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.
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.
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.
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.
Some cows rumble by, mooing and heaving, as we make our way back to the Ring Road.
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.
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.
As we hike to the glacier, the fickle sky spits rain and then clears intermittently, offering a few rays of sunshine.
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?
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.
We pass a guide instructing a group about safety measures as they gear up with helmets and other equipment.
If you look closely at the glacier in the photo below, you can see a couple groups of glacier walkers climbing the face.
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.
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.
As the sun comes out and the skies turn blue with smatterings of clouds, we make our way back to the car park.
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.