Tag Archives: Glacier

Day 2 – Raining in our expectations

Wednesday 30th June. Long Read alert – lots of pictures!

We needed a prompt start, as we had a ferry to catch as well as a load of relentless tourism to undertake. Hoping against hope that we would have nice weather, we lifted the blinds and peeped out…

Oh, well…..the only thing to be seen were some sheep which had drifted up overnight by the hotel.

We got up, breakfasted and checked out – I studiously avoided any mental calculation of the awful truth about our bar bill – in time for a 9am start. Our first photo call was the Black Church just a short way away, which would have had a lovely backdrop of the Snæfalljökull glacier, had the driving fog and drizzle not obscured it. It left rather a desolate scene, to be honest.

This was to be a hallmark of the morning – wind all the time, rain quite often and temperatures around 11 or 12C. Despite this, Dagur found us some interesting things to see and photograph.

For example, the dismal weather couldn’t detract from this viewpoint on the road towards a fishing village called Arnarstapi,

And the village itself features some enormous basalt columns

among which nestles a very photogenic cottage – one of the most famous in Iceland, Dagur said, because of its location.

This visit gave us the first example of one of the other hallmarks of the day – cliffs lashed by the sea and crowded with nesting seabirds (guillemots, kittiwakes and various sorts of gull).

A seal was playing around in the harbour and popped up to take a look at us.

Just down the road could be found a giant troll statue, of Bárður Snæfellsás – the Mythical Protector of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West-Iceland

It is said that it is lucky to go through the tunnel underneath, so Jane immediately went through whilst I decided to take the risk of bad luck instead; it would have been very undignified for me to get stuck, which seemed a distinct probability to me.

Basalt cliffs with seabird colonies are two a penny around these parts of Iceland, but this one, near old Bárður, is pretty striking – you can see seabirds flying in and out of the cave which forms part of this stretch.


Another good viewing location is near a large orange lighthouse called Svörtuloft

(which, by the way, has a baby brother just down the road)

It’s a good location to show the waves lashing in.

Generally speaking, this part of Iceland, the Snæfellsjökull National Park, is a pretty desolate landscape, consisting largely of black lava and yellow moss

Because this is just lava, it’s not fertile enough to sustain the growth of grass or other plants – volcanic ash makes for fertile earth, but lava doesn’t.  Only moss can grow, and the land can’t be used for anything agricultural at all.

The cliffs occasionally have an unusual feature such as this, which tremulous locals once thought was a troll.

but otherwise the landscape was bare, apart from a visitor’s centre, which actually showed a picture of the Snæfellsjökull glacier.  So, even though we couldn’t see it, we had some idea of what it might look like if the fog lifted.

Our next port of call was a fishing village, Öndverðarnesviti, which featured some extraordinary building art.

We carried on around the peninsula and, very gradually, the fog started to lift and the sun to peep through.  Eventually, we could even see the glacier which the fog had hidden so completely that morning.  We thought that Dagur had driven past the point where we could actually see the glacier, but he turned off and took us past the official viewpoint car park and along a very bumpy track

past a waterfall

and eventually, there we were, with a prime view of the Snæfellsjökull glacier!

As you can see, the sun was beginning to shine.  It was still very windy and there were still occasional bursts of horizontal drizzle, but fundamentally the weather had changed for the better.  It even enabled some shots of a church near Hellisandur, which in itself was quite photogenic, but it also gave a further opportunity to show the ubiquity of the lupins.

We had two final stops before a ferry journey towards our hotel for the night.  We struck really lucky for the first one.  The local mountain, Kirkufell, had been shrouded in fog, but this lifted, the sun came out and so it was a really worthwhile stop to capture a classic photo of it. (Apparently, single mountains are rare in Iceland, so this is a fairly unique sight.)

The waterfall is called Kirkjufellsfoss, and although this is a picture taken a million times by a million photographers I was very glad to get such a clear shot in such good conditions.

The final photo was taken in some haste as we made our way to the ferry at Stykkishólm.  Although the town has a perfectly normal small church, for some reason “an architect fuelled by cocaine”, in Dagur’s words has somehow got permission to build Stykkishólmskirkja, which was, erm, dramatic.

Unsurprisingly, opinion is deeply divided about whether this is a good addition to the town or not.  I quite like its arresting style, personally.

After this, we simply made our way to the ferry, a two-and-a-half hour journey to Brjánslækur, itself just a short drive from the hotel in which I sit writing this, the Hótel Flókalundur.

We had a swift drink and then a simple (but delicious) dinner in a dining room which to start with was full of an Icelandic care home coach outing, including one old guy who was wandering around being extremely genial because extremely drunk and taking swigs from a bottle of neat spirits of some kind.  He was eventually bundled into the coach and quietness returned to the dining room whilst we finished our meal.

If you’ve stayed with this post thus far, then well done!  We covered a lot of miles and sights today.  Tomorrow promises to be the same; I have no idea what the weather will be, but I’m sure Dagur will dig out the best sights for us to take in and pictures of.  So please come back tomorrow, when I hope I’ll have more photos to share with you.

 

 

The (Glacier) Cherry on the Cake

21st March 2018

The main purpose of visiting El Calafate was as a staging post to see one of Argentina’s most striking sights – the Perito Moreno Glacier. The glacier is named after Francisco Moreno (“perito”means specialist, or expert), a prominent explorer and academic.

The trip is a day’s outing from El Calafate, some 50km to the Perito Moreno national park, and then taking up on various options: a boat trip on the lake to see the glacier from close at hand; a walk along prepared pathways to see the glacier from higher up but further away (but also, importantly, to be able to listen to the sounds it makes); and/or, if you’re young enough, a hike on to the glacier itself. We weren’t booked in to do the last of these options, and the age limit means that we will never now get the chance, which is a shame; a friend tells that it’s a fantastic experience. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying an entirely arresting sight – a glacier 70 metres deep debouching on to Lake Argentina.

Our guide, Jenny, made sure that we took up on all the available options to see the glacier, which is dramatically revealed as you round a corner; at first it’s difficult to understand what you’re seeing, but then the scale of the glacier dramatically becomes clear

Perito Moreno Glacier

and the crowds gathered at the first available viewpoint underline its appeal as a tourist attraction.

The next stage on our day’s outing was to board a catamaran to go to view the glacier from close at hand, which gives you the first impression of its scale and, importantly, the colours in it. The second video in this Instagram set gives you the general idea:

A post shared by Steve Walker (@spwalker2016) on

After the boat trip, the next stop is at the official visitors’ centre, whence prepared footpaths run in various directions to give you different viewpoints of the glacier – the first video was taken from the topmost of these. The footpaths are very well-made, with metal grid surfaces and lots of steps, taking you to several different places from which to view the glacier.

As well as the lovely colours in the glacier (the blue is an illusion caused by refraction through the ice and the air bubbles trapped in it)

Perito Moreno Glacier

there is a striking outlier on the shore opposite one of the faces of the glacier.

Perito Moreno Glacier

This is caused by a regular occurrence, the last one being in 2016. This glacier is based on bedrock (i.e. none of it is floating on the water) and advances at an indecently hasty speed of 1-2 metres per year. As you can see from the picture above, this makes it inevitable that at some stage it will block the channel, thus preventing water from flowing through. So the lake level builds up and up (on the near side as we look at it), until eventually the tempertature and pressure of the water wins, first creating tunnel through the ice and then blasting its way through the blockage.

I don’t believe that there’s anything in Europe which cacn match the sight and the impression this glacier makes. It’s a superb day out and something of which the Argentinians are justly proud.