At 5am the sun is shining when Sandra wakes up with an urgent need to go to the outhouse. However, it’s very cold, so Sandra puts some water on the stove while she is out to warm the little hut, then goes back to sleep. Two hours later we all wake up for a solid breakfast: we polish off all of our remaining bread, eggs, apples, and make a serious dent in the peanut butter and jam.
Sandra then empties the cooler to try to whip up a lunch. She combines the remaining sardines, pickles, tinned corn, and tomato sauce to make a sort of salad. It’s turned grey and windy so we decide to skip climbing a small local hill and instead drive off to the next sights on our itinerary. Ten minutes out of our valley we arrive at a ford that is also a crossroad! If you choose the opposite bank poorly you end up on the wrong trail and have to double back, ford back to where you came from, and re-ford in the right direction!
Soon we go by the Hekla, a volcano that is monitored closely as it is very active (it erupts every 10 years or so: the last eruptions were in 1991 and 2000) and according to its normal pattern it is overdue. People attempting the climb must bring a cell phone, as in previous eruptions seismologists could only foresee the event about an hour before it happened. Now the plan is to send a text message to all the cells in the danger zone should the beast decide to blow its top… very reassuring, and other tourists at the hotel who asked for directions were told that the hotel is not allowed to recommend climbing it!
We have more sedate plans than climbing the Hekla anyways, and we head to the Haifoss, it’s a spectacular waterfall, the second highest in Iceland at over 120m. No big crowds here, it’s superb. We start a nice walk from the windy plateau and climb down into the gorge on a steep and often slippery path, crossing ways with sheep who scamper away when we try to sneak up on them. It’s a nice walk as we are protected from the wind, and the view of the falls from below is very impressive, complete with rainbows when the sun comes out.
Our next stop Gjain is a gorge, and having seen seemingly hundreds of gorges we’re a bit ‘ho hum.’ We park up top and decide to eat first. Sandra makes wraps using our leftover tortillas and the sardine salad she prepared this morning… we end up laughing our heads off as the soupy sardine salad dissolves Skye’s wrap in his hand and pours out everywhere. Luckily Ryo manages to shove a plate on Skye’s lap just in time to avoid sitting on sardine-infused upholstery for the rest of our trip.
We emerge from the car and when we catch sight of the gorge from above we’re totally smitten. It’s actually a lovely wide valley, all green with grass, hellebores, little trees, and crisscrossed with streams, falls, and pools with quirky basaltic rock formations. It has been used as a film location for Game of Thrones, and we spend two hours in the area jumping from rock to rock like goats, completely elated by this maze.
The weather is bright and sunny now, and it’s fun to explore the arches and climb the rocks… at one point we decide to ford a couple of small rivers on foot to explore the other side of the gorge. Ryo is keen even though he is just in running shoes (as his hiking boots give him blisters).
Sure enough he falls in the drink and both feet are soaked. Oh well, at least now he can wade through the shallow rivers without worrying about getting (more) wet! Skye and Sandra manage to keep their socks dry and have a lot of fun carefully choosing which rocks to step on for a dry crossing.
Our last stop is the double waterfall Hjalparfoss (which doesn’t even motivate Sandra or Ryo to leave the car) and then we are off to our hotel, the Leurubakki. It’s set in a nice prairie at the foot of Hekla. We have a comfy room, and there is a hot tub as well as the more rustic Viking pool. Since the weather is lovely and we’ve reaching a dizzying high of 19°C today, we take our bathing suits and go to the Viking hot pot (not to be confused with the Chinese hot pot which is a spicy fondue). We soak in the warm water with a lovely view of the Hekla and are soon joined by a French couple who climbed the volcano today.
After this relaxing bath we take a well-deserved shower to try to remove the algae from our bodies. We empty the van to sort out all the gear from the travel agency that we have to return and prepare our stuff for the flight home. It’s more convenient to do this here, as for once we know where we will be sleeping tomorrow night. Our guesthouse in Reykjavik is nice but parking nearby is hard and it’s better if we can avoid climbing the steep staircase with our big suitcases.
We have our traditional apéro in the room while slowly reorganizing our packs. After that we enjoy an excellent dinner in the hotel’s restaurant with a really gorgeous panoramic view of the Hekla in the evening light. Skye and Ryo have the local lamb while Sandra enjoys a mushroom risotto. Everything is fresh and delicious… Iceland is definitely not a fast-food nation. The blueberry Skyr cheesecake and the oatmeal and rhubarb dessert are excellent too. The only thing missing is Icelandic wine… so we settle for a bottle of Chilean red.
After this perfect meal it is time for a bit of blogging before bed, and our last full day tomorrow!