Iceland 2017: Sept 26

Tuesday’s blog starts Monday night, in a campervan, listening to the wind wailing. I’ve stayed on this campsite before: in the height of summer, there seems to be no one running it – I never found anyone to pay. There only appear to be two or three other vans here tonight. I would rather be at Þingvellir or Selfoss with their non-freaky campsites but I’ve been to Fontana & it’s gone 10pm and I don’t fancy a drive tonight.

I made a friend in the hot tub – Kathleen, from St Petersburg, Florida. She’s here on her own, driving around, making it up as she goes along. Next she’s off to Finnish Lapland.

At Geysir today – yesterday? – we all learnt why we don’t stand downwind of an erupting geyser. Because the wind will blow a very heavy shower of near-boiling rain straight at you! That said, the people who got soaked found it hilarious. And so did everyone watching.

My campervan is just a mattress in the back of a Davis Docker (d-something; I’m not going out to look now). There’s a sort of wooden cupboard arrangement above it which is very handy but reduces getting into sleeping bag wiggle room down to zero. Gets you warm, struggling to get into bed. To lie there at 10.30, not sleepy yet, listening to the wind wailing.

I woke up to find the campsite at Laugarvatn less weird than I had in the dark last night. It was a campsite. Toilet block with showers, washing up sinks, bins, children’s playground, hot water throughout – as you’d expect from a place whose hot springs literally appear in the stories of the Settlement of the country. These hot springs were where the ever-practical Vikings decided to be baptised, following conversion at Þingvellir in the summer of 1000AS. The water is cold at Þingvellir. I know, I’ve paddled in it. The only thing that’s weird about Laugarvatn’s campsite is that it’s unstaffed apparently all year round so there’s no one to pay and no notice up telling you to pay at a nearby amenity.

I made Þingvellir, just half an hour away across a high, desolate heath road, my first stop. It’s not at its most charming in the mist, cloud & rain. They’re now introduced parking charges – 500kr for a day, valid in all the assorted car parks. It’s an entrance fee, really. Even in the less than six years since I fist went there, it’s changed a lot. More car parks, more toilets, more facilities, more foothpaths. A lot more toilets.

After I’d wandered Þingvellir and made my first visit to Öxarárfoss, I went to Borgarnes via the WHale Ford. Partly because I didn’t want, at this early stage, to hand over 1000kr to use the tunnel but mostly because it was too early to go straight to Borgarnes. It’s a long way round the whole Whale Fjord. I stopped on the south shore and climbed into the back for lunch before driving on.

I was in the pool at Borgarnes by 3.30. For five minutes I had it all to myself, then other people arrived. I made a quick trip into the lane pool but although it’s geothermally heated, it’s not all that warm so mostly I just drited in the 37° hotpot. The 39° pot is ok but the 41° is far too hot.

I got out. I went to the campsite at the top of the fjord and got settled in. It was a bit early so I thought I’d have something to eat. First I had to wash my plate and knife from lunch. No washing up place. Toilets and showers locked. I rained fury and rage down on Borgarnes, my favourite place in the whole country and consulted my Guide to West Iceland. Unless I wanted to go back to Akranes, on the other side of the Whale Fjord, there was only one campsite likely to be open within two hours, near Reykholt, a place I know because it’s Snorri’ Sturlusson’s home. The campsite is actually in the next hamlet to Reykholt, attached to a little country café/bar/restaurant – which I’m also familiar with. I paid, was given my sticker and invited to “stay as long as you like”.

Instantly I revised my woolly plans. This was an interesting part of the countryside. Deildartunguhver, the biggest hot spring in Europe, was just across the fields, the steam literally visible from the campsite. Reykholt was two miles away, two spectacular waterfalls half an hour away. That was Wednesday’s itinerary then.

I walked down the road to take photos of the scenery, since it had now stopped raining. I made friends with three dogs, who followed me along the road and refused to go home. When I got back, I finally washed my plate and knife and had a chat with another visitor at the campsite. He was also washing up and while we discussed the insane price he’d paid for his Range Rover 4×4 converted campervan, he was holding a knife with a blade a foot long. We have a very similar knife at work; I know it’s nowhere near as sharp or dangerous as it looked. And besides, I had a knife in my hand too. The blade is hardly longer than my longest finger but it’s frighteningly sharp so overall, I seemed to be at the advantage if he decided to stop chatting and start attacking. Which he didn’t, and which I didn’t think he would anyway.

I got into bed at ten to eight and put down my book to have what turned out to be an extended nap at nine. There’s not a lot else to do in a dark campervan in the middle of the countryside in the rain.

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