Part 5: The Ring Road, Day 3
A glacier trek, a glacier lagoon, black sand dunes, reindeer, and an unexpected drive over a snow covered mountain pretty much sum up day three on the Ring Road.
Vatnajökull National Park
Our glacier trek began at Skaftafell Visitor Center, where we were advised against the three layers of clothing, plus coats and hats we'd each donned in preparation. "Surely you can't be serious," we said, "have you been here? It's freezing." None the less, we shed our layers, swapped coats for vests and fleece pullovers, and went for our crampon fittings.
We took a short bus ride to Virkisjökull for our climb. Seen above, tucked back and to the far left, it curves behind the rock and rises over to the right.
Virkisjökull is one of the many outlets of Iceland's largest (and Europe's second largest) glacier, Vatnajökull. Our trek gave us about an hour and a half spent on the ice and went a bit higher than it was originally intended to, which was pretty cool.
"One day that whole shelf there is just gonna *boom* right off. Oh, if you hear a loud crack while we're on the ice, don't move toward it." -Marc, our guide
The glacier was covered with moulins, which were bright blue in color and varied in size.
Here's another one - slightly wider but shallower looking.
For scale, there are people smack in the middle there on their way up to us (not yet at our highest point.)
Glacial Sunburn Selfie
"This is the best water you can get in the world."
Marc, our tour guide, speaking the truth
Marc told us that this was how Vikings drank water from the glacier. Tarina gave it a shot.
Glacier Trio Selfie
Had to have a shot with our axes.
That's Marc. He's really into selfies.
Feeling pretty accomplished
"Do you want to see my crevasses?"
Marc, our guide (Who's English, btw, so this sounded hilarious)
After viewing Marc's crevasses, we began our trek back down the ice. We'd learned different walking techniques - leaning back and duck-walking to go downhill, forward to go up, etc., but even with my ice axe and crampons, that slope was pretty intense. When we reached the bottom, I hugged and high-fived a 70-year old woman who'd had 2 hip replacements and was afraid to come with us. I pretty much always fall down and break things and figured if she did it, I had no excuse.
Before leaving the Vatnajökull area, we returned to Jökulsárlón to get some more photos in different light. I guess it shouldn't have been surprising, seeing as how the icebergs were constantly in (slow) motion, but the landscape of the lagoon had changed completely from the day before.
The ice looks like diamonds.
On the Road Again
We started on our 5-hour drive toward Mývatn, the next major stopping point on our Ring Road journey, and planned to just stop off at anything that looked interesting along the way. So pretty much everything.
Still in the Vatnajökull region, we took a short detour over to Vestrahorn to visit the black sand dunes in front of this gorgeous mountain. I also made a sweet doggie friend at the little Viking trail you enter through. She was super friendly - actually all the dogs in Iceland were super friendly... to me anyway.
The way these small clouds hung over specific parts of the mountain was so surreal looking.
I unfortunately got hit with a massive migraine that day. Driving on this gravel road was not the greatest, but it sure was pretty.
We saw reindeer on our way out!
It was hard not to constantly pull over to get out and take photographs/marvel/cry.
Our visit was during the last 2 weeks of May, and since snow was still heavy on the ground in places, there was one span along the Ring Road that was still closed - the one that goes toward The Highlands. As such, Tarina found another way around to get us from Vatnajökull to Mývatn. It started a bit gravel-ly, but seemed fine, until we realized we were on, and seemed to be continuing on, a pretty steady incline.
This was a most unexpected delight. No big deal, just driving over a mountain road, snow on either side for miles, mountain tops beside us, no other cars, waterfalls and glacial snow. #icelanding2016
A video example of our outrage at this scenery. How dare you, Iceland. I constantly had to switch windows.
"Are you fucking kidding me, Iceland?"
Sarah, so many times
"It's gonna start going back down soon, I'm sure. I mean... It has to..."
Tarina, as we slowly ascended a mountain into the sky
There was a lot of "holy shit" and "are we actually driving over a mountain" happening. And also this little waterfall.
"Did anyone check us in on FourSquare? Can we check in as On Top of This Fucking Mountain?"
Me, asking the relevant questions
On top of that fucking mountain.
"These mountains are our friends."
Me, because true facts
a story by @thatlalagirl #iceland #ringroad #jokulsarlon #travel #glacier #europe #goexplore #travelphotography #roadtrip #stellerstories #waterfall #glacierlagoon #stellarplaces #nationalpark #icelanding2016 See more at ThatLalaGirl.com Flickr and Instagram Instagram: @thatlalagirl Stay tuned for the rest of my two week Iceland trip!