- Waking up at the Farm at Eyjafjallajökull
- Café Sólheimajökull (Glacial tongue)
- Cairns at Laufskálavarða (Stone piles)
- Foss at Þjóðvegur (Just a babbling brook)
- Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon (where the glacier joins the Arctic Ocean)
- Bedding down at Þvottá for the evening
A long day of driving, and packed full of adventure. There is so much to do and see in Iceland, and we just cannot do it all.
Our first stop was Sólheimajökull (Map), a glacial tongue I had visited, and walked on during my first visit to Iceland a few days more than 6 years ago. I was not aware of the café sitting near the entrance on that occasion. A café made from several shipping containers, put together and renovated to included a bathroom (for 100KR a shot) and a very rough ‘arctic’ style cafeteria look to it. We weren’t expecting much as we headed for our first coffees for the day. It wasn’t half bad and we have had much worse in the UK and before that in France. It was about $6 a cup, but worth it for the early start we had on our trip.
When I was here at this location previously, it was completely covered in ash, from the eruption. And it is still very much like that. The ash wasn’t covering the glacial ice, rather than wedged between the crevices and every crack. It simply hasn’t washed away, but become trapped. The blackness is a reminder of how the “Land of Fire and Ice” determines nature and is a product of it’s violent tendencies.
Sólheimajökull is too dangerous to walk on this ice without a guide and crampons strapped to your feet, so we kept our distance, yet I think we all captured some photo’s to give you an idea on what it was like. I don’t know the specific origins of the name of this part of the glacier however, I do know what the word means. Sól, like in many languages means “Sun”. Heima = Home, and as discussed in my first blog on Iceland, jökull = glacier. So it would mean something like Sun Home Glacier, or maybe Our Glacier of the Sun(??). To extend this to a Phonetic word should y0u want to practice in front of the mirror, it would be pronounced ‘Soll’ – ‘Himor’ (sounds like minor) – ‘yo’ – ‘ckl’ (as discussed earlier)
Our day continued beyond our trip to the glacier; and in fact had barely begun. It was looking like a long day in the car. We have already started a trend of taking much longer than we anticipate. We could say ’20 minutes’ but it seems to stretch much further and sometimes into an hour. Maybe because we are really soaking in the enjoyment of such a place.
Our next intention was to stop near Vik where the crashed DC3 hull is sitting on the black sandy beach. It ‘used’ to be that you could drive right up to the plane if you had a 4WD (having this flexibility is part of the reason why we hired it), but we found when we got to the location, about 40 or so cars parked on the side of the road. A 1.2km walk to the location (where cars can no longer drive) and no doubt a hundred or more other onlookers. The days of that ‘ghostly image’ of the DC3 with a mysterious ending with none other than the black sands and tortured hull are pretty much gone, save getting there in the early sun at 3am. We drove right by.
The landscape in Iceland continually changes. Having driven Route 1 + the Westfjords (at the time of writing this), I know how many times I have said “Now I’ve seen it all”, but I know the reality is that as I turn another corner, or drive another 10 kilometres, I’ll say it again. After we had driven about an hour from the site of the plane, we saw what are known as “Cairns”. (or varða (vörður – plural) These are rocks stacked on top of each other used as markers, particularly in the snow. People build them for fun these days, yet it is discouraged in Iceland as it unnaturally changes the landscape. Like adding padlocks to the bridges in Paris, or coins in the bottom of every clear waterhole pretty much everywhere, it leaves a mark and damages the environment in some way. The Icelanders appreciate their natural environment more than many it seems. Please, if you come to Iceland and Laufskálavarða (Map), enjoy the scenery, but don’t damage the environment.
As we continued, we came across what we started to call “a gathering” on the side of the road. A gathering of about 20 cars and a bus on this occasion, watching and photographing another waterfall. You just keep coming across them. It was a standing joke in the car to say “I see a waterfall”. Well, you generally just have to look to your left and you’ll see one. Not many to the right because the Arctic Ocean was on the right, although at times you could still see one in that direction. This waterfall was different though. I’d like to call it a babbling creek in Iceland. In any other part of the world, it’d be a major tourist attraction. A beautiful cascading small river (Map) that snaked around and back into itself. Stunning in it’s natural environment. The scene of such a place also causes annoyance to several people who think they have the ‘spot’ for a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph and someone walks into their frame to have a look at the nature that is on display. Such is life.
We had one more stop before our journey finishes for the day. At Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon (Map) as it is known, or in English – “glacial river lagoon glacial lagoon” (yes I know I’m repeating myself but think about it…). Another major tourist attraction for good reason and a wonderfully large carpark to match it.
Another major tourist attraction for good reason and a wonderfully large carpark to match it. The glacier in this location breaks off into a large lake that leads under a bridge and directly into the Arctic Ocean south of the island. The glacial ice gathers at this location. You can see it clearly here on this google image.
Finally, a 2 hour drive and some very specific GPS coordinates as given to us by our Airbnb host, we arrived at our house near the river Þvottá. “Þ” is always pronounced as a “th” in Icelandic, thus it is pronounced and can be written in English as thvotta. You will likely find this location on a google search with the English translation.
Our house for the evening was stunning. Stunning in that it was like we had just walked into someones home. In fact, it was the home of the parents and grandparents of our host, Smari. Many photographs of the family, tapestries and books lined the walls. A tea cake was waiting for us upon our arrival. Smari’s sister Hanna had made the cake for us. What a beautiful location.
To coin a phrase from the TV show “Escape to the Country” – As the sun set behind the mountains in this beautiful location, we say goodnight to our couple, looking for a place to spend a life in the country. But the sun doesn’t set does it? Not here, not now. At best we have a little colour in the sky as the clock nears midnight. But it doesn’t matter, in the land of the midnight sun, I love this place, this house, this part of Iceland. Who would want to leave?
What a wonderful place and a wonderful reward for something that I am unaware. I was honoured to be here.
Next onwards into the Eastern Fjords of Iceland. Enjoy the gallery of images of southern and south eastern Iceland. We start to move north.