I was up early this morning, abandoning my tent pre-coffee to race down to Jökulsárlón. The morning was hot and bright already and I parked up in one of the smaller road side parking spots that allows you to walk through the moraines and into the lagoon without going into the main car park and visitors cafe. The lagoon was perfectly still... Until a group of other tourists who roared up behind me started skimming rocks on or simply throwing them into the water. The place is far from silent. There is the constant drip of melt water into the lagoon from the icebergs that float through the sun and as it's connected to the sea by Iceland's shortest river, there usually a good source of marine life there that keeps the numerous circling sea birds fed. They dive into and under the water and shoot back out moments later.
Walking around the beach, the cafe and car park come into view. I'm a little heart broken to see two coaches parked there already. This is a three hour drive fro Reykjavik. I also begrudgingly admire the dedication of the people spilling out to have been up so early as to have beaten me here. Carrying on my stop-take photo-start movements around the lagoons edge, working my way towards the outlet where most of the glacial fall offs float to, I become very aware of just how hot it is today and where in the shade, which was vanishing fast, I was quite pleased of my down jacket, in the sun I wanted to be in shorts, or maybe swimming in the icy waters.
After the icebergs calve from the face of the glacier they slowly melt and float their way down to the sea. There is an immense amount of water rushing out to the sea, and slowly the icebergs melt until they are carried away by this current. They float down the Jökulsárlón and either float out to sea or wash up onto the black sands, onto 'diamond beach'. As I rounded the corner and walked back up to the road so as to cross it and onto the beach.
By this point I was hot, sweaty and generally annoyed at myself for having not gotten there earlier. I then spotted the same German photographer who made it her role to walk in front of my, having watched me position myself at my road side waterfall stop yesterday. Fuck the beach, at least for now. Walking back along the road I got back to the car, downed a litre of water and reached for the wet wipes and a clean t-shirt, then sat and made myself some breakfast and felt a bit better. The couple who had parked their van next to my tent the night before arrive, smile, wave and go off to explore the lagoon.
Driving the car down to the beach edge I found a completely different type of beauty than in the lagoon. The icebergs that end up on the sand end vary from the gargantuan new pieces to the tiny and delicate remains of former giants and the mix of light, water and black sand is amazing. A slight fog lifts off the mixing of the cold and warmer waters and rolls gently up the beach obscuring the far distance.
The beach is crawling with photographers and I spend some time chatting to one who has armed his son of about 10 with an SLR of his own and set him free on the beach! We laugh about filters and other camera geekery and swap some notes. I like to walk around a bit before I start setting up and I found 'the shot' I wanted. I take my time. There's no rush and there'll be some waiting anyway until there's a quiet moment between bus loads. And then I am spotted and she walks right into my shot, maybe 5 meters in front of me and then stands there, trying to see what I see and snapping away just in case it was a photo worth taking. I wave and wait, which seems to infuriate her all the more until her elderly gentleman partner walks her away, seemingly as aware of what she was doing as I was. I take the photo. There's something beautiful and a bit sad that tomorrow the beach will be a totally different place.
Walking back to the car park, two men carry a huge chunk of ice wrapped in a black bag. I want to ask but instead enjoy the spectacle of them trying to carry it between them in a plastic tray up the sand. The friendly photographer and son are sat in the front seats of a Mercedes Uni Mog! It looks awesome, but I hate to think about the fuel bill.
What to do now. It's lunch time and we are in hot sun and high coach tour time. Back to Svinafell for a shower and some quiet time. It takes me about 40 minutes to work my way round and I call into the services for some ham and cheese. As soon as I pull out my sleeping mat onto the grass and reach for the kindle I know that this is the right choice. The showers here are lukewarm at best but it's ok. I can feel that I have probably caught the sun again and it might just be time to say I've burnt rather than pretending otherwise. No one else is around for most of the afternoon. Reading, writing some notes and as it starts to get cooler, moving into the communal dining room to cook and eat. As I climb into my tent I notice that this evening is a lot cooler than the last few and the wind is up. There is the smell of cut grass and the sea.