day 9: skaftafell national park

day 9: we woke up the next day feeling pretty chuffed about our jökulsárlón glacier lagoon trip but were bummed immediately to see that the weather in vik had not improved during the night.

after a hearty homemade breakfast, vik hostel style, we got to the reception area only to see our receptionist smiling weakly at us. she informed us that the weather reports had predicted some heavy snow in the eastern part of the island; exactly where we were heading. she assured us that our experienced tour guide would still be able to take us out there but should the weather get worse, we would have to cut our journey short and turn back. after looking at all our options, it seemed like the best thing to do.

luckily, a few more people joined me and my travelling companion on this tour -  a couple from spain, a gung-ho free-spirited young man from france and a friendly photo-loving guy from the uk.

we set off on the no.1 to our first stopover towards jökulsárlón which was, skaftafell national park. as soon as we about 10-20 km out of vik, we saw the surrounding lavafields blanketed in snow. i wondered how vik wasn’t yet covered in all that snow we were currently seeing here. check out the video montage of our drive up there.

snow, snow and more snow greeted us and at the beginning, we were happy to see everything so still and white. my travelling companion who is a big game of thrones fan said ‘winter was definitely here.’ it certainly was. after awhile though, the boredom of a straight road with no end in sight began to lull us all to sleep. i’m a pretty restless person so sleep doesn’t come easy especially on a road trip unless i’m really exhausted out of my mind. so i spent time doodling on our misty van windows instead….

- nothing better to do than doodle on a long road trip -

– nothing better to do than doodle on a long road trip -

about an hour and a half into our drive, we found ourselves at the skaftafell national park visitor’s centre. i wondered if there were other brave souls out at the park that day in that kind of weather.

- the road that leads to skaftafell visitor centre -

– the road that leads to skaftafell visitor centre -

apparently so, as we went in to enquire if a hike was possible to get up to see the famous basalt columned waterfall, svartifoss -  a waterfall that has earned quite a geological reputation among purists.

the lady in charge said the hike was still do-able at the time, so after a 10-minute video on the last great volcanic explosion in the area and a bathroom break, we started our hike. 200m into it and i once again found myself lagging behind everyone else as i was trying to catch my breath and keep up the pace. once again, my tropical lungs that were not used to such thin cold air gave out on me and i decided to just slow it down a tad before collapsed and died on myself. :)

here’s where i give a friendly word of advise: don’t do this hike in the winter season if you are not fit, have a heart/lung condition or weak joints. it’s wet, there are some areas along the path that lead you very close to the edge of some dangerous looking ciiffs and the snow is slippery, so stay well away from the edges and most of all, take your time because you need to watch your step and pace yourself.

luckily our guide was very patient with the us two asian girls struggling at the back. my companion, however did better than i though as she kept about 100m ahead of me.

- my travelling companion manages to keep ahead of me -

– my travelling companion manages to keep ahead of me -

so i resigned to life as the last trooper in the group.  at times, it could get a little lonely on that snow-laden path as trekkers were few and far between on a day like that, so i took the opportunity to snap some photos of my trek up. everything was just very silent and still except for my footsteps trudging up the hill. below are just some bits of my lonely trek to svartifoss.

- life is lonely at the top -

– life is lonely at the top but what a view -

- lonely times@skaftafell high -

– lonely times@skaftafell high -

- skaftafell national park forest dressed in her winter best -

– skaftafell national park forest dressed in her winter best -

the views were awesome. i’m not sure how high up i was but i was certainly stopping a lot on my hike to just take in the beauty and stillness of the landscapes around me. it kind of felt like ‘lord of the rings’ up there.

skaftafell 3

– i almost expect to to see saruman the white wizard emerge from the trees -

here’s where the trek got really steep. i slipped a bit but luckily i kept away from the edge knowing what a klutz i am to begin with but here you go. first glimpse of svartifoss.

- captain, we are approaching final destination svartifoss -

– captain, we are approaching final destination svartifoss -

after about half an hour, i caught up with the rest of the group at the waterfall and what a pretty sight it was. the top edges of the basalt columns were layered with frozen white ice and snow as were the rocks in the stream running below it. the waterflow of course was less than it’s usual summertime speeds but there was water splashing down nonetheless.

skaftafell 6

– our group checking out svartifoss -

i go in to get a closer snapshot of this little lady who hides away from the world.

-svartifoss is coated in ice and snow -

-svartifoss is coated in ice and snow -

the group even had time to make a snowman.

- frosty the snowman...-

– frosty the snowman…-

and here was a little bridge i noticed that reminded me of those you find at japanese zen gardens.

- am i in a japanese wintertime zen garden? feels like it -

– am i in a japanese wintertime zen garden? feels like it -

after a bit of fun, it was time to make our way back. we had a little help from our guide getting past the steep edges and reverting back to our hiking trail and after that we found ourselves at the back of the group again! no surprise, really.

as my friend and i stopped for pictures, we eventually got left behind by our group. i think they got fed up of us both taking our time with the hike in the end. LOL!

with all that snow that was being dumped on skaftafell that day, it began to really look like a winter wonderland and i started singing a few christmas songs to cheer things up on our way down. we ran the gamut of traditional holiday favourites including ‘rocking around the christmas tree’ and we’re happy to say no wildlife had died hearing us sing. (at least we hope so.)

at the van, our guide and the group were happy to see us again and asked us why we took such a long time getting back down. i replied that the white, snowy landscapes had got us into the christmas spirit and that led us to singing a few yuletide songs. everyone in the group responded with a laugh.

well, it was rather dreary weather in deathly quiet forest, after all, so any song would’ve helped lift our moods a little before we got to our next stopover, the jökulsárlón glacier lagoon – the highlight of my trip to iceland….

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5 responses to “day 9: skaftafell national park

      • That is brilliant! Can’t get enough of the country and all the photos from various bloggers on it. I’ll head over there in a bit after I put up this week’s features post. Would you fancy sharing a unique experience you’ve had while in the country? I’m trying to gather a diverse group of bloggers with different takes on the country to guest blog here. Not sure if that’s up your alley? Let me know and I’ll be happy to accommodate where I can. :)

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