Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The land of ice and fire - Part 2

Saturday 21 March 2015
Originally, this morning I was going to join Cindy and Mary for a peek at the museums in Reykjavik but instead decided to have a gentle wander of the town before our afternoon activities. I have developed a little bit of museum fatigue here in London, although to be fair there was one museum in Reykjavik that piqued my interest but I didn't manage to make it there - the Penis Museum. That's on the bucket list for next time.

*winky face*

Instead, I wandered down to the waterfront and marvelled at the backdrop the residents of Reykjavik were privy to each and every morning. Juxtapositioned against the modern and not so modern buildings was aqua blue water and looming whitecapped mountains, often half submerged in cloud. I delighted in peeking down the side streets to see this sight; the buildings with the mountains behind. Along the foreshore, I found some interesting sculptures and leisurely walked in the grey morning light.

I found my way to a little coffee shop - have I mentioned yet that Iceland makes a good coffee? - and settled down with a bit of free wifi to broadcast my love of this country. (And shh…I know, you know, we all know that I don’t actually drink coffee…). As I began the journey back to our apartment, the sun began peeking through the clouds and it turned into an absolutely astoundingly glorious afternoon.

It was 3C outside but inside the apartment I was donning my bathers. This afternoon we were going to be dipping our toes (and the rest of us!) into the balmy hot waters of the Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa with an average temperature of 37-39C and a strikingly blue appearance caused by the rich deposits of silica in the water. As the day had become beautifully sunny, I knew we were in for a treat.

The bus ride was reasonably short, and this time instead of icy fields we passed mossy lava fields, with dangerously jagged and deadly looking rocks. Once arriving, we discovered that finding a locker was a small task. Once nabbed, we made our way to the water, towels wrapped tight. It was time to brave the outside temperature. Stepping through the sliding doors, we were blasted by icy air and confronted by the sky blue water. My toes were so cold that they stung with pins and needles when they hit the hot water. I immediately submerged myself surrounded by a chorus of "This is beautiful!"

What colour, much backdrop!

After enjoying the warm water for a short while, our next port of call was to rub the rich mineral mud onto our faces and skin - the minerals have healing properties. We began the slow wade to the mineral deposit area and the water shallowed, the ground becaming uneven. I stood up to walk in the shallow water. Two steps later and SPLASH! I fell in a giant hole, disappearing under the water and emerging to hear the surprised snorts of laughter not only from my group but also surrounding strangers.

Typical Sasha, always falling into holes.

Still laughing, I decided it was probably best to wade and not trust the pocked ground on the bottom of the lagoon. At the mineral station, the group waited their turn to ladle the off-white minerals into their hands. Meanwhile, my little hands and wrists were small enough to fit through the slats, and so I grabbed myself a large and squelchy handful. 

I slapped it onto my face. Smeared it around. Slapped some more on. I covered my whole face, my neck and my shoulders with the mud. "Have I spread it evenly?" I asked, and found I'd missed a little spot at my temple. We all inspected each others mud faces and giggled at how absurd we looked. The mud soon became caked on and hard. One should leave the mud on for at least 10 - 15 minutes for it to work, and so we chatted and splashed (and took selfies) in the warm water.

New Facebook profile pic, me thinks.

Mary and I wanted to see what else was around the Lagoon. We wandered over closer to the mountains and realised that we had been sitting in a relatively "cold" patch. The water here bordered on unbearable at times. It flowed in patches and often the surface was much hotter than below. We floated on our backs, finally giving up on keeping our hair dry. I found a little spot on the edge and sat, moving in and out of the water as it became unbearably hot and then eased…to become unbearably hot again. It was truly divine. I could feel my muscles relaxing.

"Why don't we grab a drink?" one of the troupe asked. What? We..what? One of the gentlemen pointed out the swim up bar. I just about died and thought I was in Heaven. Departing from our  boiling position, we swished over to the bar. They had quite an extensive range of wines, beer and Krapp, which turned out to be a slushy. Mary opted for the Blue Krapp, while I went for a nice glass of bubbles.

Complete. A surprisingly nice glass of bubbly, lounging around in brilliant blue, steaming hot water - what could be better?

