14 August 2006

Sunday bath

Today friend C and I decided to go for a hike over near Hveragerði to explore a waterfall we'd heard about yesterday. It was in a ravine with incredibly steep sides and no real path, so we ended up hopping on rocks, wading around canyon walls, and spending time consulting about which was the best route. The short trip was classic Iceland- the dripping moss, the craggy cliffs, and the moss-covered slopes that were peppered in krækiber and blueberries, all at their fattest and juciest. We snacked as we climbed out to the ridge above, then followed a farm road back to the farmyard, pausing for mushroom lessons when C spotted some familiar edible varieties. The farm was quiet and empty save for a chunky cream dog that waved a friendly tail as we walked down the tree-lined gravel road.

Back in the car, we headed back through Hveragerði to hike up into Reykjadalur. This valley is partially in view of rte 1 as it snakes down from Hellisheiði, the steam from the area pluming above the sloping green hills. We started out across the angled bridge, greeting the people who were (happily for us) all heading back to their cars.

The track up the hillside was muddy and grooved with hoofprints, and the resident sheep also seemed to use it as their grass-access highway. We followed a trio of them past this splendid waterfall view and down into the long valley itself. The area was bursting with white fifa in full bloom, signifying a soggy trek ahead. The grass grew thickly in the swampy land, hiding the long black slugs that oozed along the red mud, and hills on both sides hummed and burbled with steam vents, the sulphurous clouds wafting over us occasionally as we walked.

We passed a final pair of people before we arrived at the destination of this genteel but swampy hike- a scorching hot river bubbling from the center of a multicolored stone mixes with a frigid spring-fed river to form the perfect bathwater temperature. The warm river has been dammed off with stones to create a wonderful clear pool with a gravel bottom in the center of the valley.

More mud to be crossed first, then we waded across the mixing point, enjoying the confusion of having two feet in the same stream, one a bit too hot and the other much too cold. We skipped barefoot a few meters up the stream to see one of the source springs, then back for a dip. I almost lost a leg in a surprisingly deep stretch of mud, when something I had expected to not cover the top of my foot almost swallowed my knee. Barefoot in Iceland can be dangerous- mud traps, sheep turds, and the previously mentioned slugs kept us quick on our feet.

We shed our clothes on a gravelly beach and waded in, since the banks near the pool itself were too soggy to leave our clothes. The water was impossibly perfect, and so clear, with interesting lava rocks on the bottom in all sorts of colors- black, gray, green, yellow, and red. C skipped a few over the placid surface of the pool, but mostly we just lay and talked and admired the view- the evening sun on the hills above us, the lush grass on the banks, the shimmering steam on the water surface. It's incredible that magical places like this can be so close to where I live- a 40 minute drive and a short lovely hike and you're there, soaking in warm water while the sounds of waterfalls and sheep bleating to each other fill your ears.

When our fingers had raisined, we reluctantly waded back to our clothes, towelled off, and headed back on the opposite bank, following the swift-moving clouds towards the seacoast. During the drive back, the sun disappeared in thick fog on the mountain pass, severing our golden evening from reality once and for all.

Ship sighting: an unprecedented TWO large boats are occupying the slippur downtown together, in various states of undress. Páll Pállson is looking pretty good, but the companion is in full scrape mode, so I couldn't tell who it was.


cK said...

A gorgeous outing. Do you ever fear getting lost in those green, winding expanses? Some of the photos remind me of the moors in England: the vast crag-filled landscape that looks so similar in all directions that making two turns is enough to confuse one about where one has been. Then again, those fields did produce the Bronte sisters. They were pretty cool.

I love this description: "...a chunky cream dog ..."

tsduff said...

You make me want to be there right now! That outing will be next on my list of places to explore when again I find myself in that magical Land. Great pictures - I love the water shot.

ECS said...

CK- They actually do refer to this landscape as moors sometimes, since I guess the plants are somewhat similar in places. These areas I've ventured into have either been accompanied by very knowledgable people, or have actually not been as remote as they might appear in photos (sounds like a disclaimer I should affix to them...). Most are well-marked with posts (you can see one on the left bank of the picture of the steaming water) or cairns.

It's always interesting what phrases someone else notices in writing... that wasn't a description I'd even noticed myself!

Terry- I was commenting to C on the way back that every weekend I go somewhere new, and I'm always saying, "now THIS is my favorite place in Iceland". Still, I think this place will remain among my most-favorite for a while. Or until next week :-)