Diamonds are forever – are they not? Well, we see to this a little later. That day I was traveling further East to see glaciers like Jökulsárlón or Svínafellsjökull and, as you already have guessed, Diamond beach.
Phone conference in the wild
This day was a Monday. A normal working day for my colleagues in Germany, France, and Denmark. I love what I am doing – regardless if it is photography, writing this, or simply my (un-)usual work as a scientist. So it was no deal for me to take part in a phone conference that morning. Since the weather was still very nice, I had a couple of miles to cover anyway, and I did know that cell phone coverage would be sufficiently good, I decided to put up my workplace close to Seljalandsfoss with a beautiful view of the surroundings.
The phone conference went well and ninety minutes later, I was on my way to visit the beach I had seen so many great photos of. However, it would take me quite a while to get there. About three hours, google maps estimated.
But I did not care, obviously. The landscape changed continuously from small gravel plains which looked like a glacial drift to distinct types of lava fields to areas I have no idea what their geological features are called. Highway one follows the coastline, at least roughly. And so it continues on and on for many miles almost in a straight line. It somehow felt like driving on a highway somewhere in West-Texas – although the vegetation apparently was not right and the temperatures neither.
Meeting Vulkan Drum
I had covered quite some miles already after leaving Vik behind. Now I needed a break. While driving through some surreal looking lava-field I stopped at a random parking spot close to an extinct volcano crater. And there he was.
A guy looking like a member of a local metal band, with his drum set ready, in front of this crated, in the middle of nowhere.
Vulkan Drum he said he calls himself, born in Germany and immigrated to Iceland many years ago. I was curious and so we started a little chat. In his car he lives for the larger part of the year. That would allow him an independent lifestyle – liberté toujours. He would just travel Iceland wherever it takes him. Occasionally, he would stay at a hostel. So he would get a hot shower from time to time. Of course, he needs to make some money to support this kind of freedom. And so he works, mainly in the summer months, as a cook at hotels. Then he saves most of his salary which he is carefully going to spend the rest of the year for living his dream of freedom.
Only about half an hour later, I finally arrived at Diamond beach and Jökulsárlán glacier lagoon. I decided to head to the beach first and see the glacier lagoon later.
Although it was only about 2pm the light was almost perfect. A little overcast sky, a little haze in the air, and the sun on an almost completely blue sky created a magic atmosphere.
Having parked my car, I stepped on the beach. I was surprised by the softness of the absolutely black sand. This beach was all what I had expected Black Sand Beach to be. But the sand apparently is not what makes this beach so special. The Jökulsárlón glacier close-by releases small icebergs to a lagoon. And that is connected with the Atlantic. On their way to the ocean these icebergs warm up and break apart into many smaller pieces. These later are washed ashore by a combination of local currents and surf.
For miles along the beach you see hundreds if not thousands of those small chunks of ice. From the distance the make this black beach appear to be decorated with diamonds.
Later, I drove to the Jökulsárlón lagoon itself and stopped at two locations. Only two icebergs were floating there. And since all ice from the last weeks had already melted away, I was not too much impressed by the view I had from here. Apparently, there are boat tours (but not at this time of the year) and snow mobile tours (at this time of the year but they require snow aparently…) which get you much closer to the glacier. If you have a couple of hours (which I did not want to spend this time) you can even hike to the glacier and get better shots. Point taken: For more impressive views I need to find means to get closer to the glacier – next time.
It was time to head back into the direction of Vik and my hotel. If driving without stopping I would arrive in the complete dark anyway already. And so I had decided to stop at every nice location as long as I have enough light to take photos and find my way around.
After not so many miles, hence, I stopped at a turnout to take a photo of some arbitrary pond I somehow found somehow appealing. Actually, I saw this one on my way out and I now regret now having taken a photo back then – in the sun, with no wind and a perfect reflection of mountains and glacier…
Single lane bridges
When driving in Iceland, there is one thing you encounter quite often: Single lane bridges. And also on highway one there are many of them to be found. However, it seems that Iceland is working on replacing those on Hwy 1 with larger ones to accommodate the increasing traffic. Especially, at the long ones, it can happen that you have to wait for a couple of minutes before you can pass.
Further on, I saw this sign telling me about some glacier I had not yet seen any photos of. And there was an additional sign: a warning! Potholes are to expected. The ones for that sort which are extra deep. Ok, I thought to myself, it is just potholes, right? I just have to go slow on them…
Well, it turned out that they were of the really annoying type. At times, I completely had to maxed out the little extra clearance of my 4×4 as it turned out only minutes later. As a comparison, a group of Asian tourists (could have been Europeans as well, of course) got stuck with their Hyundai i10. However, they got help already from another group – with another i10.
Absolutely convinced, that they would manage to get out of the pothole, I continued along that nice little road avoiding potholes as good as possible.
An eternity later, I found myself at a parking spot at the foot of the Svínafellsjökull glacier. For me this was the first time in ages that I was that close to a glacier – the stuff diamonds are made of. And I found it to be incredible. The colors in the ice, the surrounding, and that all in the setting sun (although kind of obstructed by incoming clouds).
Following a small trail on the western slope of the glacier I found spot after spot to take photos. Soon, I was alone without any other soul aground. I could have continued on and on. However dark rain clouds were moving towards me and so I decided to head back to the car.
And indeed, it did start raining when I was back on Highway one. And so I later simply ignored the sign pointing me to the turn out for Svartifoss – a very nice waterfall according to the photos I have seen. I definitely have to come back to this area at some point.
Rain turned to heavy rain and storm. Night fell over Iceland and the darkness swallowed its magical landscape. A quick stop at Vik’s Kronan to resupply and on I drove to the hotel. Later, I would hear, that it rained almost all day in that area. So I guess, I made the right decision, by heading East.