The Ring Road: Hali to Northstar Guesthouse (Day 5)

Days: 447 (15 September 2015)

Total distance travelled: 117,573.4 kilometres (73,026.93 miles)

To our delight, we awoke to a bright and sun filled morning, perfect weather for the three hundred and twenty six kilometres that lay ahead, roughly one hundred fewer than the previous days distance.

It was probably a good thing too, as we had quite a few stops penciled in for this stretch of the journey.

Maybe we got a little too excited by the sight of the sun, but it was enough to convince both Sarah and I, despite the morning chill, to don our trusty hiking shoes (our flip flops)!

Synchronicity? Out comes the Sun, so out comes the feet!

Synchronicity? Out comes the Sun, so out come the feet!

It certainly wasn’t something we’d expected to be donning this far outside of the Icelandic summer!

We weren’t far along the road towards our first destination, which happened to be the glacial lake Jokulsarlon, when we noticed a small turnout from the highway from which another vehicle was just leaving.

One glance towards the horizon, and we too decided to take a few minutes here, doing little more than just taking in the view…

Reflecting on the stunning scenery

Reflecting on the stunning scenery

Like it did yesterday afternoon, the glacier again dominates the morning

Like it did yesterday afternoon, the glacier again dominates the morning

It wasn’t much further down the road, and just in case we’d thought for some crazy reason we might miss the lake, we needn’t have worried, as this was the first place on our Iceland road trip that we’d really seen a crowd.

Here the glacial waters concentrated to form a lake, complete with icebergs, before the waters (and icebergs) flowed directly out into the sea.

An overload of blue... Jokulsarlon (Click on image to enlarge)

An overload of blue… Jokulsarlon (Click on image to enlarge)

Blue waters, blue ice and blue sky… it was an amazing sight, and would have been incredibly peaceful, but for the crowds… and the fact that many of these folks decided to pay for the opportunity to ride out closer to the glacier, either in zodiac inflatable boats, or in ‘luxury’ aboard an amphibious (they looked like US WWII Army surplus) trucks.

So instead, we did what any other crazy Australians wearing flip flops would do, we decided to dip our feet in!

Fuck me, was it cold (big surprise there, I know)!!

Not content to simply enjoy the view… (left) & Dipping our toes in the frigid, glacial waters (right)

Not content to simply enjoy the view… although a Seal did randomly appear around this time! (left) & Dipping our toes in the frigid, glacial waters (right)

So I decided to test them again, just in case the first attempt wasn’t convincing enough…

As such, when we then decided to investigate the black sandy beach near the river mouth (that river that flows from the lake to the open sea), I did so with one foot aching from the cold.

But when we got to the beach, a cold foot wasn’t really on my mind.

Imagine a beach of the blackest sand you could imagine, then sprinkle it with broken glass, or maybe diamonds (if you’re rich enough), let the sun come out to reflect off the glass, and that’s pretty much what lay before us.

It was pretty incredible.

But why imagine when you could just look at our pictures?!

But why imagine when you could just look at our pictures?!

Some of the ice shards were thin enough, and clear enough, that we could even look through them like a pane of freaking cold glass!

The myriad of colours was amazing too (in the ice).

Whites, greys, about twenty shades of blues and even black!

50 Shades of Blue (left) & Ice fragments, scattered like broken glass (right)

Fifty Shades of Blue (left) & Ice fragments, scattered like broken glass (right)

Our road was long, and with so many planned stops ahead, we got moving once more, sandwiched as we were between the huge glacier to our right, and the waters of the North Atlantic (or was it the Norwegian Sea?) on our left.

It mattered not, as wherever you turned, the views were pretty special.

Another awesome branch of Vatnajökull rolls towards the plains

Another awesome branch of Vatnajökull rolls towards the plains

We weren’t long on the highway, before we were again turning off it.

This time, for an extended stop.

Welcome to Skaftafell National Park.

We toyed with the idea of participating in a glacier walk, pondering whether the cost was truly worth it. The decision became redundant, as it was not even an option, all tours being booked out for the rest of the day.

