Saturday 6th: Reykjanes & swimming

Saturday was the closest thing I’ve had to a day off this week. Since Hveragerði is practically the gateway to the Reykjanes peninsula, I went and had a drive around there in the morning. It’s definitely the quietest place I’ve been in for a week – tourists aren’t interested, Reykjanes is just something to cross to get to Reykjavik but it’s actually very interesting if you’re interested in lava fields and ashy volcanoes. They always say Reykjanes “looks like the surface of the moon”. It doesn’t. I don’t know what the surface of the moon looks like but I imagine it’s a lot less mossy and probably a bit less knobbly – the moon rover couldn’t have driven over the lava field. The astronauts couldn’t have walked over it. You hear a lot about the Eldraun and the Odaðahraun but there’s a perfectly good ʻaʻā lava field right here on Reykjanes. There’s a newish road along the south coast and that takes you straight through the middle of the lava, with the Atlantic a lovely navy blue to your left, cone-shaped mountains to your right and Eyjafjallajökull hazy in the distance behind you. This road goes straight west until it reaches a certain mountain. It’s a lovely mountain but it’s absolutely impossible to put a road on its south side. It looks pretty impossible to put so much as a goat track along its south side so the road takes a sudden turn northward and winds its way uphill to get around this mountain, lifting you up to see the range from the middle rather than from below.

Other than volcanic scenery, there’s very little until you reach Grindavík and from there you can take the lesser-travelled south road to the Blue Lagoon. Which is now operating a pre-booking only policy. They’ve been talking about it for years but they’ve never actually enforced it until now because there are too many tourists. If I can’t walk up to the Blue Lagoon and go straight in, there are too many tourists. I could go into the building, have a look around and use their free wifi. They’re fully booked up until 10pm and although I didn’t investigate further, I bet you now have a getting-out time, which you never had before. They’ve expanded the lagoon since I was last there – unfortunately, all you can see from the building is a bridge where there was no bridge before so I know that some of the extension is beyond that. I can also see that there are at least two new swim-up bars. From what it says on the website, I think they might be facemask bars rather than drink bars. I think they’ve taken away the boxes of white silica that you can help yourself to and I think they’ve replaced that with the option to buy a glob of white silica. But I can’t find that out for sure until I go in there, which isn’t going to be until at least my next trip over. They’re also building a new luxury hotel. The Blue Lagoon already has a hotel but it’s attached to the skin clinic. This looks like an absolutely separate Blue Lagoon Hotel. Go to Mývatn Nature Baths. They haven’t got big enough for any of this yet.

I came back to Hveragerði, had lunch in my apartment – I have not come home during the day at all during this trip – mostly I haven’t had a home to come back to during the day, and then went looking for the pool. My guidebook mentions Hveragerði’s “excellent” pool but could I find it? It wasn’t at the sports centre in town, which may or may not be part of the school. It wasn’t at the sports centre above town. There was a pool at the hospital/health centre but that didn’t appear to be open to the general public and it certainly didn’t look like the photos. I’d already stopped at the tourist office to consult a map and now, getting angry, I came home and googled it. It’s just up the hill from the town sports centre. There is a small car park but mostly people were just parking on the road and then I couldn’t figure out how to get in. And then there were no lockers, so I had to use one of the little postbox lockers upstairs for my wallet & car keys and just leave everything else on a bench in the changing room.

But it’s a good pool. 50m lukewarm pool – it takes a moment to get in but then it feels nice and cool. There’s a deepish hot pot at 39°-41° which is a bit too hot to stay in long or to get in too deep and there’s a shallow hot pot at 37°-39° which is quite pleasant but has too many people and too many children who are not being taught not to climb on or kick strangers. There are a lot of pool toys – small floating things in the coolest hot pot right up to massive float structures in the swimming pool. I got hold of a sort of car thing so solid it could take my weight – if only I could balance it properly. I climbed out of the pool with it, put it down by the edge and scrambled on and stayed upright for all of a second and a half before it rolled over, throwing me into the water. There was also an even bigger, even sturdier Flintstones car-type thing. I managed to sit on the back axle and paddle it around a bit but it rolls like a barrel and eventually I slid into the water again. Icelandic pools are often a good excuse to be ridiculous with pool toys.

And that was about it for the day. I came home and got in the bath, because I hadn’t had enough hot geothermal water for the day.

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