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Skaftafell to Höfn

Sunday, 7:30pm
Hotel Höfn

The drive from Reykjavik to Skaftafell was fairly long and very rainy. The ring road — highway 1, which encircles Iceland — is one lane in each direction and never seems to have much traffic, but what there is, around Reykjavik, quickly calmed down as we crossed the hills south of the city and then descended into the southwest lowlands. This area is clearly the breadbasket of Iceland, with a fair percentage of the population and a whole lot of sheep. We retraced a lot of the route that we had been on the day before on the bus, before finally passing the turnoff to Thorsmörk and getting to new views. In the South we were often treated to lovely waterfalls cascading down the green-covered cliffs of the hills and mountains to the left. As we passed the particularly beautiful falls at Skogar, we thought about our friends from the hiking trip who, continuing on from Thorsmörk, would be arriving there on Sunday.

After Skogar we stopped for gas at Vik, a lovely little seaside town with a black sand beach, and took a detour down to the water for some pictures. We had left the flat Southwest plains and the road started getting more interesting, except for the (sometimes long) bits where we drove across old lava fields, generally staight, flat and dull. But there were some lovely windy sections where the road passed through hills and we stopped at a parrticularly beautiful little spot to take a couple of photos of an idyllic little church with a waterfall in the background.

Finally we started a long drive across the glacier runoff plain to the southwest of Vatnajökull, the great grand-daddy glacier which covers an improbable proportion of the island. Though the clouds were brooding and we had occasional rain, we got clear views of several of the glacier “tongues” sticking out between the peaks and descending to the valley floor. We stopped for the night just past Skaftafell glacier, one of these offspring of Vatnajökull, and checked in to the Skaftafell Hotel, which was comfortable and had free Wi-fi!

This morning we woke up to bright sunshine. Most of the clouds had vanished and I went outside to get a clear view of the glaciers above the hotel. I took a quick picture for Facebook and after breakfast I had a couple of minutes to catch up on email and post an update.

The day’s activities took us back along the highway to the Skaftafell Park, where we had a wonderful morning climbing up the trail parallel to the Skaftafellsjökull itself. (Jökull means glacier.). We ate a nice packed lunch while looking out over the glacier, finished the climb, and then were greeted by a rain cloud. We kept thinking that it would stop, or that it was slowing, but it rained on us for the remaining 3 1/2 hours of the hike, by which point we were very wet indeed. After tromping soggily past the famous Svartifass waterfall (nice basalt rock) we got bakc to our car, changed into dry clothes, and continued our drive. The rest of the day was basically sunny.

We made our way around the coast to Jökulsárlón lagoon, which was the first place we have run in to in Iceland that was overrun with tourists. In this case, they had good reason to stop: at the base of one of Vatnajökull’s wide tongues the lagoon is a spawning ground for icebergs, which are bottled up by the road and bridge and make a singularly pleasant sight. We took photos for a while and then drove on.

Finally we arrived at our destination for the night, Höfn, where we checked into the namesake hotel while the World Cup final was just getting under way. We’ve just finished lobster dinners in the restaurant and are headed for bed. Tomorrow: horseback riding and the drive to the eastern fjords!

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