On the Road Again…Ring Road -Iceland
My cousin Lesa and I were starting the 3rd day of our road trip through Iceland. We discovered on day one, to our surprise, the GPS and WI-FI only worked at our guesthouse where we were staying. I therefore needed to do a lot of google mapping in the evening to lessen our chances of being lost in the middle of nowhere the next day.
Upon looking at our day’s agenda and map, I was unable to locate the hostel that was reserved for that evening. A sinking feeling hit my gut when I noticed the little red dot online…it was on an island! How did I not notice this fact when I reserved it? How do we get there? Quickly I googled it and sighed with relief as I was able to secure us tickets for the ferry that evening.
Shhh…We’re Going to a Secret Lagoon…Fludir Iceland
Anxious to soak in another geothermal pool, Lesa and I got on the road that morning, after I felt relatively comfortable with the mapping notes I’d written. We headed straight toward the Secret Lagoon in Fludir. Being that our only geothermal experience was the Blue Lagoon on our 1st day in Iceland, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. We were shown by the attendant, a poster about showering and washing the important zones before entering the lagoon.
Secret Lagoon Rules
The showers are not private and you could spot the Americans like us, weaving and dodging around towels and corners to hide themselves, while the Europeans walked casually around, completely at ease.
Showered and suited up, we stepped outside onto the cool morning air. We breathed in the freshness and could see the steam rising from the pool and smell hints of sulfur in the air. The lagoon was surrounded by geothermal areas with boardwalks to view the bubbling pools. There was also a greenhouse on the property, which we found out is common in the geothermal areas.
Cold Air and Hot Water at Fludir
We hung our towels and speed-walked towards the water, as goose flesh was quickly appearing, and we were eager for the warmth. I sighed as I stepped into the ultra warm water, quickly immersing up to my neck, tension releasing. I took a deep breath and eased my way across the rocked bottom of the Lagoon towards the edges for a view, doing careful foot feels to avoid hitting the bigger rocks.
After a couple hours of floating about, we decided it was best to move on, we had a lot on our agenda. We began the slow water walking towards the stairs.
Every step out of the lagoon felt like I’d added 40 pounds. After floating for hours I felt like I’d been filled with concrete, having to move myself around above water.
“Holy moly, I can barely walk!” I exclaimed.
“My legs are like a million pounds!” Lesa laughed.
Gjain Waterfall-We Don’t Need a Stinkin 4×4
We hobbled to the changing area to get our clothes back on and quickly get back on the road. Our wet swimsuits were flapping from the hanger hooks in the back and our towels were draped over our luggage. We headed towards 327, the road leading to Gjain, a triple waterfall that later appeared on Game of Thrones.
Off Road Action to Gjain
We traversed past some neck-nuzzling Icelandic horses on the way and I was taken aback by the one lane bridges, not quite sure what to do at first. I finally came to the road I was looking for. The sign said 4×4 only…but I figured it was fine if we just went slow. The “road” soon disappeared and we were no longer on asphalt. We had no GPS and I was crossing my fingers and praying for the accuracy of my paper mapping skills. We crept along on some kind of lava gravel and large rock. I could hear the ‘ping, ping, ping’ on the car’s undercarriage. I drove slower, cringing and wondering if I should have bought the extra ‘paint damage’ insurance.
Is This Even a Road? Should We Be Driving Here?
The car bumped around a rocky corner and I stopped. There seemed to be a river running across the ‘road’ and when looking past the river, I was not sure which direction we were supposed to go. We sat, staring at the river, which seemed to BE the road.
“How deep do you think that is?” I asked.
“Are we even still on the road?” Lesa inquired.
I was wondering that myself as I got out of the car to check the deepness of the river and the squish of the ground. The rocks surrounding the sides of this “road” seemed to indicate a tight ‘one-way’ and it seemed like we had to go forward, not back.
I stepped one flip flopped foot into the flowing water. It was maybe 2 inches at the edge. I picked up a rock and tossed it at what seemed to be the middle. Ka-plunk. Sooo…being that I was unschooled in the depth quality tones of a ka-plunk, I was forced to step forward to check with my actual feet, hoping for no sudden drops. At the deepest spot above my ankles was maybe 3 inches so I got back in the car, feet muddy and dripping.
“Well?” Lesa asked.
“Forward we go, cross your fingers.” I announced.
We slowly sloshed through the river and continued up the path around deeply pitted areas and questionable puddles.
A Triple Waterfall- Gjain Iceland
Relieved to finally arrive in the parking area, we noticed all the 4×4 vehicles with their high clearance carriages and began wondering about the road out.
