***I preface this post by saying all pictures contained within are a work in progress. They are not the final work***
The last 36 hours have been crazy, much like the craziness of the first few days on the road.
We had one last attempt at getting the weather lottery correct in order to see the Aurora. The forecasts had been grim; it didn’t look like we’d get a chance to see the amazing phenomenon again. First factor is always the weather, what’s it doing, where’s it raining and where or where isn’t it cloudy? You may get a “no rain” forecast but this doesn’t necessessarily mean no cloud. So the forecasts were in our favour: No rain, No cloud and high Auroral intensity. We just had to drive 400km to get to the location, as our first choice was ruled out thanks to the rain.
We vacated our hostel in Selfoss after breakfast, the hostel lady sounding sad that we were going and almost begging us to stay another night. It was a nice place, but felt deserted all the time. No doubt it got more traffic in the summer months’ just passed. Low season must be hard for her. We began our drive and stopped only a handful of times, once, to join in on some other photographers who had been taking pictures of reflections in the calm mornings’ water, and the other, to revisit Skogafoss while it was considerably less overrun with tourists.
It was 6pm
and we were sitting outside the Jokulsarlon lagoon cafe, waiting for the sun to set and get dark enough for the Aurora to be seen. The wind was cold, as it had been progressively getting colder since the sun was now dipping below the top of the glacier and the breeze was blowing over the icebergs – generating this iconic cold air that i’ve not gotten accustomed to. I had a feling it was going to be cold.
I wonder how many calories one burns when cold?
Josh pulled out the camp stove and cooked us dinner; baked beans. I was dancing around like a small bird removed from its’ nest as I attempted to keep warm. As the sun set lower I could feel more toes going numb and I wasn’t a fan of the cold night to come if that was the case. I was wearing maximum layers and feeling bloated like a sumo, 4 layers on top, 2 pairs of pants, 2 socks, 2 beanies and 2 gloves, and still not toasty warm. I was flexing my toes and rolling my ankles furiously to remind my body to keep pumping blood to them. We ate what we could before light fell below the horizon and we squeezed in a nap before the “Aurora watching” time would begin – roughly 9pm to 3am.I had almost forgotten what it was like to sleep in the car, but from the minute I tried to close my eyes, it all came flooding back. At the start of the trip, we managed 3 days sleeping in the car, before we both got sick and i suffered what felt like a chest infection. Since then, we’d been playing it safe and staying in hostels, as the Autumn here clearly isn’t like the same season in Australia. As soon as the sun sets, it’s cold harsh winter!
The hours between 7pm and 9.30pm passed without mention. Basically, I was trying to get some shut-eye in the car before the certainty of being awake all night. Just before 10, josh craned his neck around to look behind the car and saw it, the Aurora glowing silently over the lake, much like a cat that stares at you. We snapped into action, we had pre-scoped an area to shoot, and so we made our way there with haste and energy. Setting up, we got our gear sorted and made our way up the rocky walls like mountain goats loaded with gear, carefully so as to not trip and damage oneself or camera, but quickly.
It was worth the hassle, the Aurora danced in front of our cameras like an exotic dancer, slow, alluring and keeping us on-edge for more. It’s so hard to describe, it’s like seeing search lights in the sky, they vary in intensity, come and go quickly in waves, are sometimes subtle but not always, are sometimes organised in colours and lines, but not always, you never know how they’re going to appear or where exactly. You just have to have your eyes open and ready.
The best of the Aurora lasted for about 2 hours, by this time it was midnight. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much, if any, wind in the air, so thankfully I stayed quite comfortably warm until the sensation in my foot decided to leave again. This was around about the same time when the lines disappeared, all the colours but green faded away and just left us with a feint green band in the sky. We called it a night and jumped into the car to begin the sleep for a few hours before Sunrise.
Waking up around sunrise, on first glance it wasn’t the overcast 6am we had been expecting, the sky was clear and all we saw was one patch of cloud over the beach with a bit of sun behind it. Figuring this was all we were going to get, we went back to sleep for another half an hour. Myself, unable to sleep due to the comfortability factor being zero, decided to put my shoes on and go for a walk anyway. Getting out of the car revealed many contrail-like couds everywhere in the sky, all starting to turn pink. I woke Josh telling him to take a step out of the car and look around, and just as I did, we grabbed our gear and ran back to the shore where we had been shooting the previous night.
It was really worth it. Beautiful high streaky clouds greeted us, it was the perfect morning after a great night of photography. We took some time to quickly go back to Jokulsarlon beach so Josh could shoot some more video footage of the icebergs and waves, and then got back into the car for the drive back to Reykjavik. It didn’t take us long to find the clouds and the rain that had been predicted, the dark purple ominosity loomed on the horizon as we passed the glacier that we had been shooting over. It proceeded to rain for the return journey to Reykjavik. All we did was stop to wash the mud off the car before arriving late afternoon.
We checked back into the KEX hostel where we had been for the first night on getting into Iceland, as we had enjoyed the ambience so much. 2 more days to see the city and prepare for leaving on Monday morning. After checkin, this was the perfect time to have a warm shower and change into some clean clothes before relaxing and working on photos some more. This should have been a simple task, but as I was going to unlock the door and go back to my room, post shower, the lock fell off the door and locked me in. Great. After a huge long day, it took minutes of furiously mashing the handle, banging on the door for an anonymous American accent to recognise my calls for help and go and get someone. Five minutes lalter I was freed. What a day…
Now I’m off to find a restaurant that’ll serve me a big slice of meat with salad. Hopefully I can lose this weight my body seems to have gained in reaction to the insane amount of carb-loaded food (with no other options) around here.
Signing off, love to all!