Saturday, June 13, 2015

Iceland, Part 3

Our last few days in Iceland were busy as we had a lot planned.  Our first stop was Jökulsárlón, a lagoon filled with icebergs broken off from the nearby glacier.  Right away we saw seals swimming in the water and laying on the icebergs.  As we continued through the lagoon we got to see many different icebergs and learned that it had been the setting for some James Bond movies.  Unfortunately I was a bit distracted as we were scheduled to be at our next adventure within a brief period of time and our guides at the lagoon had started late.  As soon as the tour of the lagoon was done we quickly drove to our next destination.

As we pulled up to the visitors center for the Vatnajökull National Park the bus for our tour to the glacier was just loading up and we still hadn't gotten our gear.  Fortunately, we had reserved the glacier climbing experience rather than just the hike and it turned out that we were the only ones doing that for the day.  Our guide was a nice English guy that helped us with our gear while the bus took the other people to their hike and then returned to get us.  After a short bus ride and a hike to the glacier we strapped on our crampons, grabbed our ice axes, and headed onto the glacier.  The ice was crunchy underfoot as we hiked up to the crevices.

Once we got to a nice wide crevice our guide screwed in some ice bolts for anchors and lowered each of us down in turn.  The climbing was pretty straight-forward and started easily.  Since we were the only ones on the trip I got to climb several more times in the crevice moving to some harder ice.  Finally, we moved on to a deep hole in the glacier (called a moulin) where the ice melt flowed into.  The sides of the hole hadn't gotten as much sun and were much harder, so I was glad that I was able to climb out of it.  We soon left the glacier and drove on to a place for dinner and finally our hotel for the night.

We started the next day down at a beautiful beach near where we had stayed.  The views and the rock formations were amazing.  After the beach we drove to some of the more tourist-visited areas of the island.  After spending so much time off the beaten track it was hard to get used to having to share the views and the road with so many other people.  We stopped at Gulfoss, an awesome waterfall, then Geysir, the namesake for geysers, and Thingvellir, where the North American and European tectonic plates are pulling apart.  These were all beautiful, but we rushed through them a little as we had dinner reservations at our last activity.

Near the airport is the Blue Lagoon Thermal Spa which is a hot springs complex that sits on a lava field.  After dinner there we got into the warm waters and enjoyed a drink from the swim-up bar.  The water was very relaxing and we didn't want to leave, but as they were closing down we had to go and get to the guesthouse we were staying at.  It was a nice end to our trip in Iceland.

The next morning we got up, got to the airport and made the long way back home.  We had an eight hour layover in New York City, so we contacted one of our friends there and spent time with her and her friend walking along the Highline, a raised train platform converted into a walking trail.  It was nice to spend time with them and see the city.  By the time we got back to the airport and had flown home we were exhausted.  It had been an amazing trip and I would recommend Iceland to anyone considering going or even stopping on their way to/from Europe.

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