The next morning, we packed our tent and drove towards Skaftafell National Park. The drive from Kirkjubaejarklaustur to Skaftafell, is one of the most scenic drives, we’ve been on. On a bright sunny day, powder puff clouds dot the blue sky and for miles there isn’t a soul in sight. Barren, deserted land on either side runs parallel to the ring road. After few minutes, in the distance, the glacier makes a spectacular appearance and steals the show. You’d be lucky to find another car on this route. If you crave isolation, perhaps, this trip isn’t one to be missed. We made a brief pit stop at the display of the twisted bridge beam memorial. After glacial floods caused by the 1996 Grimsvotn volcanic eruption – all that remains of the old bridge – are these mangled remains. Skaftafell National Park isn’t very far from this site. We made an entry at the visitor’s office and paid the fee for the campsite. The national park has pre-designated camp sites, well-marked hiking trails, and offers a number of adventure activities such as glacial walks and trekking.
Jökulsárlón Lagoon is about 50 Km from Skaftafell National Park. We reached Jökulsárlón somewhere before lunch. By this time, the lagoon was buzzing with travellers from everywhere. There’s a small cabin which doubles as a cafeteria and is great for light meals. With the sun shining brightly and temperatures soaring; it was hard to believe we were in Iceland. Lunch was fish soup and a salmon sub. We made our way to the amphibian boats and booked a tour. We had few more hours to while away, so we climbed a small hillock, and soaked in the view of floating icebergs. Although, a Jökulsárlón Lagoon tour is steep, the experience is truly other-worldly. As we cut across tranquil waters of the lagoon, our guide gave us safety instructions, and an account of the general statistics of the lake. At 248m (814ft), Jökulsárlón Lagoon is believed to be the deepest lake in Iceland. The retreating Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier forms an imposing backdrop to the iceberg dotted lagoon. The icebergs once dislodged from the glacier, flow gently into the ocean. Occasionally, there is a crackling sound associated with the break and the sudden sound breaks the silence. Our guide gave us some glacial ice to touch and taste. Well, frankly, it didn’t have a taste. Perhaps, that’s what pure water tastes like, I reasoned. Our guide mumbled names of Hollywood movies shot here and threw in a bit of history behind the amphibian boats. But I let my mind wander. There was a disturbing beauty to the location. We sailed in silence and however alluring the icebergs looks, it was hard, to ignore their deceptive danger. Maybe, the movie ‘Titanic’ was playing in my mind or the thought of surrendering to nature made me wary. Although I’m glad to have done the tour. Beyond the bridge, you can see the ultimate fate of the floating icebergs. Once magnificent structures of ice, the icebergs are reduced into a parody of their erstwhile glory. We tried lifting the lighter ones and they don’t seem very light when you do try to lift them. The sand on the shore is black and similar to the sand in Vic.
At 3:00 pm we head back to Skaftafell National Park. We pitched our tent, only after scouting for a location which offered a view of the glacier. This time, we were better prepared at pitching our tent. And we managed to get the opening flap to face the glacier. Unfortunately, we couldn’t check any of the hiking trails, so we walked up to the glacier. Warning signs were plastered everywhere. Some people chose to ignore them and tread the path. We waited, silently, admiring what stood before us. I wished we had more time, to do more things. It was getting too cold and we decided to head back. After a light snack, we tried to sleep. The next day we would cover the same route back to Reykjavik.