Monday, May 14, 2012

Essential Iceland Tour Part 2

Throughout the morning Steinar kept pointing out the massive ice cap in the distance, our afternoon destination of Langjökull, and now we were on our way. As we left the solid fields of lava, the ground turned to dark rock and dirt. The landscape becoming more and more baron, a strange beauty.
Steinar explained to us that the normal tour drives to the glacier but because of deep snow in the winter and total ice in the summer they stay next to it.  There is only a 2 to 3 week period each year when their trucks can actually drive up it and guess what kids? Today was one of those days!

There's really no road, as you can see, and as soon as we hit the snow at the base of the glacier the guides raced each other, driving madly all over and up to about the midway point. We got out and were all just stunned at the beauty. 

We loaded back in the Rover and continued to the absolute top. We couldn't believe it! The sky was blue and almost cloudless, the views went on forever and being on top of the glacier was a total "king of the world" experience. Even the guides were taking pictures!

After some glacial snow eating and snow angel making each of the drivers let a good amount of air out of the over-sized tires allowing them to have better traction for the next part of our journey. We'd be driving off the glacier and up to the top of a near by shield volcano. This should give you a small taste of how surreal the drive was!

Again the drivers all raced each other off the glacier and had a ball climbing up steep sides of snow and ice, scaring the hell out of most of us! I don't think anyone really thought we were going to the top of the volcano, I think we thought Steinar meant we were heading in that direction. But soon we found ourselves parked along side the other trucks on top of the crater, watching snowmobiles zip around the inside, reminding me of a motorcycle cage of death show.
We were given more time to enjoy the never-ending, stunning views from the top of the volcano while the drivers used portable generators to re-inflate their tires. Then we descended into Cold Valley pass, traveling again not on a road but just finding our way thru the now slushy snow pack.

 We found an actual rode a bit further off, although it was gravel, and continued on to Þingvellir (pronounced "thing vellir") the site of the birth of Iceland's parliament, the site of the largest lake in Iceland and the site of the Rift Valley where the tectonic plates are moving apart at a rate of about 3cm per year.

Our incredible day came to end as we were dropped back off at the hotel. The Washington Six ordered drinks in the Hilton's bar and rehashed the day, truly marveling at our experience.

Hot springs, waterfalls, lava cave, glacier, volcano, tectonic plates. Highly recommended.

Iceland photos

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