Jan 3: South Shore


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January 3rd 2018
Published: January 3rd 2018
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Full day today! Time for the South Shore.

The tour was cancelled yesterday because it was so windy in the south that they literally closed sections of the main highway - it's not that they get too much snow or anything, but they don't have lights on the roads (and honestly they don't really have barriers... they just have yellow sticks every 20ft or so), so if there's a snow drift you are screwed because there is nothing to guide you or even indicate you're still on a road rather than veering off into a lava field lol.

We were ready to roll today though - we got the monster truck-bus 😊 I've seen them before in the summer, usually used for the glacier hikes and tours that are a bit more "adventure" based. Basically it's a normal bus but with winterized ginormous tires so even if it's a one level bus, you're sitting at the height of the top of a double-decker.

We started with a 2hr drive. This tour guide was heavy into the geology of the area which was fun. He talked a lot about the tectonic plates, volcanoes and earthquakes - all of which brings me back to my practicum lol. (Oreo tectonic plates and earthquakes, and ice cube glaciers for the win!) He also talked about how back in the early 1900s there was a particularly large earthquake that opened up a bunch of chunks of land/holes. The locals decided to use one as a garbage dump and a few years later rather unfortunately found out it was a geyser which I think is hilarious.

First stop was basically a poorly planned pee break at the Lava Centre... poorly planned because there were 4 busses that arrived within minutes of each other for about 6 toilets. Luckily we were the 2nd bus in, so the line wasn't as bad at it soon was.

We did a 2 min hop-off at the base of the glacier (and volcano that sits under it) that caused all the travel mayhem in 2010 - the lovely Eyjafjallajokull.

First REAL stop was at Solheimajokull glacier where we got to (somewhat) explore for about 35-45min. I'm so sad how much the glacier has receded since 2008 when I came in the summer though. Back then we were able to take a few steps along the southern tip of it and now the entire valley area of it is just gone. It's still lovely, but not the same. (Less blue too, but that's to do with current weather so that's just what it is.)

Lunch stop was at Vik. Yesssss. I was hoping that was still the case because lunch stops = more time to visit since I bring my lunch. Vik is the best. It has black volcano (fine, almost sand-like) pebble beaches and islands peaking straight out not too far off. It's so wonderfully unique. However, it was effin' windy as anything down by the beach. It was a trek to get there from the building we were at because you're crossing a barren lowland and there is no wind cover. (And uhm, you arent exactly supposed to wander off... ahem, but I knew the path from before). I felt like I was one of those idiots going out into tropical storms trying to walk into wind lol. Like you know it's windy when it can move me. I'm not small. Taking pictures, once I got to the beach, I had to legit plant my foot deep into the sand to not get blown over and I was scared to use my phone for pictures lol. Worth it though. I love it here.

Vik is essentially as far as we go, then it was time to retrace our steps back towards Reykjavik to visit some waterfalls. We did a short pit stop at another black pebble beach a few minutes away first (... for those that hadn't been as adventurous as me. Ahem.) It was even windier here holy shit. Like brace yourself with each foot step windy. Like my hat flew off twice and I had to catch it as it left my head windy. Like the monster bus was rocking when we parked. Yeah. That was fun. Pretty pictures but damn it was tricky lol. I'm pretty sure I ate a tablespoon of sand. And I have no good selfies. But getting to watch and listen to those waves crash in is so worth it.

Speaking of the waves, we almost lost a few people... no joke. There are signs everywhere and the guide told us to watch the swells because they come in far. (As he said: "It's a one way trip. Very difficult to get back out again. Alive, especially.") A couple people got caught by the ends of them and were soaking from the knees down.

Total sidenote, what are the chances the girl sitting behind me on the bus was from Kingston and is currently going to Concordia, but is planning to go to teachers college to teach french????

Ok back to the tour - Skogafoss! One of my favourite fosses. You were suggested to have crampons for the area in front which is obviously frozen from all the mist. But most people didn't have them and were like... hilarious to watch try and walk. It's like when freezing rain hits in Ottawa... all the penguin wadles. Honestly though, $20 on Amazon for my crampons - best purchase I've made in awhile. I was walking with purpose thank you.

ANYWAY. Skogafoss is super beautiful - it coats the entire area of rockside in a thick ice. Even the "Closed sign" is coated in thick ice and pretty. Since its winter (or at least I'm guessing that's the reason?) we don't get to visit the museum in Skogar which is a shame. That's where they had the turf houses and all the random old artifacts.

You know what's another weird difference between coming in 2008 vs 2018 -> the "no drones allowed" signs everywhere. Interesting random tidbit to see.

Last stop for the day was Seljalandsfoss. This is the one you get to walk behind... in the summer at least. I was kind of hopeful that they'd have it open if you had crampons... but like Gullfoss, they just close the entire trail. Boo. Without that perk it's just kind of ok - it's pretty, but nothing overly wow. A neat detail is that they light it up at night which is helpful since we got there just as the sun disappeared.

Oh. And another thing they light up? At Christmas? Graves! In a bunch of the graveyards they illuminate these sizeable enough crosses on all the graves so when you drive by it's a bunch of white and red crosses which is quite striking.


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4th January 2018

Wow
Wonderful photos, Julie. I've just added Iceland to my bucket list. Can I take your geography class?
4th January 2018

It's definitely a must-see place, even if it's starting to get a little crazy with the number of tourists. I'd suggest not the middle of winter for a first visit lol, there are more options of things to see and do... but any time of year is amazing. Iceland is definitely in my Top 3 countries. I miss teaching geography - I haven't taught it since my practice year!

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