We’ve started getting into a routine. We’re now waking between 7:30-8, getting our gear ready for the day, grabbing breakfast and then heading out when the sky starts to turn blue. This happens around 9am, even though the sun doesn’t officially rise until close to 11am. We’re also enjoying the continental style breakfasts here in Iceland. I never was a fan of them last summer in our very long hotel stay in Germany, but I think the quality is better in Iceland, or I’m just getting used to it. There’s always something cooked (like hard boiled eggs), choices on cheese, fresh multi-grain bread, and many other options I usually try once or have to ignore because of being pregnant.
Today was not raining or snowy, it was only grey and cloudy. We decided to make the day simple. I had previously booked an ice cave tour with island guide for 2 pm, so we decided to stop at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon on the way. We first checked out the lagoon itself. It was amazing and so unique, I’ve never seen anything like it before. I knew my time was limited so I had to quickly gear into photographer mode. We couldn’t get very close to many of the icebergs, all the clear blue ones seemed to be on the other side of the lagoon, unreachable. We could have walked some, but it was very icy and I didn’t have crampons so I decided our time was best spent on the other side of the road, at the beach.
Most people didn’t walk very far on the beach. When we first parked, we noticed a handful of tourists gathered at the nearest area, climbing on the ice and taking pictures of each other in silly poses with the ice. If you’re a photographer, feel free to join those tourists having fun, but don’t spend too much time there. Walk another 10-15 minutes along the beach and you’ll have the area to yourself, and you’ll also have an easier time composing a good shot because the ice isn’t nearly as cluttered on top of each other. It’s much easier to compose a shot with only one or two pieces of ice, rather then a clutter. I was excited. The ice was beautiful, especially with the waves coming in and out, slowly moving the ice. It wasn’t very windy, so I set up some longer exposure shots, and had fun. The beach also inspired Mike, who got lost on his own far away from me. I first took some shots with my 70-200 zoom, but wanted a wider reach with a wide angle and changed to my 14mm. A better wide-angle zoom would have been ideal (if I say this enough maybe Mike won’t flinch when I want to buy one 🙂 I wasn’t able to use a filter with the 14mm, so the exposures aren’t as long as I would have liked.
A very short hour and a half later we headed towards the cave tour meetup location. We barely had time to make and shove our peanut butter sandwiches down our throat.
I got my first pregnancy perk! As our group of 11 (it was supposed to be 14 I think, but a group had missed the time. Don’t miss the time) loaded a huge re-modeled ford van with huge wheels, they told me to sit in the front. Wahoo! Apparently the ride is quite bumpy driving over a glacier in the back of the truck, Mike can attest to that. I had a pretty smooth ride myself :). We drove around 30 minutes down the same road we just drove up and turned off somewhere that didn’t look at all like a road. That ‘road’ ended and we were then off-roading through the moraine, and eventually on top of a glacier!
Unfortunately when we reached the cave, crystal cave, there were three or four other groups there. Our guide mentioned that they try to time their tours when others weren’t there, coming when other groups were leaving, but I guess we weren’t very lucky. I was not expecting this, so many tour groups! When I did my research, I only found a couple tour companies offering the cave tour, but apparently my research wasn’t thorough. I know we chose the right company, they seemed the most reputable and one of the originals. Sometimes the new tour companies don’t know what they’re doing. Sometimes the guide stays outside the cave. Not good, it can be very dangerous, especially with large groups of people that are hard to control, and everyone wants their shot.
I keep using the word amazing, but it’s the most appropriate word to use. Crystal cave was amazing! We were told that the ice caves were formed from the ice melting in warmer weather, and needing a path out. Every year they are different, but crystal cave had been there for many years. There are others that they tour, but only a couple for their short day trips, and it was too warm when we were there to see one of the others. Other harder to reach caves are toured only on their longer/private tours. If your budget allows, I would recommend taking a private tour.
Our guide was very patient, especially with Mike and I. We had to wait a good amount of time for groups to clear deep inside the cave and for us to setup our tripods and get the shots that we wanted. We didn’t have any control so we just had to wait, and the guide did not rush us. I was grateful for my 14mm lens, it was perfect for this. At one point I even asked our guide to get in the water so I could compose a person in my shot, and he happily appeased my request 🙂 As we were leaving two ice-climbers walked up and began setting up their gear. I was really hoping to get a shot of them in action, but unfortunately I think setup takes awhile. I also think they were waiting for the big group of tourists to leave.
Upon return to the gas station/group HQ, we drank a cup of ‘Icelands best coffee’ and purchased one pair of crampons so I could have a little bit more freedom.