[ICELAND 2015] Day 7: Ice Caving & Jökulsárlón Lagoon

This was it - this was the day that I've been looking forward to the most. Not only would we be going for ice caving at Vatnajökull, we would also go to the Jökulsárlón Lagoon, the infamous glacier lake which inspired my Iceland dreams.

We were all extremely excited to start off our early hike after breakfast at the hotel - the first stop of the day was at the Glacier Walks office, where we would pick up our equipments for the glacier hiking and ice caving activity. The guides for our activity gave us crampons (which are basically like ice picks for your feet lol) and a iceaxe.

Crampons: Ice picks for your feet!
(Contact me to write slogans for your company because clearly I'm very capable at it)

The guides will help to show you how to put on your ice picks crampons onto your hiking shoes before you start your journey across the glacier. Btw, yes you do need hiking shoes (i.e. shoes with the proper soles) for this hike, since the crampons would need to be properly attached to your shoes. If you didn't bring the right shoes, you can rent one from the tour company.

After helping us with the complex activity of lacing the crampons onto our shoes - an important step, we were told, as the crampons would help us stay on the ice and not fall off the glacier and be swept off to become one with the glacier (I kid, but I do think it could happen, as I would find out later...) - we were off to the Vatnajökull glacier!

I was excited to finally get to hike a glacier; being Malaysian, I've never seen a glacier before, let alone hike across one. I was also a bit nervous, and even the advice from Sarah, our glacier guide, wasn't enough to really soothe my nerves.

Seeing that some of us were beginners, Sarah ensured that the trek was bearable for the beginners by keeping a slow pace - some of the more advanced hikers would probably be bored, but I was definitely more cautious on the trek since the hike was not as easy as I thought it would be. I think the scariest thing about it was that it was so slippery - I know it's ice, but imagining how slippery it is and actually feeling how slippery it is and actually seeing the distance you could fall down and slip downwards into an ice cave is a totally different thing.

Speaking of falling into ice caves...

Hello there, 20m ice cave!

Obviously I've learnt this the hard way.

Thankfully, I didn't personally fall down into the ice cave; however, my dad's GoPro did.
Yep. Of course this would happen to me, of course.

Sarah was telling us all about the formation of the glaciers and how the ice caves are formed naturally over time. She showed us the above ice cave, which was approximately 20m deep and I was just going "huh, cool".

Little did I know that the GoPro felt like taking a dive into the depths of its abyss - I suppose it was thinking that I haven't been adventurous enough on the trip and just thought "hey I'd like to see what this ice cave looks like!"

The moment the camera slid down out of my wrist and onto the glacier, the whole scene played out in slow motion mode in my brain (because my brain wanted to torture me) and I was just frozen onto the ice because I didn't want to fall down into the cave to join the fate of the GoPro. It was something out of a horror film where my brain was just going "nnnnnooOOoOOooooOOOoooooo".

(Although it would've been cool if I had been recording something on video when the GoPro fell... would've made for some interesting footage that's for sure.)

This was taken before I lost the GoPro - see how it's still hanging in my pocket? Yes I should be slapped for endangering the GoPro so.

Well, it's not like I could do anything about it at that point, so Sarah told me that they would try to get the GoPro back, and that we should continue on to our accessible ice caves first. Picking up the pieces of my broken heart (and trying to forget how my dad would  kill me once I get back to Malaysia), we trekked on.

Sarah told us that these are ice mice lol. Even though you can't see it, there's actually a glacier in there - when a smaller glacier piece falls off and rolls down, it gathers moss around it and forms these curious little ice mice (so the saying "rolling stone gathers no moss" doesn't apply here heh). Personally, I think these are the Iceland baby trolls ;)
Here we can see the Vatnajökull ice cap - this was actually zoomed in from where we were standing. The actual size of the glacier ice cap was indescribable.

Our trek finally ended at the entrance to the ice cave. The cave itself was relatively smaller than what we were expecting (as I've googled countless pictures of ice caves before I went on this little expedition), but we were happy enough to be able to get inside one.

You only get to go into the ice caves during winter when the glacial rivers retract and freezes and these ice caves are thus formed. You would need an experienced guide as well to take you there, as new ice caves will form in different locations each year and these guides are the ones who look for them and ensure their structural soundness and safety.

The cave itself felt pretty surreal, as the lack of air inside the caves leads to the exteme blueness that makes me look like a tall Smurf. Space was limited, so we could only crawl and bend inside the ice cave, but the colors, formation, and texture of the caves is amazing. The ice didn't really feel that cold for some weird reason, but perhaps it was because I didn't take off my gloves, heh.

I would actually really love to visit another ice cave, one that's more expansive that this one. Perhaps on another trip yes I'm already planning for another trip this is how Iceland have ruined me so.

