Sunday, June 18, 2017
Today we awaken to see what appears to be an actual sunny day here in Iceland! Backtracking a bit on the Ring Road to see some things we missed before moving Northward is on our agenda and we are happy to think we might even stay kind of dry.
The breakfast buffet at Hotel Laki is outstanding:
Our route today will include a bit of backtracking on the Ring Road – Hwy 1. There really is no other option unless you go off-roading. On our first pass we left a couple of sites that we plan to cover today before we make a right turn and head North into new territory.
With the sunny, clear skies the scenery looks different than it did a couple of days ago. We can actually see many things that were covered in fog previously.
Wait! Stop the car! There are horses right by the road and I am so excited. Rich obliges.
The town of Vik comes up and we need to get gas. Driving into town I am stunned to see what appears to be a golf course built into the mountains. Rich turns in to investigate.
Sure enough, there is a 9-hole course and a little “pro shop.” There are two golfers out on the course and absolutely no one around the shop. We go in the unlocked door to find 2 sets of clubs and a notice to put your green fee ($25!) in the yellow box. Oh man – I didn’t really think I was missing the golf, but this looks too good to be true. I try to convince Rich that the sets of clubs are for anyone to use and we should just go ahead. He agrees, but there is one really huge problem. No BALLS!! A feeble attempt is made to scour an area of the rough for balls, but we come up empty.
Damn. Let’s get gas and just see if the station might have some golf balls. They don’t. But there is an Icewear store next door (they sell Icelandic clothing and gifts). Sure enough the do have “commemorative golf balls! However they are $8 EACH (!) and even I can’t do that one. Oh well, good try. We move on.
One of our actual planned stops for the day is Reynisfara Black Sand Beach. It is just outside of Vik. This place is highly touristed and for good reason.
The basalt sea stacks that rise out of the sea are called Reynisdrangar. “Legend says that the stacks originated when two trolls dragged a three-masted ship to land unsuccessfully and when daylight broke they became needles of rock.”
The waves are super strong here and at times have proven to be deadly. As recent as January a tourist was swept out to sea here. NEVER turn your back on these waves!
What an incredible spot. This is definitely one not to be missed (well, that is true of pretty much everywhere here…).
All this photo snapping has made us hungry and I know just the spot. I had read about a little Fish and Chips Food truck nearby. I read it was the “best fish and chips in the world.” The truck is actually supposed to be parked near Hotel Skogar (our first hotel) and I think I saw it then, but it was closed up. We will give it a try.
There was only one other group of diners when we arrived. We have figured out that if you try to eat outside of “normal” hours you will have no problem. It is almost 2:00 – perfect lunch time. Order up. The choice here is “fish and chips” or “fish and chips.” Two, please.
Are you concerned about the prices here? We were at first, but now we are not. After the initial sticker shock we have decided NOT to do the currency conversion or even look at prices. It is best if you just don’t know. Vacation $ is different, right? Good thing we are only here for a few days.
Now that we are refreshed and fed it is time for a little adventure hike. I have a special place scoped out and am curious to see what it is all about. We head to find Seljavallalaug – a hidden pool deep in the mountains.
Seljavallalaug is located not far from Seljavellir. The construction was headed by Bjorn Andrésson Berjaneskoti, who received the Ungmennafélagið Eyfelling for the work. Courses in the pool were initiated as part of compulsory education in 1927. The pool is 25 metres long and 10 metres wide and was the largest pool in Iceland until 1936.
In 1990, a new pool about 2 km closer to the valley was built, but people can still go swimming in the old pool free of charge, but at their own risk. The pool is cleaned once every summer. Prior to that, it is often covered with thick ice, requiring care.”
In my Iceland research I came across Seljavallalaug and knew that we would want to try and find it. It is a “hidden” swimming pool – one of the oldest built in Iceland (1925). It is no longer maintained by the country, but by the folks who visit it. Could be worth a hike in. Neither the road nor the path in are marked, but we followed our noses and the few other lucky souls who are seeking out this magic.
We have to cross a river a couple of times and it gets a little “hairy.” Wonder if it will be worth it or if this is a boondoggle?
Sure enough we finally see a small building (changing rooms) attached to a concrete pool. There are a few folks enjoying the warm, thermal water and a few folks changing back into clothes (they look cold). I had packed in our swimsuits, but really didn’t know if we would actually get in the water. What the heck? We made it all the way here – might as well go for it.
The water feels amazing (the bottom does not – it is algae-covered and kind of slimy). We are giddy just thinking about where we are and what we are doing. At one end there is a pipe where the water streams in – it is very HOT.
We are maneuvering carefully with our cell phone camera trying to keep it safe and dry. Wonder how many cell phones have been dropped too the bottom here?
There is also a tiny stream of a waterfall coming down the mountain that is especially nice and warm.
Now comes the hard part – getting out. Being the MP that I am, I have packed in beach towels all the way from home just for this moment. I questioned that move several times along this trip, but now I am so happy that I lugged them all the way here. I consider it an “Advanced” Master Planner move… Rich says we could have sold those towels for at least $50 each right here!
Time to head for our digs for the night. We will be staying further up north at Mengi Kjarnholt – a small guesthouse that I found online. It got fantastic reviews and I am eager to check it out. The guesthouse way off the main drag down a gravel road and feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. We haven’t made dinner plans, but had figured we would find something “in town.” Hmmm – what town? We will have to play this one by ear.
We pull up to find that our place has horses!
Jon (the owner from Sweden) comes out to greet us with a huge smile. He is very welcoming and invites us to remove our shoes and come on in. The entire place has a Swedish feel of beautiful minimalism – super clean and nice.
Our room is on the top floor and looks out towards the Geysir Hot Spring area where we can see the eruption of Strokkur every 10 minutes through our window. There are shared bathrooms (yes, I was a bit concerned about that when I booked) that are squeaky clean (no more worries and I get used to it very quickly).
Jon meets us again downstairs and shows us that there is a “bar/lounge” in the stables! Just take what you want and write it down. He also asks us if we want to have dinner at the guesthouse. He will be serving Lamb Stew from his grandfather’s recipe. YES!
We settle in at the bar with a couple of local beers and wonder exactly where we are.
The sound of the horses running around outside encourages us to go take a look. They are very high-spirited and are chasing and teasing each other. Jon tells us later that 3 new horses have been introduced just yesterday and they are all scrambling to establish dominance.
When I go to the fence, I am so excited to see that they come to greet me.
Time for dinner and we are starving. There are already 3 guests from Denmark and Norway at the table. Their English is great and we enjoy mixing it up with them.
The Lamb Stew is amazing – off the charts. So happy we did not go into town for dinner. A Swedish family with 2 boys joins the group. The boys are so well-traveled and delightful. We compliment them on their English ask the if they speak English or Swedish at home. Neither. They speak Serbo-Croatian at home! That is where Dad is from. They also both speak Spanish. It was truly a pleasure chatting with the boys (and the parents). What a fantastic family!
We will be staying here for two nights. Feels good to actually have a home base for a couple of days. We can “explode” our belongings and stretch out.
Time to call it a night. We have big plans for tomorrow that I have only just told Rich tonight. You, dear readers, will have to wait to find out!