Graenavatn, Raufarholshellir & Vatnajökull Glacier

Day 4:  Even more off the beaten path, we decided to check out Lake Graenavatn, an explosion crater that has green water due to minerals that reside in the waterbed.  What I neglected to realize for this hike was:
1: It was down a 4×4 only road that was at least an hour’s drive (this lake was somewhere in the middle) but on the other side of ridge.
2: I should have looked at WikiLoc and Google maps before venturing to realize how long it would take to get there AND that there actually was a road on the other side which didn’t involve climbing a 300 m ridge.
Nonetheless, it was a nice spontaneous hike which led to a kind of smaller version of the lake we just passed on the same 4×4 road a few minutes back.

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Following adventure #1 of the day, we decided to go spelunking (kind of).  The cave of choice was formed by lava tubes, and was the 3rd biggest in Iceland, called Raufarholshellir.  It had a large sign warning not to venture without guidance, but we did anyway until our light began to run out.  We passed a few fellow spelunkers who came out with headlamps and said it took them about 2 hours down and back, but it was pretty cool.. so we started off with a hand flashlight and cell phone in attempt to maybe get part of the way in (before I chickened out).  I have a slightly fear of claustrophobia and it turns out dark caves tended to enhance that fear.  So I got as far as ‘slightly dusk’ and then turned on back around.  Kyle ventured off another 100 feet before he ran out of light and did the same.  It was however, a beautiful mix of snow melt, lava rocks and ice stalagmites so I don’t regret the adventure.. maybe just next time I’ll come prepared with a guide and a headlamp 😉

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PS. Getting a clear photo here without a tripod with this low light was a struggle.. this is the best I could do with the current equipment, but it’s decent look at how dark things started to get when looking toward the light at the end of the tunnel, literally.

 

Day 5: After planning in advance to explore Vatnajökull Glacier National Park, I had no idea until we got to Iceland that it’s not really explore-able without crampons and ice picks.  🙁 #Fail

Rather than go buy our own and hope we knew what we were doing once we got onto the glacier, we decided to do a tour.  Note: I’m usually not a tour kind of person.  I hated the idea of paying money for being on a bus with lots of people, and being herded like cattle, only to barely hear what the tour guide was saying.  Luckily, this was so not the case.  Each tour group consisted of 10 people.  We spent 4 hours with an Australian adventure junkie who gave us a pretty radical tour of the ‘falling glacier’ in Vatnajökull national park.  We strapped on crampons and headed up the glacier for a solid 4 hours.. we saw all sorts of crevices, peaks, and glacier made rivers and ponds.  It was stunning.  I would highly recommend it to just about anyone (though this may be quite challenging if you don’t regularly exercise).

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Day 5:  Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is in existence because of the glacier that resides to the north of this lake.  As the glacier breaks off in pieces, they either bursting through the water to the surface (mostly the larger pieces) or crashing down from above to the lagoon.  There were 2 kinds of tours but we opted for the smaller (6 person), more personal tour rather than the duck boat version (25+ person).  It was a cool experience whizzing around the lagoon in a small boat with the feeling of falling overboard, but I got some really cool shots out of it and we got super close to the glacial remnants.

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Oh, did I mention we got to wear these? You know, just in case someone falls in because the water is like 3 degrees C (37.4 deg F).

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From there we carried on back towards Skaftafell to do a quick (3.6 km) hike to check out Svartifoss, the black waterfall.  It’s uniquely backed by black basalt columns… much different than the others we’d seen thus far, which made for a pretty sweet end to this day. 🙂

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