Iceland Day 3 — South and Southeast

posted in: Iceland, Iceland 2014 | 0

The third day was the most anticipated one of the whole trip. We planned two exciting tours and a beautiful hike. Unfortunately, this was the day that also gave us the worst, most nerve wracking surprise of the whole trip.

We woke up early (this time we set alarms on all three phones). The cabin had a small kitchenette so I made us some coffee, poured it in a thermos and rushed out.

Our schedule for the day looked very simple with only three planned activities.

9:30 – 12:30 Glacier tour
13:00 – 16:00 Hike Skaftafell National Park to Svartifoss waterfall
17:30 – 18:30 Boat tour on Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

We had a 9:30 reservation for a glacier tour. Neither of us was on a glacier before and we were very excited to experience walking on glacier ice. It was raining again that morning, a typical drizzling rain that almost isn’t there until you find yourself soaked to the bone. Our guide optimistically called such weather “liquid sunshine”.

Glacier walk tour
Glacier walk tour
Vatnajökull glacier -- Falljökull tongue
Vatnajökull glacier — Falljökull tongue

On the tour we visited Falljökull glacier tongue of the huge Vatnajökull glacier. It was not as beautiful as other tongues that we visited the day before but it was fun to walk in crampons on the ice.

Crampons
Now we know how to wear crampons
Crevasse
Crevasse
Moss is the only living thing that survives on ice
Moss is the only living thing that survives on ice

The tour itself lasted three hours but only one hour was on the ice and that was not enough (we only got as far as the second GPS transmitter that monitors the movement of the glacial ice), even under the rain, which intensified as soon as we got to the glacier. The tour guide told us that rain is essential for the “health” of glaciers. It helps them accumulate ice. So we didn’t complain. We had our cameras in protective covers so we spent our time taking pictures and exploring a small portion of the glacier. Next time we would definitely go for a longer trip.

Falljökull glacier tongue
Falljökull glacier tongue
Another crevasse
Another crevasse
Blue ice under the dirt and volcanic ashes
Blue ice under the dirt and volcanic ashes
We are on the glacier
This is how you shouldn’t carry your axe but it is more fun and better pictures this way

After we came back from the tour, the weather decided to change and the rain finally stopped. Between the glacier and the hike we had half an hour to rest, eat Lara bars that we brought with us from the States and drink some coffee.

Compared to other touristy locations in Iceland, the Skaftafell National Park’s information center is a very busy place. Probably the most crowded that we’ve seen on this trip. It’s no wonder because there is so much to see around here and all kinds of excursions start from here as well. Unfortunately, we had planned only a single 3.2 km round trip hike to Svartifoss (“black waterfall”).

The hike starts from the information Center’s parking lot and the sign says, “Svartifoss waterfall, 1.5 km”. Then, after you go up the trail for about 100 meters, the sign says, “Svartifoss waterfall, 1.6 km”. I honestly don’t know how to interpret this discrepancy but back then I thought that it was not fair. You think that you already made some progress toward your target but it turns out you are even further away than you were at the beginning.

The trail to Svartifoss is nice, different from most in Iceland. There were trees and blooming flowers. The rain had stopped and all flowers were covered with little water droplets. I stopped to take a picture but shockingly my camera instead of a picture produced frighteningly unending clicking noise and then displayed an error. At first, I didn’t panic. I turned off the camera and took out the battery, effectively resetting the camera. Tried again. The result was the same. It was Error 20, one of the “bad” errors that meant my camera was in trouble. The panic started to creep in. Alex tried to keep a positive attitude and pointed out that we have another camera. I tried to take a shot but the other camera didn’t want to focus. This is where my full panic mode kicked in. I imagined that for the rest of our trip I would have to take pictures with my iPhone, I blamed myself for not taking my third camera body with me, I didn’t want to take pictures at all, I didn’t want to go hiking, I wanted to go home… Well, you got the picture. Alex was trying to calm me down and finally I was able to concentrate enough to figure out that my second camera body wasn’t broken. I took the lens off and, as I suspected, the mirror was fogged. That must have happened on the glacier walk. In fact that’s where it did happen, since Alex recalled that that’s where the camera stopped focusing. When the mist evaporated quickly off the mirror on the open air, the camera started focusing again. That was a huge relief.

Svartifoss trail
Svartifoss trail
Flowers on the Svartifoss trail
Flowers on the Svartifoss trail
Flowers on the Svartifoss trail
Flowers on the Svartifoss trail

We got to Svartifoss, and it was beautiful and all, but I was not in a mood to admire the views. I still worried about my first camera that wouldn’t stop clicking as soon as I turned it on. Then I discovered the cause of the clicking: it was the mirror that kept going up and down as if I was constantly making shots. Alex was still calm and collected and kept telling me that’s what must have happened on the glacier was that a droplet of mist that formed inside the camera must be producing a short circuit, that’s what made the mirror flutter. Alex said that as soon as that droplet dries off, my first camera will start working again like the other one, it just needs more time. Unfortunately for Alex, I was not convinced. Over the course of the day I made peace with the situation and decided to make the best of what we had. I certainly was not going to go home and cut short the trip of my dreams.

Svartifoss
Svartifoss — black waterfall
Svartifoss -- close up shot
Svartifoss — close up shot
Svartifoss
Svartifoss

After the hike we had to drive back east to Jökulsárlón for our boat tour. On our way we were passing Hof were we slept last night. I wanted to take a photo of a very picturesque church with a turf roof there the day before but didn’t have time, so we made a one minute picture stop. There were a couple of other picture stops that we had to make because it was impossible to pass by some places without stopping to admire a view and take a shot.

