When I woke up in the morning, it was to the bracing sound of a rooster going “Cockadoodle-do!” I thought it was a ringtone I had accidentally set on my cellphone. But after the 3rd and 4th round, I realized that there must be an actual rooster somewhere within earshot of my window. Just when I thought I was used to the country, I was surprised again.
It was rainy again today, but the weather was expected to lift later on in our drive. We were headed to the tiny farm town of Kelduhverfi, about 40 minutes north of Ring Road and a little off the beaten path. We made a quick circle around town to see the cute rows of houses and tiny art shops before heading back up and over the mountain pass that separated our town from the main road. Today, it was blanketed in a thick coat of fog, and as soon as we gained elevation it only got thicker. I couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of the car over the entire length of the pass, and the faint headlights of oncoming cars were the only sign of life ahead. After that hairy experience, we emerged into brightness and wound down the scenic stretch of pavement on the other side.
Down the road, the area became more open and more rural. The “highway” stretched in front of us for miles with only a stray house here and there. We stopped at an old abandoned sheep hut at the entrance to a farm (with permission) and glanced inside for an eerie detour.
A ways further down Ring Road, the scenery began to change. A quiet fog moved in over the peaks of the mountains, like a misty oracle. The gravel landscape lay in stark contrast to the hues of pale green, copper, and grey around it. We stopped at a scenic turnoff at the top of a large hill, and the wind was so powerful that I could barely open my door. The view was raw, undisturbed and vast….so unbelievably vast. It felt like driving through one big secret.
As we got further north towards Myvatin, we took 862 north to Dettifoss, a huge waterfall that looked a bit like Niagra Falls. Soon after, we explored a crater and nearby lava fields that allowed you to hike through the crumbling rocks, surrounded by sulfur hot springs and geothermal ground activity.
Nearby, we visited a lonely hot spring called hidden underground inside a rock cave—Grjotagja cave—down a rural road. The cave was once a popular secret swimming spot for locals, but in 1975 a volcano eruption in the area caused the water temperature to skyrocket, putting an end to the bathing nook. As of now, the water temperature has returned to normal, but the secret pool is on private property and bathing is currently illegal (though visiting is permitted). It’s also the spot where Jon Snow lost his virginity in Game of Thrones, though I have to admit that I’ve never seen a single episode. After scaling a steep rocky area, we got a peak of the sapphire colored hot spring tucked inside the dripping cove.
By now, it was nearly 3pm and we were starving. We stopped at the Cowshed Café, which is, in fact, inside a cowshed and on a working farm. After having some of the best fresh mozzarella cheese I’ve ever tasted and homemade beef and vegetable soup, we went onward to our last stop of the day, the Myvatin Natural Baths. It had been fun seeing the different landscapes around natural hot springs around the country, and this one was surrounded by lava rocks and rolling hills. We relaxed into the water, which was cooler than expected thanks to the biting wind outside. Regardless, it was a relaxing way to end the day, and natural “swimming pools” like this will be sorely missed back home.
After grabbing a fast food hotdog (“Pylsur”), we took a roundabout way up north in order to avoid some poorly maintained gravel roads that our little car couldn’t handle. We found the farm easily, just off Route 85 with a little blue sign to guide us to the correct driveway.
It sat all alone in a vast landscape, with a red tractor and playground equipment in the yard. We were greeted by a cheery teenager (the cousin of our host) with spotty English who showed us our Airbnb room on the second floor. Our room gazed out over the front of the house and quiet country road. Being on the farm was so peaceful that I didn’t want to go to sleep. I stayed up standing beside the upstairs window, staring out at the changing cloud formations and listening to the animals. It was more than relaxing—it was a profound feeling of peace in my bones. That feeling will haunt me.