Never mind, there was plenty more we could do here, so we lunched in the sun, our cars bonnet (that would be hood to some of you) our picnic table, before hitting some of the parks trails.

It was odd to see so many trees in the one location, although admittedly there were more low shrubs than what you would call fully fledged trees (there were some however, including a copse of what come close to the tallest conifers on the island).

Still, the trails weren’t difficult, so it was great to be able to leave our hiking shoes (that’d be our flip flops) on… not that we knew what the trails ahead would be like!

But hey, that’s the way we roll.

Our ascent saw us pass a nice set of falls (Hundafoss and Magnúsarfoss) where we snapped a few pics and peered over the edge, but we had bigger fish to fry (seriously, Iceland has so many waterfalls you can start to get a bit snobbish).

Pretty soon we could see it in the distance, like a scar amidst the otherwise green landscape (unless you raised your eyes of course to the blue sky and white glistening glacier and mountain tops in the distance).

This was Svartifoss, a waterfall set in the most stunning natural setting.

The stunning basalt cathedral that is home to Svartifoss

The stunning basalt cathedral that is home to Svartifoss in the Skaftafell National Park

We figured we had time, and it was nice to be out in the sun and wandering whilst surrounded by nature, so went a little further.

The higher we climbed, the more barren the landscape, until our path was certainly no longer befitting such a title, but was little more than neatly ordered rubble.

Did we mention those views however?

We climbed to the top of a small summit (and I truly mean small summit), took in the three hundred and sixty degree panorama before us (which included rocky lava plains below, the distant mountains and glacier, as well as the squat scrub lower on the slopes), and decided it was time to again hit the road… after we’d climbed down of course!

Getting high in Skaftafell National Park (Click on image to enlarge)

Getting high in Skaftafell National Park (Click on image to enlarge)

Really, that was the mantra for our whole day.

Spurts of time on the road, punctured by stops, some as brief as a few minutes, as we continued our loop around the island.

We crossed a vast and open lava plain (this was Skeiðarársandur, the worlds largest black sand desert), a remnant of the islands tumultuous past, but also a reminder that at any time nature can vent its fury as well when back in 1996 a kilometre long bridge (the country’s longest) was washed away after a volcanic eruption and the resultant glacial flash floods…

Like the falls of Svartifoss, basalt and the islands volcanic history was again on display at Reynisfjara, a pretty cool beach location not far beyond the small township of Vik.

The stunning basalt columns and black sand beach at Reynisfjara

The stunning basalt columns and black sand beach at Reynisfjara

It was still all about the water, but we turned our gazes inland after this, as you see, not too far away was a place regarded as one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls, and after the disappointment of barely being able to see Dettifoss through a sea of fog, it was with some excitement that we approached this place on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

They’re funny a lot of the waterfalls here, they just seem to appear from nowhere.

This one however, we could hardly miss… the crowds alone would have lead us here!

Skógafoss, we'd been advised one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland!

Skógafoss, we’d been advised one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland!

I made some cavalier attempt to climb a muddied pinnacle closer to the base of the falls in an attempt at that perfect shot, whilst Sarah and her mum, not realising where I’d gone, mistakenly assumed I’d taken the stairs to the top.

For my troubles, although I got a nice view, all I caught on camera was a few slightly blurry selfies…

Back near the base however, it was a great place for rainbows, if you could dodge the spray, whilst up top (reached by puffing and panting your way up some wooden stairs) you could appreciate its power and take in its beautifully green fringes.

Chasing rainbows low (left) & Gushing falls above (right)

Chasing rainbows low (left) & Gushing falls above (right)

Gazing into the maw of this beautiful beast

Gazing into the maw of this beautiful beast

After regaining our breath at the top (I was probably labouring a little more than the others having stupidly run my way up trying to catch them), we began our descent in the company of an Australian who’d randomly appeared, not from below, but from behind!?

Turns our he’d been wandering about in the Icelandic wilderness (not aimlessly) for a week and was just now returning to his car and ‘civilisation’.

