23.02.2014 - 23.02.2014 1 °C
Just to sound like broken records we were up early again as we had a long day of driving ahead of us- just for something different! Although we knew that this drive would be the longest one we would do in Iceland we also knew that the end point of Jökulsárlón the Glacier Lagoon would be well worth the drive. On our drive Drew was very controlled, stopping only a handful of times to take photos on the side of the road - a first for him in Iceland. Continuing not to stop was a hard task though as the scenery was amazing and at one point we even spotted the gorgeous Icelandic sheep, which we desperately wanted to get out and photograph but we just drove on past hoping we would see them again. This turned out to be a huge mistake, as we never spotted those wooly sheep again much to our great disappointment.
Three hours later we arrived at Jökulsárlón and to our great surprise when we hopped out of the car it was sunny and NOT windy another first on our Iceland adventure. This weather made exploring the glacier lagoon so much more pleasurable and as a result we were outside for the longest period in Iceland so far. Scaring the bejesus out of me however were the huge amount of seals playing amongst the glaciers. Having bent down to take a photo on the edge of the lagoon I let out a huge scream when a huge black blob (seal) came darting towards me. Drew in his research knew that the lagoon was filled with seals but I had no idea so they really were a huge surprise. On a side note I had no idea seals could move so quickly it really was fascinating watching them fly through the water once I knew what they were. Jökulsárlón really is an amazing natural wonder. It is Iceland’s deepest lake and filled with icebergs of all different shapes and sizes that have broken off from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and drifted down to form the lagoon. We spent two hours here and were like big kids in a glacier playground following the lagoon around on foot, picking up giant pieces of ice and finding spots where we could walk out onto the glaciers themselves- it was a lot of fun.
After visiting the glacier lagoon itself we went across the highway to explore the place where the icebergs drift out to sea and also sit washed up on the volcanic black sand beach – another amazing photo point.
We then jumped back in the Hyundai and drove back towards the visitor’s centre of Vatnajökull National Park. This enormous park is the largest national park of Europe and covers almost 13% of Iceland. As we couldn’t possibly explore all the grounds we decided to concentrate on the area known as Skaftafell National Park. We knew this park was full of hiking trails that led to a magnificent waterfall (surprise, surprise) and also one of Iceland’s largest glaciers so we were pretty excited to start exploring. The lady at the information centre was really lovely and helpful and one of the things she told us was that the track down towards the Svartifoss waterfall was quite steep, covered in ice and also slippery as the sun had caused some defrosting of the ice. She then went on to say that officially the final descent to the waterfall was closed due to the above reasons but that there was good viewing platform above the waterfall where we would be able to get some pictures from. After that useful information we set off on our journey with our faithful, top-of-the-line hiking stick as per the other tourists around us…
Once we got to the viewing platform as expected Mr. Photography was not at all happy with the view and so after a lively discussion we headed down the prohibited icy, wet path towards the waterfall one of us freaking out and the other excited (I think you can guess who was who). Anyway we made it down to the little wooden bridge safely and yes the view of Svartifoss was much better down there (as Drew made me say about five times). This waterfall was impressive mainly due to the huge number of hexagonal basalt columns which provided a very cool geometric background to the falls- well worth the scary, slippery journey down to it.
After making our way back to the car park another Iceland first happened Drew was ready to go and I wanted to walk over to view the Skaftafell glacier (Skaftafellsjökull) up close. I think the only reason Drew agreed to go is because he made me walk that treacherous waterfall path and so we set off on the 4km round-trip towards the huge glacier. This walk turned into a very long one as the Iceland wind decided to rear its ugly head again and quite often we found ourselves frozen to the path unable to move with dust flying everywhere - fun times. As always when you are the one who has suggested something and it has gone wrong I felt extremely guilty but we soldiered on took a few quick snaps of the glacier and headed back towards the car. We were the last ones to leave the National Park that day even the staff had packed up and headed home.
Day Five Night Six
At the start of our drive we were still about 140km from our dinner stop and by the time we rolled into Vik it was about 7:00pm. Upon getting out of the car we noticed how clear the sky was, you could see stars for miles and so our tiredness instantly vanished as tonight could be the night! We raced through dinner and by 8:00pm we out in the car park again and this time we didn’t need the radar to tell us that those streaks of green in the sky right outside the front door of the restaurant were the Northern Lights! We quickly hopped in the car, drove up a hill and parked the car on the side of the road at the perfect spot - completely dark with an unobstructed view of the sky. There we stood in amazement as the mountains and valleys provided a magical backdrop to the glowing green lights lining the sky. At this moment we were in no doubt that we had finally managed to view the elusive Northern Lights and we can’t explain the feeling we had at that moment – we just felt so damn lucky and excited. Drew set up his camera and spent a while changing all his settings and experimenting with capturing the magical Aurora Borealis and as the camera sat snapping away we stood behind it taking in every moment of this natural wonder.
After spending about one hour at this spot we got into the car and drove a bit further around the hill to a safer stone road where we could leave the car without worry. It was at this spot that the Northern Lights put on the most amazing show. The lines of bright green all of a sudden started streaking brightly across the sky converging into each other and then separating out – it really was like watching a light show. Then the most amazing moment came - the lights started spiraling and twirling up into the star filled sky- it really was magical and absolutely indescribable. Some of the lights stayed in the sky for long periods of time and others put on their best show for about 10 seconds and then vanished you really could not afford to look away.
Just as we had reached the highest of highs we came to a crashing low as a huge gust of wind came through sending Drew’s tripod and camera flying backwards towards the huge rocks. Even with our best attempts we were unable to stop the horrifying result… one severely smashed screen and a destroyed camera. It was almost like Mother Nature telling us yes you can witness this amazing Northern Light show but as a result I am going to take something away from you. Poor Drew, the man who takes the best care of everything he owns, he was absolutely shattered as was I. Not the best way to end our Northern Lights experience but at least Drew was able to capture some of the night’s glory on his camera before the huge smash occurred.
We can’t even describe the experience of seeing the Northern Lights words do it no justice. For the many, many hours we stood watching the green lights in absolute awe we just felt like the luckiest people especially with knowing how many people travel to view this very event without success. Witnessing the Aurora Borealis is just pure luck and something you have no control over, it cannot be planned or bought, it just comes down to fate and that is what makes it so very special. This experience will go down as the best moment of our trip, not just so far but in entirety, nothing will ever beat this travel moment. Thank you Iceland.