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Last Hurrah in Iceland

Hveragerði gave us hot springs as a parting gift


Our flight out of Iceland was at the butt crack of dawn Sunday morning. Our trip was not about resting but you would think that at least the evening before would include a smidge of downtime for packing. No.

Our last afternoon in Iceland was spent in a naturally heated river in the town of Hveragerði, located just under 30 miles from Reykjavik. One of the greeters in the Blue Lagoon told us about this spot, which isn’t a secret, but we’re always on board for locals' recommendations.

On Saturday morning, we snorkeled in the Silfra fissure and then spent some time near the Strokkur geyser before heading straight to the town of Hveragerði. It’s a quaint little thing, with more character than the capital city Reykjavik, in our opinion. It draws tourists with its charming restaurants and naturally formed geothermal springs. (Apparently you can boil an egg in some locations of the hot springs and try bread baked underground. And we thought we were something because we can make an egg sunny side up on the sidewalk in Florida’s July.) We were after the latter.

We drove through the town, following Google map’s instructions to a small café and a parking lot at the back end of the village. We parked and looked at the posted hiking map. Ooooof a 45 minute hike?! You can see most attractions in Iceland via a barely there walk (I wouldn’t even call it a hike), so this was slightly unnerving given our spoiled state. Alas, this was as close as we were going to get to naturally occurring springs, so we made ourselves believe 45 minutes was negligible. And it was. The hike was beautiful. Boiling cauldrons of mud along the way were only overshadowed by steaming vats of water both off in the distance and just near the trail. Walking ahead of me, Gabbi would sometimes disappear into the cloudy steam, emerging in patches when the wind blew just right. Like a walk in the clouds.

It was late-afternoon when we finally reached the populated part of the hot springs, marked by a primitive changing structure (privacy was apparently not the goal, unless you have a travel partner whose willing to hold up a towel for you. I did!) and a deck-like trail that winded upstream adjacent to the water.

We had bathing suits on under our leggings and jeans and sweaters, but I still had my coat on at this point, even with working up a sweat during the hike. I had no idea how this would play out.

The water was about calf deep. We tested it, found a slightly uncrowded spot we could call or own, yanked off our outerwear and “plunged,” or more like laid down in the water with our elbows propping up our heads. The idea was to be totally covered by the bathtub temperature water.

We met a group of slightly tipsy guys and gals from Lithuania, who had clearly not seen their fair share of black people and with the amount of beer cans we saw them consuming, we were glad we positioned ourselves upstream. (Hint: there were no bathrooms but the good outdoors).

Gabbi and I are not ones for ponds. Or lakes. Or even the beach, if the water isn’t clear. The only reason we could handle the Blue Lagoon, was….I’m not sure, because it's a spa? So this was a step in the right direction for us. In the Hveragerði river, I could feel bits of dirt or algae or whatever getting hitched on my bathing suit but I tried my best to ignore it and commended myself for accepting nature in its purest form.

We spent the minutes going over our trip in detail and taking pictures with our waterproof phone cases.

We now know what it must feel like to be born. At least I do. And at least what a baby must feel like exiting the womb into a cold, harsh hospital room. I was nominated the “get out of the water first, grab the towel so I could hold it up for the other person,” girl. It took me a solid 5 minutes to muster up the courage. And as if my body was tired of my extensive efforts to convince myself that I’d go just after this gust of wind passed, I involuntarily hoisted myself out of the water and floundered with my backpack string before whipping my towel out like a cape and standing there. Another kind of frozen. We all know my aversion to being cold so I’ll skip the lamenting. But I’ll just say: the wind was not merciful. And the sun, which by now was barely peeking out beyond the nearby hill, was not kindly shining in all its glory.

Once we were “dry” we just layered up and convinced ourselves that warm wet was better than changing in the merciless Icelandic breeze.

Our walk back was filled with a sort of pride. We were proud of what we accomplished in the four days. And still in awe of Iceland. We felt good about the pictures we took and even more so the memories we made.

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