It had been almost a week since I ventured away from the city. I had listened to the same radio station for the past 4 days, while covering some serious ground. What I found interesting was that every time something truly incredible was about to happen, the same song inevitably was playing on the radio. Like clockwork, with no exceptions. Now if you know radio stations, they play the same 20 songs on repeat, just in different orders. That should give you an idea how often something amazing happened in Iceland. The song in question was "Am I Wrong" by Envy.
As I reversed the car to the first turn off, the song came on. I smiled and stepped on the gas. I glanced at my map and noticed a couple people had circled the Efsti-Dalur farm. “Ice-cream,” someone wrote. “Beef,” wrote another. I looked up and continued on for about 30 min. There it was, sitting on top of a hill, the Efsti-Dalur farm. I pulled in and sat down with Björg, the owner. Kristin, her daughter, came out with some homemade ice-cream in an assortment of flavors. I had caramel-vanilla. Everything I was eating was made right there, and they spent some time explaining the entire process. They gave me the grand tour, let me watch the cows get manicures, and talked for a long time about the history of their farm and places in the area to see. It was amazing. Before I left they handed me a bottle of Whey. A traditional, refreshing drink. Full from the ice cream, I stashed the whey in my pocket and continued on.
I had shown them a note one local gave me, it had the name of a hidden waterfall near their land. With their permission and blessing, I ventured a little deeper into the mountains behind their beautiful home.
After several wrong turns, and directions from a few other locals, I found the right road. My directions were, “Do you hear the waterfall? Follow the sound, hop a fence, look for a foot bridge and a trail. If you find the trail you are set. If not… well…. just remember how to get back. It should take 20-40 min of walking.” This was reassuring to say the least. I have an incredible sense of direction and can almost always find my way.
I found the small turn off, parked, and begin walking. There was no fence, no foot bridge no trail. After about 45 min walking in deep mud I could no longer hear the waterfall, and started to seriously second guess everything. I doubled back to the car and drove back down the gravel road a few hundred meters and saw a hidden turn off, which I took and parked. I started trekking into the field and saw a fence. It was a barbwire fence. Before long I was over, and had found the trail and foot bridge. What I was not told was the path was submerged under a river that was a little deep. On either side of the river were thick bushes, which I opted to go through. After 20 minutes, and a few small wrong turns, I crested a hill and saw it. It was 5 or 6 rivers all flowing into one horseshoe waterfall. Holy cow. This topped everything I had seen so far. To be fair, I felt like I was using that expression on a daily basis.
I stood above this waterfall for about an hour and just watched as turquoise water glided through the black volcano laid rocks. This is truly amazing, and to think that it is something very, very few people actually see.
I was beaming from ear to ear. I can find anything. I pulled my camera out and began taking photos. “I have to get closer,” I thought, as I began climbing down the rock walls and out on to the little ledge before the drop. As I snapped away, I was in awe. There is no photo that can do this country justice. Yes, incredible photos come out of here, but when you are standing on something like this, looking at your image previews, it just doesn’t do it. As much as I wanted to share this moment with everyone, the sense of accomplishment, the sense of being, the realization of how insignificant I am in the bigger picture, I was simply unable to capture everything that comes bundled with the visual. I had no way to share this with anyone. I sat on that waterfall for a while, and just watched vibrant turquoise water rush under my legs and over the drop. After a while I finally stood up and snapped a selfie; something I had been mastering over the past few days. One in each spot. I now have a years’ worth of profile pictures for Facebook.
Kristin had given me one other stop that I had to make. She gave me the name of two families that sell hand-knitted, Icelandic sweaters. However, these women lived near Gullfoss, which was going to require a few hours of backtracking. It was mid-afternoon now, I was about a day behind, but I was in Iceland. I jumped back in the car and sped off. I was going to visit these two families and potentially purchase an icelandic sweater, before returning to my new friends in Flúðir for the fastest way back to Þingvellir.
I stopped at both farms Kristin had told me about, as well as a few others that these families sent me to. Each farm sold their neighbors hand-knitted sweaters, but none of them fit me. Although they were “traditionally a male clothing item, we rarely get men in here looking at these,” a girl at one of the farms told me, as I held up a pink and white sweater three sizes too small. “They are all knitted by feel, so without a body, there is no template.” I must have looked disappointed, even though I wasn’t. She pulled me aside and gave me a name, and directions on how to get to their knitter’s house. She told me that the woman is difficult to find, but that if I found her, she would undoubtedly have one that would fit me.
I set out with the names of two knitters to try my luck with. I stopped by the first, but she only knit part-time, and didn’t have one that would fit me either. “I just knit until I feel like it’s done, and then I send them to my neighbors,” she told me, apologetically. We sat and talked for a while about how the wool is made, how she colors everything, and her general process. It was truly fascinating.
It was almost too late for me to feel comfortable going to another house, but I ventured on and found the unmarked gate. I slowly pushed the rusty metal gate along the wet gravel driveway as dogs came running up to greet me. After a few pleasantries and a good pet, I and slowly drove down the long windy driveway. By the time I got to the house, it was too late to turn back. I got out of my car, still dressed in muddy, wet rain gear, and walked to the door. Now keep in mind, going to peoples’ doors was not something new for me, as I had done this many times, and each time had turned out well.
A woman, dressed in an incredible hand woven sweater opened the door, looking very confused. I introduced myself and told her why I was in the area. Wish a smile, she invited me in. We spent the next couple hours touring her property, and talking about everything from growing up on this farm, the economy, how to knit, and her exact methods of wool coloration. I was in awe. Here I was, in Iceland, with the woman who knits a lot of the sweaters I see on the locals in this area. After an unbelievably good meal of smoked lamb, I realized it was time to continue on.
To be continued....