Sunday, September 2, 2012

Twist Your Head Around, It Is All Around You

The day after our 6 hour climb on the glacier was meant to be a relaxing day of national parks and boat rides.  And it was.  We started the day with the nearly two hour drive to Skaftafell National Park, where we were in search of, what else, waterfalls.  On the way, we were distracted by a glacier lagoon where we wasted a precious hour throwing rocks at icebergs and skipping stones.  It was worth it - even if we ended up nearly having to run the 1.5 miles to our planned destination.

The glacier lagoon that distracted and entertained us.

Kirby and Black Baby sit on the shore and enjoy the view.

After we had all skipped at least one stone and hit one iceberg each, we were satisfied enough to leave the lagoon and head to the park.  As I mentioned, we were on a bit of a time crunch (we had a date with an iceberg boat ride) and had to run through the park nearly 2 miles to get to our waterfall destination.  Luckily, Iceland is not shy on waterfalls, so we were able to see one on the way.

The first waterfall we came across was Hundafoss.  I came across this information while looking up the name for this waterfall;  

"I read somewhere that the falls got its name ("hundur" means dog in Icelandic) because dogs have been swept over the falls during flood. I've also heard that a dog gave its life trying to rescue someone here. I'm sure there's a saga for it."

Whether or not this is true, I can't say, but it seem plausible as you can walk across the top of the waterfall.  I don't recommend doing it.  Kirby attempted it (in dress shoes none the less) and rightfully so decided it was a bad idea.  The fall is not a short one - but, maybe we could have renamed it Kirbyfoss.  Hmmm.  In the end, we did cross over the top of the falls, only much further back at a safer distance.  We thought we were being very clever and making a short cut.  Turns out, no, we didn't, but it was still a more interesting path to take.

The top of Hundafoss.

Hundafoss, and why it might not be a great idea to walk across the top.

Heart shaped moss we found in the park.
We soldiered on to the main attraction, Svartifoss, hands down the most popular fall in the park.  Svartifoss means "Black Fall" and the name comes from the lava columns behind the falls, a very bizarre and amazing formation to see.  Much like many of the waterfalls we had experienced thus far on the trip, you can walk right to the base of the fall.

Approaching Svartifoss.  

Svartifoss proper, with its black lava columns.

We then left the park to meet up with our boat tour group.  We took a iceberg boat ride in Jökulsárlón, which means "glacial river lagoon", because, well, that is what it is.  The boat ride was amazing.  You have to suit up in a full body jacket and life vest.  This is to protect you from hypothermia in the off chance that you fall overboard.  You then board a tiny rubber boat that holds 10 passengers and 1 driver.  For the next hour, you are taken to the base of the glacier where, if you are lucky, you can watch an iceberg fall into the lagoon.  We did not get to see this.  You then spend the rest of the time weaving in and out of icebergs.  Some are small enough to grab out of the water while others are the size of a house or larger.  It was always weird, and a bit creepy to think that the icebergs we were seeing were just the tip with some 90% of its mass underwater.  These are massive pieces of ice.  Photos don't really give you an idea of what you are seeing size wise.

Medium sized icebergs.

Tiny "grab it out of the water" sized icebergs.

From top left to bottom right; the base of the glacier, and three different variations of massive icebergs.

The iceberg boat ride concluded the end of our trip to the Southwest of Iceland.  We headed back to Reykjavík that night having to once again cross the Southern coast of Iceland.  We found ourselves endlessly amazed by the landscape that we had grown familiar with.  Even though we had driven this stretch of road several times over in the few days we were there, we never saw the same thing twice.  The sky and clouds change every few minutes and to me, the lava fields never get boring.  I never thought I would think it, but I was slightly saddened when we started to approach Reykjavík - the "big city".  At least we had yet another amazing "sunset" to hold us over.

"Sunset" over the lava fields.