There’s been a slight change in plans, dear Reader. Our original plan to return to Reykjavík and enjoy some additional time in the city has been scrapped. Before bed each night I’ve been mooning over our map of Iceland, contemplating the far away places. The places just beyond our highlighted route.
Specifically, I’m eyeing Jökulsárlón, a glacier lagoon located another two hours (and back) further east along the coast. I casually toss out the idea one night to Billy and, of course, he’s on board despite the additional mileage. But then, my husband is always on board. And sometimes I wonder, dear Reader, is that what I wanted in a man all along? No, not someone to humor me and cater to my latest whim – although that’s nice too! But rather, isn’t that the hallmark of a good partner: the willingness to encourage you to do the things you love? To do them with you? Also, Billy is randomly really into glaciers. So there’s that.
Kids These Days…
With the car packed and Billy behind the wheel, I make a few phone calls and rearrange our hotels so we can spend a night in the southern town of Vík. Our drive will be long and, according to the map, offer little in the way of civilization aside from the occasional gas station. After an hour or so the lush, soaring cliffs fade to curious oceans of moss. From there the terrain becomes more stark, with grey mountains to our left and long, wide stretches of black beach to our right.
Radiohead’s The Bends plays in the background, lending an eclectic and haunting ambiance to our already otherworldly excursion. I’m shocked when we see two female hitchhikers with large trekking packs along this stretch of deserted road. Hitchhikers are not uncommon along the Ring Road… but this far out? Where did they come from? Where are they going? They are on the opposite side of the road (presumably heading in the opposite direction) and yet they shake their fists angrily at us as we pass.
“Pff! There’s something distasteful about hitchhikers.” I rant. “Oh sure, they’re supposed to be all freewheeling and adventurous… but honestly, expecting others to cart you around? It’s so presumptuous!”
“You really are such an old lady sometimes,” Billy laughs.
And it’s true, dear Reader, I am. But there’s something about the practice that irks me, something that banks on the good nature of others to compensate for the hitchhiker’s own lack of preparedness. I’m not referring to emergencies, of course, but it seems a precarious position to assume willfully. Why put yourself at risk of assault, Iceland’s no-joke elements, or hours of potentially awkward chitchat with a driver of unknown conversational skill?
Or is it simply a fun way to meet locals and other travelers? What do you think? I’m always curious about other people’s experiences with hitchiking.
Speedboating With Jarl
We pull up to Jökulsárlón’s parking lot and, even from here, the unearthly blue of the floating glaciers is mesmerizing. This picturesque lagoon has served as the backdrop for several action films including Tomb Raider, Batman Begins, and Die Another Day. For you Game of Thrones fans out there, most of Westeros is, in fact, Iceland.
Before long we are suited up and boarding our Zodiac boat while our guide Jarl (that ‘j’ is a ‘y’ sound), offers some general safety instructions.
“How long would you last in water like this?” I inquire.
“Four to five minutes,” replies Jarl. “And then you die.”
I nod appreciatively. The woman next to me glares at me, perhaps less appreciative of this icy immersion tidbit. Jarl goes on to explain the lagoon’s formation as the gradual retreat of the Vatnajökull Glacier, Iceland’s largest icecap (another nod to climate change for you kids keeping track at home). Large chunks of ice calve off the glacier and make their way to the sea via the lagoon. We hold on as Jarl speeds through the lagoon, zipping between the translucent icebergs, bringing us closer and closer to the formidable glacier wall.
I feel cool, you guys. Yeah. Cool. I got my ready-for-anything suit on and I’m speeding through a dramatic landscape on a Zodiac that still has that “new boat” smell. I turn to Billy and nod my head as if to say, Dude, this is awesome. He nods back like, Yeah, we cool.
Our boat pulls up to The Wall, or at least as close as we can safely get. Glaciers are unpredictable beauties. We learned about their abysmal crevasses during our snowmobiling excursion but, today, we are more concerned with part of the ice wall calving off. This would create a ripple effect that could topple our tiny vessel. We even maintain a distance from the floating icebergs knowing they flip and roll without warning. I admit, it’s tough to be too concerned about the danger with all of this natural beauty surrounding us. Seals frolic among the ice as we slow down to take photos and enjoy the view.
After our lagoon tour, we cross the street to Diamond Beach to get a closer look at the glacier ice flowing out to sea. The black sand is sprinkled with clear, bright chunks of ice – evidence of how the beach got its name.
Billy and I are so glad we made time for this last-minute exploration. I have no doubt this southeastern excursion topped anything we would have seen in Reykjavík! Content, we leisurely make our way back to Vík, stopping often to take photographs along the road.
Puppy Love & Personal Brands
After a delicious dinner and a good night’s sleep in the village of Vík, I awake refreshed and ready for our final day in Iceland. Like I’ve done every morning of our vacation, I reach for my phone and immediately open my Facebook app to the Endless Love Pet Palace page (Miss Mary’s current accommodations). Sometimes they post pictures of the pups at play. It’s pathetic, I know, but I miss her so much! I miss her little puppy smell and the low woofs she makes when she’s having a puppy dream.
No new photos today. Sigh.
After breakfast we enjoy a stroll along the beach. It’s sunny today (!) and I sip my tea on a small boulder while watching the ebb and flow of the ocean. Billy is somewhere around here amidst the maze of hulking, black boulders… I think maybe he’s decided to climb one. My quiet moment is interrupted by a couple approaching. The man is filming the woman as she walks along the shore. She talks to the camera (iPhone) for a few minutes and I realize she is starring in her own travel vlog.
“Do you have anything to say to your fans?” the man asks from behind the iPhone.
I chuckle to myself quietly. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about, dear Reader – this concept of being on trend, of developing my own “brand.” I should promote my blog more and beg people to share it. I should post videos because people love videos! (It seems I’m the only person on the planet who would rather read an article). Or what about the time my friends told me I had to get the blog on Insta – a social media platform designed for people who don’t read. That, by the way, resulted in a bunch of followers with names like 2Huge4U messaging me and encouraging me to post more “full body shots” – all while never clicking on my blog link! At the very least, I should be blogging in real time.
But then, dear Reader, I wouldn’t be here. Sitting quietly on this rock. Staring at the water. I’d be in our hotel room tapping away at my laptop. Or worse! Posting poorly written entries on the fly <<church faint>>.
“Hellooooo!” a voice calls from a distance. It’s Billy. He’s conquered a boulder after all. I wave back and smile. See? Would have been a shame to miss that.
Things That Can Kill You In Iceland
Our next stop is another black sand beach further up the road called Reynisfjara. Known for its unique basalt columns and for killing tourists, it is one of the country’s most popular beaches. As we make our way from the parking lot to the shore, there are several signs warning us of dangerous sneaker waves – waves that carry unsuspecting visitors out to sea. Iceland’s natural beauty is beyond words, but tourists do have a habit of gettin’ dead here. Allow me to share this handy guide called Things That Can Kill You In Iceland so you don’t perish while “on island” (as they say). Lucky for me, my husband was a swimmer. He gave me an unsolicited ten minute tutorial on the importance of swimming parallel to the shore should I get swept away.
Parallel! he emphasizes once more. Parallel. Got it.
With the safety lecture out of the way, Billy and I explore the cave and take some obligatory pics on the Gardar Cliff’s basalt columns. They remind me of a large assembly of organ pipes – I love organs!
And so our adventure is coming to a close…. Time to head back to the city and prepare for our early morning flight and our reunion with Miss Mary! Thanks for coming along, dear Reader, and for supporting my totally untrendy, woefully old school labor of love. Until next time!