southwest iceland: dyrhólaey to the sólheimajökull glacier tongue

Tuesday, August 23:  After leaving the black sand beach and the puffin colony at Reynisfjara, and after stopping back in Vik so Mike can change his wet shoes, socks and jeans, we drive down Route 218 to visit Dyrhólaey, a rocky plateau with a huge stone sea arch.

A frigid and tempestuous wind nearly picks us up and carries us away when we get out of the car here.  It’s not an atmosphere conducive to lingering.

Dyrhólaey
Dyrhólaey

We can’t stay long here anyway because I suddenly have the urge to pee and there isn’t a restroom to be found anywhere!  It’s rather an emergency and I ask Mike to find me a hidden area where I can stop, but no place is hidden. Every possible stop is out in plain view.  I tell him we’re going to have to go back up the road to look for a spot.  It seems we are looking forever.

Dyrhólaey
Dyrhólaey

Finally, we find a dirt road and head down it.  I can at least find a hiding place behind the big rock jutting up from the plain.

This is one of the big problems one encounters traveling in Iceland.  Facilities are sparse.  Though a gorgeous place to visit on holiday, the country is simply not equipped to handle the large numbers of tourists comfortably.

scene along Rt. 218
scene along Rt. 218

On this dirt road, we happen upon the cave Loftsalahellir, used for council meetings in saga times.  However, we don’t climb up to it as we have a lot of other places we want to see today.

Loftsalahellir Cave
Loftsalahellir Cave

Some cows rumble by, mooing and heaving, as we make our way back to the Ring Road.

strolling cows
strolling cows
on a mission
on a mission
bursting at the seams
bursting at the seams

Back on the Ring Road, we continue west and pull off the main road to follow a 4.2km rutted dirt track (Route 221) to the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue.  On the way, we spot a pretty rainbow over the desolate landscape.

a rainbow on the drive to the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue
a rainbow on the drive to the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue

We park in the crowded car park and begin our hike to the glacier tongue.  We first wander through a mossy landscape and then pass groups of people gearing up to hike atop the glacier.

hike to the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue
hike to the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue

As we hike to the glacier, the fickle sky spits rain and then clears intermittently, offering a few rays of sunshine.

mossy environs
mossy environs
hike to the glacier
hike to the glacier

We see the glacier tongue ahead and though there are signs warning us not to go too close, we figure we’ll go as far as other people are going.  Of course we won’t climb on the glacier itself because we haven’t signed up for a guided tour.  I can’t help but wonder how the guides know with certainty about the safety of the glacier.  It seems that the glaciers are alive, shifting and heaving, melting and changing.  How can anyone know what is safe and what isn’t?

Sólheimajökull glacier tongue
Sólheimajökull glacier tongue

A beautiful canyon on the other side of the lagoon entices us, but there is no way to get to it.  Sunlight paints the mossy mountainsides in glowing chartreuse.

Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull glacier tongue
Sólheimajökull glacier tongue

We pass a guide instructing a group about safety measures as they gear up with helmets and other equipment.

Sólheimajökull glacier tongue
Sólheimajökull glacier tongue

If you look closely at the glacier in the photo below, you can see a couple groups of glacier walkers climbing the face.

Sólheimajökull glacier tongue
Sólheimajökull glacier tongue
backlit glacier
backlit glacier
Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull glacier tongue
Sólheimajökull glacier tongue

I am always pretty cautious in places that having warning signs.  The sign here reads: Warning: The glacier can be dangerous.  Please do not go out onto the glacier without proper equipment and knowledge, preferably accompanied by a glacier guide.

I’m ready to stop right here, but we see other people going up to the glacier’s face and Mike wants to continue on.  I follow hesitantly.

Warning sign
Warning sign
Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull

We get as close as we can to the glacier without going on it.  We can see various groups of people climbing the glacier and on top of the glacier.  Obviously, we could have signed up for a glacier walk, but we didn’t.  Now, seeing hikers atop this towering glacier, I feel relieved we didn’t try to do this.

Sólheimajökull melts into a lagoon bounded by piles of rocks and black sand. We wander around, enjoying solid ground underfoot.  I’m happy enough to stay earthbound.

Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull
me at Sólheimajökull
me at Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull

As the sun comes out and the skies turn blue with smatterings of clouds, we make our way back to the car park.

Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull
Sólheimajökull

In the car park, we eat a cheese and turkey sandwich for our lunch, and then we continue west on the Ring Road.  Our next stop will be the Skógar Folk Museum.

9 thoughts on “southwest iceland: dyrhólaey to the sólheimajökull glacier tongue

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I laughed at the comment with the cow with full udder “bursting at the seams”, more your sentiments perhaps than hers! Hahaha! I understand the “where to pee” dilemma! When trekking in Africa and to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, there was one path with a million trekkers and not that many WCs. And when you are well above the tree line, there are not always big rocks in convenient places. Sometimes people just had no choice but to relieve themselves next to their vehicles with boys on the left, girls on the right. I could write a book on this “issue” based on the 54 countries I have been to and it would not make pleasant reading.

