The ice was falling hard and fast around us, we had to make a choice; stay here indefinitely, or bolt to the van, half naked.
On our second day of driving through the dramatic Icelandic countryside, we’d decided to take ourselves to the Westfjords. The landscape surrounding us was harsh and icy from the intermittent snow showers. We’d done our research and found the infamous ‘Drangsnes Hot-Pots’ which sit directly on the fjord-front.
We’d driven through the winding coastal paths, patchy with greenery and white snowy mountain tops, to reach the hot-pots. We parked up in the layby opposite looking out onto the amazing view and the small, man-made hot tubs balanced on the sea front. There wasn’t another car or soul in sight.
I poked around the small hut we’d pulled up to and saw the small shower unit, and a sign requiring you to shower fully naked beforehand. We’d soon learn, this is the norm.
In Iceland, there is a very strict rule that you must shower with soap before getting in any swimming pool or bath. As these are not natural baths and are maintained by the local city, this was a mandatory requirement..
The practicality of this made me doubt myself. We were in a small van, we’d have to shower and run across the road in our swimsuits in this near freezing climate, and what about drying off?
Yellow bellied, we turned the van around and scurried to the warmth of a local restaurant in Hólmavík, our home for the night.
Dreams that night were laced with mild regret. Should we have just ‘taken the plunge’? These were once in a lifetime things, surely a nip in the air isn’t enough to put us off?
The next morning rolled around presenting more snow and more treacherous roads to slide along. We were driving to a small town on the northern coast called Sauðárkrókur. We made a stop at a petrol station to fuel up on coffee and diesel. While sipping our drinks, we’d been looking at the points of interest we could visit along the way and found ‘Reykjafoss’; a spectacular waterfall just off the main ring road.
Scrolling through the google pictures, a review caught my eye about a nearby, natural, geothermal pool; Fosslaug.
‘This is it. This is the adventure. This will make up for yesterday.
Barrelling towards the attraction, with our minds on the excitement, we missed the turn off for the car park, twice. A small, handwritten sign directed us to what seemed like a private farm field. The landscape showed nobody nearby for miles, so we locked up, packed our swimsuits, and started our trek.
We walked along the not well marked paths towards the rush of water we could hear in the distance. The air was crisp and the sky was overcast, making perfect hiking conditions for an enjoyable walk.
Finally coming across a small bridge, we could see the waterfall in the river we were about to cross. The water rocketing over the edge gave the silent countryside a relaxing soundtrack.
Once we’d had our fill of the waterfall, we walked up river a little to find the small hot pot. If you blink, you’ll miss it! It was small and looked like part of the river. The only identifier was a small sign: Fosslaug.
I put my hand in the water to test the temperature and sure enough, it was a warm contrast to the freezing wind whipping around us. Deciding this was a good time to get in, in the middle of the windy wilderness, with no one around, I stripped down to my swimming costume and climbed into the steaming pool.
The first thing I felt as I climbed in was how slippery the algae on the rocks were! The green slime displaced slightly and started leaving deposits on my skin. Thankfully, I’m not squeamish, so I took it in my stride. I found a place to sit and marvelled at this amazing moment. I was sitting in a warm bath, surrounded by Icelandic countryside with the soothing sounds of falling water.
My partner followed me straight in! We sat in serenity, blessing our ad-hoc decision to hike to this remote location.
After a while, we noticed the clouds had darkened. The rain came lightly at first, causing us to hop out of our bliss briefly to cover our clothes with our waterproof jackets; a little rain isn’t too bad, right?
When the soft rain droplets turned to hard balls of ice, hitting our exposed skin, we looked at each other debating what to do! Do we jump out and let the hail beat more of our bodies while we hurriedly dress or do we wait it out?
The ice was coming down, fast and furious now and we prayed our waterproofs were doing their job keeping our only clothes for about 2 miles, dry. I caught my partners eye in the chaos and we laughed a full bellied laugh. That laugh you have when there is nothing else to do but laugh! We decided to wait it out. Why not? We’re already here and we’re pretty comfortable when submerged!
Finally, it eased off and we were again in an overcast haven of tranquillity. That was enough now. We’d started to shrivel and needed to have some lunch. Embracing our opportunity, we climbed out and towelled ourselves down.
Changing out of our swimwear in the middle of the countryside was an incredibly liberating feeling! Who cares, we were out of sight of everyone!
We changed quickly to keep the warmth of the pool from wearing off of our internal body temperature and hurried back to the van, invigorated by our adventure!
Sitting back in the van, still tinged slightly green from the algae, we ate peanut butter sandwiches, thinking of the adventures to come. This had opened the door for more amazing experiences. Next stop, however, had to be to find a shower…