Tour de Iceland...
Trip Start Jul 05, 2010
186Trip End May 15, 2011
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Where I stayed
After an hour more biking, we saw the road sign for the bird cliffs of Hafnarberg. We chained our bikes to the sign and left on the surprisingly long walk through sand dunes to the cliffs (about 30 minutes each way). In our hearts, we carried the hope that we would see either an orca or a puffin (the description of both were on the aforementioned sign).
We saw many types of birds belonging to the auk family. One of the birds even looked liked a small penguin. Unfortunately, however, no orcas or puffins graced us with their presence. SLIGHTLY disappointed, and very hungry, we made the half hour trip back to our bikes.
Our next stop was the “Bridge Between Worlds.” This is a bridge over the site where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and there is an enormous crack in the ground.
Standing on the bridge between continents, we ate a romantic meal consisting of bananas and digestive cookies. I do not know what digestive cookies are exactly, but they were the cheapest cookies in the Icelandic grocery store. I cannot tell if they cause diarrhea or if they just have extra fiber, but they did not taste too bad. We bought bread and cheese as well, but our cheese was stolen from the hostel fridge, and we were unable to swallow the dry pieces of bread after hours of dehydrating cycling.
Next, we biked on to see Iceland’s enormous geothermal power plant. Apparently the country obtains 99% of its energy from renewable sources, of which the largest percent comes from geothermal energy. The volcanic nature of the island makes it an ideal location for geothermal power plants.
We then rode on to the bubbling swamps of Gunnuhver. At this area, heated liquids from deep within the Earth actually rise up, melt the minerals in the soil, and spew out as mostly hot gases and steam. When we got to the area, we saw a sign that said “Dangerous! This area is closed to all persons.” However, the sign was not in the middle of the road; it was only sideways. We couldn’t figure out if the sign was always there and put in the middle of the road when there was danger or if the mere presence of the sign meant the area was closed.
After the swamps, we rode on hoping to reach a village called Grindavik, a famous fishing village. We dreamed of buying fish here and eating it with our dried bread. Perhaps the fish would even come with fries or potatoes. Oh, it sounded so good, too good…and it was.
It took us hours to reach the village. At this point, the wind had become intolerable and made it impossible at times to bike forward. It would routinely push us off the side of the road, or come head-on so strong that we had to get off and push our bikes against the wind. At some points, I couldn’t even bike DOWNHILL the wind was blowing against us so strongly.
On our way, we passed through and area with a cryptic sign. On the sign were the Icelandic word for caution (among other words we didn’t understand) and pictures of birds taking off and flying. We rode on a bit confused, but not worried in the least. We then noticed that on both sides of the road there were thousands of noisy birds. As we approached they got louder and began flying around like crazy. As I rode my bike forward, I noticed that the noises were getting louder and louder. I noticed shadows of birds right above me. They were attacking! They would fly up and then dive down, missing my head by inches. Their nests must have been close to the road and they saw us as threats to their young. I put on my hood and covered my head with my hands.
We finally reached Grindavik. Unfortunately, it was not the way I had pictured it. There weren’t rows of coffee shops and fishermen selling fish and chips. We didn’t see any grocery stores selling cheese or lemonade. This village seemed completely deserted.
We got off our bikes exhausted. I lied down into a ditch at the side of the road to escape the intensely cold wind. David went to find humans who could either sell us food or tell us how far we were from the Blue Lagoon, which we had now appointed as our final destination if we could even make it that far.
David returned without food to tell me the bad news. We were still 5 kilometers from the Blue Lagoon. Normally, a five kilometer trip on bike is not such a big deal. But we had already gone 40 kilometers and walked for several hours. And the wind made it a thousand times slower and harder. Not to mention the fact that we were starving, and the five kilometers would begin up a two kilometer mountain.
I wondered if this might be one of those situations where you could just give up. Perhaps one of the kindly villagers would offer to give us a ride. Maybe a fish and chips truck would come and drive us to the Blue Lagoon for free. Maybe a benevolent helicopter driver would stop and airlift us to our destination. Nope. We would have tried hitchhiking, but we had the bikes. Who would offer to take two strangers and two strange bikes?
We forced ourselves to swallow to pieces of dried wonderbread and got back on our bikes and began our journey against the wind up an enormous hill. After ten minutes we had to get off our bikes and walk them to the top. I figured it would be easy biking downhill. Not so. It was impossible. The wind was so strong it nearly tipped me over, and I had to peddle with all of my might just to move down a little bit. It took us hours to make that five kilometer trip over the hilly, windy terrain.
We finally reached the Blue Lagoon, the famous natural spring and spa. We paid the pricey admission, locked up our belongings, and changed into our bathing suits (well at least I remembered to bring my bathing suit, David looked somewhat silly in his silky boxers). The Blue Lagoon is beautiful, the water is a milky aqua color and it is lined with volcanic rocks. The water is fed by natural springs from underground. Since common bacteria do not thrive in this water (because of the minerals it contains), no chlorine or artificial cleaners are used.
I would be lying if I said that it was pleasant walking outside from the changing rooms wearing only my bathing suit (it was about 45 degrees and windy). But as we lowered our tired, aching bodies into the water, everything changed. The water was welcomingly warm. It took me a while to adjust to the fact that my body was hot, but my head was turning into an icicle. What a bizarre thing to swim when it is so cold outside. David and I found the white silica mud pails and covered our faces with it so that we too could “achieve maximum beauty and soft skin.” We were like real Icelandic tourists…like the ones who stay in hotels and take taxis and embark on helicopter tours.
The Blue Lagoon was lovely and rejuvenating, but there is no way that we would have been able to bike another 20 kilometers back to our hostel at 9:00PM. We were able to find a bus that was willing to transport us and our bikes back to Keflavik in about 20min for $25.
We planned to drop our stuff off at the hostel and walk to the grocery store, buy fish, cook it at the hostel, and eat it with our remaining bread. That would complete the day. We got back to our hostel, put our stuff down and fell asleep.