Svínafell – Vík
I awoke in a groggy gin haze, but was thankful to have been left alone by any ghouls that potentially resided in the old farmhouse. The only thing to haunt me in the night was Jim’s bodily functions.
Our damp tents and gear, which had also left the room smelling particularly unpleasant, were more or less dry; but looking outside at the horizontal sheets of rain across the expanse of flat, green fields made me realise that they (and us) wouldn’t be remaining that way.
After a leisurely breakfast and a quick hello to the Icelandic ponies next door, we packed up the Jimny and set off for Skaftafell National Park, where we would be able to stretch our legs properly for what felt like the first time the entire trip. The park sits at the southern end of the Vatnajökull glacier and with no roads, it is a playground for hikers and explorers. In true tourist fashion, we were there to get a glimpse of Svartifoss; another of Iceland’s renowned waterfalls.
To our delight, the rain subsided as we dodged the enormous pot holes around the car park in search of a space. Though early, the place appeared to be filling up fast with tour groups, motorhomes and poncho plonkers.
The waterfall required a short, steep hike to reach, so we set off at a brisk pace to really get the blood pumping. We also wanted to avoid an incredibly annoying group of American women who were decked out in wedding attire (we saw countless wedding photoshoots during our trip, most of which involved a bride trying to remain composed whilst battling the elements and slogging uphill to her chosen location).
It wasn’t long before I was gasping for air – it made me realise just how much driving we had done so far; in 9 short days I had become some kind of terrible car potato. Luckily, the gaggle of wedding wallies were in hot pursuit and I was damned if they were going to spoil my view of the waterfall, so onwards and upwards I went.
Although a lot smaller than most of Iceland’s iconic waterfalls, Svartifoss is arguably one of the most beautiful. The narrow falls drops elegantly from a crescent-shaped cliff, which boasts the most magnificent basalt columns. Their amazing hexagonal shapes made it hard to believe that they weren’t man made sculptures. Geology buff Jim was once again, in his element.
The sun had also burst through the clouds as we reached the falls, lighting up the cascading water and its columns and creating a rainbow in the spray.
Our next stop for the day was Fjaðrárgljúfur, a long, winding canyon formed around nine thousand years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. The sheer cliff edges were beautifully blanketed in moss and had been sculpted over time by the shallow, gently flowing river below.
This was to become one of my favourite spots in the country, and looked like something straight out of a fairytale. I loved everything about it; from its breathtaking size, to its wonderful turquoise pools and natural curves.
We stayed until the clouds set in and flecks of rain began to fall, before continuing our journey on to Vík. On the way, the weather danced back and forth, from blinding sunshine to ominous clouds and pelting rain. The scenery remained largely unchanged, but we did find ourselves driving through the most stunning moss-covered lava fields at one point, which made the ground look like an enormous green pillow.
We pulled up into Vík Campsite just as the heavens opened in spectacular fashion, hammering us with gale force winds and hail strong enough to leave a dent. Little did we know that we would be sleeping in the car that night…