Bathing in Sulphorous Waters

An Icelandic Saga Part Two: Chapter Three

Day 5. 10 August 2002

Saturday. Our third work day and we are back on site finishing off the path to the car park. But before we can startcomes the now ritual humiliation that is the group warm up and exercising regime. Even funnier today was that whilst we stretched and balanced and danced about in the car park amongst black sand and basalt rocks, a coach load of tourists arrived – observed us, too a few photographs with perplexed expressions on their faces adn marched off to gaze upon Dettifoss. The bus driver remained, and after refusing our kind offer to join us, went about checking the oil and cleaning the windows and hubcaps of his coach, trying deparately to pretend we aren’t there.

Putting on a concerted effort to reach the car park, we were more deserning bout which rocks we should spend time removing, and which to leave for the now mythical machine (that no one has seen but all have heard spoken of reverently). Woking along the flat path affords me the opportunity to intersperse heavy bar work with sitting or lounging on the ground working out smaller rocks with my fingers

We succeed in our aim, and finish back to the car park early – heading past the campsite at Vesturdalur to enjoy an hours evening soak in the heated outdoor pool and hot tub, situated across the road from a neighbouring school, ten kilometres or so further on round the main road.

This particularly fortuitous for myself and my cooking team of Larry, Jenny, Alex and Meriel, as it is today that we are on cooking duty, and for the third night in a row since arriving in Jókulsargljufur I am able to shower and be clean.

bv5187.f1We arrive back at camp around 8pm and set to work producing in just half an hour, a kind of risotto with smoked haddock cooked in a cream sauce with a side salad of feta cheese and tomatoes, and slices of dark soda bread. We follow this meal with a walk up along the canyon walls to view more trolls standing (now in stone) at the entrance to their former home. Returning from the walk at 11pm, I stay late in the mess tent working by both torch and candlelight to write postcards ready to post tomorrow. I finally retire to bed at midnight.

Day 6. 11 August 2002

Sunday. Despite being our rest day we are up and breakfasted and ready with our lunches my the mafia van at the normal time. The dissernable difference is that today we are cleaner in our dress, we have our best waterproofs and an absense of work gloves. Otherwise by 9am it is business as usual. We leave Vesturdalur by the north road to Ásbyrgi and, after a quick stop for provisions at the local (filling station), we are heading back along the road to Husavik with entertainment being provided by jokes and logic games.


An hour or so later we are pullng over the brow of a hill to be greeted by Lake Myvatn spread out in front of us. We are reliably informed by Larry, the forty-three(that’s what he told us???) year old retired software developer from the US – who spent the week previous to this holiday with the BTCV in this area – that the midges, after whom the lake is named, are dwindled in number this year.


We drive on through Rekjahlid, the main town on the shores of this lake, and, heading out the otherside pass the power plant at Kisilverksmidja, in which waste water will bathe later and head over the hill to NÁmaskarđ where we wander amongst bubbling hot springs and sulphorous pools. Retreating away from the virulent sulphur smell we stop at a picnic spot overlooking the lake to enjoy our lunch.


In the afternoon we scale the sides fo an ash crater to see fine views and fine grafiti etched into the black sand bottom of the crater floor, before heading back through the remains of a lava lake in which Larry had worked. On our way to bathe in the free version of the famous Blue Lagoon we hear that the one o’clock sailing for whale watching had been cancelled due to bad weather, and we trepidaciously cross a Danger! Bathing in these waters is done so at your own risk! to swim, with the knowledge that seeing whales might be cancelled. In the event, it is, and, after washing ourselves in sulphorous mud we leap back in the van in our swimming cozzies with towels wrapped around us and drive two minutes even further off the tourist trail to enjoy a steam bath in what can only be described as an air-raid shelter built over a natural hot vent in the rock.


With whale watching postponed due to poor weather at sea (strange, as it’s been absolutely beautiful on land!), we meander slowly back around the shores of Lake Myvatn, taking in some pseudo-craters and a spot of bird watching – Goldeneye and Harlequin ducks confirmed as sighted by Rosemary and Theresa, to Husavik. After a potter around town and a beer in a local bar we take our reservations for dinner. In enjoy a meal of smoked puffin, pan fried cod and a nut bar to follow for 3200 Kroner.

Chapter Four: Waiting for the ‘mythical machine’, hot dogs at Hólmatungar, and the birth of the rapid reaction force…