icebergs at diamond beach

Fire and ice day 9: “Of Ice and Men”

July 1, 2021

Photo Credit: Carol Madigan

A fitting museum for a book nerd

   If I were back to the mindset of letting Iceland come to us, rather than vice versa, today was going to be a perfect day for it. Black beaches, calving icebergs and thick fingers of glaciers from Iceland’s great ice cap reaching out ominously to the very edge of the Ring Road promised a day of visual splendor all close enough to the road that we might not have to get out of the van. Hah! Fat chance.

lack sand and icebergs on diamond beach
The little ones really took to Carol

   “There’s a big parking lot for both the iceberg lagoon and Diamond Beach,” Carol announced brightly, ending any fantasy of this being a drive-by day. This is the difference between driving and trains. On a train I could have viewed all of this from the undisturbed comfort of a First Class seat, pausing only occasionally from the stunning views passing me by at 180 mph to refill my wine glass.

icebergs at diamond beach
Post-natal nursery for calving icebergs

   Our first stop was a literary one, though, and I’m always up for those. Hali Farm is the birthplace of Thorbergur Thordarson, one of Iceland’s most beloved writers. Famous for “humorous, self-depreciating essays” (ahem) and sharp critical tongue, Carol and I had to see what this scribe was all about. The exterior of the museum on the site is a giant bookshelf of Thordason’s works. Comical in itself. Some of his more pugnacious quotes include, “Iceland is a pigsty for soulless toads,” and “Icelanders are the weakest of all nations to the theories of mentally ill people.” Yeah, I would have enjoyed throwing back a Gull or two with this old, fellow misanthrope.

   It was perhaps a cube of Icelandic irony, but it was after a day among baby icebergs and imposing glaciers that we arrived at our campground in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur without any ice for Happy Hour.

   Then it was on to what would turn out to be the most amazing land and seascapes Carol and I have ever seen in person. First up was the eerily but staggeringly beautiful glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón. It is in reality a post natal nursery for newborn icebergs floating in from the Atlantic. The scene was straight out of the rescue in Titanic. Following the tides, these young, stoic bergs flowed slowly in or out to sea with a sloth like acceptance of their destinies. You stand and think, Wow, if only our kids could have been this quiet and behaved. Some of the littler ones wander onto the black sand Diamond Beach, where you’re tempted to bring them a plastic bucket and shovel.

photo of glaciers at Lómagnúpur
We actually stopped to take this, but didn’t know why
We actually stopped to take this, but didn’t know why. (Lómagnúpur)

   The closest I’ve ever been to a true glacier was at the base of Mt. Rainier where I was still a good mile or more away. Here in Iceland though, we drove past no less than three glaciers that ran straight down to the Ring Road. Coupled with the several reindeer sightings by Carol the day before along with everything else that was bubbling, gurgling and steaming, we were now officially experiencing a National Geographic special right before our eyes.

dinner after a day of glacier sightseeing
Another elegant dinner for two

   It was perhaps a cube of Icelandic irony, but it was after a day among baby icebergs and imposing glaciers that we arrived at our campground in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur without any ice for Happy Hour. With no grocery store in sight, we threw ourselves upon the mercy of the village hall in the midst of a concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. They helpfully said the best chance for ice was the Systrakaffi cafe, next door to our campsite. The staff cheerfully scooped out a bag from their icemaker and would not accept any payment. This is one friendly country, but we didn’t even eat there by way of thanking them, opting instead for soup and grilled cheese sandwiches back at the campsite.

Need to catch up on our Iceland trip from the beginning? Start here! Fire and Ice: Day 1

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