[ICELAND 2015] Day 6: South Coast & Skaftafell

Today was the day I bade goodbye to my newfound BLA friends, who were going back to Malaysia early in the morning while I would stay on in Iceland for another 3 days.

I was pretty nervous about continuing on the journey alone, as my "safety net" of having Malaysians around me is gone - that's the thrills and tribulations of travelling solo sometimes, you have to get out of your comfort zone to truly experience another side of travelling you won't discover otherwise.

When I was researching about things to do in Iceland, my interest was immediately caught by two things: snorkeling in winter, and ice caving. I found these two activities offered by a lot of reputable companies, but in the end I went with Arctic Adventures just because I liked how they patiently and jokingly answered my emails (so yes kids, PR does play an important part in the company!). They were actually the pricier choice amongst the other companies, and I was initially nervous about going on a "group tour" because I'm not much of a tour person. But based on the TripAdvisor reviews, I closed my eyes and booked the aforementioned two tours with them.

The one I would be going to on this date was the 2-day South Coast & Ice Caving tour. So yes, I would be going on the South Coast tour again, lol.

I was picked up by the tour guides, Jonas & Aron, early in the morning at my hostel. There were eight people who were already picked up before me and as I took my seat after everyone said hello to me, the easygoing banter between the group immediately made me feel at ease. "Okay, off to a good start," I thought.

As I've mentioned before, the previous day it had snowed pretty heavily in Iceland, which turned the scenery into a winter wonderland. So even though I already went on the South Coast tour two days previously, I was amazed at how much the scenery could change with just a little bit (lol) of snow.

Winter Wonderland!!

The snow made Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss look even more amazing when we were there. I still wasn't mad enough to go and stand behind Seljalandsfoss for a good picture :P I just recovered from a cold, so I wasn't going to make myself miserable a second time.

Even Vik looks almost completely different when it's covered in snow. Skipped lunch to go explore around Vik since I was sick the last time we went to Vik and Reynisfjara. 

I was so happy I finally got the chance to go to Reynisfjara! I slept on the bus when the tour group went there the last time, plus the tour guide mentioned that the sea was really rough so they didn't allow people to go down to the beach as the tides are deceptively strong. There have been cases where tourists got way too close to the waves - those who were fortunate only got wet as a result, but there were those who weren't so lucky and got swept away by the waves and drowned as a result. 

Arctic Adventures gave similar warnings on this day, although the waves weren't as rough and so we were able to get close to the basalt columns and got to stay around the area for a while.

Did I mention that we were blessed with amazingly clear and sunny weather while we were on the 2-days tour? Seriously, the previous 5 days we only saw the sun maybe 2 or 3 times; but on this day onwards, the sky was amazingly clear (so much so that we saw the often-elusive Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano which caused a massive cease&desist to the European flight operations back in 2010, idk you might've seen it in the news lulz), we saw the sun, we saw the beautiful horizon far off into the distance.

I mean, when even your tour guide tells you that you're blessed with the weather, you know you've got it good.

Only two days ago, this wouldn't have been as visible from the basalt columns.

After a packed day, Jonas and Aron took us to Skaftafell Hotel, which was to be our hotel for the night. We had a great dinner at the hotel's restaurant, where we got to know each other by asking all sorts of invasive questions lol jk. Honestly, the group synergy was pretty great with this tour group. I am initially a really shy person when I first meet someone (SHOCK HORROR FROM ALL FRIENDS WHO KNOWS ME PERSONALLY) , so I would usually be pretty quiet and probably give people the impression of the "typical" oppressed Muslim girl (lol, not) (also I put quote unquote for a reason). But this group of people had some really great energy and even though I think I was feeling a bit awkward at the start, the group just clicked at some point. Our group basically consisted of 3 American couples (well, technically one couple was an Aussie and an American, buttttt it'll take too long to explain), a guy from Hong Kong, two elderly ladies who were school teachers and who have been best friends for yonks and travelling together since who-knows-when (#friendshipgoals), two postgrad students from America (sensing a pattern here?), a solo female traveller from America (hi Haley!), et moi. So yeah I was pretty much surrounded by Americans lol. It was just the right number of people though, because it really felt like a tight-knit group by the end of the tour - I love how travel brings everyone together :')

After dinner, Jonas & Aron gave us a tool for our night walk - headlamps. Our mission, should we wish to accept it: northern lights hunting!

As the weather has been so accommodating with us throughout the day, we were really hoping that the weather would once again favour us with some aurora borealis display. When the guides gave us the headlamps, I was imagining a brave, arduous night trek through a dense forest with campfires going on while we wait for the lights to show up.

...we literally just walked through the backdoor gate to trek the hotel's backyard.

Ah, naive, imaginative me.
(I was really hoping for the campfire too.)

The trek wasn't hard, although we couldn't really see much as we had to keep any light pollution to a minimum in order for our guides to try and catch the lights.

Less than 5 minutes into our walk, we already saw some glimmer of the aurora dancing in the sky.
SERIOUSLY, IT'S BEEN LIKE A 5 MINUTES' WALK BEHIND THE HOTEL'S BACKYARD, ICELAND, SLOW IT DOWN A BIT OMG. (no no don't slow it down omg iwannaseemoreeee) (seriously how amazing is the hotel's "backyard"? God there's even a lake in the mountains and everything I hate you Iceland)

Once we caught a glimpse of that green glimmer, we (ok fine, I) shrieked and hastened our steps to start our chase for real. We parked ourselves at a spot recommended by our guides (our ever-lovely patient and super awesome guides who told us Icelandic legends and nightmares while we were waiting for the skies to dance for us), and got our camera gears ready for action.

(Never have I cursed my ineptitude with a tripod & DSLR than at that moment - I swear I'll improve my camera skills. Maybe. Hopefully. We'll see.)

Although my photography skills are shoddy, the photos do speak for themselves.

I think we stayed there for maybe an hour or two (although it really felt like maybe 30 minutes - the cold cold weather did its damnedest to remind us of the time though), and we made our way back to our hotel for some much-needed sleep (it has been a really, really packed day but honestly I would do it all over again if I had to).

The hotel offers service of a wake-up call if the lights ever show up in the middle of the night, and Jonas did recommend for us to wake up around 3am to see a stronger show - honestly, I really wanted to, but the flu really got to me and I fell asleep almost immediately. I wish I did wake up at 3am though, because one of the girls who did wake up told me over breakfast that the lights were definitely stronger T_T

But I've gotta say, with what we were able to see on this tour, I was really satisfied by how day 1 was going. The next day was looking really promising.

Go to Day 5 (Golden Circle Tour) | Go to Day 7 (Ice Caving & Jökulsárlón Lagoon) 
Iceland & Amsterdam 2015 Masterpost