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12 October 2013 @ 07:36 pm
Icebergs, Glaciers, Waterfalls, and Storms - Day 10 of Iceland  
(Life has been crazy-busy, so this got abandoned, but I'll be finishing up with my last days in Iceland shortly as I need a break from the other forty things I should be doing... Also, the photos started getting bigger halfway thorough and since they are links, there is no way to change the size without updating each link. So, sorry, don't open the photos if you have a slow connection.)

Since the weather had been so awful while I was at the glacial lagoon, I decided I would get up before dawn so I could drive out to the lagoon and see it in the very early morning light before traveling on to Skaftafell and the glacier walk I had booked there. Now, I am not a morning person, but this was one of my very best decisions ever. The morning was crisp and sunny, the drive was pleasant in the early morning sun, and the glacial lagoon was even more beautiful in the clearer light. The guides the day before had said we were lucky to be there in the rain since the blues in the icebergs were better seen in the rain and, while that was true, it was nice not to be out in the wet. I decided I might come back and try a boat tour again if the weather was better after my morning walk.

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As a weird little bonus, there was a guy there with this contraption - a strange flying machine that he could direct via remote control and take close up pictures of the icebergs, the birds, and the seals. The seals in particular seemed more interested in than scared by the ugly loud bird.

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I was able to stay at the lagoon for about an hour, but then I needed to hurry on so I would not miss my tour, I somehow missed the hotel where I was supposed to join and so ended up at the main park entrance instead. This turned out to be fortuitous, since then they didn't have to send someone to fetch me and, while I was waiting for my 9:30 short walk to start, I overheard the lady say that they had mutiple no-shows for the 9AM all-day walk. Well, I had not wanted to sign up for that option since i had been concerned about the weather, but since it was a beautiful day, I asked if it were possible to join the longer walk. Being told it was, I quickly paid the difference in fees, was issued a helmet, crampons, and a sandwich, and we were off! I was not really outfitted in the manner of the other hikers, with their REI gear and hydration packs - I was wearing my wool pants and winningas and carrying a purse so small I had to break the sandwich in half to make it fit. I was distinctly not like the other children. :P

The climb was easy at the beginning, but grew more challenging as we climbed higher. we actually made considerable use of our ice axes and before long I had peeled off my extra layers due to exertion. The goal was to get up to the ice fall where the glacier came over a cliff and by lunch time we were quite close. Snorri, our guide, made a comment to me over lunch that I thought was funny - he complimented me, saying that I'd surprised him with how tough I was. Apparently the purse had thrown him off and he'd expected me to be the limiting factor of the group, not the little German lady. :) Anyway, the views from the glacier were simply amazing - we were pretty high up and the ice formations made by the melting glacier were impressive.

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On the way down, we began being pursued by clouds that quickly rolled off the mountain and a light mist started to fall. Still, it was a pleasant walk - easier than the trek up, but still requiring some interesting techniques to keep from sliding down the glacier and finding the bottom faster than one would like. On the way down, I picked up a little moss-covered rock. The little rolly-polly fuzzy stones get blown around on top of the glacier, giving the lie to the popular wisdom that a rolling stone gathers no moss. They are also known by the sort of cute name of "glacial mice." I wanted to keep one as a pet, but I knew I couldn't get it through customs.

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Also, the glacial  ice does this neat thing where it forms natural prisms - there are a few in this piece if you look carefully.
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After the glacier walk, I changed into dry clothes and considered my options. It was wet and grey again, so there did not seem to be much point to returning to the glacier lagoon. There were a number of waterfalls in Skaftafell that were considered to be worthwhile, so I decided to risk being drenched and hiked up to see them, 'cause, you know, after you've been on a six hour hike, another two hours of walking sounds like a good idea. :P On the way up the mountain, I ran into a lady named Lauren that I had met the day before on my glacial lagoon boat ride. We chatted for a bit and she mentioned that she was not quite sure of her plans for the night. I told her that it was my plan to stay at the hostel in Vik and I'd be happy to take her there after my hike. She didn't commit, but said she'd look for me in the car park later if she was leaning that direction. I set off to try to beat the rain and she headed down tot he visitor's center. The walk up to the falls was soggy and poorly signed, but happily, it was indeed worth the trek.

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Hundafoss? (I am not finding the name of this waterfall)

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Svartifoss from the distance (above) and close up (below)

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When I returned to the Visitor's Center, Lauren was waiting for me and we started making some plans. She tried getting a bed at the Vik youth hostel, but they did not have any openings and it looked like she might have to try to get back to Reykjavik. She was disappointed, because she had been interested in traveling with me to some waterfalls and museums the next day. I decided, what the heck, and offered to spring for a nearby hotel to have a minimally shared room as a treat, since I had been in hostels the whole time thus far. She didn't want to be a burden, but I convinced her it would be fine. Then, when I called to cancel my reservation at the youth hostel, I found that this was a fortuitous decision since somehow I had made the reservation for the following day and they didn't have a bed for me there either! I quick made some reservations on my phone and we headed off toward the black beach at Vik.

The plan had been to collect some stones for Dray and to see the black sand beach with the interesting rock formations, however, by the time we reached Vik, it was storming heavily. We stared at the surf for a bit and then decided that a promise is a promise, and headed out into the maelstorm to collect the pebbles she had requested. We got really, truly soaked, but it was fun after a fashion, and once we had filled my zippy bag, we ran back to the restaurant at the side of the road and ordered vast quantities of hot food. The burger was uninspiring, but nothing on the menu particularly was, and that it was HUGE and HOT was really all that mattered at that point. We had some adventures finding out hotel in the dark, but once we got there, it was an inviting place with hot coffee and tea and, glory of glories, a monsoon shower in the room. We spread our things out to dry around the very large and very comfortable room and fell asleep the moment the lights went out.  
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