Location: Southwest Coast of Iceland
Today was another early day for us. We woke up with just enough time to grab a quick breakfast before setting out on tour of the Southwestern Iceland Coast. It took us over 90 min to get to our first stop of the day, the Skogafoss waterfall. It was a very tall waterfall and there were stairs nearby to take us to a viewing platform near the top. We both went quickly to the base of the falls for the obligatory pictures. Rachel stayed at the bottom to do the artistic photos, whereas Ryan ran up 460 stairs to get pictures from the the viewing platform at the top. On the way back down he also took a side mudpath to a jutting cliff to get more pictures at mid-height.
Our next stop was today´s main event, a hike up the Solheimajökull glacier. In the parking lot we got fitted up for strap on metal spikes for our boots. Then we carried the spikes and ice-adze about a mile away to the base of the glacier. About 14 years ago, the glacier was at the base of the parking lot. Clearly its receded since then!
We then put the spikes on our boots and after a quick training in glacial walking made our way up the glacier. The guides walked us up the mountain on a curvy path, trying to avoid the crevasses and moulins that would cause us to have a really bad day. Every so often they would stop the group for time to take pictures and allow everyone to catch their breath.
After about an hour we reached the top. It was quite the sight to see. While up there they taught us more about glacier formation and colors. It was a review for us, but the other tourists found it interesting. Also at the top they had us use our adzes to try to dig the deepest hole in a minute. Ryan took 3rd place. It took another 45 min to make it down the glacier and out to the parking lot.
Our next stop, and southernmost point of the trip, took us to Reynisfjara . This is a black sand beach constantly pounded by large waves. The big highlight of course was the geology. Rachel exclaimed “columnar jointing!” when she saw the hexagonal formations that made up a great hill beside the beach. Even more strangely was that many of the columns were at different angles to one another. Plus the waves began to eat away a small cave into the hill. Very cool stuff.
On a side note, if we were here in the summer months, it is also this hill and beach that we would have been able to see puffins. Oh well, maybe next time.
Our next stop took us to the foothills of the infamous Eyjafjatlajökull volcano and glacier. We stopped for a quick photo here. We didn´t have enough time to visit the museum nearby.
The last stop on this tour was to the Seljalandsfoss waterfall . What made this waterfall most special was that it fell before the mouth of a giant cave. We took the wet, icy, muddy, and steep path around the waterfall to view it from all angles. We got soaked from the spray and muddied our clothes in the process. But we had no injuries. We tried to get some good pictures as shown here.
After that we returned to the hotel, changed, and got dinner.
At night we took a tour with Reykjavik Excursions to see the northern lights. It was a complete bust. Readers should avoid this tour (and the company) at all costs. The company bused us and 500 others INTO A SNOWSTORM! They dropped us off a restaurant (on the take) which didn´t have the capacity for that many people. To make matters worse, our bus left after dropping us off to get more poor saps. We had no chance of seeing the aurora. Unlike last night, they made no attempt to actually find the northern lights. It didn´t stop snowing until we left the area and returned to Reykjavik.
Tomorrow we go cave exploring in þinvellir and snorkeling in the silfra fissure between continental plates. And we´ll try to see the northern lights again with a company that isn´t running a scam.
Total steps: 14,893
Total major waterfalls: 2, and many many smaller ones
Total glaciers walked upon: 1
Total volcanoes seen: 3