    What amazes me in your photos, spectacular as always, is how rarely they feature other tourists. The places seem completely abandoned of any humans other than you and Mike and this must have been the case at times, and what a relief that must have been after China!! I hated living in Tokyo because you could always be assured in a city of 20 million people that at least 99% of them would be very close to you no matter where you went no matter what time it was. It was horrifying and returning to small town Canada was very disorienting when I was home on vacation.

    I do hope you have made some decisions regarding what to do in 2017 in the strange new era of Trump the planet is entering. It still seems very discombobulating that it is really going to happen. The smoke and mirror show has already begun with this Carrier nonsense in his VP’s home state (if I have my facts straight). A deal was made regarding government contracts with a company worth something like $6 billion dollars I think I heard this morning. 1000 measly jobs is not going to turn any economic tide except for those 1000 people. 1000 jobs are still heading to Mexico.

    Anyway, this blog is about Iceland and I sense we are nearing the end of this journey and that will be sad as all we will have to look forward to will be your far-too-infrequent cocktail hours!! Speaking of which…. you are about due a Christmas edition …?!

    Again, these photos were spectacular and strange and made to reflect Viking sagas, though I cannot remember if you explained whether or not the ancient Icelanders were also Vikings. Please advise in your next post!

    Best, ML

    1. Thanks, Mona Lisa, I’m glad you liked it. Especially the cow udder and the “where to pee” dilemma. I encountered that dilemma too many times to count in Iceland. I bet you could write a book about your many experiences in Africa on this subject. It might be funnier than you think.🙂

      I always try to avoid taking pictures of other tourists in my photos, so just because there aren’t many in the photos doesn’t mean there weren’t many. This place in particular had quite a number of tourists, especially with all the glacier walking groups. I’m sure my experience in China with all the tourists was much like yours in Tokyo. I think you can never get away from people in those countries!

      I sent out applications to a number of schools after the election and got exactly one interview, just two days ago, with American University of Kurdistan. They obviously didn’t think much of me because they wrote back almost immediately to tell me they had many qualified applicants and I didn’t get the job. I was kind of relieved as they were both quite jaded and told me the students were privileged, spoiled, lazy and unmotivated, and the administration wasn’t that helpful, etc. It was almost as if they were talking me out of being interested! I think they might have already chosen someone else by the time they spoke with me as they seemed not very enthusiastic. In any case, after the interview, I felt pretty certain I would turn them down if they offered me the job and lost some sleep over it, when if I had just looked at my emails, I would have seen there was no deliberation required. I don’t want a repeat of my Nizwa experience, and I think it would have been a repeat.

      Bernie Sanders just wrote a scathing article in the Washington Post about the Carrier incident with Trump and how corporations will have their way with Trump. He’s all about his special interests and his rich corporations – so much for “draining the swamp!” He and his cohorts ARE the swamp. Anyway, I’m keeping informed but have been off of Facebook since November 20 and plan to stay off at least till Jan. 1 and possibly longer. I honestly can’t stand to look at his face and will ignore him whenever he is on the news. (I’ll read only!)

      Yes, I am getting toward the end of my journey in Iceland. I do need to write a cocktail hour. I am in a dilemma right now (as usual!). Right now, I’m thinking I’m no longer going to apply to teach abroad. I don’t really enjoy teaching English and have always looked at it as a means to an end -> TRAVEL. I think I need to figure out another way to do that, without teaching. (By the way, I saw on TEFL.com a short term job at British Way in Tangier (one month) with Lucy Jane’s name on it). As you know, that wouldn’t be ideal for me.

      As for the Vikings, the recorded history of Iceland began with the settlement by Viking explorers and their slaves from the east, particularly Norway and the British Isles. The Age of Settlement was defined as the years between 870 and 930, when political strife on the Scandinavian mainland caused many to flee. The sagas were written over the long, desperate centuries of Norwegian and Danish subjugation (12th to early 14th centuries). The Viking raids died out in 1066, with the death of King Harald Fairhair, last of the great Viking kings; after his great naval victory at Stavanger in Norway; most of the deposed chieftains chose to flee rather than surrender and many ended up in Iceland. I haven’t read a lot about Icelandic history, so I may be confused about many of the details! 🙂

  2. Breathtaking beauty, Cathy! This is one of those places you can lose your heart to isn’t it, but so many of your images make me feel cold. I think I’m a wimp 🙂 Not sure that I really want to do the trudging around. I’ll just peep over your shoulder 🙂 🙂

    1. It really was breathtakingly beautiful, Jo. Such varied landscapes everywhere. As for the pictures making you feel cold, just think how we felt. It was often cold and blustery, and that was in August! Just think what it would be in the winter. It was no wonder we got sick. It was fun hiking all over the place though. I always like a good walk.🙂

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