‘Aaaaaaahhhhhh!’ a sharp inhalation of breath is heard. In unison we gasp at the spectacle of nature unraveling before our eyes in the late evenings sunset. Monolithic blue icebergs melt very slowly into the freezing mirror water. Jigsaw pieces never to be put back together are scattered like toys, their tips poking through the surface of the lagoon, another world. The Jökulsárlón Glacier spills oh-so-quietly over the looming mountain and into the icy lagoon, then out into the ocean a little further down.
As we climb over the small green hills covered in springy Icelandic moss, big woolly sheep skittle out of our way in trios. The sound is superb from our spot up on high. Soft tinkling and cracklings can be heard as the ice gradually moves to its destination millimeter by millimeter. The arctic wind lifts our hearts and cleanses our souls. Purity and lightness abound and we inhale this feeling of freedom. Surrounded by the beauty of nature we observe the vista with gratitude and joy. Being in Iceland is a dream I have held close to my heart forever and one that Ben has now made true.
It surprises me how much we love being in this cold crystalline world as we are such sun worshipers. But on our travels we are drawn to extremes and contrasts. Serendipity has brought us to this glacier at sunset, which is actually about 11 pm, and the sun is still high in the sky! The light glints at crazy angles from the icebergs creating rainbow hues reflecting in the water. The sight and silence is heavenly and we could sit here admiring the view forever, or until our noses turn as red as Rudolf’s.
Iceland is so pure it can clear a mind until there is no babble left and only peace, space, serenity, visions of the future. It is wild and dramatic, stripped back to the basics. We want to run fly and dance off the valleys. How can a land so ancient look as if it was just formed yesterday?
We leave our place in the sun and wander down to the edge of the lagoon where slippery black seals dance in the water that is rushing over gigantic icebergs that have cracked-off and drift toward the ocean in which they will eventually completely melt and disappear. We chase them over the black volcanic sand and are once again are stopped in our tracks by a most strange sight for Australians, a sight we never thought our eyes would take in – jagged blue and white icebergs washed-up on the fine black sandy beach, sparkling like perfect glass against the black sand. Paloma and I run to the foamy waters and hack little pieces off with volcanic rocks. Despite the cold I am hungry to taste the thousand-year-old ice. Few people can say they have eaten something a thousand years old, can they? Paloma loves to suck the shards as they soothe her teething gums. Enormous sea birds flap and squwark around us then perch sentinel-like on the largest ice rocks. It is a playground of surrealist proportions.
Back at the lagoon the next day, an amphibian boat awaits us, the black wheels are taller than Ben and keep us safe as we drive over the rocky road and slip into the waters. In front of our boat is an inflatable rescue craft, also checking that the water is safe from runaway icebergs. We don’t want a mini Titanic disaster in Iceland! Unfortunately, in true Ben and Kass and now Paloma style, we have come to Iceland completely unprepared for the weather. Silly Aussies, always in denial of the cold! It is hard to get your head around the news that the maximum summer temperature this summer will be 15 degrees. And our friends and family back in Sydney are complaining their winter is cold! The other passengers on the boat are decked out in the 66 Degrees North – the Icelandic version of North Face – head to toe with big hiking boots. We wouldn’t be seen dead in anything this practical and we are quite a sight ourselves me in my green floral kaftan with pompoms and Ben in his Hawaiian shirt I found for him at the Reykjavik markets. So we end up the coolest on the boat, in more ways than one.
Slowly we move through the towering icebergs. A spectrum of blues, whites, grey and stripy black is the artist’s pallet on this occasion. Helga, our guide, is hugging a seal-shaped slab of ice and says the blue of the larger icebergs is caused by the light not being able to penetrate all the way through. The black smudges are rocks and debris collected over thousands of years of the glacier moving hundreds of kilometers to it’s final floating place and the white icebergs are actually the underside which have flipped over as the bergs melt and regain their balance. Usually the glacier moves down five hundred meters a year but last year the Jokularson came down eight hundred meters thanks to the effects of rising earth temperatures. The crinkling-crackling sound is amplified in the ice caves and walls of ice we are stopped in. The sky above us is grey and surrounded by ice we feel we are exploring a magical winter wonderland.
Back on terra firma we warm our selves with delicious hot chocolate spiced with lashings of rum. Unable to tear our selves away from this majestic setting we sit by the lagoon and watch the seals dance.
Traveling west on the windy road with the ocean now on our left we pass through vast luna landscapes of lava fields and it is really hard to keep the car on the road as we get mesmerized by this changing scene. Stopping constantly to enjoy it up close, we wonder if we will ever arrive back in Reykjavik. Luckily the sun never sets and we can drive all night. To our right mountains rise from the sea in curvy soft folds, lush velvet blankets of cloud have been laid over the rocky outcrops where the top sedimentary layers are revealed, lines once horizontal are on angles pointing heavenward where the earth has pushed up over the millennia. Moving white spots dot the landscape and are everywhere – the famous Icelandic sheep. Notorious for careening across the road in front of your car, may locals take out special sheep insurance just in case!
Bumping along a dirt track off the main road we listen to Icelandic music Ben has dubbed ‘Snow Folk’ and arrive at the rocky shore of the sea, scampering into enormous basalt caves decorated with geometric patterns. I wish my dad the geologist was here to tell us about this crazy land and the formations.
It is really a nature lovers playground. I have a habit of collecting flotsam and jetsam along the shore and I even find a ready made seweed and rock necklace for my collection. Ben spies me sneaking pebbles into my pockets and reminds me of our luggage weight, he doesn’t realize how many I really have sneaked!
Waterfalls split the green mountains and decend like white hair from the sky we stop and fill our water bottles with the delicious fresh nectar. Have we happened upon the fountains of youth? We feel so light and happy here. The scent of the air is fresh and rushes through the car as we head back to Reykjavík. I don’t want to close my eyes and miss anything, around every corner of the coastal ridge is another wonderous sight. So Paloma and I nestle looking out as the finest of creation slips by. Iceland, my dream come true!