Skye wakes up and declares: it’s 8 o’clock, time to get up! We start busying ourselves, putting water on the stove and getting hot chocolate ready. Outside it’s overcast. And then Skye realizes that his watch is back on Swiss time, so it is only 6! He goes back to sleep right away, and Ryo has not budged an inch anyways, he is sound asleep. For Sandra however, it is too late to try and snooze again so she decides to catch up on the blog a bit, ready for posting when we get wifi again.
Skye emerges two hours later, as does the sun: the weather is glorious now. The showers are in the reception building and since we are heading to hot springs for a bath we pass on that. We have fresh milk to finish up so we decide to have cereal for breakfast. We pack and on the road again at nine. We pick up a hitchhiker and he only says a few words before Skye asks him from which Slavic country he comes from: he has the same accent as Peter Sagan, the Slovakian cyclist. And indeed the hiker is from Slovakia! We drop him off at the next crossroads as he is headed south towards Geysir, and we’re off to the north!
The track is rough and after a while our “low tire pressure” warning lights up. We inspect the tires who seem okay though we’re a bit stressed about a flat in the middle of nowhere, and one of the tires does appear to be deflating before our worried eyes. Changing the tire looks complicated: it’s bolted under the chassis, so Skye decides to chance it and push on another 15k until our next stop in Hveravellir. We arrive unscathed at the geothermal site about a half an hour later, the only danger being the odd sheep crossing the track.
We go to the office to pay the entry fee and take the lovely boardwalk promenade meandering among the bubbling pools and mini volcanoes. The colours again are beautiful. There is also a historical site where outlaws back in the 1700s escaped civilization and lived for two decades in a small stone shelter in these inhospitable lands. We visit a little house with turf and grass on its roof then finish our walk with a plunge in the hot springs.
There are two cold water pipes running stream water into the pool to cool it down, but even so it almost impossible to enter the pool, it is so hot. The boys finally ease themselves into the pool right next to the cold water pipe. They quickly realize that only the surface of the water is really hot as the boiling water basically creates a film of scalding water that floats on the cooler water below. So they start stirring the pool and it becomes perfectly nice. Sandra who went into the nearby river instead soon realizes that she is sharing the water with tiny little creatures that are starting to itch and quickly jumps into the pool, cutting her toe in the process. We’re practically alone, there’s just a young Austrian girl who joins us after finishing a four-day hike.
We get out just as a bunch of people arrive to take the plunge, and head off for lunch. We eat tuna fish sandwiches with a tomato, leftover bacon crisps, and some M&M skyr for dessert. Just as we finish lunch, the Rotel (“rolling hotel”) pulls in and out pours a crowd of Germans. It’s a big hotel on wheels that we first saw in Thingvellir with the Jones. The truck is really strange; it has seats in the front like a bus, but bunks in the back with small portholes… we wonder what is must be like to sleep in those little tubes… not very appealing. We pack up and are glad to leave and to have enjoyed the site almost alone just as the crowds start to arrive.
We reach the main road and see a couple of hitch-hikers. Since we have more than enough room (just 3 of us in a 9-seater van) we invite the German girl and her Spanish boyfriend to hop onboard. They have been in Iceland since early May as volunteers and have some time off to travel across the country. There were actually 4 of them, but as nobody will pick up 4 people the other two have hiked up the road to find a ride on their own, aiming to meet up again in Varmahlid. That’s where we’re going, and they were starting to get desperate after 3 hours of baking in the sun waiting for a ride. And sure enough further along the way we bump into their (even more desperate) friends and pick them up too. We’ve got a full house now, and these guys are pretty lucky to have found a family travelling in a huge empty van!
We arrive in Varmahlid to find lush green landscapes which contrast with the lunar highlands we just crossed. It is around 2:30 so we have plenty of time to shop, check-in to our cottage, and then head to the stables for our horseback ride tour. In the small supermarket, we pick up some rice, pasta, salt and pepper, spreads and sauces, an Icelandic cucumber, and the least tired looking pepper from their very poor fruit and veg section. We also grab a nice piece of marinated local lamb as there is supposed to be a BBQ at our cottage tonight.
Fully stocked, we check-in at the Hestasport reception, and take possession of a very nice wood cottage with a lovely deck, two rooms and a mezzanine, and a comfy lounge. The beds are well made with plush towels, a bathrobe and a little chocolate on the pillow.
It’s time to head off for our horseback ride. A nice German girl in Iceland for a summer job takes us on a 1-hour ride around the area. The sun which has made itself scarce since we left the highlands is back just in time for the promenade! We ride through the fields, and our horses have to be regularly persuaded not to linger too long munching grass. There are lots of very lovely wild flowers and it’s very relaxing and bucolic. At the end of the ride, we have a very happy Ryo, a happy Skye and a not so happy Sandra who was never comfortable on our previous equine tours and swears again that she will never do that again. But these little horses are really sweet and it was a fun experience. Additionally, there is also a gallop track installation, offering riders the opportunity to experience the exhilarating thrill of riding at high speeds through the picturesque countryside.
Back at the cottage we don our bathrobes and head to the hot pool where a party of four Belgians is enjoying a Champagne apéro with lounge music. We get warm again in the hot water and chit-chat with our Flemish pool companions who speak very good French. It is now time for a shower and an apéro of our own. The sun has gone again so we stay indoors in the cosy living room.
We connect to the internet and sip our drinks while checking email and updating our blog. It is also time for a bit laundry in the sink which we can dry nicely on the electric radiators. We also have news from the Jones and are glad to hear they have safely arrived in Holland to be with Karin’s dad.
Once more we are deceived by the long days and start cooking supper pretty late. We enjoy a delicious meal of rice, cucumber, tomato and pepper salad and the best grilled lamb meat! It’s after 10; Ryo is exhausted and puts himself to bed shortly followed by the old folks.