Knowing that I was out of shape, I planned Day 3 to be a “rest day” during my 6-day unicycle-packing tour on back roads and hiking trails in Iceland. How lucky for me, then, that my third camping location was Landmannalaugar, a popular tourist destination that boasts not only beautiful vistas—but free hot springs!
Author’s note: this is post is included in a series of articles I have written about this trip. To read more, check out the following links or use the “Iceland 2017” category on the sidebar to filter posts:
- Day 3 Flickr photo journal
- Day 3 YouTube playlist
- Overview of uni-packing trip
- Logistics of uni-packing trip
You know, I really should have realized that something was wrong when my alarm went off at “6am”…and the sun wasn’t even up yet. Unfortunately, I am not a clever human. In fact, the only thing that went through my head was “Wow, cool! An Icelandic sunrise!” To be fair, it was pretty. But that really should have made me realize that something was wrong with the clock on my phone. Anyway, I’ll explain that mishap a bit later in this post.
Let me just say this. Past Rinker was a smart cookie. She knew that the then-future Rinker (a.k.a., the Rinker on Day 3 in Iceland) would be hurting. Badly. Not the muscles, but the crotch. Riding for a long time sucks. There’s no way around it. And all those little rubs and soreness really start to get you about 48 hours after you start. So, doing the math…Day 3 was going to hurt. No two ways about it. But, like I already said, past Rinker knew this, and she decided to make Day 3 extremely short (only around 15 kilometers). I definitely owe her a beer for that foresight. Wait, I’m drinking one right now! *toasts past self*
Luckily for me, the terrain for Day 3 was very easy. Almost everything was rideable (which made my crotch hurt more, but at least it went faster), and the views were beyond lush. The closer I got to Landmannalaugur, the crazier the colors got in the mountains. Sometimes I wondered if there was LSD in the water to make such beautiful sights. (Pretty sure there wasn’t, but those mountains seemed too unreal.)
Finally, I reached the intersection I was looking for. After two and a half days of riding solo on the F208, it was time to branch out into new territory: the F224. For 2 kilometers, at least. And after those short kilometers…my final destination for the day! The “place of many pools”: Landmannalaugar!
And what’s a good finish without a little mishap? I was so excited to reach Landmannalaugar that when I reached my final river crossing of the day, I did what I had done every time before on the F208: I threw my uni over my shoulders and waded through the river. Just before stepping out on the other side, though, I realized: there was a freaking footbridge. I should have used that bridge.
I rode into Landmannalaugar on the gravel path, past the dozens of campers and tents (I was kind enough, however, to faceplant right in front of the campers to show everyone how dangerous unicycling is…not), and found the check-in counter. I paid my fees, got my tent sticker to show that I was a good, upstanding member of society, went to set up my tent, and then realized…people were still packing up and eating breakfast.
I checked the clock on my phone. 10:00 in the morning! Cheezits, what were these people doing with their lives!? I mean, sure, I expect people to move slow when they’re not normally hiking, but to still be eating breakfast at 10:00!? That was madness! (If you’re guessing already what’s happened here, you’re smarter than me.)
Well, with no place to put my tent yet, there was nothing to do but wait. So I did. I got to chat with a friendly American journalist who snapped some photos of me napping on the porch next to my unicycle. I ate some snacks. I did a bit of stretching. I surreptitiously eyed which spot would be the best for my tent, since there was hardly any wind protection. And finally, the spot I was waiting on opened up. I swooped, set up camp, locked up my uni, and then made a beeline for the hot springs.
They. Were. Delightful.
And by some quirk of “fate” (or perhaps a malfunctioning cell phone clock), I had them all to myself for a good half hour. I paddled around. I giggled. I marveled at the fact that, even in such a tourist-filled destination in Iceland, a tourist like myself could find a moment of solitude in an amazing place. I took a moment to make a quick video diary entry. And ultimately, I just soaked and let the last few days truly sink in.
After about half an hour, I was finally joined by a fellow hot-springer. We ended up chatting and becoming friends, exchanging stories of previous travels and where we want to go in the future. Thanks to Rohail, China is now high on my list of desired destinations. Also, I finally learned what you may have been suspecting this whole time.
My phone was on Danish time.
Remember on Day 1, when my phone somehow reset itself, and I corrected the time by going off my GoPro? Right. My GoPro was on Danish time. 2 HOURS EARLIER THAN ICELANDIC TIME. So the previous two mornings, when I thought I had been waking up at 6am…that was 4am. And when I was cursing the hikers in Landmannalaugur for not being packed and gone at 10am…that was actually 8am.
Suddenly, so many things made much more sense.
Eventually, Rohail had to catch his bus back to Reykjavik, and I realized that pale Rinker without sunscreen did not mesh well with uncharacteristically sunny Iceland. I finally, reluctantly, exited the hot springs and wandered back to my tent. I did some laundry in the bathroom sinks, then took a tour to the “Mountain Mall”, two buses that had been renovated to provide camping goods to visiting tourists.
There, over a cup of coffee and a chocolate bar, I met Judy, a wonderful, like-minded German girl who had just finished hiking the Laugavegur solo and had many other exciting travel stories to tell. (For example, working with a sled dog team in the Yukon.) I decided to join her in the hot springs a second time, where I cemented my sunburn but reveled in the hot soaking.
I also met Sebastian from France, who worked as a guide in Iceland and gave me the biggest gift anyone could have ever given me: fresh fruit and beer. Seriously, if Sebastian was a deity, I would have been a convert on the spot. Sebastian or Judy, if you are reading this right now…I owe you guys beers. Come visit me in Denmark so I can pay my debts. 😉
The day finally wore out, and I started to make bedtime noises in my head. My next day, Day 4, would be my greatest challenge to date. That was the day I would begin riding on the Laugavegur, a famous hiking trail from Landmannalaugar to þórsmörk. My goal was conservative, to ride only 5 meters each day, but I was still filled with nervous excitement when I finally laid my head on my camping pillow (a sleeping-bag stuff-sack filled with clothes) that night.