appeared as a shade of gray, topped by white, gray, and blue ice, with gray sky topping the look. We stopped and walked, staring at the blue ice topped with birds.

We could hear the pounding surf of the ocean, a sound that drew us to walk on the black sand beach after we finished looking at the shapes of ice floating in the glacial lake.

I had to make one more stop on our way back to Skaftafell. That area of fog fascinated me; I needed to see what was there. Water came pouring down from the glaciers above, water containing small pieces of blue ice that had split from the glacier. It was a surreal look, foggy with a bit of shine in a pool of water, a hard to believe reflection of the sun (as it was hiding behind the clouds).

Back at Skaftafell, the clouds let a tiny bit of blue sky through. I could see a bright spot on the glacier, sun hitting ice.

Before heading to my home for the night, I dropped Marion off at the Bolti Guesthouse high on a hill in the national park. Luckily the road was paved as it was a single-lane full of curves that doubled back and back again. I can't even begin to guess at the percent grade of the road. We hit at least one 12% grade on the Ring Road today (or was it yesterday?), and this road felt steeper.

Tonight I'm staying at the Hotel Skaftafell. They had what seemed like a rather odd discount - a special offer to celebrate the end of the volcanic eruption. It was a 58% discount, meaning that I was able to get a room and breakfast for 10,400 ISK instead of the normal 25,000 ISK. Ah, that will do quite nicely!

I plan to start tomorrow with some walking in Skaftafell National Park. Oh wait - the name of this park was a source of confusion for me when I was reading about Iceland. In case you're looking for information on the park for your own wander here... Skaftafell was established as a park in 1967, but it was merged another park into a larger entity, Vatnajokull National Park.

My day will end with a drive, probably back to Selfoss. That leaves me with a reasonable drive back to Keflavik Airport on Saturday, with plenty of time to to a bit more exploring.