Sunday, July 8, 2018

Iceland 4 - I really could have done with some ice

Thank you to Intrepid Travel for the discount on this Iceland Express trip
This morning brought yet more sunshine, for which we were duly thankful, and another optional outing which was a walk on the Vatnajökull Glacier with Blue Iceland. Our guide was a lovely, friendly man whose name I didn't catch, which I'm still sorry about because he (foreshadowing) really saved the day for me. 
We all got set up with crampons, helmets and ice-axes, waited longer than we should have for a big family party who didn't think to apologise to us (there was muttering) and then set off in a rugged truck with studded tyres across the moraine. Once at the tongue of the glacier, we strapped on our crampons, got instruction on how to walk in them without getting them tangled, and were given our three main points to remember which were "One: Don't fall over. Two: Don't fall over! Three: DON'T FALL OVER!" (Again, foreshadowing...)
Then we set off behind Nameless Man, up onto the glacier which wasn't smooth and snowy like the ones back home I've walked on, but covered in shattered ice that sparkled like diamonds in the sun. We stopped here and there to gaze into blue crevasses and marvel at small hillocks of black ash that were once hollows in the glacier but, protected by the ash from being melted, now stand several metres higher than the surrounding ice. NM told us about the glacier and ice, and we trailed behind him to the turn-around point in an icy valley where the selfie-urge was indulged. Those of us not wearing boots also commiserated with each other about how uncomfortable the crampons were, the metal lugs digging into our ankles. 
Then, startled by being pelted from behind by small shards of ice (which, it turned out, was a natural glacier phenomenon and not someone being mischievous), I tried to turn around quickly, got my crampons jammed together and fell over like a toppled log, just missing a stream. I really whacked my left knee and it hurt a lot; plus, with my feet tied together, I couldn't get up unaided, so it was embarrassing as well as painful. I did try to be brave. Then we set off back to the  truck and - @#%$! - almost straight away I did it again! Same knee, even more painful, plus more embarrassment, and afterwards difficulty walking because of the sore and hammered knee. All the other guests glanced away and kept walking and chatting, but NM saw my need and was so very kind and non-patronising, taking my hand for the rest of the walk and talking to me pleasantly, that he actually made it harder not to cry. I'm so grateful to him. He's my hero. [Update: I think of him with gratitude every time I see the scars on my knee from where the ice gouged it through my jeans.]
The rest of the day was occupied mainly by our 450km drive back to Reykjavik, with Pàll telling us about the Icelandic language and its similarities, believe it or not, with English ("but it's purer!"), recounting a Saga (you really have to be Icelandic to enjoy them) and describing the Icelandic character, which is so direct it can appear rude - like, please is rare, doors are not held, Mr and Mrs is unknown. We had two stops. One was on a lava field where, horrors! someone had had a poo on the path - which led to some fairly (understandably) bitter grumbling about tourists generally that certainly as a Kiwi I could sympathise with. And then we stopped at the spectacular Seljalandsfoss waterfall that also featured in SLWM and which you can walk behind, which is fun, if wetting.
Finally, we returned to Reykjavik and the Aurora Guest House, where we said goodbye to Pàll. Though this Iceland Express tour is officially five days, tomorrow we're on our own in the city. So that made it even sadder for me when I realised too late that I had forgotten to remove my six-pack of Einstök White Ale from under my seat in the bus, of which I had drunk only two bottles. Damn. We ate our last dinner together at the nearby pizzeria, which was nice - though I have to say the highlight of the evening for me was coming across a cat wearing a neck ruff. Cute! 

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