The Smyrlaborj Sheep Simmer Silently

Alliteration with -sh-.   The irony wasn’t lost on us as we dined on the best lamb of my life in this tiny hotel in South Iceland, as we looked out the restaurant’s picture window at this spectacular sunrise the next morning.  One of the sheep seemed to be saying, “‘Arold’s being eaten!”   True, but he was delicious. There are more sheep than people in Iceland, so thinning the herds a bit isn’t the worst. Plus that sunrise!

Chewing Up Icelandic Scenery Is Tough If You’ve Got Bad Dentistry

The mighty Vatnajökull glacier is, in fact, SO mighty that it has a number of outlet glaciers that are themselves quite epic…miles across, in some cases.   This white beast is the greatest glacier in all of Europe by volume and spans 9% of Iceland.  Our minibus stopped in the middle of a gigantic glacial floodplain that had dropped miles of lava rock and ash and had mangled a nearby metal bridge into a twisted ruin.   Light played on the far mountain tops and the epic landscape and broad colors of fall that dotted the floodplain enhanced the feeling of being a small dot on a vast planet which itself is a pale blue dot in a seemingly infinite universe.   Thinking large as I chewed on dried fish jerky was admittedly not my most original moment.  Get to Iceland, people.  It’s purty.

Icelandic Glaciers, Hairless Cats, Pumpkin Spice Oreos; The World Is Full of Pressing Subjects No One Consults Me About

We strapped on the crampons, swung the ice axes, ambled up Falljokull, the lava dirt outlet glacier of the mighty Vatnajökull glacier and looked deep into the valley of the mountain’s throat, its tiny meadow-like green patch that would make for difficult golf, the slopes in the far background that seemed almost Shangri-la, with a kind of mist that hung over them in the on an off sprinkle of rain.  It was a contrast in earthtones, so I snapped it.   Think I’m happy.   “The glacier melts are always cycling forward and back,” said our UK glacier guide, “but in the past 5 years since I’ve been leading these hikes, they’re receding much much faster than any of us have ever seen before.” He paused, nimbly avoiding the hot stone topic of why.  “It’s kind of sad, really.”   You have to be here, in Iceland, in the Himalayas, in Tanzania–anywhere outside–and be surrounded on all sides by this kind of landscape to feel dread at the possibility that it might slip away in ours or our children’s lifetime.

Clouds Like Bitter Puffy Pills Bust A Cap On the Light of the Sun

Deceptive, I was, tagging this picture with things like “waterfall” when, in fact, it’s clearly L’il House On the Prairie. But my point–and I do have one–is that sometimes when you’re visiting Iceland focused on waterfalls, you should turn around a bit a look behind you. The waterfall in this case was Seljalandsfoss in southern Iceland, the infamous falling water you can walk behind. I waited my turn in a long muddy line of tourists dressed in bright unnatural hues and and getting soaked. When I walked behind the falls, I looked out and saw this lonely farmhouse, looking like an obscured 19th century oil painting beyond the moving water. And I saw the odd, tall grass. And in the very far distance I saw glaciers and knew I wasn’t in Kansas.

Gloomy Dettifoss Pounds A Little Humility Into The Best of Us

We unloaded the minibus to 30-50 mph wind gust hammering rain sideways into our faces, and as we tromped a couple kilometers through a flat lava debris field, we could hear mighty Dettifoss of northeast Iceland, said by Icelanders to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. A waterfall that incidentally had a notable cameo in the opening of the movie Prometheus as the Engineer swallowed some bad alien juju that ate him from the inside out standing over Detti’s waters. The water was roaring beneath the gloomy canopy of clouds, and I took some super telephoto shots of people who made the trek down slippery rocks to get sheeted by the falls down on the cliff closest to them ; I chose to go the high-looking-down route. Wunnerful watery stuff, people. Get to Iceland.

No Life or Geothermal Pool Without Radioactive Decay, No Apple Pie Without Ice Cream

The third pillar of Iceland’s Golden Circle is Geysir, pronounced “geezer”, for those who care about old cranky dudes, which apparently the old Norse do. Although the major geysers were spouting off every 8-14 minutes, it was the littler pools that were far more interesting to me. These quietly bubbling, steaming beautiful aquamarine ponds were liquid glass situated above craggy red rocks and reeking of sulfur. You could see all the way into the jagged crevices that fed them. The landscape behind them was vast, and we had an hour of sun and dramatic clouds floating over for good images. Lovely stuff.

Basalt Columns Struck From Ancient Lava Flows And Water Pours Forth In Color

Litlanesfoss is oft overlooked by tourists intent on hiking 3km up to the mighty Hengifoss at the top, but it shouldn’t really, what all with those mighty basalt columns framing the lower waterfall. Honestly, they kinda look like blue whale baleen to me, but I’ve been accused of having a hyperactive imagination. Anyhow, the weather poured random rain on us, so getting a snap of this l’il guy was an exercise in cover-wipe-shoot-wipe again.

Chasing Rocks That Regret Waterfalls Is A Zero Sum Game

“I’m number 3, Mom!” So says Hengifoss with not a little irony, lauding herself for being the 3rd highest waterfall in Iceland, located in the northeast interior. Do waterfalls have an identifiable gender? The parking lot was overloaded, and our guide Biggi said he was surprised there were this many tourists this far east. We had 60 minutes, so I hauled ass out of the minibus and sprinted up the trail, hauling up the 25 lb camera bag slung over my back, using my three legged tripod as a proxy hiking stick. Crossed somewhat treacherous algae strewn slippy rocks over a creek, slogged through mud, waited for an Argentinian tour group to clear the field of view, snapped a photo. Well….a helluva lotta photos, tbh. The view didn’t suck.

Colors Are Words That Shape Poems, Pizza, and Cities

The Icelandic language is the closest Nordic language to the old Norse of the Viking, as the other Scandinavian countries have customized it to nigh unrecognizable. Fine. We elevate and climb to the top of the unpronounceable church Hallgrímskirkja, we look out on the houses of Reyjkavik, the capital city that holds two thirds of Iceland’s entire population. I pull out the kind of gigantic lens that makes everyone in the church tower raise their eyebrows, jab it through the narrow slot between stone columns, and I flatten the vivid colored houses that I can only assume the Icelanders paint to brighten spirits in lengthy winters with 4 hours of daylight. Mission accomplished.

The Icelandic Fog Was Thick and Full of Glowing Blue Light, and Sometimes Vague Yacking Silhouettes

Some two years after staggering through the Scotland wilds, the girl and I went northward to the land of volcanic fire and glacial calm. Thus begins the Iceland photo journey, and in Sept 2018, we–like many of the 2MM annual tourists visiting a country of roughly 300K folks–went to the Blue Lagoon. We paid the pretty penny to wade languidly around geothermal plant wastewater and cover our faces in a pleasant silica mud, and by God, we enjoyed the classy experience of it all. TIP: Go early near opening time, and you avoid the hordes that eventually swarm the place.