Iceland – Skaftafell

I was surprised by how civilized and well serviced the Skaftafell campground was. It’s the Icelandic equivalent of Yosemite Valley – the perfect first campsite for all newbie campers in a great location with easily accessed walks. But unlike Yosemite there was hardly anyone about. Everyone was very respectful – playing card games in front of their tents! The showers were like hot volcanic fire hoses and the little cafe had draft beer, meat soup and other delicacies including skyr and great coffee (of course, its Iceland!).

After our second coffee we took of up the hill to view Svartifoss. Spectacular imbedded in its setting of black vertical hexagonal basalt columns.

Svartifoss from afar

Svartifoss from afar

The honeymoon shot

The honeymoon shot

Someone told the paparazzi that we were in town.

Someone told the paparazzi that we were in town.

Basalt detail

Basalt detail

Hiking up further you come out onto the long finger-like spur of Kristínartindar stretching southwest between the huge glacier Skaftafellsjökull (actually a spur of the Vatnajökull ice cap) and the once glaciated valley of Morsárdalur. As you climb you get increasingly open views of the glacial flats stretching out to the sea where huge floods of water and rubble (a jökulhlaup) spurt out every time a volcano erupts under the great Icelandic ice cap Vatnajökull.

alluvial plain stretching for miles....

Alluvial plain stretching for miles….

All the way out to the lonely cape of Ingolfsshofði.Which is where the first Nordic settler Ingólfur Arnarson over-wintered in 869 AD. Looks pretty godforsaken unless you like eating seagull eggs.

All the way out to the lonely cape of Ingolfsshofði.
Which is where the first Nordic settler Ingólfur Arnarson over-wintered in 869 AD. Looks pretty godforsaken unless you like eating seagull eggs.

The view as you climb the spur gets better and better. Especially looking down over the precipitous drop to the heavily fissured glacier below – frosted in ash and grime from the recent eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, as well as the usual melange of ash, algae and dust.

Climbing along the edge

Climbing along the edge

the sweeping ice floe - like a charcoal drawing

the sweeping ice floe – like a charcoal drawing

Detail

Detail

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The 15 km walk continues to the neighboring Morsárdalur which is now ice free.

Morsa valley

Morsa valley

And winds on until the marker which is there to help us find our location.

You are here!

You are here!

It has lots of interesting cultural markings on it to help me place myself in the landscape. However, the landscape itself made better sense to me.

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Iceland – Circumnavigation

I’ve just got back from a month of travel in New Zealand but I feel that I must  wind up my traveler’s tales from Iceland before continuing on to the latest expedition.

My last posts from Iceland were about the ‘Book of Baer’ that I was working on in my residency and the exhibition that we held at Baer on the last day. The next day Sandra arrived after a long flight from NY and a drive up from Reykjavik (tired, jet lagged and driving in a foreign country – brave lass!). We rested a day at Baer to give Sandra a chance to catch her breath and have a sniff around.

Then it was off on our circumnavigation of Iceland.  East across the Northern edge savoring the surprising and powerful waterfalls of Goðafoss (trans. – a good place to hurl carven images) and Dettifoss (trans – dental floss) en route.

Goðafoss where in 1000AD the Icelandic Loregiver Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði abnegated Nordic paganism in favor of the minority religion Christianity for his whole nation by hurling carved icons of his deposed gods over the falls.

Goðafoss where in 1000AD the Icelandic Loregiver Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði abnegated Nordic paganism in favor of the minority religion Christianity for his whole nation by hurling carved icons of his deposed gods over the falls.

Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall. Surrounded by a rocky wasteland with no good reason readily apparent for such a mighty flow.

Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Surrounded by a rocky wasteland with no good reason readily apparent for such a mighty flow.

My friend and Icelandic cultural guide John Zurier, compared it to watching 50,000 gallons of cement being poured every minute.

We continued our way across the barren northern landscape savoring cracted laval fields and bubbling fumaroles (love saying that).

Cracked lava field

Cracked lava field

lava closeup

lava closeup

bubbling fumarole!

bubbling mud pits too!

Until Highway 1 dissolved into a mesh of dirt roads all feeding more or less East. After winding up and down creek lined and troll infested (presumably) hills we wound down on to a mist clouded South East Coast.

Lowering fog and drizzle

Lowering fog and drizzle.

Winding further south we finally saw the advancing tongues of glaciers flowing down from Iceland’s huge Southern Ice cap.

"sliding enexorably" or catastrophically evaporating? The latter it would seem.

“sliding enexorably” or catastrophically evaporating? The latter it would seem.

After several fleeting glimpses from afar, suddenly the highway crosses a lagoon of ice calved off from the nearby glacier.

Glaciers at the beach - only in Iceland!

Glaciers at the beach – only in Iceland!

Subtle and seductive color.

Subtle and seductive color.

Tourists taking a closer look!

Tourists taking a closer look! quick! quack!

Finally, after a huge lamb dinner, we arrived at our campsite at the foot of Skaftafell.