Despite my “trusty” alarm being set for 7am, I didn’t wake up until 8:13am. The alarm didn’t go off and my normally very tuned internal alarm was behind schedule – I blame it on the time change (5 hours). We were meant to be at our tour for 9am and it was maybe 15 minutes away. We didn’t even get to use the bathroom because it was shared with the rest of the hotel who obviously were leaving at the same time. I got some baggies from the host and put together a to-go breakfast of heart-shaped waffles, prosciutto, and cheese. Though we were told to be at the meeting place a half hour before 9am, no one else was there when we got there so we weren’t nearly as late as we’d feared when we arrived at 8:50am.
We ate our breakfast and climbed into the mini bus, its giant tires making it a challenge to hop up into! We soon learned why those tired were so necessary and why it’s Highly Discouraged to find ice caves on your own. The glacier we drove on was cracking and could open up beneath you if you weren’t on the proper roads, which were at times impossible to find unless you were an expert, like our amazing female Icelandic guide! We were in the back of the bus which made the trip feel treacherous at best, but we finally arrived at the glacier we were to explore.
We had crampons and helmets and we lagged behind because it was a bit strenuous and Kai is a little uncertain on the terrain and because I was taking so many photos. The weather was perfect – bright clear skies unlike the clouds or rain of the previous days. At one point we sort of lost the trail that the rest of the group took and I went the wrong way and got scolded by the guide because if you step in the wrong place, you really could fall into a crevasse. We went into two separate glacial chambers. We had to navigate streams of glacier water and very low overhangs of ice. Kai and I both took some beautiful photos. We didn’t see the ‘blue’ of the caves that you see in other photos, but it was a really stunning experience to be inside something so ancient and important. There was such a weight above you, this pressing sensation that denoted the sheer volume of ice all around you.
On our way back, we got to sit behind the driver, and the drive was much smoother! Still a little terrifying. The guide talked to us and actually stopped the bus at one point to be able to speak more freely. She was really passionate about her job – ‘why not make your living from the thing you love to do?’ – and about being a female in a male-dominated field. She is the only full-time female glacier/snowmobile tour guide in Iceland. We really lucked out with our guides!
When we arrived back at Jökulsárlón, the glacier lagoon, we spent hours there photographing and exploring. Pieces of glacier break off upriver and travel down into the lagoon where, if they are large enough, they get stuck. The smaller pieces follow the river out to sea, but there the monster waves crash them back up against the shore, a stunning black volcanic sand beach littered with glittering ice.
We took some beautiful photos and Kai and I got a little close to the ‘sneaker waves’ (we were told by the guide, never turn your back on the ocean!), and well, we both got a little wet. Actually, Kai got a lot wet. But she was an amazing sport about it and laughed so hard. She had black sand everywhere for days!
We drove east along the southern shore of Iceland until we arrived in Höfn. We decided to try a swimming pool since it’s such a big part of Icelandic culture. The pools are all warm geothermal water, no chlorine. It was a wonderful experience! I love to swim so much. There were three hot tubs, all different temperatures. We liked the hottest one the best! We also swam in the big pool, which was warm but not hot. I dived off the diving board, something I’d only ever done off a dock. It felt so good… the way the water just closed in against me, catching and holding me. I did it over and over because I was enamored with the feeling. I didn’t feel self-conscious the way I would anywhere else unless I was alone. I adored it. Kai and I also went down a big yellow slide and that was a blast too! We had a great time and loved that the pools were such a big part of locals’ lives. All the kids know how to swim at a young age due to free swimming lessons. There was no lifeguard. It was very free.
We left the pool and drove to Hali, where our hotel Skyrhúsid was. It was a charming little guesthouse with a double bed and wood features including the ceiling.
Our view was to die for – mist-ensconced foothills with streaks of snow silking downward. There was a portable radiator in the room so we hung our wet suits and towel over it, and also used it to dry Kai’s soaking wet boots and socks. Very handy! This was where we tried the skyr for the first time and it was delicious! We also tried some Icelandic vodka which was quite lovely too.