Bubbles and blue

We stayed in the water for hours. A small rain storm passed overhead, only lasting a few minutes, and left a beautiful fully formed rainbow in its wake. We grabbed our maximum 3 alcoholic beverages (I for one could feel them at work) and explored further around the lagoon. Any adventure to the toilet was an extremely cold affair, and resulted in convulsing shivers as one would splash unceremoniously back into the hot water. We found a manmade waterfall that served to massage your back with its heavy fall, and a little cave at the exact moment another little splatter shower passed overhead. 

After about 4 hours in the gorgeous bath our hands and feet were wrinkly, we were a little tipsy, and we decided to call it a day. 

On the way back to the apartment, I realised the grave error I had made. I had forgotten to put the conditioner in my hair and it was beginning to turn into straw. I was too terrified to take out my hair tie (if I could get it out past the tangles), so I figured I'd deal with the crows nest on top of my head later and enjoy the rest of the day.

Arriving at the apartment, we checked out email. Groans of disappointment abounded - our Northern Lights tour had been cancelled tonight as well. 

"But it's a beautiful day!" we said.
"The sky is clear!" we said.
"Do you think if we ask they'll let us go anyway?" we said.

However, we finally conceded that they probably did know what they were talking about and sure enough as the night continued the sky turned grey with cloud cover. Disappointing. But at least our tour will still be valid for a year.

By now, it was time for food. We split up again; this time Mary, Yelda and myself went in search of fish on the Reykjavik foreshore. We passed many places that were ludicrously expensive, or not quite up to standard and it felt like we walked for an age. Finally, we rounded a corner and saw a strange little shanty shack. Peeking in, we saw upturned containers for chairs and uneven wooden bench tables. A look over a gentleman's shoulder showed us a delicious looking lobster soup with soft, crusty bread.


This was starter. I snagged a table while the others stood in line - excellent timing as at that moment the queue grew exponentially. We must be in a good place, we decided.

Soon enough, the lobster soups and soft white crusty bread and butter was delivered to our table. We hoed in and were delighted with our find. The place looked dingy, run down but with a lot of character; it was not fine dining.

Simple and delicious, lobster soup from Sægreifinn.

"Reckon they store the fish in the barrels we're sitting on," we concluded. It was a little fisherman's shanty hut, and it was fantastic.

Next stop: more Icelandic fish for mains. 

We returned to a restaurant we had passed earlier and the three of us were placed on a 10 person table. We crowded into the corner. Here, we ordered more fish (to share this time, as I know I was completely satiated from the amazing lobster soup and bread) and soon it was time to make our way back to the apartment. On the way, we spotted more of our troupe in another restaurant and banging on the window, made our presence known.

It had been a lovely day, despite our sadness at missing the dancing sky.

Sunday 22 March 2015
Our final morning in Reykjavik was uneventful. The weather, however, did not disappoint in its chameleonic ability to change instantly. I looked out the window of our apartment to see blue sky. I grabbed and donned my coat, and walked down the two flights of stairs to open the front door.


I kid you not. I stood there, baffled. One and a half minutes prior it was blue sky. 

So, for those who haven't ventured outside yet, it's kind of snowing. 
I messaged back up to the room. That was a bit of a surprise.

I gently wandered the town, found some food and coffee, and prepared to be picked up to be taken back to the airport. I should mention that the morning was uneventful for me. Cindy and Russell were not picked up by their coach and ended up having to beg their way through security and leg it toward the gates.

A sleepy, exhausted flight back and I said good bye to Iceland - but not forever.

I cannot begin to describe the breathtaking beauty of Iceland's landscape. Yes, I was bitterly disappointed not to see the Northern Lights, but I was privy to an almost total solar eclipse with the alien Icelandic landscape its backdrop. There is so much to do and see on this island and it has not seen the last of me. 

I wish to return, hopefully see the Northern Lights, but also to climb glaciers and see whales and visit puffins and stand on the edge of a live volcano and ride Icelandic horses to remote areas inaccessible by vehicles.

My photos do not do you justice, Iceland. You brought tears to my eyes and beauty to my heart.


The amazing Blue Lagoon.


So long Iceland, we will meet again.