Our plan for the day was to drive from Vik all the way to Hofn, with stops at Reynisfjara, Eldhraun, Skaftafell National Park, and Jokulsarlon. This was going to be a long, long day.
Reynisfjara was one of the highlights of our last trip. Black sand, basalt columns: everything was un-beach-like about this strange and wondrous place. We arrived at low-tide this time, which exposed a much longer stretch of beach and some basalt caves that we hadn't been able to access before. Above us on the cliffs lived colonies of puffins, who in their squat-bodied, frantic flight out to the sea somehow expertly dodged our cameras.
I thought it'd be fun to dig through some of the photos we took in November 2011 for a comparison:
It was late morning and we'd only covered about 10km of 300km of driving today. After a quick snack of lamb soup and Skyr cake, we were off to explore new grounds. From here on roads and names would no longer be familiar, and adventure awaits!
We couldn't make it more than twenty minutes out of Vik before being seduced by a random patch of lupines growing by the road. August is post peak bloom, but the purple flowers still dot the landscape here and there. Photogenic as these flowers are, they've grown over large tracts of native flora, and while we admired their intense colors it wasn't hard to appreciate why the locals had mixed feelings about this invasive species. For me, it was especially liberating to walk in a lepidoptera-free flower field, now if only I didn't have to come so far north for an escape...
We had to pull over twice more before getting on our way for real. First, there was an almost perfectly placid lake reflecting the glaciers in the distance. I asked Chewie to pose for me and he made this classic Chewie goofy face... And then there was Eldhraun, a vast moss-covered lava field created out of the eighteen-century eruption of Laki. The colors and textures here are just so surreal.
Actually we pulled over one more time. Here's a stitched panorama of Mýrdalsjökull, with its three tendrils in the southeast:
We were welcomed to the enormous outwash plain of Mýrdalssandur by a warning sign that said no off-roading permitted. And then arose this red specter over the shifting black sands:
At last we made an earnest effort towards getting to our next stop, Skaftafell National Park. Had we another week or month or two to spend here, we still wouldn't have had enough time to explore all the diversity and splendor of the southeast, but we would've certainly earmarked more days to hike this amazing park. For now we had to content ourselves with a somewhat rushed trek to the famed Svartifoss waterfall and a frolick in the giant cauliflower (read: angelica) field.
From Skaftafell to Jökulsárlón we were much more disciplined, as we had a Zodiac boat tour to catch! We hopped into the intensely warm (and floaty, if we were to fall in the water) jumpsuits provided by the boat operators, and got up close to some impressive structures. Somewhere in the distance we could hear the thunderous calfing of new icebergs.
In spite of the advanced hours Chewie and I made the excellent decision to double back to Fjallsárlón, Jokulsarlon's smaller, but no less impressive and colorful cousin.
Past Jökulsárlón the terrain transformed yet again into these mist-topped pagodas. Birds -- but not puffins -- hovered above, headed back to their terraced nests.
Pictures of the day from the road. When a sheep crosses a bridge with you...
Today our rings had some fun too: