Iceland: Day 4 - Iceland Revealed
Tuesday, May 27
Our decision to stop early at Skaftafell and hope for the weather to clear turned out to be a good one. We poked our heads out the window to see partly clear skies for the first time in the trip. At 7:00 am we hit the trail to ensure we took advantage of the opportunity, and also knowing that we would have a long day of “catch-up” ahead of us. We hiked up to a viewpoint of a small tongue of the enormous Vatnajokull glacier, stopped for some photos, and then traversed across the alpine to Svartifoss. I had hoped to hike up to the summit of Kristinartindar, but the trail was closed beyond the viewpoint in order to protect the trail from erosion and braiding. One of the questions I'd had prior to the trip was whether the summit would be snowbound, but it looked easily attainable by late May.
Back at our RV by the time the rest of the tourists were starting up the trail, we filled up with more water and dumped the septic. We planned to dump the grey water, but apparently the valve had been open from the time we left Touring Cars. With all the rain, it was impossible to tell!
We arrived at Jökulsárlón and made lunch. I walked around a bit to take photos while Erin had a nap; the hike took a lot of gas out of a pregnant woman! I had expected this stop to be a bit overrated, as I've seen several glacier lakes in Canada. However, the sheer scale here was overwhelming.
Pulling out of Jökulsárlón, we picked up Andy who wanted to hitch-hike to Höfn to pick up groceries. We all agreed there seemed to be a shortage of grocery stores around Iceland. Conveniently, I discovered Icelanders have a thing for chocolate-covered licorice, and I made it my mission to try every variety.
Höfn was not particularly appealing, so after an hour's drive, poor Andy was going to try to catch a ride back the other direction. Again, it was windy and raining, but this was about to change.
Shortly after Höfn, we passed through a tunnel more than a kilometer long and emerged to a completely different scene. The mountains and glaciers in Iceland appear to shape the weather immensely, as the eastern Fjords were much warmer and sunnier, and with each bend of the road seemed to become more beautiful. We were beyond the typical tourist route along the south coast, and the drive was serene. At one point, Erin spotted some reindeer and I reversed into the nearest approach. I took some pictures but they were beyond the scope of my zoom, but we took advantage of the opportunity to have a quick Skype with Callum and my mom. Pulling out of the approach turned out to be pretty tense, as it was plenty steep and the gravel was loose. In addition, my angle was less than ideal. I had to get a pretty good run at it and spun some good-sized ruts on my successful exit.
The road snaked around the mountain, revealing a magnificent view. Knowing we had a long way to go, hoping to reach Mývatn by nightfall, we parked down by the ocean and I napped while Erin made supper.
Onward to Djúpivogur, we arrived shortly after 7:00 hoping to get diesel for the next leg. To our horror, the station had closed at 6:00. It was a pretty town but we were in no mood to stop. We had just over a quarter tank and Egilsstaðir might be just within range.
It was a good thing we pushed on, because the “major paved road” marked on the map turned into a gravel road around the fjord to the next town and took us quite a while to rattle around to Breiddalsvik.
Calculating the amount of fuel we used over this last distance, we thought it wouldn't be too dangerous to continue on to Egilsstaðir. Up the valley into the setting sun, the pots clanged and the drawers banged.
We reached the head of the valley and wondered where this “major” road went. “Up and over,” turned out to be the answer. I shifted quickly up the hairpins, cursing our RV for the first time in the trip. Much to our relief, we crested the pass and stopped for a final view behind us.
Here are a few videos taken out the window of the vehicle:
Onward, the road snaked down less steeply as it had ascended, making us thankful we chose this direction. It was a wintery landscape and would not have been a nice place to spend a night without fuel, but instead we cruised downhill happily knowing we had avoided that situation.
Pulling into Egilsstaðir, we were ecstatic to see the first gas station was open! We had made it within just a few minutes of 11:00, which is a late hour in Iceland. Looking at the setting sun ahead and being reinvigorated by our good fortune of safe passage and a full tank, we pushed onward into the night.
This turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, driving the deserted highway over the high country with the midnight sun ahead. The temperature was more hospitable than the landscape appeared, and only dipped to around 3 degrees. Amazingly, I had 3G service throughout most of the journey despite it feeling like we were at the very end of the earth.
At long last, we pulled into the parking lot at Dettifoss and settled in for a sleep. Before doing so, I took these photos of the only sunset of the trip.
Good thing it was just the gray water. Beautiful photos.
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