We continued falling (bad pun alert) with probably the most famous of the island’s waterfalls next on our list, Seljalandsfoss.

The 40 metre high Seljalandsfoss

The forty metre high Seljalandsfoss

The appeal of this is not solely its beauty, but the opportunity that visitors have, to actually walk behind the waterfall, allowing an opportunity to view it from any position!

That said, with the amount of spray that it pumps out, some locations are far better (for both visitors and cameras) than others!

Capturing a moment beneath Seljalandsfoss

Capturing a moment beneath Seljalandsfoss

There were quite a few people about, as there appeared to be a couple of day tours from Reykjavik lingering about (yes, I guess we were close enough to the capital by now that we were running into them again) and the beautiful sunny day had started to get a little cloudy, so we beat a retreat, with a plan of popping back the following morning. After all, we’d be passing right by anyway.

We were all pretty pooped by now, the legacy of another long day, both on the road and at the sights, and it sure didn’t feel too good to be heading backwards, even if it was just a little (we’d deliberately overshot our lodging to squeeze Seljalandsfoss in today, just in case tomorrow was miserable) up the road.

There was no town so to speak where we’d be staying, but we had an address and a name, Northstar Guesthouse.

As we pulled up outside what looked to be a dilapidated farmhouse, we each I’m sure thought to ourselves “What the fuck is this!?”

With trepidation we approached the door (where with an arranged security pin we retrieved a key), and entered… what proved to be a beautifully renovated interior.

The only qualm we ultimately had was with two other guests (German I believe they were) who didn’t happen to be there when we arrived, but had left the kitchen in a state, and the sink full of dirty dishes!

At least that night, as the skies did indeed clear up and there was no light pollution, when the Aurora Borealis made its appearance once again, all we needed to do was simply walk out the door and gaze towards the sky…

Back to back nights enjoying the Northern Lights!

Back to back nights enjoying the Northern Lights!

 

Notes:

* Our hire car for our loop around Iceland cost us $144,590.97 ISK ($1,553.96 AU, which breaks down to $258.99 AU per day, or $86.33 per person, per day)

* We purchased $27,846.00 ISK ($299.49 AU) worth of fuel during our island loop, which was 141.81 litres of fuel.

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10 Responses to The Ring Road: Hali to Northstar Guesthouse (Day 5)

  1. Mar Pages says:

    Are you sure that wasn’t a mirror at the glacial lake at Jokulsarlon? Perfect hiking shoes by the way, I’m sure it was absolutely freezing, haha!

  2. LOL, my husband has the same pair of “hiking shoes.” Awesome photos.The green colored mountains look so surreal.

  3. Neha Verma says:

    How do you discover such gems of places..i mean..seriously! I have been reading your posts for a while..that waterfall is stunning!!

  4. Chi says:

    What an amazing trip you had in Iceland! Seljalandsfoss is so wonderful and your video capturing it really urges me to pack my back and head there to soak in!

  5. wow! The green coloured mountain looks so surreal. The soothing water flowing from lush greenery , and the view of rainbow makes it even more fascinating. Great place for hiking. and basking in the lap of naturel.

  6. Yikes! Were you able to feel your feet afterward? I’m sure mine would have gone numb after dipping them in. The waterfall looks amazing!

  7. Kevin Wagar says:

    Great shots of this beautiful country. I loved all my time in Iceland and this brought back some incredible memories!

  8. Abigail says:

    We’ve also featured those falls and basalt columns at Global Girl Travels. It was one of our favorite destinations ever. The basalt columns look out of this world!!

  9. Amazing!!! I did this road trip back in April and I am sooo jealous you had such great weather. We were lucky most of the week, but the day we went past Jokulsarlon it was completely foggy and miserable so we didn’t get to see the ice bits like you did. Guess I just have to go back 🙂

  10. Ami Bhat says:

    Skógafoss is indeed a gorgeous waterfall. It would be my highlight of the day. I would brave that ice just to go see it. Lovely lovely pictures.

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