Church in the Hof village
Church in the Hof village
from the road
from the road
from the road
from the road
from the road
from the road

We arrived at the lagoon early enough that we had about an hour of free time before the boat tour. We decided to walk about two hundred meters from our parking spot to a nearby cafe and souvenir shop. On our way we were suddenly attacked by birds. Almost like in Hitchcock’s movie, several small white birds flew low over our heads or dove at us from up high with terrible cries. They also opened their beaks as if intending to bite us. That was so unexpected that I started to wave my camera over my head in order to shoo them off. However, they kept diving at us until we almost reached the cafe. That was terrifying, and I suddenly remembered that I read somewhere that during the nesting season birds may attack people and it’s advised to carry an umbrella. In fact, that’s the only use for umbrellas in Iceland, since the rain is always windy, and umbrellas tend to break and do not help against it.

Some people raised their hand up to shoo the birds off
Some people raised their hands up to shoo the birds off
Nesting season for birds near Jökulsárlón
Nesting season for Arctic terns near Jökulsárlón
Arctic tern
Arctic tern

The boat tour of Jökulsárlón lagoon was an unforgettable experience. The weather was nice, the boat was fast, we were warm in the overalls provided by the tour operator. There is nothing else to say, I’ll let my pictures speak for me here.

Jökulsárlón lagoon boat tour
Jökulsárlón lagoon boat tour
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón lagoon
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón

After the tour, we continued our journey to the East. We found that a lot of tourists like us were stopping on the side of the road for a couple of minutes to take pictures. We felt like in a treasure hunt: if someone stopped at a spot there is probably something amazing to see there, so we don’t want to miss it either.

Iceland from the Ring road
Iceland from the Ring road
Iceland from the Ring road
Iceland from the Ring road
Iceland from the Ring road
Iceland from the Ring road
Iceland from the Ring road
Iceland from the Ring road
Iceland from the Ring road
Iceland from the Ring road

We arrived at Hafnarnes guesthouse around 20:00. When we booked the room, we wrote a comment that we would like a room with a view, and indeed we got a room with an amazing view. The guesthouse also had a very nice common area with complimentary tea and coffee.

Hafnarnes guesthouse
Hafnarnes guesthouse
Room with a view
A room with a view
The view outside our room
The view outside our room. Pretty amazing.

We haven’t really had a normal meal yet, so we decided to go to the nearby town of Höfn to get something to eat. Just as we stepped outside we saw several horses on a pasture. One of them approached me and started to pose for the camera.

Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse

At the Höfn’s N1 gas station we bought a couple of N1 gas cards as it turned out that our credit card didn’t have both chip and pin required for automatic pump operation. We knew that some of the gas stations in Iceland may not have a salesperson present (at least not 24 hours a day), so we stocked up on gas cards. We also saw that people at the gas station were eating pretty good burgers so we decided to save time and eat there as well. Two burgers with french fries cost only $18 (a bargain considering Iceland prices).

At the Höfn’s N1 gas station
At the Höfn’s N1 gas station
Our dinner at the Höfn’s N1 gas station
Our dinner at the Höfn’s N1 gas station

After the dinner, I planned to explore Höfn, but Alex had a better idea. He proposed going to Stokksnes, a coastal area 10 km east of Höfn, that we planned for the next day. He argued that while the weather is good and night is still young, so we need to continue seeing something exciting. Apparently Höfn didn’t excite Alex, so we went to see Stokksnes.

A gravel road at the foot of a mountain ridge leads to a narrow sand strip that looks like a scythe (I suppose this is what’s called a sandspit, and since the Russian word for a sandspit and a scythe is the same, it fits perfectly). A former NATO radar station, now an Icelandic coast guard facility, is located where the sand strip bends 90 degrees. The scenery was amazing and absolutely serene. For a while we thought that we were the only people there, until we saw another car, which had Liechtenstein plates (what are the odds?!).

Stokksnes
Stokksnes
Stokksnes
Stokksnes
Icelandic coastguard radar station
Icelandic coastguard radar station
Stokksnes
Stokksnes
On the way from Stokksnes
On the way from Stokksnes

Around midnight we got back to the guesthouse. I still had to transfer the pictures from the camera to the hard drive and mourn my broken camera. Alex went to call his parents.

Sunset at Hafnarnes
Sunset at Hafnarnes

Here is the map of the places we visited on Day 3.

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Iceland Road Trip Day 3

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Walk on Falljökull Glacier Tongue in Skaftafell National Park: 64.016472, -16.966512
Svartifoss Waterfall: 64.023525, -16.980465
Zodiac Boat Tour on Jokulsarlon: 64.044415, -16.180801
Hafnarnes guesthouse: 64.278939, -15.205979
Stokksnes: 64.244073, -14.964838
N1 Gas Station: 64.259034, -15.206446
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Walk on Falljökull Glacier Tongue in Skaftafell National Park
Glacier Trips From Skaftafell

http://www.mountainguides.is/day-tours/glacier-tours/from-skaftafell/blue-ice-experience/
$64.5 Every day at 10:00 and 14:00

http://www.glacierguides.is/GlacierTripsFromSkaftafell/GlacierWonders
$74 - 9:30, 11:30, 13:00, 15:15 Everyday

Skaftafell Visitor Centre, Vatnajökull National Park, East, Iceland
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Svartifoss Waterfall
Svartifoss Trail, East, Iceland
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Zodiac Boat Tour on Jokulsarlon
Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, East, Iceland
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Hafnarnes guesthouse
Hafnarnes, East, Iceland
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Stokksnes
Stokksnes
Stokksnes

Stokksnes, East, Iceland
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N1 Gas Station
N1, Vesturbraut, Höfn, East, Iceland
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