The palisade of Lómagnúpur forms a corner pillar at the far western edge of Öræfi, dominating the view as you approach, but preventing any glimpse beyond. But when you pass it, what awaits stuns you into silence.
To the left (middle and right in the picture above) stretches the huge expanse of the glacier Skeidarasjökull, completely filling the valley like the rivers of ice I had always heard glaciers to be, but never before seen.
In the distance ahead were other bits of glacial ice cap, shining in the sun. And all around us stretched Skeiðarársandur: the glacial black sand desert, crisscrossed by rivers of meltwater, flat, vast, endless, all the way to the unseen sea.
We drove and drove, past other rivers of ice, past glaciers in hanging valleys that would one day become cirques, past small groups of white swans swimming in ice-cold water on black sands.
It was cold, we were completely alone, and the unobstructed wind blew without ceasing.
Small gravel roads lead in closer to the glaciers. Passenger cars like ours are actually prohibited from leaving the paved roads, but in some instances we felt OK driving a short ways on the gravel. Most of the terrain was like what you see above: endless, a seeming wasteland of sand with a sort of terrible beauty. But in other places, the tundra had gained a foothold, and was glorious in its own fall foliage. I was mesmerized by the glaciers themselves, and the way they seemed to glow as if illuminated from within; this place where we paused was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen.
(I'll be away this weekend but will resume this travelogue next week. Thanks to everyone who's been reading and commenting, both here and on FB.)