After spending two days in Reykjavik on our own, Rebecca and James and I linked up with the Backroads group for a week-long tour of Iceland's southern coast. It included biking, hiking, boating, and of course, eating some fine food! Backroads is a company we have linked up with several times in the past. Earlier trips with them were to Costa Rica, France's Loire Valley, Yellowstone, and Glacier Nat'l Park).
We joined our Backroads guides Zuzana from Slovakia, (our second time with her, the first in France), Eva from Catalonia, and Jillian from the USA. We flew from Reykjavik's domestic airport to HÃ¶fn in southeastern Iceland. The 300 mile trip took less than an hour, and we flew over some stunning landscape, including the vast VatnajÃ¶kull glacier, Europe's largest, that covers over 5,000 square miles of territory. We would explore part of it later.
After landing at HÃ¶fn we headed over to a nearby farm for lunch. I've never seen a backyard quite like this! As we drove up the road to the farm, we saw the glacier stretching out above it. Really a spectacular sight. The farmer had several kinds of animals, including a celebrity goat, famous for his appearance in, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” a film starring and directed by Ben Stiller that was shot on location in Iceland. We also met a couple of curious geese, a baby reindeer, and a duckling being raised with chickens. Granted it wasn't gorillas in the Rwandan mist, but a small representation of some of the animals on Noah's Arc. (Noah was also filmed in Iceland . . .).
Our next stop was at the Jokulsarlon Lagoon for a Zodiak boat ride at the tip of one of the Vatnajokull Glacier's tongue. Vatnajokull is a real monster, and is more than 3,000 feet deep in places. We dressed up in some red cold weather outfits that reminded me of the Michelin Man. Other than looking a bit ridiculous, it definitely had a practical application on the cold ride over the water. The lagoon was filled with icebergs of various dimensions, some of them the size of a ten-story building, others looking more like ice cubes. The BÃ¡rÃ°arbunga Volcano under the same glacier is making news this week as it generates hundreds of earthquakes that suggest it might erupt. As of this minute it hasn't.
We were lucky enough to spot Arctic Terns on the icebergs. They are the farthest ranging migrating animals on earth, and see two summers each year as the flit from their northern breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland to the Antarctic coast. Their average annual roundtrip covers almost 45,000 miles. (Some of them also breed in the Netherlands, and those Dutch relatives make an even longer trip each year!).
Oor last stop of the day was to hike up on the Svinafell Glacier. I took the opportunity to photograph all of the participants in this Backroads adventure, including our three leaders.
My next blog will be Iceland -- Day 2 of the Backroads trip