A day to love in a cold cli­mate

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - STEPHEN GARZ

I am in Ice­land, head­ing east in my lit­tle rented Citroen to­ward Skaftafell and the vast Vat­na­jokull glacier. My plan is to keep go­ing un­til dark and camp in the car.

As the day fades, the air takes on a bluish hue and the rain comes on.

Fi­nally, near the sea and with a wall of gla­cial ice vis­i­ble above me in the moun­tain gloom, I pull over and pre­pare my bed in the back of the car.

I have wa­ter, cho­co­late and co­gnac. The wind buf­fets and rain pat­ters the win­dows but I snug­gle down in my rented sleep­ing bag with the shoosh of the sea and the rain and wind rock­ing me to sleep.

Next morn­ing, with the rain stopped, I de­cide to strike out to­wards a ridge about 1km away to get a bet­ter view of the glacier. I walk over moss, heather and scree. The rocks, I re­alise, are part of the mo­raine left be­hind by the re­treat­ing glacier.

To my de­light I no­tice blue­ber­ries ev­ery­where and, grab­bing hand­fuls as I go, they be­come my wild break­fast. The ridge is a false sad­dle and I push higher and higher to another ridge line that I see will give me the bet­ter view. As I crest it, the wind hits me cold and hard but in as­ton­ish­ment I throw my arms up and yell for joy, “Spec­tac­u­lar!”

Be­fore me a river of white ice spills off the moun­tain, curv­ing left to right in the val­ley be­low to­wards the sea.

It plunges in slow mo­tion and the bro­ken dirty face, frac­tured, crum­pled and dan­ger­ous, like the foam of a break­ing wave, hangs in sus­pended an­i­ma­tion, a freeze­frame mo­ment of power.

Later, driv­ing on, I glimpse above a low earth ram­part the prospect of more bright white ice.

I scram­ble up the short slope. The world is once again trans­formed. In a sap­phire blue lake nu­mer­ous small fan­tas­ti­cally shaped bergs are mov­ing in slow pirou­ette to some in­vis­i­ble cur­rent.

As they glide I hear them creak­ing and drip­ping, mur­mur­ing to­gether in gen­tle col­li­sion. A lit­tle to the north the face of the main glacier watches over its brood, the dy­ing tor­rent end­ing in a sculpted bal­let of calved and melt­ing ice.

I know cli­mate change is im­pact­ing on gla­cial land­scapes, but it’s still fab­u­lous. This has been a day of days.. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists re­ceive a set of four Lonely Planet Make My Day guide­books for Lon­don, New York, Paris and Tokyo, of­fer­ing mix-and-match itin­er­ar­ies for morn­ing, af­ter­noon and evening. $99.96 ($24.99 each). More: lone­ly­planet.com.

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