Even during the peak of Iceland’s summer’s season, there’s always a place to be cold. So, feeling the 13˚ city heat of Reykjavík, we decided to go there.
The south coast of Iceland is probably one of the most travelled routes in the country, but it somehow never gets old. The road winds past dramatic white-topped mountains, yellow hills, green flatlands and grey beaches, with the scenery stretching out around us.
After a six-hour drive, and many picturesque stops, we arrived at our destination: the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, and the Svínafellsjökull glacier.
After putting on orange life jackets, we boarded an amphibious boat, which drove down to the shore and straight into the water. Soon, we were out in the middle of Jökulsárlón, gazing at the icebergs floating by in the deep, cold water. Whenever the boat slowed down, the head of a curious seal appeared above the surface.
Our guide invited us to taste a piece of 1000-year old ice. “You can try it,” she said, holding a chunk of ice that could slip and smash into thousand pieces at any moment. “But don’t get too excited. I mean, it is still just water.”
One of the group got excited and quietly asked: “Is she going to chip it?” His friend laughed: “Of course she’s going to chip it. Or, we’ll all get a lick.”
We finished the day by walking on Svínafellsjökull (or the “pig cliff glacier”). I wondered if the name had something to do with the dirty black colour of the glacier—the result of ash and dirt blowing onto the glacier, then freezing into its surface.
The glacier walk was a first-time experience for all of us, and the more safety rules we were told, the more we cringed with trepidation. But as we strapped on our crampons and took our first steps on the ice, we soon started to get the hang of it.
We passed some small pyramids of dirt, named Drulludríli in Icelandic, which means “dirt cones.” These natural formations are made when holes in the surface fill up with sand and dirt over the years. When the ice then starts to melt, these neat piles are left sitting on top of the ice.
Deeper holes, on the other hand, don’t fill up—instead, they become passages into the glacier. Meltwater then trickles down, storing up deep inside the ice. Where the water goes, nobody knows. This phenomenon is called a múlan—and if you should slip and fall into one, there’s no way out.
We crunched along the glacier in a line for an hour or so, taking in the views, thinking about nothing other than our next step. Aside from the impressive landscape, I was also impressed by how knowledgeable and proud of her country our guide was, telling us stories and facts that made this the fine day it was.