The day started with no promise at all. We looked out of the window to see mist and rain, again. After breakfast, we resigned ourselves to a day of travelling, with the hope of better weather tomorrow. As we drove past Vik, the weather was so bad, that we didn’t even bother to stop. We had visited here some years ago, and it is renowned for it’s spectacular black ash beach and dramatic sea-stacks. But today, you could see none of it. The clouds were so low, that the mist was all pervading, and you could only see a few yards ahead.
As we drove along Route 1, we passed a couple of tour buses going in the other direction. In our van madness, we started giving the commentary that we imagined the courier might be giving. ‘On your right, is ..fog, and on your left is .. more fog and mist, oh, and of course, bucketfuls of rain.’ We started feeling really sorry for the poor souls who had paid good money to drive around all day in a coach, with zero visibility out of the windows. As we were amusing ourselves in this way, one of our friends from home tuned in to tell us that they were having a mini-heatwave in Scotland. Another What’s Apped to tell us that they were having the best summer for a decade. ‘Thanks guys!’, we thought.
We continued on our way. Past Vik, the scenery changed dramatically, and for fifty kilometres or so, we were driving through lava fields. The lava had become covered in a greenish yellow moss over the centuries, to give it a strange globular texture. It was like driving through Teletubbyland. At one point, we braved the rain, and got out of the van to read one of the information boards.
The board told us that the lava fields were the result of the eruption of the volcano Laki in 1783. It continued to spew lava for the next five months, eventually covering an area of 600 square kilometres. The volcanic ash and dust that resulted from the eruption spread to many other countries, causing climactic changes due to the fine ash particles and air pollution. Eastern European climate became cold and unstable, causing crop failures. Even countries as far afield as Japan and the USA were affected. Some speculate that the French Revolution in 1789 was largely triggered by the crop failures and famine that resulted from the eruption of Laki!
We continued east along Route 1, and came to the huge glacier fields. Having driven through driving rain for several hours, as we arrived the mist suddenly cleared, and we got our first glance of the glacier edge. A few miles further down the road, the rain stopped, the sky turned blue, and we got the most spectacular view of the advancing glacier extending down the mountainside. The weather window only lasted ten minutes or so, but was enough to whet our appetites.
Further along the road, we came to the Glacial Lagoon at Fjallsarlon. We climbed a ridge in the lava and peered into the lagoon. One solitary iceberg was silently floating in the lagoon, peering out of the mist. It looked just magical.
We moved along to the car park where many vehicles had gathered, and walked down to the path to the main lagoon. Hundreds of icebergs mingled in the gloom, some bright ice blue, some white, some greyish, and all shapes and sizes. What a picture!
Eventually the cold and rain drove us back to the van, and we moved on to Jokulsarlon, the place where the glacial lake meets the sea. Here, the lake is tidal, and the icebergs are much larger than in Fjallsarlon. We leapt out of Oscar and down the slope to see for ourselves. Words can’t describe the scene. Large blue monsters slowly floated on the tide around the lagoon. The misty weather gave them an etherial quality, and Howard and I stood for ages just taking in the scene.
We eventually dragged ourselves away, and off to Hofn, for our night’s accommodation. We passed the field perched on the hill as we drove into town, which served as the campsite. A couple of Big Whites were up there, battling the wind and rain. We continued on to our Guest House by the harbour.
On arrival – no-one was there to greet us. We phoned the number on the board. The lady was apologetic, and promised to be there in two minutes. She rushed in, excitedly. ‘There’s a Wally in the harbour!’, she cried. ‘A Wally?’, we responded. ‘Yes, a Wally!”, she repeated.
We walked out of the guesthouse, and looked the few yards to the harbour. And there it was – a huge great humpback whale, no more than twenty feet from us, cruising around the harbour. We could hardly believe our eyes.
So that was our day. A day that started uninvitingly, and that ended in a truly magical fashion. Who would have guessed?