The land of ice and fire

December 18, 2012 - Reykjavík, Iceland

No I'm not cycling but missed writing in Budapest. Since I don't force you to read, I thought I would indulge myself. Chances of my dying are reduced but if your bored Read on.

Iceland is a place that has been on my list of must go's for a long time. My desire likely heightened following an instinctive drive to physically retrieve my sunken Icelandic savings account -fortunately it was empty enough that the government eventually did that for me. And with many friends who have visited one who has even cycled around it, I wonder why it has taken me so long to get here.

Following the recommendations of others, our first impressions of the country did not disappoint stopping at the blue lagoon on the way into the city from the airport. Rolling across the flat, hardened, lava plains we see steam rising in the distance. In response to my mother's excitement regarding the sighting of our destination, I recount mine and Dani's similar assumption in Norway only to summit the hill and find a huge power station. As we nearer it appeared that we were both right, the lagoon being twinned with one of Iceland's many geothermal power stations.
I doubt anyone has ever visited Iceland without going to the blue lagoon, as described by our hotel receptionist,  it's a clearly a gold mine. Certainly not cheap, cleverly located between the airport and Reykjavik and heavily advertised. However it's incredibly well run with everything thought through, a wristband that gains you access, opens your locker (including suitcase sized ones), gives you availability and runs up your bill (purchasing food, drink, towels and spa treatment). This kind of efficiency and business  nouse was certainly not what I expected from a bankruptcy recovering country. The place absorbs the crowds well, the hot spring itself is huge and clean. Diagrams are prominently placed instructing you to wash highlighted areas (I'm sure you can imagine), without bathing suits before entering the water as there is no chlorine added. The water is white and as the thermal hot springs of Budapest smells slightly sulphuric (rotten eggs), particularly when digging the silica based 'cleansing mud' from the pores in the rock. The mud is to be applied to the body and left for ten minutes to work its wonders. We were also warned before entering to keep your head out of the water as the minerals have a serious drying effect on your hair. If this disaster should occur we are advised to condition our hair 2-3times. Needless to say my head was sopping, but I have to point out that i have yet to experience any significant drying, in fact my hair has never felt in such good shape. This is perhaps a result of it being conditioned more times in ten minutes than it has over the past five years.
In the icy December, Icelandic weather there were worries about freezing to death in transfers between the pool and the building, this was surprisingly not the case. The lagoon looked stunning out in the open landscape, with steam billowing from the surface and the sun shining in the clear sky overhead. The spring itself was not uniform in temperature, for the most part hovering between 36-39 degrees which becomes uncomfortably warm after a while  but a railed off bubbling pot to the rear spilling water of 80-100C. The rail a minimalistic, final defence the empty 2-3m circumference surrounding the pot telling the story. Anyone getting close to the rail has serious problems. Beneath your feet is predominantly a lava sand, occasionally giving way to the squelchy silica mud. I did everything possible to resist digging it up and throwing it but I just had to toss a little piece.
Controversially I have decided to base the vast majority of my Icelandic experience in the hands of organised tour companies. This is partially on advice of others and partly because to see what I wish over five days in the height of winter (cycling is out) the only other option would be to drive. As my mother doesn't wish too and considering I haven't driven in around five years due to either being too injured, being not allowed (cambridge) or it being financially unviable (london). I figure that driving a foreign car on the wrong side of the road, in the icy darkness is probably not the wisest. Despite the anticipated cost implication, reduction in flexibility and visiting exclusively the most established tourist locations, I am intrigued. I feel that perhaps this is irrelevant, surrounded by people who are also curious about Iceland's bizarre and unique geographical anomalies. In the past I have found myself craving more information (Rome), when surrounded by the most striking places of interest so I am looking forward to seeing the best of the sights fully informed.

1 Comment

January 21, 2013
cool! very interesting
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