Jökulsárlón

We woke on Friday to a wet and windy day with very little visibility. The original plan had been to rise early and to see the black sand beach at Vík before going onto Jökulsárlón. Yet even without my glasses and bleary eyed after a night of interrupted sleep I could tell that we wouldn’t see anything and suggested a lie in of sorts for an extra hour. The breakfast buffet in the hostel was excellent with a wide choice of homemade jams and bread and pancakes.

The first thing was to put fuel into the car and it also allowed the chance just to look back behind the petrol station building to see if we could see the Reynisdrangar but no such luck so bad was the visibility.

With the road slick and the rain seemingly not looking as if it was going to stop we left Vík. As I sit here more than a week now trying to recall the trip, I remember vividly the bizarreness of taking an almost empty road where the only other traffic seemed to be going in the opposite direction. Once the direction had been decided it was a matter of keeping the car on the road and putting your faith in a journey into the unknown. Spurred on by previous images of Jökulsárlón, I drove on.

One of the difficulties in being the driver in Iceland is that you can’t take pictures of the landscape as you speed through it. From Vík once you’ve passed through Kirkjubæjarklaustur, the ring road takes you through mossy green lava fields into resolutely black sandscape passing over water that heads down to the sea. It is a surreal sight as there is very little vegetation and you can only equate it to being on another planet not that we ever have…(although I do know some people that make me wonder if they do come from another planet and they probably wonder the same thing about me!) The order of lava fields and black sandscapes might be mixed up there…

Empty road like this also made me think of post-apocalyptic film scenarios…

As we made our way across the Ring Road, a strange sight greeted us…

In 1996, when the volcano under the Grímsvötn lakes belonging to the Vatnajökull glacier erupted, and the river Skeiðará flooded the land in front of Skaftafell National Park. The jökulhlaup reached a flow rate of 50,000 cubic meters per second, and destroyed parts of the Hringvegur (Ring Road or Iceland Road #1). The flood carried ice floes that weighed up to 5000 tons with icebergs between 100-200 tons striking the Gigjukvisl Bridge of the Ring Road (the ruins are well marked with explanatory signs today as a popular tourist stop)

Note: The above text is taken from Wikipedia, the picture is mine though.

A sudden break in the weather revealed an amazing sight in the distance:

Now with the bit firmly within my teeth and renewed by the sight, I drove on…

On the left is Skaftafellsjökull and Svinafellsjökull is on the right. Both are part of Vatnajökull, which is the largest ice cap in volume in Europe.

More shots from closer:

Still so much to explore…Skatafell, was to the left here but such was my determination to get to Jökulsárlón this time, I doubt I could have been swayed. With an awareness at the back of mind at how long the drive back would be…there was a schedule to be loosely yet strictly kept to if possible.

Jökulsárlón, far exceeded my expectations and did leave me almost speechless. You get to a small bridge and a sign in typically modest Icelandic style tells you that you’re there, the other cars there give it away as a place to stop. It is a wonderful sight and one that takes your breath away…no matter if you’ve seen other people’s photographs it really is one of the most incredible things to see.

These chunks of ice flow down in to the ocean through a channel.

The icebergs are constantly shifting and pieces move and rise from beneath the surface at intermittent intervals. The shapes and scale of the ice is really a wonder as is the colour that in other people’s photographs always seemed too blue to be true.

As we sat in the cafe looking at the boats that could drive into the lagoon wishing that we could still go on them, I noticed that a few people were standing in one of them. Without even finishing my coffee, we dashed out to see if they would be going out onto the lagoon. Next thing you know we were given fetching bright orange life jackets and were trundling out into the lake.

There are so many pictures to choose from and I remember watching in semi anguish as the battery display showed red…

The boat stopped at one point and the support dingy that was either ahead or behind us as we maneuvered around pulled up alongside to hand a chunk of 1000 year old ice to our guide. Here I am with the clearest hunk of ice and in my orange, orange life jacket…

A funny thing happened out at Jökulsárlón after the boat ride. Returning back into the cafe for a coffee to warm up I spied a vaguely familiar face from England at another table but thought there could be no way. I tried listening as best as I could for the hint of English from the table but to no avail. In the end I just called out…’Miriam?’

Would you believe it? Of all the places to run into somebody that you know, how many people would bet on you running into somebody that you know 5 hours from the capital of Iceland let alone in Iceland. I live in Hatfield at present, Miriam lives 20 minutes away in St Albans yet we never run into each other…

Jökulsárlón still boasts one more unforgettable experience if your mind hasn’t already been blown away by the sheer scale and beauty of the large pieces in the lagoon. Literally crossing the ring road takes you down onto the beach towards the sea.

Here strewn across the fine black sand are pieces of ice varying in size and allowing for up close examination of the surfaces…

At one point a huge piece of ice the size of a large wardrobe was taken into the sea travelling so fast as to be one of those things that you have to confirm with another person. The magic of the place was enhanced by spotting seals swimming along the coast as well.

A large part of the beauty of Jökulsárlón for me is the ephemeral knowledge that it will be different every time that you visit it, for here the passage of time is evident. New pieces break off and will move on and be lost allowing for new ones to come and to put awe and wonder into subsequent visits and for new visitors. For me it was worth the effort to get there and by far exceeded my expectations.

We did make a couple of stops on the way back but I’ll put those in a separate post as for me, Jökulsárlón deserves one of its own.

The route over 2 days. Day 1 A to D(lunch) then D to B. Day 2 B to C and then C to D in one hit.


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