Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ring Road Days 5 & 6: Seyðisfjörður, Höfn, Jökulsárlón, Skaftafell

I'm going to combine two days as to give the last day a nice rounded-out summation, and Day 5 was much car-travelling. Brace yourselves.

Seyðisfjörður is quite nice, as I've said. There's a boat (more like a giant cruise ship) that docks once a week here and ferries people to Denmark! There are about five shops, a great art center, a Norwegian-looking blue church, and the scenery is lovely. Seyðisfjörður became even more memorable when Devon dropped the car key down a perfectly-placed drainage grate, and had to basically swim under the ditch to fetch it out. Luckily not only did we have a spare, but we (well, he) wrangled the key out without a full swim in the icy runoff of a waterfall. Nicole and I just documented the process. Isn't that our job as artists?! inoright.

There is an art piece nearby the grate of the ditch that conveniently also provided a place to sit, as well as wash off Devon's creek shoes.

The drive up the mountains and over the fjord is quite impressive. Nicole had plenty of opportunities to hunt for rainbows with all of the foggy/cloudy/misty/sunny weather one gets passing through the mountain range. Further down the Ring Road, we head south and stop in Djúpavík for a snack:

but sadly there was nowhere to get out and eat our lunch, no picnic tables, no community building, etc. So, we made the best of another meal in 'Café Bíl' (French and Icelandic for 'Car Café', obvi).

We then continued our drive to Höfn, through much rain and fog, some caused by Vatnajökull being so close by. Vatnajökull happens to be the largest glacier in Europe, so I can see why is would have an effect on the weather. It has ice that is over 1 kilometer thick at some points. However, tonight we were not able to see glaciers so we went to the fancy pool in Höfn, and I took another risk on my adventure trip and went down two waterslides! It's been a big growing-up time for Midnight Shoveler, now he is riding the Big-Boy Rides.

Day 6 far surpassed our expectations for sight-seeing. The things we experienced today made yesterday's rain seem like a worthwhile wait. We were finally able to see glaciers today, inching and groaning their way down from Vatnajökull.

But our main attraction for the morning was Jökulsárlón. It is a glacier 'lagoon', which formed only really in the last 75 years (I think I remember reading). When the glacier melts it calves icebergs off into this bay, and the icebergs float out to sea, under a bridge. The icebergs then either melt at sea, or some get stuck on the ocean coastline, which was almost even better than Jökulsárlón because here you have dramatically crashing waves and could walk up and touch (or lick, or pose with) 1,000-year old glacial ice.

The ice forms float around in the most amazing colors, textures, and sizes. Some are this intense blue color, others are clear, or have rocks and pebbled stripes in them. I heard one split off with a crack, and a chunk fell off into the bay- not quite as dramatic as calving off the glacier, but still sound-worthy.

Suffice to say we took a million pictures of this and decided not to go on the boat trip as we already had enough amazing moments, and still have more to see. Jökulsárlón is not actually very far from Reykjavík, drivable in a day, so I can bring friends back here too!

We drove a short ways to Skaftafell, a large national park and part of the Vatnajökull Nature Preserve. This was the most amazing change in landscape. One minute we are gazing at a blue iceberg in a rocky lagoon. And a half hour later we are in a true forest, with waterfalls, hiking trails, and hidden coves. The fall colors here were in full form!

We visited two great waterfalls, Hundarfoss and Svartifoss.

Hundarfoss (pictured below, from a distance) was my particular favorite because you could lean right over the edge of a precipice (carefully) and feel/see/hear the full effect of the falls.

Svartifoss, however, is more well-known waterfall, as it pours over a cliff of gorgeous basalt columns, all hexagonal and quite architectural.

You used to be able to walk behind this waterfall, but rocks and plants were being disturbed too much, so one can only walk up to the falls and gaze longingly, and then you have to turn back. This is probably a picture of me turning back.

There was a totally magical and surprisingly windless grotto at the bottom of the park, and we stopped for a moment to catch our breath, and look at some of the tallest trees on the island, and some of the oldest spruces as well.

We then headed reluctantly (I think we would have stayed longer but for the rain starting to pour on us) back to the car and drove to Vík, where we'll spend the morning of our last day of the trip. As we were on our way, yes, we did see the ash-y remains of Eyjafjallajökull's eruption. The mountain/glacier is not really see-able from the highway, but we did pass it. I naïvely thought that much of the volcano's destruction to the landscape would still be evident, but I believe the ash acted as fertilizer for many farms, so things are greener than ever in that area. There are a few mounds of black soils where you can tell the road was washed away and rebuilt, but it looks as if life is back to normal for much of the countryside on the south coast.

After a brief stop-in at the Vík wool factory where Devon and Nicole bought darling lopapeysas, we headed to our 70's-flavored guesthouse for the night. One more day of travelling and we'll be back to Reykjavík by the next nightfall. So much to think back upon, to try to process how much I've already seen this week. But don't worry, there's one more day, and we won't end our tour without a grand slam-bang finale.

(Many thanks to Nicole Pietrantoni who provided photos for about half of today's sights. You'll recognize her photos as they are the good ones, sized correctly and with a real artist's eye...)


AvesMaria said...

I can't believe these landscapes! So fantastical! So phthalo blue! So hexagonal! It appears you have been (happily) trapped in an issue of National Geographic. Thank you for sharing this with the internets so we can gawk from Pittsburgh. :)

Sally said...

The photo of you casually smirking and leaning on the iceberg makes me miss you so bad it hurts!!!