Posted by: Lydia in Iceland, tags: driving, ice, tour
Our trip to Iceland was the maiden voyage of Icepedition, organised by Chris Gordon. It was a self-drive holiday, and a fantastic way to see the country. He gave us a map and an itinerary, arranged tours and accommodations, and met up with us most mornings and evenings to ensure that everything was okay. He is completely smitten with Iceland, and he is so enthusiastic about sharing this place with other travellers. His friendships with the locals meant that we were invited into the homes and lands of Icelandic residents, giving us a special insight into the brave people that live here. It was a fantastic holiday, and I recommend Icepedition for anyone who wants to explore this place in the future.
We spent a lot of our time driving in separate cars, which meant that I didn’t get to spend as much time with Rob, Charles, and Diane as I would have liked. A midnight celebration of the summer solstice was a chance for us to get together and soak in our strange surroundings. The tour organiser had arranged for us to spend the night on the beach near the farm of some of his friends. The farmers drove us to the beach, told us we could choose to build a bonfire if we wished, and then turned around and disappeared for an hour. It was very cold, so we were very motivated to build a driftwood bonfire. Andy, Adrian and I built an excellent base that was full of kindling and cardboard. We then stacked dried driftwood on top, only to discover that we had no matches. We found one piece of wood that looked like a seal, and called him Frederick. Jay later placed Frederick on the fire, and I watched sadly as the flames engulfed him. Adrian and I went egg hunting while we waited for our hosts to return, and found two nests in the sand, each with two speckled eggs.
A while later, the farmers returned with matches, blankets, and food. Charles was too cold and left, but the rest of us sat around the bonfire that quickly ignited. We ate fresh rolled pancakes dipped in hot chocolate, while sitting on a black sand beach with the waves rolling in. It was the middle of the night, yet the sky was still light. An extraordinary way to mark the summer solstice. We were told that this night is full of magic. If we were to roll around naked in the dew, our diseases may be cured. If we placed a special orchid root under our own pillow and an unrequited love, their heart would be ours. And this was the night for venturing into enchanted places to collect magic rocks that grant wishes. I had no need for any of those rituals, as I was having a perfect night with wonderful people in an amazing country.
Photo from Rob at projectionlabs.net
This trip was my first chance to sail amongst icebergs, in the Jokulsarlon lagoon. As the salty sea water reaches Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier, hundred of icebergs break off where they slowly melt as they progress towards the ocean. It is a really beautiful and surreal place. With the glacier and snow-capped mountains in the background, most of the shapes are carved out in shades of blue – from the pale turquise of the ice to the vibrant azure of the sky. Streaks of black from centuries of volcanic eruptions cut through the vista to emphasise the age of this place.
We took a cruise through the lagoon and our guide carved off a sliver from one of the icebergs, so that we could eat ice that was over 1000 years old. Our guide was a native Icelander who spends all her winters in Australia – she even went to college in my hometown of Canberra. She spoke like a perfect Australian native, which made it all the more shocking to hear her correctly pronounce towns like Þorlákshöfn when talking about the region.
Occasionally, seals would poke their heads out of the water. Our guide told us that there were two types of seals in Iceland, and that these are the cuter ones, as they are smaller and have fewer whiskers. We were later told that the locals call the seals that give birth on land Land Seals, and the ones that give birth out at sea Out There Seals. The Icelanders are big fans of literal names for creatures and places.
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In this strange place the baby lambs always seem to come in pairs. Even more surprisingly some of them are piebald, like tiny furry cows. It was lambing season when we visited, so the roadside was dotted with hundreds of these adorable creatures. Some of them were just so cute that Adrian would suddenly veer off the road so that we could stop and admire the way their little tails flew back and forth as they fed.
John pretended not to think the sheep were very cute, and made mock grumbling sounds when ever we stopped to take a closer look. However, Jay, Adrian, and I all voted that they were completely charming. These regions of Iceland were reminiscent of Tolkien’s Bag End, and I expected to see hobbits emerging from their holes. The turf keeps the houses snug under the snow during winter, and during summer they sprout a vibrant green top.