Iceland in Pictures: Days 3-4

Saturday was pretty awesome. The Icelandic word for Saturday, Lagurdagur, literally translates as “pool day.” Icelanders take their pools very seriously. Our plans for Saturday involved going to the giant flea market, taking the ferry to Viðey island, and then wasting the afternoon in the giant pool with the disco slide. We got up and out too early for the flea market, so we killed some time by chilling at Reykjavik harbour.


Boats in Reykjavik harbor

The flea market opened at 10am, a highly reasonable hour. Reykjavik seems to operate at reasonable hours in general. Early birds are probably frustrated with things not opening until mid-morning, but I am all for getting to sleep in without missing much. And when people say the Kolaportið flea market is big, they are not kidding.


Kolaprtið

It was chilly and raining which made the prospect of taking a ferry out to an island with minimal shelter unappetizing, so we rearranged our plans and went straight to the pool. This pool had two different hot tubs, one a shallow, concave disc you could stretch all the way out in without getting your face in the water. The other was a cool sculpted pool with steps and a few jets. The part of this pool worth bragging about, though, was the slide. I have clearly been jonesing for a trill ride, because the slide nearly blew my mind. It was about two stories high and twisted enough that it took about 25-30 seconds for an average ride down it. I got good enough at going down that I could do it in twenty. This is not recommended since the pool is shallow enough for children. This means that going down it at super-high speed results in getting flipped around at the dismount, crashing face-first into the bottom, and bumping your hip against the bottom of the pool. And if you’re as dumb as me, doing it again, faster, and banging the hell out of your knee. Fortunately there was a hot tub right there so no lasting damage. I was approximately equivalent to ten years old the entire time I was in that pool and it was awesome. I have no pictures from the pool. Something about taking pictures of half naked strangers being creepy. Go figure.

We missed the last ferry to Viðey, but I got some marvellous pictures of the the island anyway.


Viðey Island from Reykjavik

The sun came out while we were at the pool and the day became obscenely gorgeous. I had a small meltdown and took approximately a bajillion photos of how gorgeous everything was. A sampling, to show you what I mean:


Check out the cloud shadows


Viðey again, different angle


Oh look, a rainbow!

Sunday was…special. That was the day we book the Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle tours. The Blue Lagoon is exactly what it sounds like. The plant out in the boonies of Reykjanes peninsula meant to send water from the aquifer to Reykjavik had too much water, so they send it out to the dried lava field. The plan was that the water would be reabsorbed and they could get out again later when they needed it. It was a lovely plan that did not at all work. Instead the water sat on top of the hardened lava and they wound up with a giant pool of murky blue water. Actually blue, not light-effect blue. It’s almost iridescent. The story goes on that the power plant workers, being practical Icelanders, started hanging out in this pool because, hey, hot water pools were made for soaking in. This is when they discover nifty skin soothing properties. Acts of science were committed upon the water to verify the skin curing claims, and now Icelandic citizens can get a prescription to the blue lagoon to cure their psoriasis, and tourists can pay 42 Euros for an entrance to it. Everything is outdoors in the lava field (there was some man-made interference involved to make it more spa-like, but they did not overdo it) so you soak in glowing blue water while jagged black pumice stone rises up around you. There’s a waterfall that beats the pants off any jacuzzi jets I have ever encountered. This is absolutely worth taking a whole day to spend on.

We were there for just over an hour. It was 32ºF and sleeting. The wind blew so hard we had bona fide wave action in our mostly man-made pool. Take a moment with me now and picture a group of tourists, mud masks on their faces, relaxing peacefully while waves crash around them and the sky hurls little pellets of ice at them. Now think about this: nobody gave up and went back inside. That’s how neat the Blue Lagoon is.

(No pictures. Between terse policies about cameras near locker rooms and the ice, I decided the camera was safer on the bus. The promotional photos are actually a fair representation, though)

The sleet switched to driving rain for most of the rest of the afternoon. We were not deterred. It was raining too hard for me to get pictures of the rift valley where the Alþingi met. Take my word on it being lovely. I did get pictures of mighty Gulfoss. This is a truly spectacular waterfall, complete with a cute story about how back in the day, the guy who owned it was going to sell it to a power company. Said guy was a touch dull and let his daughter take care of his finances. The daughter was horrified by the thought of trashing the lovely waterfall with a power plant and went about figuring out how to thwart her tacky father. So she does some research, discovers that the deal he made with the power company falls through if they miss their payments on the land, and she stops mailing in the checks. (This is a somewhat anachronistic rendering of the story. Go take the tour if you want the straight dope). All of a sudden the land isn’t sellable any more, and the deal falls through. She later rigs it to get the waterfall donated to the people of Iceland so that no future tacky persons could slap a turbine on it. Go her.


Gulfhoss in the poring rain

After Gulfhoss the Golden Circle tour took us to check out Geysir. That’d be the eponymous geyser. The last slew of tectonic activity has rendered him somewhat more akin to a geezer in his activity, but his next door neighbour Stokker was more than willing to perform regularly and with vigour.


Stokker in early eruption phase


Stokker in all his glory


The reason people say Iceland looks like Mars

If you climb the hill behind the geysers right in that area there’s a lot of very neat rock piles. I have no idea what they are or why they were there, but there were tons of them. It was one of those little landscaping details all of the place that keeps you from being able to scoff when the natives talk about hidden people. I suspect I’d have to convert to the faithful if I lived there full-time, too.


Piles of rocks climbing the hill


Flowers by alien sculpture

It stopped raining that night and the view from our hotel balcony at sunset was stunning.


Post-sleet evening

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