SEYDISFJODUR TO JOKULSARLON – 14 November 2015
Seyðisfjörður couldn’t have been more picturesque by daylight with its gathering of multi-coloured houses nestled into the fjord against a dramatic mountainous backdrop. Even though almost everything was closed, the fluorescent lampposts and other telltale signs certainly spoke of a creative community that I would loved to have spent more time amongst but not today. Karina and I contented ourselves with a leisurely lap before facing the reality that we had to go back over slip-and-slide-mountain. We scoured the map for alternative routes but there just weren’t any. Although it was technically my turn to drive, Karina valiantly volunteered to swap shifts – I’m sure it was partly out of excitement but also out of self-preservation. We’d agreed earlier in the trip that when things got hairy, it was better to be the driver because at least you had some sense of control. Conversely, passenger is a tough-gig for a natural-born-driver so I was only too willing to take the swap and use the opportunity to drive the camera instead.
And so began a day in our lives where we demanded more of our senses than perhaps the rest of our other days combined. I’m going to keep this brief because I am running out of ways to impress upon you how metamorphosing this small island can be. How it holds you in its thrall and demands your whole heart, rearranges it, and returns it to you beating stronger than you knew it could, but always keeping a piece for itself so it can keep pulling you back.
The journey from the east coast to the south is barely 300km but it took the entire days light to traverse, bearing in mind that the days are very short at this time of year. What’s more remarkable is the sheer diversity of the landscape. Our breath was taken at every turn by frozen lakes, thunderous waterfalls, gargantuan mountains so steep that you get a sense of vertigo just looking up at them. We stopped to pat Icelandic horses that are unique in the world for having an extra gait – tölt – where all other horses only have 3 or 4. They’re also incredibly fluffy and friendly, just don’t call them ponies! We saw too-cute-to-be-true homes dotted throughout the impossible landscape including at the edge of Vatnajökull, Europe’s biggest glacier. We mused about the magic and mystical forces at play that seem easier to believe here than to not. We wondered if perhaps the ‘mirror lakes’ as we called them were actually portals to other realities, not that we had any desire to leave this one unfolding before us.
We decided to push on through the last of the light to Jökulsárlón in the south – a glacial lake at the edge of the Vatnajökull National Park. We didn’t think we’d be able to see much in the encroaching darkness of night, or rather late afternoon, but we took our chances and were rewarded with an experience I don’t expect to be matched any time soon. Our senses were stretched further still by the sight, sound and touch of glacial boulders bobbing about in the water. The dark was getting deeper so we made a final dash to the beach across the way to see still more boulders strewn across the black sand while others tossed and turned in the surf.
We left only when we could see no more and every drop of adrenaline had been drained from our bodies. We found our hotel, drank soup and wine, and then fell into a deep sleep knowing that this day has changed us forever.
Now get comfy, I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here: