Iceland - Day 9

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Vatnajökull from Höfn

Jökulsárlón Lagoon

DUKW in Jökulsárlón Lagoon

June, Eric, Mike and me


Skaftafell National Park


Near Skeiðarársandur


We left Höfn at about 9:30 AM, got fuel, and began driving west. We saw some swans and lots of sheep under gray, cloudy skies. The glacial tongues were awe-inspiring. We could see a new one each time we came around another mountain.

We arrived at Jökulsárlón lagoon about an hour later. This lake didn't exist 50 years ago: it was formed by the melting of the glacier Breiðamerkurjökull and is full of large icebergs that have broken off from the main icecap. There is a natural "sand bar" which holds the lake from flowing right into the ocean, but they estimate that within the next 20 years the lagoon will break through and create a new fjord. Some in our party were quite interested to learn that this location was where they shot the opening scenes of the James Bond movie, A View to a Kill.

As luck would have it, we arrived just in time to get right onto the next boat (amphibious vehicle = DUKW) going out into the lagoon. It was weird driving across the rocky ground in this vehicle, wearing life vests! Then we were floating in the lagoon, traveling toward the icebergs. Some were black, some white, and some a beautiful shade of blue. We were told that the water was so cold, if we fell overboard we could expect to survive at most 2 minutes. What an incredible experience!

Just before getting on the DUKW, we saw Marie and Liz, who had been on an earlier ride; June and Eric were on the "cruise" with us. We enjoyed some hot chocolate with them later, at the small restaurant at the lagoon.

We left Jökulsárlón and almost immediately saw a new glacial tongue - Oraefajökull - with a road that appeared to lead out to it, so we decided to go exploring. We were able to see the very end of that glacier with its own iceberg lagoon!

Back on the highway, we continued across the black sand desert (sandur) called Skeiðarársandur. This area contains sand and glacial debris from the volcanoes under the glaciers. We were happy to be in a car, and not riding on a bicycle, since there are frequent sandstorms here - although we experienced only rain.

We stopped for lunch at the Hótel Skaftafell, where we had delicious seafood soup and hoped the rain would stop. It did look brighter for a while, and we continued on to the Bolti farm where we happened to park next to James and Pat! Pat and the girls were staying dry in the car, so we left Brian and Alison with them while the rest of us hiked out to see Svartifoss. It was a very easy walk, although a bit muddy from the rain. On the path, a German couple recognized us from the hotel. They are Wolfgang and Ulla, traveling with their aunt on the same itinerary as we were. We had a very pleasant conversation with them, and wished we could have spent more time together. We continued on to Svartifoss, which was certainly spectacular. For a while I did think it might clear so we could see a rainbow, but it was not to be.

The drive to Kirkjubæjarklauster across the black sandur was interesting and rainy. We saw some beautiful waterfalls - too many to count. When we arrived here we went to see the "church floor," or Kirkjugólf. The Viking settlers reputedly thought this was part of a stone floor of a church built by Irish monks; however, it is actually the tops of hexagonal-shaped basalt columns - like a cross-section of the columns at Svartifoss. Actually the sight might have been more amazing had it not been pouring rain by this point.

We checked into the hotel at about 5 PM, probably the earliest, and probably due to the weather. Rain has a way of putting a damper on exploring! Pat had made dinner reservations for us at 7:30, and the three girls went swimming at the outdoor pool next door for an hour or so. The boys just relaxed, and the adults tried to dry some clothing.

We had a great time at dinner, talking with James, Pat, Liz and Rose. The food was delicious, the service was wonderful, and we were all a bit sorry that the evening had to end.

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