Unexpected glacial strip-show–Vatnajökull, Iceland.

It wasn’t anything I’d ever expected to see, especially with my teenage son.  And it certainly wasn’t a perk thrown in by the snowmobile company.  But that’s what we got: a private strip-show in freezing wind while on the largest ice-cap on Iceland.

Waking to a pink-hued dawn on day 3 of our 6 day road trip, ignorant of a certain event that was to come, we rapidly ate breakfast, packed a lunch, hopped in the car, & headed west for 28km along the Ring Road, to Jökulsárlón lagoon.  Although Vagnsstaðir hostel where we were staying offered snowmobile tours, (which would have been more convenient), we’d already booked one with Glacier Journey, which turned out to be a fantastic tour with a wholly unadvertised side-show. The cost of the tour in 2017, for 2 riders of one snowmobile: ISK 51,800.

Dawn view from Vagnsstaðir Hostel looking south
Panoramic view at dawn, through the hostel’s glass-enclosed dining room

At 8:30am, we met Laufey, our tour-guide, who outfitted us in a mandatory full-body snowsuit.  Laufey is a formidable no-nonsense woman (mother & grandmother when not snowmobile tour-guiding) who looks like she could be cast in a movie where she  overcomes fire-giants & ice-dragons.  She was unimpressed (as were we) when the only 2 other people booked for the tour showed up 40 minutes late.

Laufey (in orange)
Laufey, our tour-guide (in orange).

We all clambered into a monster Super Jeep and, with Laufey expertly at the wheel, rumbled & bounced along an incredibly rough road to the foot of the glacier, where the snowmobiles awaited.  A warmer than average winter meant the glacier was further away than usual, and the pot-holes in the road were deep enough to swallow small cars.

Snow-steed
OUR SNOW STEED

After giving us clear and stern instructions on snowmobile operation—there are hazards on the glacier, and to disobey the tour-guide is to put everyone’s life at risk—we were off!

Snowmobile tracks on the back of Vatnajokull
Snowmobile tracks on the back of the glacier

The snowsuits proved entirely necessary, despite the sunshine.  The wind was fierce (though Laufey said, “What wind?”) and required all communication to proceed by shouting even when snowmobile motors were off.  My teenage son drove, though at one of our photo-stops, Laufey allowed us to switch drivers.

Snowmobile Skaftafell National Park
We were on a broad glacier tongue of Vatnajökull called Breiðamerkurjökull, which once reached the ocean but began retreating in the early 20th century. 

As Laufey called a stop for another photo-shoot, of a sudden the other woman on the tour began peeling off  her clothes.  We all stared in astonishment.  As the strip-show continued, the stripper’s husband filmed, while repeating “Oh my god, I can’t believe it” non-stop.

Mid-strip, while I stare
Laufey decided the event—the first in her 20 years of snowmobiling–called for a cigarette.  (I’m the one on the right, watching as the last of the clothes come off).

Strip-show over, bemused but grinning, Laufey next led us to an incredible ice-cave. The deep blue whorls and concavities of the cave were simply breathtaking, like luminescent waves frozen in action. Ice Cave, Skaftafell National Park Due to the warm winter & early spring, the ice-melt in the cave disallowed much exploration, and in fact Laufey informed us that today was the last day the ice-cave tour would be offered, due to the unstable conditions.

Veins of volcanic ash in ice
Veins of volcanic ash in the blue glacial ice

After being Super-Jeep bounced back to  Jökulsárlón, we ate our packed lunch and wandered around the incredible glacier lagoon where Batman Begins and  James Bond’s Die Another Day were filmed among the spectacular, hulking blue icebergs.JokulsarlonWe even witnessed an iceberg keeling over with majestic grace while it slowly drifted down Jökulsá, Iceland’s shortest river.  Despite only being March, there were lots of tourists here… but because we had the whole day set aside solely for this, we wandered to more secluded parts of the massive lagoon.Jokulsarlon mirror

From Jökulsárlón, we  drove across the road to Diamond Beach, where we spent the next two hours snapping more photos of the icebergs and chunks of ice-floes dotting the black volcanic beach.Diamond Beach And guess who we saw, precariously balanced on a chunk of beached ice, dangerously close to the waves?  None other than our stripper, this time in high-heels & a nightclub dress, her beleaguered husband dutifully snapping photos as the surf sucked at his boots! waves on Diamond Beach

Our accommodation for the night was again in Vagnsstaðir Hostel. TIP: Be sure to plan your groceries so that you have ample to last you in this isolated spot! Few restaurants and no grocery stores for miles around!  And be sure to book the youth hostel at least 5 months in advance.

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