So once again, I overestimated what I was capable of and have exhausted myself to the brink of sickness – a sane person would take that as a cue to slow down… but too bad I’ve got 3 more consecutive weekends of travel lined up. Oops 😁
Anyway, being bed ridden today is an opportune time to finish my little trilogy of entries on the short but insightful trip I took to Iceland a few weeks ago, where I got to do a few unorthodox activities such as descending into the once-fiery pits of an ancient volcano and hike a glacier.
Yea, hike a glacier.
After visiting the wonderful waterfalls, we drove on down to Skaftafell National Park, where the mammoth Svinafellsjokull glacier awaited us. Armed with crampons strapped to my hiking boots, an ice pick and helmet, I felt a bit unnerved by my decision to do this hike- these things are mega deep and a small squirt like me could easily fall through those crevasses!
Luckily, those fears weren’t realised and the sunny conditions ensured that the 2-3 hour hike was a pretty pleasant one – the biggest risk of injury was getting your crampon stuck in the ice and falling onto your face (though we were required at a few points to take a leap over some ‘moulins’ which would’ve been a pretty tragic outcome if your jump was to fall short).
The glacier itself was a whopping 1000 years old and from what Polli told us, the pace at which it is moving and melting today is becoming increasingly and disturbingly faster. As it was summer, there were some small streams of melting ice on the surface where we were walking – ice that scientists have reason to believe is 500 years old. As it was too cold for bacteria to breed, the water was perfectly safe to drink. And let me tell you, once you’ve had a taste of 500 year old glacial water, it’s a bit difficult going back to the normal stuff.
We also learnt that this valley has featured in Game of Thrones as the North. Suffice to say, the Icelandics are therefore the real life wildlings, and while they’re big and tall, I’m glad to report that they’re not menacing in the slightest 🙂
Like the wildlings, they also believe in some pretty mythical, magical things. As we walked through the glacier, there was an abandoned beanie perched on a lone rock. Instead of dismissing it as belonging to a forgetful tourist, we were told that ‘not all is as it may seem’. Icelandic elves (i.e the “hidden people”), when they wish to be seen, can invite mortals into their elf homes in the rocks and mountains- the catch being that once in, the human may or may not be allowed back out again. By leaving behind a personal possession, the mortal has guaranteed themselves a portal by which they could return to the human realm again.
After scaling the icey plains of the glacier, I was feeling pretty beat but there was one more place left to visit – the famous Black Sand Beach. It was a bit of a drive (made longer by the pitstop we made to play with some Icelandic horses), but to finally see and climb the incredible basalt column cliff-face reinvigorated my energy levels.
As the sun set on my last day in Iceland, with the cute and clumsy puffins flying above the ancient cliffs and the deceivingly calm but dangerous waves crashing onto the black sand, it was in that moment that the little remote country of Iceland proved itself to be one of the most wonderful places on this planet.