Day 10: Thursday 23 August 2012
Distance travelled: 318km (197 miles)
We get up extra in order to get through the bathroom before the other guests as there is only one bathroom for three rooms. Our plan almost works, except for the German couple. She beats us to the bathroom before us but as soon as she finishes we are out and ready and get in before her husband. Why they both didn’t go in at the same time like we did, and also the French couple after us, we don’t know. After packing our things upwe are still early for breakfast and decide to find a table with a view and write some more of our journals. The German couple have, oddly, their own early breakfast and they yaffle, badly, from the table behind us.
Breakfast is good, but not a patch on Vilborg’s spread. The guesthouse in general is nice but not as homely and happy as Vilborg’s – she truly spoiled us.
Stefin helps us to our car with our bags and we set off driving south alongside the lake before the N1 breaks away to go further east. At some point the N1 becomes a gravel road – which we had been expecting, and indeed it is because of this that we decided earlier on that we would take a small short-cut and skip a sizeable fjord or two from the route. So we take the 989 which proves to be a lesser brown road – though still navigable in a small car (we are glad for our cheap jeep though!) – that takes us over an interesting, high, and steep pass. It is stunningly beautiful and possibly even more so in the lowering cloud.
A journey that we imagine would take us most of a day actually only takes us about three hours, and wewe get to a picnic spot not far from Jökulsarlón by 1 o’clock – moving on after lunch in time to get a 2 o’clock sailing in Klaki (thanks to Vilborg’s teaching we now know that Klaki is Icelandic for ice) a duck boat that takes us out onto Jökulsarlón.
It is such an incredible, awe-inspiring place and we are so, so lucky. Today is the first day in 10 days that the fog and the rain has lifted. We’ve definitely chosen to go round Iceland in the right direction – taking the weather with us. There are Grey Seals swimming in the lake, and whilst we’re out on our boat trip several huge bits of ice break off and turn over in the lake with a tremendous crashing noise. Our guide drags a lump of 1000 year old ice out of the lake and breaks it into pieces for us to taste. It’s so, so pure – the best ice/water you will ever taste. Apparently it melts slower than normal ice and so is good for whisky if you like having it on the rocks.
After our boat/car drives us back out onto the land we go round the back of the centre buildings to meet Tapi, a Great Skua who has become almost semi-tame through frequenting Jökulsarlón. We warm ourselves up with a hot chocolate before returning to to the lake shore to watch seals. A piece of ice breaks free and begins to drift down the river towards the sea. We decide to walk with it down onto the beach. Then more seals, we look the other way – the iceberg – we look back – and back to the seals. The seals win.
Down on the beach and its weird to see icebergs on the beach – weirder to see icebergs on black sand. There are loads more Grey Seals in the sea. We probably spend another hour on the beach watching icebergs and seals before heading back on the N1, east again to our new guesthouse at Hólmur y Mýrum.
Our host Magnus shows us to the room, we’re staying in a room in the family’s newer house (the old farm house is entirely given over to guests). He also introduces us to the Persian cat with attitude, Mona Lisa. The farm has a view of three glaciers and a petting zoo of animals that we can see have an out of hours tour of tomorrow morning.
This guesthouse also does evening meals and tonight is a traditional meat soup. Perfect. At 7 o’clock we arrive at the dining room in one half of a converted barn (the other half still has animals in it) and dinner is served in a big earthenware bowl which gets refilled. I end up eating three servings of it it’s so good.
After dinner we sit for longer at our table writing our journals and working out how to organise tomorrow. Originally we were going to see puffins and skuas at Ingólfshoðhi but forom a poster at Jökulsarón we discovered that tours finish for the summer on 18 August. From looking them up on the internet and telephoning the guide, Einar, we discovered that there is still a tour tomorrow at 12 o’clock. So we will go to Skaftafell first, maybe walk to the glacier, then go to Ingólfshoðhi and return to Skaftafell for lunch and Svartifoss. Or at least that’s the plan…
Day 11: Ingólfshoðhi and Skaftafell…