Extreme Iceland

There was a point half way through the day when I couldn’t stop giggling. Along with the rest of the tour group, I was standing on a beach on the south east coast of Iceland. We were all very cold and it was snowing. The on-line brochure and accompanying research I’d done before-hand suggested clear blue skies as a backdrop to viewing a series of large basalt structures in the ocean. As we stood there, peering out through the snow, and desperately trying not to fall over (due to the wind gusts), I kept thinking how wonderfully ridiculous it all was.

The day had started off beautifully. Minutes after finishing breakfast, we were on a nearby beach. As much as I was blown away by yesterday’s visit where we “walked on the glacier”, we were now at the other end of the glacier, where the ice met the sea. Literally. Against the backdrop of the ocean, and lying upon the volcanic black sand, there were blocks of ice of varying colours, shapes and sizes.

Although the larger blocks of ice had lots of appeal, I was more intrigued by the smaller blocks. They were like large pieces of transparent hand-made crystal which would sell for thousands of dollars. I noticed there was a photographer who was taking lots of photographs from lots of angles of the largest block of ice. In taking so many close-up photographs of the large block, I suspect he missed the point: these were blocks of ice on the beach. To truly capture the significance of this, I think you need to see the black sand and the nearby ocean.

From there, we visited the nearby lagoon, Jökulsárlón (literally “glacial river lagoon”) which Wikipedia describes in these terms…

Situated at the head of Breiðamerkurjökull, it evolved into a lagoon after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of melting of the Icelandic glaciers. The lagoon now stands 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) away from the ocean’s edge and covers an area of about 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi). It recently became the deepest lake in Iceland at over 248 metres (814 ft) depth as glacial retreat extended its boundaries. The size of the lagoon has increased fourfold since the 1970s. It is considered as one of the natural wonders of Iceland.

Floating in the lake, the were large blocks of ice which had broken free from the main glacier and were making their way towards the ocean. It was mesmerising to watch one large block float down the river to the sea, eventually crashing (with a thud) into another large block. “This is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life”, I thought to myself at one point.

Throughout the day we also visited a number of waterfalls, where free flowing water came down from the mountain crashing onto ice blocks below. I got close enough to one to actually get wet which was probably not a great idea given the low temperatures. But I had great fun, along with a couple of crazy Americans who agreed it would be a great think to do. “There’s nothing to lose”, one of them said to me. Well, maybe a finger or toe through frost-bite, but hey…

By mid-afternoon the weather had turned. I hadn’t been wearing my seat-belt, but there was a moment when I realised I probably should. We were in the middle of a snow storm, with the heaviest snow I’d ever seen and strong winds. The road was covered in snow, and an image flashed through my mind of the vehicle sliding off the road.

We were on our way to Vik to see the basalt columns. Although we were allocated thirty minutes for some sight-seeing, most of us were back in the busy fairly quickly. “I said you had thirty minutes. You lasted ten”, our tour guide told us.

The weather was also against us when it came to some later evening search for the Northern Lights. Too much cloud. Still, I had a great couple of days travelling throughout the South and East of Iceland.

Tour Details: South Coast and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

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