On Tuesday I woke up a bit later than I would have liked but a but earlier than I needed, with the intention of going swimming. I’ve forgotten how far I got on Monday because it’s now Thursday night and I’ve had no internet for three days, but let’s say I’d arrived at South Rock.
Someone else did indeed walk in off the street and take my spare room – I found myself sharing my house with an American couple who didn’t come in until 10.20pm, so late that I’d concluded they’d just popped in to have a look at the house on their way through town. I’d been up to the pool on Monday night to see if it was open. On weekdays it’s open until 10pm but Monday was a national holiday. I suspected that meant weekend house, ie closing at 6pm, and I was right. So up first thing on Monday to go for a swim, since that was mostly the entire reason I’d gone anticlockwise around the Ringroad instead of clockwise.
I was in that pool a good couple of hours. It was quiet at first but it filled up pretty quickly and soon you couldn’t really get in the 37° hot pot. The 39° one was a bit hot for my taste, for staying in longer than a couple of minutes and the 42° one was so hot that no one was in it. My experience is that the hottest hot pot in a pool is always and exclusively inhabited by men. I have lots of theories as to why this is.
I swam a bit in the actual pool – a little bit chilly if you come straight from the hot pots but ok after that. I went on a couple of the slides, since they weren’t overrun by children. I tried out the steam bath but that gets far too hot far too quickly, so I went back to the beach pool and the steps of the 37° hot pot.
At last I had to get out. I had places to be. First stop, after going through the Hvalfjörd tunnel rather than around the fjord, was Þingvellir which has changed a lot since I first went there only four and a half years ago. The top car park doubles in size every time I go there and is now pay and display. The Silfra car park is now for diving companies only. The bottom car park is for coaches only. The picnic car park is pay and display. The car park where the buses used to pick you up after you’d walked across the rifts is now abandoned. There is a new car park next to the bottom one for cars and if you park ten minutes further down, there’s somewhere you can actually park for free. Downside: it’s over a kilometre up to the viewpoint, which is quite a long way to scurry back if you get caught in the rain. I did, a little bit. I’d walked up to the viewpoint, looked at the view, seen the raincloud coming in and taken shelter in the visitor centre. I sat outside under the shelter of the sticking-out roof and ate an ice cream and once the worst was over, I walked back to the car, a kilometre away.
Next stop: Laugarvatn Fontana, the newest spa – for now. There’s a new one under construction just east of Borgarnes, so that’s on my list for next year. Fontana is just across the mountain from Þingvellir and I’ve only been there in daylight once before. It’s on a few Golden Circle tours but they squish it into an already overcrowded day, which doesn’t give you a lot of time there. I’ve been there a couple of times on Northern Lights tours and that’s very nice. However, you can’t see across the lake and the mountains in the dark and it’s a very pleasant view. Fontana has three shallow pools of varying temperatures, a miniature swimming pool, steam baths built directly over the hot springs on the lakeside and you can also borrow a pair of neoprene shoes and go out into the lake, dodging the hot water vents, where the earth squirts boiling water in the lake, while also trying not to freeze in the bits where it’s “lake in Iceland” temperature. I found it a bit chilly for my taste.
At last I had to leave. I was planning to camp but at 9pm, I still had to make the decision where. Laugarvatn’s campsite is uninspiring. Go up to Geysir? Down to Selfoss? I consulted a little brochure of accommodation & things to do. Selfoss’s campsite looked very nice, so I stocked up on drinks and chocolate and headed south.
The campsite is very nice but the ground was unaccountably wet. Also, you get a random discount if you can provide the receptionist with coins. I scattered a handful of brass and silver on the desk, trying to work out if it was enough – it wasn’t – but he collected up some of it, saying “it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s good, I’ve got coins” and off I went with a sticker for my tent, which I put up in the tent field next to the main road. No, not the main road. The Ringroad runs straight through Selfoss but this was sort of the main road set back from the Ringroad, running parallel to it. I put up my washing line so my swimming stuff could dry overnight and settled down in my little tent.