By the way, the GoPro story thankfully has a happy ending.
Being the awesome people that they are, the Glacier Walks people managed to retrieve the GoPro from the ice cave! And what d'you know, the GoPro survived the fall! The only thing that was broken was the three-way monopod! So 1000 points to the GoPro casing.

My saviour! <3
Who apparently went down this cave with naught but a rope attached to her. Badass.

While we trekked our way back to our starting point, the sun has started its ascend (ahhh, the elusive Iceland sun during winter shone bright and beautiful on this day!) which leads to some beautiful lighting during our trek.

We went back to the Glacier Walks office to return our pickaxe and crampons and recharged ourselves with free coffee and hot cocoa (bliss on a winter morning) before we met up again with Jonas and Aron.

It's kind of unfair that your office gets a magnificent view of this every morning FROM YOUR OFFICE, Iceland

We then continued our journey and made our way to the next pitstop before lunch, which was at the Hvannadalshnúkur viewpoint - Jonas recommended that we take a group picture here before we break for lunch and continued our journey to the lagoon.

Our awesome group (and hey, Jason asked me to pose with my feet raised up, don't look at me like that!)
Our tour guides are sadly not in the picture. 

Lunch was awesome! Those potatoes were seriously the best.

And then it was time for the main attraction I've been waiting for: the Jökulsárlón Lagoon.

The large glacial lake was actually formed approximately 60 years ago when the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier started rapidly retreating as temperatures rose, and has been growing at varying rates due to the melting glaciers - thanks global warming!

The retreating glaciers is actually posing danger to Iceland's highway route, and measures have been implemented to protect the bridge which spans across the lake to protect the bridge foundation from erosions. Building bridges and tunnels here sounds super interesting - I think I saw a "construction site" only once in Iceland, which was right in this area, and even then there was only a small soil investigation rig. I would love to know more about construction conditions here tbh because of the fickle weather. OK enough engineering talks.

I think it would be safe to say that the lagoon exceeds every expectation I had of it. Jonas reiterated how lucky we were with the amazing weather we've had for the past two days.

The weather and the sunset we had at Jökulsárlón? Amazing. Definitely made my top 5 sunsets list.

Fair warning: the rest of the post will just be picture spams of this strikingly beautiful place.

The bridge spanning across the Jökulsárlón lake can be seen in the distance

This wasn't even the correct path to the lagoon lol but because the snow was too thick we couldn't see the designated path. Ah well, the road less travelled and all that right?
Now there's a sight we didn't expect! There were a group of seals swimming along.

Look at the amazing skies we had oh my God we were truly blessed

Fun fact about the bridge pictured above: it's a one lane carriageway bridge, which basically means only one car fits on the bridge and there's no way another car can come in from the opposite direction. There was a bridge we passed by on the previous night which is reportedly the longest single-lane bridge on Iceland. Jonas urged us to play a game of "let's hold our breath until we get to the end of the bridge" to give an idea of how long the bridge was ー sadly my asthma-ridden lungs only lasted for maybe 30sec before I caved in and breathed in sweet, sweet oxygen. The rest of my companions either slept through the game or passed out from the lack of oxygen :P

When we passed through the Lake bridge again to make our way back to Reykjavik, we saw two cars coming from different directions with seemingly confused drivers - both didn't know who should give in first. "We have here a Mexican stand-off," Jonas joked. Whenever this happens, Jonas told us that you always give way to the car that was on the bridge first - I wonder how this would work for that long bridge we passed though; imagine having to reverse all the way to the start of the bridge in order to give way to the other car lol. 

When we were finally satisfied with all the photos we took (I swear I took ten thousand photos), we reluctantly said our goodbye and made our way back to Reykjavik :(

On the way back to Reykjavik, our splendiferous guides tried their hardest to stop by any spots which they think might give us a second glimpse of the ever elusive Northern Lights. Seriously, I can't recommend Jonas and Aron enough, they clearly love their jobs and are extremely good at it. Even though we didn't manage to see the lights on the second night, we were happy that they were so dedicated to search for it. Bonus: we got to see the Milky Way! (Photo of said Milky Way will not be forthcoming due to frostbitten fingers and uncooperative tripod.)

When all is said and done, I'm truly glad I chose Arctic Adventures as the tour company to go for on this tour - partly because of the great tour guides and partly because of the great group. Hey, our tour guide voluntarily said that it was harder to part with a group that you've become attached to, which says something - although, it could also say that Jonas was an extremely skilled actor ;)
(And yes, our tour guide was an actor, lol.)

Arctic Adventures dropped me off at my hostel and I sadly bade my farewell to them.

The next day would be another exciting day: snorkeling in winter!

Go to Day 6 (South Coast & Skaftafell) | Go to Day 8 (Silfra Snorkeling & Aurora Hunt)
Iceland & Amsterdam 2015 Masterpost