Skaftafel.

We headed out today to Skaftafell, the glacier that I took Mom and Dad to when they came to visit last time. When we left town, it was overcast and rainy, and I was worried that a lot of the scenery would be obscured by clouds.

A turf house cut into the side of a massive rockThat turned out to be a needless concern. As we drove, we got out from under the clouds shrouding Reykjavík, and the sky became clear blue. The landscape changes dramatically several times throughout out the drive. We’ve stopped here to take a picture of this turf house. The barn that is attached to it is actually cut into the rock. We’ve got no idea how they got the galvanized tin in there like that. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the rock that the house is in is seperate from the mountains behind it. At our back is the ocean. For kilometers, we drove with mountains on our left and the ocean on our right.

Black sandsThen we got to the black sands land. The landscape became flat with mountains way, way off in the distance. At this point we could see the tip of the mountain that holds the glacier we are heading to, but the bottom of it is obscured by the curve of the earth. It will take us another two hours to get there. The silence here is impressive. We generated the only sounds and could hear each other at a normal speaking level even when separated by thirty yards.

Next we passed through green-throw pillow land, where the moss is so thick on the rocks that it looks as if someone came out and threw shag pillows all over the landscape. I didn’t take any pictures here because there wasn’t a good place to pull off the road. Though in truth, there was so little traffic and the road is so straight, that I could have stopped in the middle of the road quite safely.

glacier3.jpgWhen we got to the glacier it had changed substantially since I visited with my parents. We could hear and see it melting; markers along the path showed how much it has retreated over the years.

I took a picture just like this, but then had Rob take one with me standing in the frame because it’s impossible to get a real sense of scale without someone standing next to the thing.
Me standing by the glacier

Rob and Eve heading past the glacierHere we are heading back to the car. Looking past the glacier you can see the flat, moonscape that we passed through to get here. It’s a very strange sensation, to have towering mountains behind and moonscape in front. At first it feels like these two things are unrelated, but as we left we realized that all of this flat moonscape had been covered by glacier at some point.

And then, as we drove home we got lucky. I was focusing on the road when Eve said, “Are those the northern lights?” I looked up and, behold. They were. So we pulled over and the entire sky began swirling and pulsing with color. It was the most impressive display I’ve seen, touching the horizon all around us and fluttering with color. The display continued for our drive home, but in much tamer renditions. Eve and Rob have been utterly spoiled now.

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