Day 11: Friday 24 August 2012

Start: 2097km
End: 2357km
Distance travelled: 260km (161 miles)

Cereal for breakfast followed by pancakes with rhubarb jam and a tour of the animals on the farm. They have calves, and a pig and a load of different varieties of rabbits, and chickens and turkeys, goats, to go along with the sheep, and in the winter, reindeer. Magnus, it appears, spends quite a lot of time on the internet finding out about breeds and buying new animals, sourcing them from all over the country.

We set off in the direction of Jónkulsarlón again, arriving there with it looking different again in low cloud and fog. Past Jónkulsarlón and we arrive at the turning for Ingölfshoðhi – Einar was right about the roadworks when we spoke on the phone last night – and we time our journey on to Skaftafell. It’s only another quarter of an hour so we know when we need to leave again to get back for the tour.

At Skaftafell we have a look round the information centre which gives some interesting background into the geography and geology of the region, and we watch the video presentation of the 1996 Grimsvotn eruption and resulting jokulhaup. I find the choice of jaunty background music to what can only be described as a natural catastrophe somewhat inappropriate. We have a hot chocolate and a cake in the centre café to warm ourselves up before heading back on the road to Ingölfshoðhi.

From speaking to Einar last night I was expecting at least one other couple on today’s tour but there are several car loads and a handful of children. We pay our early fee and board the back of the hay wagon before the half hour tractor ride out across the salt marshes and beach to the narrow spit of land and headland that forms the spot where Ingolfs first arrived in Iceland before settling in Iceland.

We are told how on arriving in Iceland he through his totems of the Norse Gods into the sea declaring that he would make settlement where they were washed up. The following summer he moved to Reykjavik, and well that he might for a massive eruption later occurred near to Ingölfshoðhi and the resulting jokulhaup destroyed all the communities that had built up around it leaving the landscape that we have today.

One of the big draws of the tour at Ingölfshoðhi are the puffins but they are almost all gone for the winter now. Two days ago Einar found some still on the cliffs, yesterday they were on the sea down by the cliffs, and now they are further out. Tomorrow Einar expects them to be all gone. The Great Skuas are numerous though, as are the Fulmars and they are both impressive birds to watch. Our guide, Einar, seems vaguely familiar when he mentions leading a tour on the glacier earlier in the morning I wonder if 11 years ago he was one of the guides who took us ice climbing? Probably not, but he is a very good likeness for Finnur in my novel.

He does tell us through that this is all his land that he farm’s and I discover that he’s the son of the old farmer who too me on the tour 11 years ago. When I ask, Einar asks me, with gestures if he had a beard. I say yes and he goes on to say how his father spoke, very fluent, Icelandic. Yes! He’s right! His father spoke very little to no English beyond that needed for the tour.

Our tour ends down on the shore of the black sand and blue sea. There’s a rotting Pilot Whale, six metres long and providing food for the sea birds, and lots of whale bones, and driftwood – and a fair amount of rubbish we are somewhat disturbed about – how much just washes up from the sea. And then tractor ride back to the shore.

We head back to Skaftafell for lunch – a bit cold from the three hours on an exposed spit of land we seek out hot dogs at the local petrol station but surprisingly (and disappointingly) they have none. So we have a sandwich and a hot chocolate back at the visitor centre before our short walk to the glacier.

Eleven years ago when I first came here you were able to walk right up onto the snout of the glacier. Not it seems now. They are also some weird walkers around – like the grumpy looking lady who walks the path, head down with two hiking sticks even though the path is made for mobility scooters and returns so fast she can barely have looked up once. Very, very weird.

We get back to the visitor centre and Emma is wilting with tiredness, but we drive to the second car park and from there we can walk up to Svartifoss. I get possibly forar two excited from seeing steps, culverts, and stepping-stones and bridges that I helped to build all still there eleven years on. Well, I find it exciting.

Heading for home and its still raining between Skaftafell and Ingölfshoðhi but we drive through that and arrive back at Holmur in the perfect evening sunshine with views over three glaciers. We arrive for dinner at 8 o’clock which tonight is asparagus soup followed by pan-fried trout. Magnus’ wife tells us that we missed the first Northern Lights of the autumn over Holmur last night. Damn it for early nights. We spend some time with the last of our Freyja beer and a coffee and write our journals. Emma goes to bed early as she is tired and I stay up a bit later writing and going out into the cool country air to check on any Northern Lights but see nothing.

Day 12: Hólmur to Reykjavik…