Höfn – Svínafell
After a gorgeous sunrise, albeit cold and damp from within our not-so-strategically-placed tents, the weather decided to return to its favourite state; les miserables. The grey skies set in, showing no sign of retreat, and rain began to pelt the Jimny as soon as we embarked on a little drive around the fishing town of Höfn; obscuring any views we had hoped to see across the choppy ocean and of the looming Vatnajökull ice cap.
Today would be one of those difficult days, which often rears its ugly head at least once during an extended trip away; one of indecisiveness, logistical errors, failed planning and shared grouchiness.
We ended up spending a good chunk of the day driving up and down the Ring Road trying to find our next accommodation. This was a task we usually didn’t worry about until the end of the day, but the weather had made any plans to sight-see virtually impossible. We drove between hotels through the torrential rain; all were either fully booked or extortionately priced; to an unmanned campground that wouldn’t be open until the late afternoon.
We came to realise that budget friendly, accessible accommodation between Höfn and the distant Vík was sparse, and it was definitely an area which required a bit of forward planning. Our tents were soaked, the air was bitter and all we wanted to do was go and gawk at some icebergs.
As soon as a gap appeared in the rain, we made our dash for Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, accidentally stumbling across this beautiful little hidden gem along the way, tucked quietly beneath the moss covered rocks of a mountain:
Hofskirkja is one of only 6 turf churches remaining in Iceland, and was the last to be built in the traditional turf style.
. . .
We pulled up in the car park for Jökulsárlón with a whole heap of other weather-beaten visitors, some of whom were fruitlessly wrestling against the wind to gain some sort of control over their ponchos. It was wickedly sharp, and took my breath (and almost the car door) away as I jumped out, straight into a puddle.
The icebergs were unbelievable, and they sparkled like diamonds when the occasional ray of sun reached out through the clouds. Their ghostly white forms hung silently in the water, uttering only the occasional creak as the wind whipped at their edges. I was mesmerised.
They came in all shapes and sizes; some of them were magnificently blue, and some were striped with dark grey, making them look like breaching killer whales. Their beautifully sculpted remains also littered the black, pebbly beach. Our smiles broadened even more when we realised that the lagoon was teeming with blubber boys!
After a walk along the beach, we then headed to the smaller Fjallsárlón iceberg lagoon. Braving the wind once more, we took the path over the hill and both gasped in amazement; before us lay the entire lagoon and glacier tongue. There’s something quite humbling about finding yourself so close to such a monstrous wall of ice.
In the late afternoon we made our way to Svínafell campground. I desperately hoped that there would be an alternative to camping; trying to put a tent up in that wind would have made me look even more ridiculous than all the poncho plonkers back at Jökulsárlón.
We were in luck. The campground had rooms available in a few of the farmhouses dotted around the site. Granted, ours turned out to look like something majorly haunted by the ghost of a little Icelandic girl who detested all foreign visitors, but we couldn’t care less by this point. All I wanted was a hot dinner and an equally hot shower.
We shared the house with a number of friendly couples and exchanged stories and tips over dinner. We then hung our soggy tents across any free surfaces we could find, and congratulated ourselves for getting through our day of indecisiveness, logistical errors, failed planning and shared grouchiness, with one too many gins – if this house was going to be haunted I damn well didn’t want to be sober for it.