Day 9. 23 June 2004
Wednesday. Slept well, and had to be woken for my early start. I wash quickly and breakfast before heading out to catch the #115 to the BSí bus station, where I believe the Iceland Excursions tour goes from.
It turns out that it doesn’t, and none of the staff know anything about it. Slumping down, frustrated, in the departure lounge I try phoning the company. I speak to a very helpful girl on the phone who assures me that a bus can come and pick me up and take me on the Blue Lagoon tour—it seems that they normally do hotel pickups.
I wait, with some trepidation, before a small, freshly painted bus arrives. When I board there are already two other English girls on board, and we are joined by half a dozen more people as we tour some more hotels before making our way to the ticket office; housed in an old double-decker bus on the edge of a filling station forecourt outside the Kringlan shopping mall.
We disembark, to hand over our 3,200 IKR and then re-board the bus with the friendly “old boy” driver (as the man is so affectionately referred to by my guys in the ticket office.
Setting off for the Blue Lagoon now, the road takes us most of the way back to Keflavik airport before we turn off down a metalled road cut from an endless grey lava field—the steam rising in the distance being the only sign of our destinations. We arrive in the car park carved from a lava field next to a geothermal power station, and descend down a path that winds between the lava on either side, to find the entrance, squat between two walls of lava and sitting in pools of milky-blue, sulphurous water.
Within the entrance way I hand over my ticket to receive my ‘key’—and electronic tag on a plastic wrist strap. To gain entry I have to press this to a plate which releases the barrier.
I waste no time in showering and stowing my kit in the locker (also activated via the electronic tag), so as to head out into the lagoon quickly. And so I step out onto the decking at the front of the building, from which you can access the various pools of steaming milk-blue waters. Mounds of lava break up the pool into smaller pools; black rock stained with sulphur and silica white. Boardwalks and arched bridges allow for circumnavigating the entirely man-made lagoon.
Sinking into the water it is immediately warm and relaxing. I swim out across the first pool to the sign warning people not to go into the next pool (due to boiling temperatures). This one I’m in, reaches some 110°F…
I then venture back across to the smaller pools where I smear silica from wooden caskets onto my face—a face back— and then, leaving it for the recommended ten minutes I find a nice shallow beach on which to lay mostly submerged, before washing it off.
Next I try the sauna, then the waterfall, which consists of huge pounding cascades of water that massage my head, shoulders and back.
I’ve noticed meanwhile that many people have cameras, and so I leave the pool briefly to retrieve mine, keeping in my swimming bag covered with my towel, after taking some recording photographs fo this wonderful place. I then give the face pack another go and, whilst waiting till 11 o’clock to remove it, across to the far side of the lagoon again, standing in a plume of steam that issues fourth out of the stony vent and splays out over the blue waters. At the far side of the lagoon I find soft grey mud like that that I remember from the similar pool up near Mývatn. It is here, hands thick with goo, that I am joined by the two girls from the bus, similarly face-packed. They have seen that I am alone here, and kindly offer to take a photograph of me on my camera for me.
We chat for a bit, before heading back to the waterfall at 11 o’clock to wash off the silica face pack. Then, entering the steam cave, hollowed from the lava we sit in the dark on benches and talk about what we have seen. They are envious of my trip round the Vestfjórds, and I am jealous of a horse riding trip they went on in the midnight sun last night at Þingvellir.
We then take photographs, and I take some more, finding a back way of the pool and padding up the steps on the far side to see across the lagoon to the power plant next door which powers all of this.
Just time then, for another dip into the pool before I must drag myself away from blue bliss and shower to catch the bus back to Reykjavik.
The bus stops again at the Iceland Excursions office on the edge of Kringlan, and so I decide that I might as well stop by. What I find is Iceland’s biggest mall—the one they trumpet on the Icelandair documentaries—is that it is just like any other shopping centre. American in style, there is no real grand entrance, but rather the lavish architecture of the mall inside is surrounded, American style, by stark, functional car parking.
I stop at the BÓnus store to buy Kleinur and chocolate raisins for the folk back at work, but other than that I head out to catch the #115 down themain road, jumping off to see the Khavel exhibition at the modern art gallery.
By now it has clouded over althought the temperature remains humid and I think I can feel the odd spot of rain as I make my way further into 101 Reykjavik to see the funny little church with four spire, and deciding that this part of town, with its sprawling concrete houses and the corrugated iron roofs painted in all manner of colours and hidden behind trees and established gardens, on the streets leading of Snorrebraut is where my family live in Blood & Fire.
I make back for Mittbraut and again catch the #115 into Laketurg bus station for a last look round Old Town Reykjavik and a last cup of hot chocolate topped with cream and flakes in my favourite coffee shop, the bar in the basement on the corner of Laugevata and the road to the Luthian cathedral.
Catching the bus back home, the rain really comes on now. ON the bus I encounter some very polite helpful Icelandic kids—everyone, it seems, is nice and friendly in Iceland—well, that is except for the curmudgeonly lady of the postcards at the Culture House. The kids have four bikes with them on the bus (which is allowed on these buses), but when at a couple of stops there are ladies with prams they are straight away helping carry them on board and then ferrying ticket money and tickets up and down the bus.
I get back to Funafold 13 a little after 4 o’clock and pack my bags before sitting down to a last meal of spaghetti bolognaise with Janet and Drífa, and settle down to watch a bit of Popp Tivi whilst writing my journal.
Drífa and I have a play with Níls’ and Kjartan’s walkie-talkies before I head off to bed, to try and catch a decent night’s sleep before my alarm call at 4am…
Day Ten: Leaving Iceland (not for the last time)…