Jokulsarlon: Hofn to Jokulsarlon - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

August 11, 2013

Jokulsarlon: Hofn to Jokulsarlon

When talking to car drivers, they not only express disbelief to see someone cycling such distances, but also, whether its they feel inspired by seeing and talking with you, they sometimes give you food, knowing that whatever else, cycling is a hungry activity. And so, I'd cycled from Hofn inland and around and had paused at a bridge over a glacier river when, a car pulled over and a man got out and after a few friendly words gave me an apple he said he didn't want. He spoke English the way French speakers do. He was saying he'd stayed in a farm guesthouse. That the bread at breakfast was delicious homemade. "And the marmalade, rubarb and a berry... I don't know the word in English." Then he said he'd a lot of dry food, and I could have some. And went back to the car, returning with a box of biscuits, a carton of juice and smoked mackerel. He'd already given me the apple, but wouldn't hear of my refusal of his generosity, anyway Is easily persuaded as, it meant I'd enough food for both today and tomorrow when I wouldn't have to waist time shopping.

The way ahead would've been impressive anywhere else, with to the right of the road, at quite a distance, glacier tongue filled valleys and the occasional glimpse of the great white snow field of the Vatnajokull icecap when the veil of cloud lifted. And the many streams flowing from the glaciers that the road bridged and continued off to the left, fanning out across the washout plain to the ocean. I lunched, glad of the mackerel and biscuits the man had left, at a place called Seljokull; a place with a lot of interpretation boards and a lot of campervans and jeeps parked, and a place where excursion onto Vatnajokull set off. One interpretation board showed in dotted lines across the big white area which dominates the map of South East Iceland, the route jeeps, skidoos and cross-country-skiers take, to Kverkfjoll on the icecap's northern edge and to Grimsvotn, a volcanic lake in the centre. But, the day was becoming a little monotomous, especially towards the end, crossing coastal sand plain with the ocean too far off to see and the mountains and glaciers equally far off on the other side. At last the road had got near enough so I could hear and see the ocean and then ahead, see the white masks of the suspension bridge over the Jokulsarlon river: the outlet of the large glacier lagoon and my destination for the day.

There were lots of campervans, jeeps and cars parked, and hundreds of people all about the moraine hills along the lake shore. I took a short walk and took a few photos before coming back to the café where there was quite a queue to get served. I just wanted a coffee and a cake, but there were people asking for information and buying their Jokulsarlon T-shirt and being undecided about which stuffed animal or bird souvenirs they should buy. I eventually reached the counter and paid for a coffee and a cake and luckily it being a nice day, there were plenty of seats inside. I remained siting, writing and going through the days photos on the computer while having many refills of coffee, for an hour and a half until most of the people started to leave, by which time the café was shutting. I took another longer walk, stopping all the time to look at the lake and its icebergs, over the moraine towards the Breidamerkurjokull glacier where the cloud was lifting revealing blue sky to the north and the snowy hill of Vatnajokull. Then I dropped down to the lake and returned along the shore, pausing to look in awe at the many bergs; one looking like it was a sculptured bust of a head.

I was wondering where the best place to camp would be and dramatic dark clouds were closing in with a few spots of rain. I first cycled across the road and left the bike and walked almost to the edge of the ocean, but it was too exposed to camp anywhere on this side. Then, I cycled across the bridge and turned into the car park. I pushed the bike along the trail which led from it up from the lake shore to a grassy area with a hill against the prevailing wind to provide shelter. Stones had been arranged in the past for a camp fire and in lines to form a square where a tent had been. Once I'd put the tent up and began thinking of dinner, I discover I'd overlooked getting water. I tasted the lake water but it was salty, though it would do for cooking pasta. Pasta well seasoned with sea salt. I wanted water for tea, which wouldn't do tasting salty, as well as having the opposite effect to quenching my thirst. I was also worried that the pasta would make me unbareably thirsty, cooked in sea water. I had to take off my shoes and wade into the lake and pull one of the many small chunks of clear ice flowing by to shore. The smooth glassy sculpture I pulled to shore was the size and looking like the shoulder-blades of a large mammal. It was both too heavy and slippery to lift out of the water, so I took up a rock and broke off a lump joined by a narrow spindle, then took it up and put it in a pan to melt. By the time I'd cooked and eaten, enough had melted to make a cup of tea. I then heard talking outside the tent and when I stuck my head out, was suddenly awe struck by the sight of the waning sun having turned the sky and lake red, making such a contrast with the blue bergs. The talking came from a couple who were ambling along the trail and had paused by the tent. I nodded and commented on the view and they said "three years ago we camped in the same place" They were cyclists too, having cycled in the west of Iceland this time, they'd returned to Reykjavik and with only a couple of days left until their flight home, they hired a car to come back and in the woman's words "and see this wonderful sight once more."

A glacier river.
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Icelandic cows.
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Biscuits and Mackrel.
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Looking back at the horned peninsular to the east of Hofn.
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A shower.
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The bridge built in 1967 during the construction of the ring road.
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Jokulsarlon in late afternoon.
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Bergs.
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Ice sculpture like a bust.
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Looking towards the Breidumerkurjokul glacier.
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View from campsite.
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Today's ride: 76 km (47 miles)
Total: 4,126 km (2,562 miles)

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