Sunday, 3 August 2014

Various states of water

After breakfast we set off for the glacier Mel spotted yesterday, to see whether we can reach it. The road is a dirt track, which isn’t a problem for our little car until we reach a large puddle that spans it. We decide to park up and try to walk the rest of the way. We reach the end of the road and set off along the trail to the glacier, which looks enticingly close – although distances can be deceptive in such an expansive landscape.

We manage to reach it and it’s stunning. The ice is covered with a film of volcanic ash which creates a dramatic monochrome landscape. In the sunlight, the ice twinkles through the ash. As we walk up from the leading edge we find a perfect arch of ice, dripping water droplets that glitter as they fall. We catch some in our hands and drink – it’s astonishing to think it may have been frozen for thousands of years.

We were the first to reach the glacier today, and we leave as the others begin to arrive. The path snakes back along the meltwater river which begins as a modest stream and broadens as it gathers more water from the other streams that emerge in the valley. The bed is still much wider than the river, which presumably becomes much larger during the spring thaw. There’s a café at the end of the track and we enjoy a hot drink with a view of the glacier before heading back to the car.
Next stop is Skógarfoss, where we begin by taking the path up to the top of the fall. There are around 500 steps, so we’re pretty exhausted when we reach the top. After a pause to enjoy the view (and get our breath back!) we walk further upstream, where there are more falls and rapids. I didn’t get the chance to do this last visit. (In fact, I’m not even sure we noticed the path – we had our work cut out just remaining standing against the wind!) Back at ground level we settle on a bench with a view of the falls for our lunch and Mel jokes that she’ll be expecting another waterfall view to accompany lunch tomorrow.

On the drive to Geysir we stop briefly at the Eyjafjallajökull information point so Mel can bottle some ash to take home, and also make a stop to fill up with petrol and buy food for dinner. Mel is fascinated by the hot springs at Geysir and especially by Strokkur, which seems to be putting on an extra-special display today. A couple of enormous explosions have the crown shrieking and retreating, and it does some double and triple eruptions too.
We continue on to Gullfoss, where we begin at the lower viewing point. A path that was closed on my previous visit takes us very close to the falls and makes us acutely aware of its enormous power. We’re alarmed to see that somebody has climbed down over the barrier to have his girlfriend take his photo inches away from the spume. He would be pulverised if he fell in.

Mel prefers the upper viewing point where the awesome power of the water is less threatening. She obligingly poses on the site where Alex built Snowy the Snowman last trip; luckily for her there are fewer people up here, probably because it’s after 6pm although still broad daylight. We finish with a visit to the shop, where we marvel at the ridiculous prices, then drive on to Laugervatn where we are to spend the night.

Our studio apartment is spacious and a view between adjacent buildings of the lake. After dropping off our luggage we walk down to the lake and are amazed to find it warm. There’s a spa on the bank and information boards tell us that the town has long been a popular retreat. It only takes a few minutes to walk right round it, returning through a small wooded area. Mel’s delighted to find Coke bottles with Olaf on them in the supermarket. We return briefly to the apartment so that we can change into flip flops and go down to paddle. The sand is black and the water temperature is patchy, changing from tepid to unpleasantly hot with the tiniest movement.
We cook a surprisingly good meal of marinated lamb, powdered mash and instant sauerkraut, followed by fresh raspberries and vanilla skyr, then we pop across the road to the hostel for a nightcap. A polite sign asks us to remove our footwear and put on the slippers provided and we walk up the stairs and apparently back  to the seventies; Mel has a Baileys and I have a birch liqueur with prosecco while we review my photos before a cup of tea and bed.

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