Time to hit the slopes! The slopes of Snaefellsjokull, to be exact. That would be the same glacial mountain that Jules Verne used for the basis of Journey to the Center of the Earth, as well playing a prominent part in Laxness' Under the Glacier. Snaefellsjokull is also considered a holy place, or a "power center," and New Age folks congregate in its vicinity.
Unfortunately the weather today is cloudy, and the cloud cover is low: we can't see the peak of the glacier at all. Nonetheless, Gabe and Peter are ready to go snowmobiling to the summit of the glacier--with a group, of course. Not a good idea to go straying off the trail in the fog, and descend through a crevasse into...the center of the earth!
We drive quite a ways up an unpaved road until we reach the snow line. Here are the other tourists, the guide, and a fleet of snowmobiles. Also a trailer with jumpsuits, helmets, and other manly gear. Gear for females, too; ones with a stronger desire for adventure than me.
Luckily I have company while the boys are tearing up the glacier. John and I wave them off, and then go for a hike on the mountain, through spongy moss, lots of lava rock, and up the side of one of many volcanic craters.
When we go back to retrieve the guys I ask Gabe if the ride was long enough, and if it was worthwhile (since they didn't get any views from the top of the glacier due to the low clouds). He says the ride was about two hours too short! So I guess they had a good time. On our way down the glacier we stop at Songhellir, where a collapsed crater has created a series of lava caves. This happened some time ago, as graffiti from the 18th century can be found within. Our cave exploration is somewhat limited due to a lack of torches. John and the boys speak with the dwarfs that live in the cave and whose voices can be heard singing. They do not relate the subject of the conversation to me.
We stop in a nearby village, Hellnar, to eat lunch at Fjoruhusid, a tiny cafe that once was a fish salting shed. It is right on the water, next to craggy cliffs teeming with birds. You can sit indoors or out. Either way the view is lovely. The building is very simple, but lovely in a French country sort of way, with whitewashed walls, long windows and a gable. The walls are hung with prints by an artist called Adalheidur Skarphedinsdottir, and we really like her art. Her work has a magical, folkloric feel to it--the closest thing I can think of are Chagall paintings. We pick up one of her flyers, in hopes that we can contact her or visit her gallery later on.
The location, building and art are all lovely. The food is even better. This is one of the best meals we've had in Iceland (have I said that before?!). We enjoy fish soup, delicious homemade bread, wonderful quiche, excellent coffee and hot chocolate, and fabulous chocolate cake!
We drive around the penninsula and Snaefellsjokull, but it is still too cloudy to see the glacier peak from below, just as it was too cloudy to see "below" from the top this morning. We stop at a market to get groceries for dinner, and John selects some sausage that is a deep orange/red in color. I ask him what kind of sausage it is, and pointing at the label he says, "Stoth." When pressed, John confesses that he doesn't know what that means. I suggest that he ask the clerk, and when he does he discovers that it is horsemeat! Now, there is nothing wrong with eating horsemeat. But apparently John doesn't want to...he buys another kind of sausage, which he first clears with the clerk.
After circling Snaefellsjokull we come to a hot springs pool that I have been longing to visit. It is Lysuhollslaug, located at a school. There are nice changing facilities, and once we venture outside we find a large swimming pool and a small "hot pot." Unfortunately, the hot pot is so hot that I can't even get in--I would feel like a lobster being readied for dinner. Gabe is the only one of our group that finds the pain pleasurable. There are a few other hardy souls who join him, but most people are like me: they stick their feet in, try to get accustomed to the temperature, and quickly give up. The large pool has clumps of algae floating around in it, but that doesn't bother us. And...the water is naturally sparkling/effervescent. It is a lovely day at the pool: mist falls down on us as we swim in the warm, fizzy water.
As we leave I ask whether we can purchase spring water to drink. We are given directions to a family farm, and begin an epic journey in search of this farm. After several visits to farms that don't have spring water, we finally end up in the right place. Olkelda has two spring pumps, and Onnur, a girl who attends school at the place where we swam, shows us how to get the water. We fill all of our water bottles, and I'm pretty excited about scoring all of this healthy, sparkling spring water. We say thanks and wave goodbye to Onnur, and then begin drinking our water....aughh! It has high sulfer content! It tastes terrible! But we know it must be very healthy.
Our next stay is at Snorrastadir Horse Farm. Looking at the map I realize that it is just 5 km from Litla Hruan (where the book Summer at Little Lava takes place). I would love to see Little Lava in person but the only way to get there is to walk or ride horses across the tidal flats; there is no road.
We have a large, lovely two-bedroom cabin, with every inside surface finished in smooth pine, a hot tub on the deck and beautiful views. When we check in I talk to Disa and Emma (who sports a "Viva los Zapatistas" tee shirt, and snake tattoos) about horseback riding tomorrow.
We receive a visit from Trin, a man from Amsterdam who is staying at the cabin next to us. He graciously gives us technical assistance on operating the hot tub. He tells me he hasn't read the sagas because they haven't been translated into Dutch (!). He is vacationing in Iceland for the third year in a row, each time concentrating on a different area in depth. That's what I'd like to do next!