I'm standing in the shower, half asleep, thinking "Those eggs need salt" when I realize I'm not smelling eggs, it's sulphur steam coming out of the shower. At first I was kind of put off by it, but after I discovered it was only the hot water that had the sulphur and the cold water was perfectly drinkable, I relaxed a little.
It's back on highway 1 and heading east. Actually, Vík is at the southernmost point of Iceland and we begin to work our way northward. The clouds were completely gone as we pulled out of Höfðabrekka. We hadn't been on the road but a few minutes when we had to pull over to take pictures of the Myrdalsjökull ice cap. I'm just guessing here, but it's probably a rare opportunity to see the mountain without a thick cover of clouds.
The road crosses a broad plane of glacial effluent. The area is very sparsely populated and covered with Lupins. The Lupin (Lupinus nootkatensis) is not a native Icelandic species. It was introduced and cultivated to control erosion. It appears to have become somewhat invasive.
Kirkjubæjarklaustur is a quaint little town. We visited a small waterfall in town. There was supposed to be a church with glass gates, but we somehow missed it. Back on the road it wasn't long until we entered the glacial plain below Vatnajökull. The face of the Skeiðarárjökull glacier is more than 10 miles wide (15km). When you think of this as a moving, dynamic entity, it is almost overwhelming.
There are many, many glaciers in this region, but two of the more obvious ones are Skaftafellsjökull and Svinafellsjökull. The latter is easily accessible by road and short trail. We took the short hike up the trail, checked out the glacier at close range and enjoyed the wildflowers. There were only a few clouds hanging over the top of Öræfajökull. These glacier covered peaks are awesome.
On up the road a ways is Breiðamerkurjökull and iceberg filled Jökullsárlón. We spent a couple of hours there taking pictures and taking the boat cruise on the lake. From there it was only a short drive to our farm/hotel at Smyrlabjörg. We dropped our suitcases and headed on to Höfn where we had a lovely dinner. Having missed dinner the evening before and not finding an overabundance of food during the day, we decided to carry a little food with us. We had a small ice chest so a couple of containers of skyr, a little gouda cheese, bread and strawberry jam kept us going for several more days!
Returning to our hotel we noticed a little side road (F985) that headed up the mountain towards the ice cap and Skálafellsjökull. We decided to see just how far we could go without putting our rental car at risk. It was marked on the map as a primitive road starting about half way up. Our goal was a small lake at the point where the road turned to strictly four wheel drive. The scenery just got more and more fantastic the further we went up the mountain. Please note - this is not a road for the uninitiated mountain driver. While the surface is well maintained, this is about as steep as it is possible to make a road that can still be driven by a standard 4wd vehicle. One slope was so steep that without sufficient speed at the bottom it is not possible to make it to the top. It is also so steep that stopping is not possible, going up or down. When the engine quit, we slid backward a dozen or more feet before acquiring enough traction to stop our backward progress. The road is narrow, winding, and steep. I would encourage most people to sign up for the tour at the bottom of the hill and let an experienced driver with a vehicle equipped with low range gears to take you safely to the top. This is not the place to practice. End of speech.
Anyway, we continued up until the road came to an end by a little building and a snowfield full of rental snowmobiles. I took the last picture at 10:00 that evening. We still had a couple of miles to come off the mountain. It was a busy day and we slept well. The room had marvelous black-out curtains and we probably could have slept until noon!
Highlights of the day -
- Kirkjubæjarklaustur (sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the town itself...)
- Glaciers between Öræfi and Jökullsárlón
- Jökullsárlón - Part 1 - Part 2
- Smyrlabjörg to Höfn
On to Day 3
By the way, while I was in Iceland I tried to use a public internet terminal and had a few choice words to describe the Icelandic computer keyboard. Now that I'm trying to put this together, I wish I had one. Do you know how long it takes to put a word like Öræfajökull together? And, my spell checker keeps wanting to change Vatnajökull to Ratatouille