Iceland’s Eastern Region
The second day along the Ring Road was through the eastern region of Iceland and another day of adventure. We spent most of the morning on the road admiring the beautiful vistas of the country. We stopped at a gas station and were given enough time to walk to the beach where we could admire the beautiful coastline and the hills behind us.
We picked up snacks for the long ride and we were on the road again. Before reaching our next destination, we made a quick stop at Europe’s largest lava field. The lava seemingly went on forever.
Our next stop was the Vatnajokul glaciers. Before we strapped on the crampons to our shoes for the glacier hike, we had time to hike to Svartifoss falls. The trail may have not been that long but it was a challenging incline to this black waterfall. Volcanic activity created this falls with dark cliffs, resembling a church organ, and black gravel of which the water flows through.
It was time, our group’s turn to hit the glacier. Vatnajokul glacier is one of the winter locations used for the popular HBO show “Game of Thrones” and my first time ever on a glacier. It was one of those once in a life time moment but I didn’t expect so many people to be out there at the same time. It happened to be during a Chinese holiday and it seemed all of them had spent their holiday here in Iceland. I, also, assumed we would go further into the glacier field but it was still a unique experience I would do again.
We were off again and the road had taken us to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. This is one of the most peaceful locations I’ve ever been with sunset coming and the calm lagoon waters setting the mood. The glaciers break off into icebergs that float down to the ocean and litter Diamond Beach.
Recent storms had flooded and damaged roads and bridges in the area. The bridge we were to cross had been damaged and was only accessible by foot so we were to leave our small bus and cross with our bags in tow and board another bus on the opposite side. The whole experience felt like I was fleeing the communist regime of East Berlin as we crossed the bridge to freedom after WWII.
We finally made it to our hotel and I was transferring files from my GoPro to my laptop when I heard raised voices, out of excitement, outside my window. It was around 8 pm when I went out towards the restaurant when I saw the group of people making all that racket. I asked “what’s going on”, someone replied “the lights, the lights are happening right now!” It was the northern lights making its presence right in front of what happened to be my window. The lights were peaking but I couldn’t capture it well enough with my cell phone so I run back to my room to retrieve my camera. By the time I came out the lights had disappeared. Disappointed and hungry, I had dinner in the restaurant in hopes it would return once again. I finished my dinner and saw a group of people in the same courtyard as before. Aurora Borealis had been appearing off on and I was ready this time. Within a few minutes, the lights had reappeared and I was finally able to capture an image. I was able to do a long exposure photo without a tripod by holding my camera as steady as I could for 10 seconds. The image is a little shaky but this moment will be remembered forever.
If the tour had stopped at this point, with the events of the last two days and the northern lights, I would have had one of the most incredible trips already. This was only my second day of the tour and I couldn’t wait for the next day.
The next day was mostly windshield time as we made up a lot of ground traveling along the east coast toward the northern end of the island. The weather turned gloomy and when we stopped at a hillside overlooking the beach, the gray skies still couldn’t hide the beautiful panoramic.
Then, we continued on and had lunch at a small fishing village. The temperature was about 42 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind had picked up at this time. The wind made the temperature that much colder. Again, it didn’t stop us from admiring the beautiful panoramic of the village with the snow-capped mountains in the back ground. We had to cancel a hike up to Iceland’s highest waterfall because of the first snowfall of the season. This would be a glimpse into the next day of my adventure.