Sheep and swans share pasture in East Iceland

Notes from the Field: 20 September 2015

Berunes-Jökulsárlon-Giljalandi

Foggy, cloudy, windy, rainy. Did I mention it was raining? Yes, pissing down rain, with more in the forecast. Today was primarily a driving day, and for the first two hours I drove through a foggy downpour. Muddy, swollen rivers roared under bridges and frothy white lines stask against the bare black flanks of mountains I’ve yet to see. And then… First there was light in the distance.  And then it stopped raining. And then the clouds began to lift, and they kept lifting… The sun shone on me for about two hours and it just happened to be the two hours that included my approach to Vatnajokull and Jökulsárlon. Am I lucky or what?

Vatnakojull is enormous. I’m not sure I saw all of it, for there were still clouds above it, but what I could see was huge, a giant massif sitting atop a vast plain of undulating black volcanic  sand, with massive blue, black and white glacial fingers snaking out through shadowed mountains. Seeing it, especially afterward so many days sans vistas and having no expectation of seeing much of anything today, was rewarding to say the least.

Better and better, I arrived Jökulsárlon while the sun was still shining and was able to spend the next two hours pacing from the lagoon to the beach and back, watching icebergs flip and flow and grind. The water in the lagoon, unlike that of all the swollen rivers I crossed all day, was crystal clear and deceptively calm, making for some nice reflections.

And finally, just before it started raining again, I saw a large flock of Barnacle Geesemin a meadow alongside the road. There’s only a very small breeding population here and the migrants from Greenland pass through just a couple quite specific areas in Iceland – one of which happens to be just where I was driving today. In any event, I slammed on the brakes and after Ol’ Rattletrap slithered to a stop (crappy tires), I was able to see that there were in fact hundreds of geese in the meadow – the meadow appeared to be moving, there were so many of them. So, another new life lister for me!

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