Don’t touch anything!? Of course…fingerprints mean evidence. My mind began to race and I started trying to put fingerprints on whatever I could without being noticed, hoping that Claudia was doing the same in the back seat.
The second time he spoke I wasn’t sure if he had said, “You are students?” or “You are students.” It was impossible to differentiate between question and statement so I took a risk and responded. I told him that I was not a student and that I had chosen not to go to university for a number of reasons that I began to divulge. Nervous, I began to babble… SCREEEEEEEEEEEEECH!! – he slammed on the breaks. Perhaps he didn’t like people without degrees stinking out his vehicle with their lack of academic knowledge.
“Here it is” he said, stepping out of the car. He nodded at us to follow. To our right was a colourful expanse of plants and rocks stretching up into miniature mountain range, on our left was a large, perfectly still fjord. There were no other cars in sight and certainly no other people. My heart was beating hard. The man motioned us to follow. Without any other options we followed him away from the road, across the scrub towards the mountains. I suddenly noticed a small shed a few metres away from the roadside.
Textbook murder. He wasn’t even trying to be subtle about it. He seemed casual and relaxed, like he was taking a dog out for a walk. It was probably his third shed murder of the day.
We got to the door of the shed, he touched door handle and turned to us. A smile spread across his face. “Welcome to one of the Westfjords many secrets.” He opened the door.
Inside was a small bench, a large square pool of water in the ground, a bar of soap and a scrubbing brush. Our driver, grinning madly, put his hand into the water and said, “Have a feel, it’s perfect bath temperature.” I felt the water, it was indeed perfect bath temperature. He explained to us that a nice farmer used to spend his life driving a tractor back and forth through the Westfjords. (Most probably as a result of the naturally abundant geothermal energy in this country, Icelanders are obsessed with bathing; it is not uncommon to find public baths in villages with populations below 50.) So, one day, our bath loving farmer decided to channel the warm water from a nearby hot spring to create a small bath house where people could stop off and have a soak to break up the monotony of a long drive.
Claudia and I were both relieved to be alive and delighted by this quirky little roadside feature. Our driver, Jon, did not want to kill us. He was ecstatic to have someone he could show off his beautiful country to. As we drove on he let us in on more and more local secrets, becoming more animated and excited with each one. Within an hour he was positively joyous.
We chatted about his life as a policeman, a lawyer and a property developer – STOP – “Quick, come this way there is a secret waterfall that nobody knows about!” He told us about the summers he spends with his brother leading a two week horseback expedition through the Icelandic wilderness – HALT – “I grew up in this town (Holmavik), I was the sheriff, let me give you a quick tour! There’s my old house!” We told Jon all about our trip so far and he gave us all sorts of tips for the remaining journey – WAIT I ALMOST FORGOT – “There’s another waterfall, here’s another hot spring!”
Jon was amazing. We went from certain death in a shed to having our own personal guide through the Westfjords. For five hours we chatted and visited different secret spots that ‘only the locals know about’. It was perfect. Finally, after an action packed five hours in the car we went our separate ways. Jon back to Reykjavik, and us to a suitable spot to pitch our tent for the night.
He drove 20 minutes out of his way until he found us a perfect spot with everything we needed. Cover from the road behind a large bush, a river for drinking, cleaning and cooking and soft moss covered ground to sleep on.
Before leaving Jon gave us his card and told us if we needed any help or if anything bad were to happen to us we could call him at any time.
We slept well knowing that if we hitched a ride with a murderer the next day, we could always give Sheriff Jon a call.