Stormy Seas in South East Iceland

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My final weekend adventure with my Viking was to be a good one filled with Ice caves, glaciers and dramatic landscapes. As heartbroken as I was about my looming departure, it was difficult to be sad in the midst of that incredible landscape with a handsome Viking at my side (for the moment) … mostly I was all smiles and wonder at the landscape.

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Leaving Laugarvatn we headed south through Selfoss to join the main Ring Road 1. Another spectacular winters day. We drove through the incredibly boring and unattractive towns of Hella and Hvolsvöllur – not a common thing in Iceland…  Luckily the landscape still had me spellbound.

Once we reached the coast we took a little detour off the main road down an incredibly slippery road which tested the Vikings driving skills to an amazing beach which looks out towards the Westman Islands… or as they are called in Iceland, Vestmannaeyjar. There are 15 islands, and about 30 rock stacks and skerries in the archipelago. All the islands have been built up in submarine eruptions and consist of alternating layers of palagonite, tuff and lava. The oldest geological formations are in the northern part of Heimaey (“Home Island”), the largest island and the only inhabited one, with a population of 4,135. The light was amazing on the turbulent seas with the black sandy beach and disappearing islands, and of course I took way too many photos….

Our next stop was one of Iceland’s many iconic & haunting photography locations. On Saturday Nov 24, 1973 a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach in the south of Iceland after experiencing some severe icing. Luckily all crew members survived the crash, but the airplane’s fuselage was abandoned. Now it’s become a photographers dream location. The wreckage is on private land- with a  very small discrete sign pointing the way- what wasn’t as discrete was the amount of cars heading to the location. We did stumble across a wedding shoot… not sure if I would want to have my photos done with the wreck of a plane as a backdrop!

We drove through Vik, a quaint little town with a view towards Reynisdrangar, by one of the prettiest black beaches in Iceland, where I snapped a few photos of a young woman riding her Icelandic horse along the sand dunes. The South-East of Iceland contains wide stretches of sand with glacial rivers running through it. Myrdalssandur is an area of black lava sand plains covering 700 square kilometres which were formed from the sand and ashes from the glacial rivers and their frequent glacier runs from the volcano of Katla. The crater of Katla, which is about 100 sq. kilometres in size and almost 700 metres deep is filled with ice. The Katla central volcanic system has erupted around 20 times since Iceland was settled, the last eruption happened in 1918. When the eruptions occur huge glacier runs or floods follow and a great amount of ice, ashes and sand flows down to the lowlands. Most of the Myrdalssandur sand plains have been formed from the material which flooded down in the glacier runs.

Our last stop before heading to our fairly ordinary hotel was Fjaðrárgljúfur, a canyon which is 100m deep and about 2 kilometres long, with the Fjaðrá river flowing through it. The Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon was created by progressive erosion by flowing water from glaciers through the rocks over a long period of time, some say 9000 years ago. In summer it is incredibly lush and verdant, in the late afternoon light swathed in snow, it was still mesmerising. A beautiful day finished with an incredibly ordinary meal at our rather ordinary hotel- the south east has some catching up to do on its accomodation options. We did have a view from our room, and once again the northern lights danced gently across the sky as we fell asleep.

 

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