We went to look at the waterfalls and were stunned by the contrast of the turquoise waters against the black rock. Wanting to walk to the bottom, but knowing we had a lot more to see, we hiked a few minutes, then headed back towards our tiny-tired car for the rocky ride out.
Fortunately the path out quickly turned to asphalt road and we were on our way. We were heading towards Stong…a Viking era longhouse in the Pjorsardalur Valley.
Viking Longhouse at Stong
Lesa wasn’t up for a hike and opted to wait by the car. I followed a dirt trail and about 10 minutes later ended up near an abandoned black building. Peering in the dusty windows revealed a long rectangular barn like structure, the longhouse. I was turning to head back, wondering how I missed the turf house and tripped on the spongy ground. Sailing partway down the hill, I bloodied my knee and palm, but was not deterred. I was on high alert to be more careful as I was out here alone.
Lesa took a look at my knee and said, “This wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t wearing flip flops.”
“Don’t bad talk the flippies,” I huffed. “It’s not their fault I’m clumsy.”
Þjóðveldisbærinn Turfhouses and Waterfall
Bandaged up…I got us back on the road and a few miles down, I happened across a sign for Þjóðveldisbærinn Stong and made a right turn. We could see a picturesque waterfall flowing in the distance. We had been excited to see turf houses and we were not disappointed. Getting closer we could see the mossy green houses ahead.
We jumped out of the car to get a closer look. The Hjalparfoss Waterfall behind the turf house looked like a set from a long ago movie. We were running low on time as we were scheduled to catch the late afternoon ferry out to Heimaey Island where our hostel was reserved, so we had to hit the road.
Heimaey Island Ferry or Bust
We dragged our suitcases across the parking area towards the ferry and left the car. Uncertain if we were in the right spot, there seemed to be a big party happening in the lobby. Lesa let her reservations about staying in a hostel be known.
“Have you ever seen the Hostel movies? We are just asking to get killed.”
“I don’t think it’s the killing kind of hostel, they had good reviews, plus this is a level one safety country.” I assured her.
The Journey Across to Heimaey
We boarded the ferry and they took our ticket, which was a good sign that we were on the right one. The party crowd joined us on the boat. Loud music playing from portable stereos that several people were carrying. The crowd sang along at the top of their voices to the Icelandic songs as we watched the mainland fade in the distance.
The sun illuminated the islands of Vestmannaeyjar as if they were carved of gold. Sea birds and puffins flew near the boat and became more plentiful as we approached massive rocks and sea caves. Buildings became visible on the island ahead of us and we soon docked.
The Hostel on Heimaey Island- Where’s Aska?
We were not sure where we were going. The WI-FI was still not available, so we dragged our suitcases through the streets of Heimaey while I studied a small map of the island I had picked up at the ferry.
“It says it’s only a five minute walk from the boat.” I offered as we puffed up one wrong street after the next.
Finally seeing what I remembered from photos online, we made it to Aska Hostel. I was able to reserve a private room in advance and we checked in.
The man behind the counter had long black braids and a beard and black rimmed glasses. He instructed us where to leave our shoes and showed us the breakfast area. Then he led us up a winding stairway of the 8 roomed hostel. He showed us the shared bathroom with several sinks and a row of stalls. Up more stairs, we made it to our room.
View of Heimaey From Aska
“This is our best room, check it out.” He proudly opened the blinds, revealing the view.
“Hey, where is a good place to go get a drink within walking distance?” I asked, setting down my suitcase.
“I assume you guys aren’t here for the festival?” He adjusted the heat knob.
“What kind of festival?” Lesa asked.
“A lot of teenagers.” He laughed. “There’s a few bands…like pop music.”
He then told us of a couple places we might like. We grabbed a surprisingly good convenience store sandwich and walked towards the festival grounds…and then past the festival grounds. Not quite our scene, we decided as we made our way to the recommended pub and relaxed for the evening.
Nighty Night Heimaey
Back at the hostel, I made my way to the shared bathroom to brush my teeth. The braided man from behind the counter was in there brushing his teeth at one of the sinks.
“Oh sorry…” I fumbled, backing out.
“No worries,” he gestured towards a neighboring sink, “Help yourself.”
I uncapped my toothpaste, feeling unsure about brushing my teeth side by side with the man from the lobby, both of us in our jammie pants as we brushed, instead it felt comfortable and homey.
“Did you guys make it to the festival? He asked, capping his paste.
I spit…”No, not our scene.”
He laughed, “I didn’t think so, did you go to the pub?”
“Yes…we liked it. Thanks for the recommend.”
“No problem, goodnight.”
“Goodnight” I answered, watching him pad off to his room.
Well that was strange, I thought, but kind of nice. I made my way up the windy steps to our room to get mapping and sleeping for tomorrow’s drive.
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