The Saga of Nell

I had a lazy morning just chilling out at the hostel. There were some interesting birds feeding on the lawn. One was a large black and white bird with a long orange bill. There were some others that looked a bit like sand pipers, and a gull with a brown head.

I wandered down to the stone beach were I saw bubbling water in the sand – geothermal! It was pretty cool to see it in nature, unexpected like that. It was like a little crater in the sand with white bubbles coming up from the ground.

Laugarvatn Fontana

I went to the Fontana spa when it opened at 10am. I had planned to get get the geothermal bread add-on, but they didn’t serve it until 11am. The staff were friendly and it was a gorgeous new building with signage in both Icelandic and English.

There were 4 geothermal pools, 3 geothermal saunas, one cedar sauna, showers, and a dock into the lake. The water was clear and warm – except in the lake. The lake was a mix of freezing cold and lukewarm currents.

I had trouble relaxing in the pools with all the chatter and splashing of fellow guests, but I still had a nice time. I sat on the bench in the water and enjoyed the view of the landscape and the Nordic architecture of the spa itself.

The geothermal saunas varied from slight heat, comfortable heat, and intolerable heat – in no specific order. The stone walls were an array of colour: grey, white, and rust-red from the water.

When no one was in the geothermal sauna, I laid down on the cedar bench and looked up at the wood ceiling. Holes were cut of the wood, reminding me of the stars. They let streams of light in where moisture in the air danced and sparkled. It was beautiful.

There was a traditional cedar sauna too. I’m not sure if anyone else knew it existed, as no one came in ever. One wall was a window that looked out on the lake. I finished my spa experience there. It was a fitting place to end.

I hadn’t brought a comb, but one of the staff were kind enough to lend me one. Clean and refreshed, I went into the spa cafe and ordered the sand-baked rye with gravlax. It was very reasonably priced and all made with local ingredients.

I sat on the patio, in a warm patch of sunlight. There was a cut-out in the wall gave me a beautiful framed view of Helka. The bread was dense yet moist, topped with butter and thick salmon from the lake. It was incredible – such density, textures, and flavour.

slice of bread with salmon on a plate with a glass of water


I went to the grocery store to look for face wash as I’d forgotten mine at the hostel in Reykjavík. To my surprise, there wasn’t anything that resembled face wash. There was everything else: toner, face cream, shampoo, hand cream, etc. but no face cleanser. The closest thing I got were disposable face wipes. I had to make do with that.

Icelanders are known to be especially crazy for ice cream. They eat it all year round. However, I’d only seen soft serve ice cream for sale since my arrival. I rarely go out of my way to eat soft serve ice cream as I find it tasteless compared to regular ice cream or gelato, but I thought I’d give it a go here.

I thought an ice cream cone would make an excellent accompaniment for my hike, but I ate it before I got to the trail. I had it dipped in chocolate sauce that hardened, which proved be be quite helpful in keeping the nats out of my ice cream, who were buzzing around my head (they’d gotten into my water and stuck to my salmon at the spa cafe). For soft serve, it was good – had a nice thick texture.

I spotted one of the hostel staff, so hurried over with my ice cream cone to pay for the towel I’d rented (200 ISK at the hostel, 800 ISK at the spa). I asked her if she had any trails to recommend and she suggested one behind a house down the road that went along the water. I wanted to climb the mountain, so she told me to walk to the round about at the edge of the village and take the trail there.

view of mountain from trail


The hike was a bit beyond my skill and fitness level. I put my camera away early on as I didn’t want to risk falling and breaking my best camera lens. I had to be extra conscious of my footing, but stopped every few meters to look around me. I was amazed at how far I climbed in what felt like such a short time!
mountain trail
I really wished my bouldering skills were better than none at some points of the trail. The climb was very steep and slippery. I got so warm that I took off my jacket. Soon I was wondering what Iceland’s laws were on women going topless – I was so hot!

I stopped to take a rest near the summit, and opened my Laphroaig for a celebratory toast to Iceland. I ate some of the bread I’d bought, admired the landscape, and listened to the birds. I was surprised at how prominent the sound pf traffic was at this height. I could see many roads sprawling below, but very few vehicles, yet I could hear them all! A constant stream of noise. I tried to imagine what it would have been like 100 years ago… view of village from a mountain. bottle, bag, and hiker's feet in foreground

I soon observed what looked like rain across the lake, blurring out Hekla. There was no way I wanted to hike the mountain in the rain – it was slippery enough on dry ground!

As I began to descend down the mountain, 3 ravens flew overhead. I felt a bit like I was in a saga – the Saga of Nell. It was much more complicated getting down than up! The temperature had dropped too – foreboding!

Once I reached the bushes, I knew that I could make my way home in any weather ask it was closer to the terrain I was used to in Ontario. I found a nice rock to lean against and made myself comfortable. (The rain had moved to the right of Hekla now, so I didn’t feel concerned)

It was so nice just to sit in the warm sun, my back against a rock, watching the miniature cars go by below and admire the landscape, alone with just my thoughts. I even snuck in a little nap!

Evening in Laugarvatn

Come 4:00pm, I finished my descent down the mountain. Despite the shining sun, I felt the occasional raindrop. However, then rain didn’t fully fall until a couple hours later.
dark clouds above a sunny field with bales of hay
When I returned to the hostel, it was a buzz with people! It seemed to be most, if not all, French and Icelandic guests. My German dorm mate had checked out and was replaced by a French couple.

I went out with my camera once the rain stopped. I had been hoping it would rain during my trip as it brings out the vibrant green of the moss. Not to disappoint, the mountains were a grand display of bright green and chestnut. However, what I didn’t expect was all the steam from the ground! Made sense once you think about it, but it was a delight! I snapped away with my camera, thinking back to the mist on the lake on a family cottage trip last year on Thanksgiving in Ontario.

Once I’d exhausted every angle (and my hands were cold) I went back to the hostel. I got out an extra blanket and curled up in bed, happily thinking about all the Photoshop opportunities these photos would provide once I get home to my computer in Toronto.
I had really weird dreams that night – the first time I have remembered my dreaming on my trip too. I dreamt a lesbian couple had used a sperm donour who had cruelly tricked them. Instead of a baby, a dead black dog was born. Then I dreamt I was picking up chalk hairdye for designed pit-bulls that a friend of mine really wanted for her hair. It was so popular with dog owners and fashionistas alike that the storekeeper got violent once he sold out. I don’t remember the rest of my dream to well – something about a friend throwing a feminist fundraising party, an ex, his girlfriend, and mutual friends in an English cottage, and piles of clothes and shoes. Quite the dream!

One Reply to “The Saga of Nell”

  1. Oh Nell,
    It is wonderful to enjoy your trip (almost as much as you are); through your blog. Your very vivid descriptions of everything from the temperature changes to geothermal spas and of course all the different food; makes it almost as if I were right there with you. My sister is enjoying your blogs and some of your pics as well. SHe followed you through China on that journey as well and loved every moment. Enjoy every moment and hopefully there will be many more photos to see in the future. Those dreams are a Saga in themselves. Stay Safe!!

Leave a Reply