By Dave Murrell
Myself, Ian Stafford, Jed Wee, all DPS members, and Jed’s good friend Glyn Thomas organised a trip to Iceland during February this year. It was planned several months back with Jed and Glyn to go out a few days ahead before Ian and I joined them.
The plan, yes we had a plan, was for Jed and Glyn to explore the Snæfellsnes peninsula with the commanding Kirkjufell dominating the landscape. Then on the Tuesday to collect Ian and myself then off along the south coast as far as Höfn (pronounced “Hup” like an unexpected hiccup! Honest)
So once sorted at the airport we were tucked up in our Landcruiser and off on a four hour drive to our guesthouse for two nights just east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Don’t know how that’s pronounced, even the locals just call it Klaustur!
As we left Selfoss, behind the road was almost void of traffic and light. However it was becoming clear that the sky to our left was becoming illuminated by two bands of cloud so after a test shot out of the window it was obvious that the Aurora was lighting up the sky and getting more powerful as time passed. Jed was franticly checking maps to find a suitable parking place and Ian was telephoning our lodgings to explain that due to traffic we would be late arriving! We ended up stopping at the first suitable location a waterfall called Seljalandsfoss that was lit up by massive floodlights! Undaunted we were able to grab shots of a fantastic display of Northern Lights. What a fantastic welcome to Iceland!
We arrived at our guesthouse well after midnight and after a welcome sleep we were ready for the days explore. This would take us back west to Vic with its dominant red roofed church, black beach and stacks. West to a frozen glacial lake, a crashed Douglas DC3 aeroplane and Skógafoss waterfall, the latter along with dozens of (mainly) oriental visitors! Back to Vic to shoot the stacks at sunset. Back to Skógafoss (just us this time) to shoot a not as dramatic aurora and milky way. Then back to bed at Klaustur.
After breakfast we set off east to Höfn with clear blue skies. We stopped to shoot the Skaftafellsjökull glacier, 20 kilometres wide, an offshoot of the Vatnajökull glacier which is the third largest icecap after the poles. With the towering Kálfafell to the left and Skaftafell to the right.
Conditions then worsened into heavy blizzards and as we approached Höfn into heavy rain. Such that in the town itself we were plodging through several inches of water.
Höfn is an interesting place. It’s a fishing port with a Netto’s, computer shop, ladies clothes shop, 2 restaurants (one closed, one very expensive) and the Kaffi Hornið, frequented by ourselves for 3 nights and highly recommended. And a sports bar and police station. We probably missed a massive shopping centre somewhere but we weren’t looking too hard. There was a great little cafe doing breakfasts next to our guesthouse so that sorted mornings out.
Yippee! Friday ice cave tour and our first Horse shoot! Great ride in a minibus with 46 inch studded tyres. Fantastic light filtering into the cave making for great shots, followed by sunset, well fade to grey, at Jökulsárlón black beach with its blue icebergs.
We ventured east on Saturday to the black beaches, drumlins and mountains of Stokksnes. To see tantalising glimpses of mountains and fjords through the cloud away to the east. Can we just go round the next bend? Please?
Back to Jökulsárlón (and more horses and reindeer) for sunset then to Stokksnes to capture an auroral glow over the mountains then back to Höfn and sleep.
Sunday is a travel day, 400 kilometres west to Selfoss with a morning stop at Jökulsárlón to capture the glacial lake under blue skies. A meal at Vic and finally a great guesthouse in Selfoss.
We scout out aurora shoots and patiently wait. The sky is clear but clouds are moving in from the south. The aurora is beginning to glow but the clouds beat us as they roll in to block out the green glow!
Monday our last full day brings a grey wet and windy day. We plan to do the ‘Golden Circle’ today, Geysers, waterfalls at Gullfoss and the blue jewel in the crown, the waterfalls at Bruarfoss.
Then a last meal at the Tryggvaskáli restaurant in Selfoss as we recap a great weeks explore.
Tuesday Glyn is dropped off at the airport and we spend the rest of our time exploring the barren windswept volcanic Suðurnes (southern peninsular). With its geysers and hot springs. We even cross from the European tectonic plate to the American one. No visa’s required.
All too quickly our adventure ends but it is extended by a couple of hours thanks to Easyjet. We while these away trying to spend our 600 Krona compensation vouchers.
The adventure is over and there is still so much more to do. More locations, different times, revisiting favourite locations.
Was it worth it? The ice, snow, cold, wind, rain oh and sun?…..Yes. Would I revisit Iceland?…..Yes
A big thank you to Jed, Ian and Glyn.
Dave Murrell February 2016
Photo credits Jed Wee, Ian Stafford, Glyn Thomas & Dave Murrell
Aurora. Jed Wee
Best Friends. Dave Murrell
Horse. Ian Stafford
Jokulsarlon. Ian Stafford
Kirkjufell. Jed Wee
Reindeer. Glyn Thomas
Stokksnes. Dave Murrell
Strokkur Geyser. Glyn Thomas