Iceland 2022: days one and two

Day one

Well, most of it was travelling. I’m reasonably certain I was on the plane with – and sitting next to one of, although she’s still unidentified – the Icelandic woman’s football team. My entertainment system didn’t work. Nothing played, not even the map, although the system itself worked. It’s just whenever I selected anything, it was unavailable. Next door’s was available! She had films! She watched (skipped through) Avatar.

I took the Grayline bus into town. Last time I was here, Grayline and RE both sat right outside the door and tourists poured off in two streams. Now Grayline is relegated to the car park and a coach for ~50 transported 17 of us. We were all for bus stops 13 or 6 – this is the system Reykjavík has invented to keep tourist buses to the large main streets. Every hotel or guesthouse is a max five minus walk from a bus stop and mine is 13. I was half-expecting us to go to the depot and change onto minibuses but we were definitely heading towards downtown and then we were driving up Rauðarárstígur and I knew that’s where my stop was so I gathered all the stuff I’d managed to scatter across three seats in under an hour. My apartment is a two minute walk up a hill and using the door that’s further up the hill. The room is a studio apartment which means fridge and toaster! I have a view of the white back wall of the spectacularly ugly Iceland University of the Arts but if I go to the kitchen I can see the backs of some pretty apartments and a bit of noisy demolition that stopped on the dot of 6pm yesterday and didn’t start up again today.

I did some essentials shopping and then walked the 600m (but felt less) to Sundhöllin. One naked shower later and I was in the baby pool, which is the 39-degree shallow pool where the adults sprawl if they don’t want to sit in the hot pot. I sat in the hot pot too. It’s the same temperature but it’s deeper and you have to sit on the ledge rather than sprawl so it feels hotter. I eventually got in the lane pool and swam ten lengths against a vicious breeze so I decided to warm up in the rooftop hot pots which have always been a bit hot. The stairs are nominally inside but all the doors are open and that was a wind tunnel. The cooler pot is also 39 degrees and that was actually pleasant, except it’s much windier on the roof (it’s not the roof, it’s a balcony halfway up) than in the pools downstairs in the new extension so I gave up and returned to the baby pool.

Today I got the bus to the Sky Lagoon. Take 1 or 4 to Hamraborg and then you can either get the 35 that goes as far as good roads go and walk 15 mins through industrial estates or you can get an earlier bus and walk the entire 2.5km from Hamraborg, which is what I did. It didn’t feel anywhere near the 31 minutes Google Maps said it would be. Reykjavík, on the next peninsula north, looked depressingly close after a bus ride and a longish walk. I guess if you arrive by car, like literally everyone else, it only feels like a few minutes.

It was good! The water ranged from warm to hot, the lagoon is an infinity pool with a couple of sheltered “bays” within the rocky labyrinth it’s set in. I have no idea how much is natural. Was this a lava field they’ve dug out and filled with water or has the rock been brought in and bolted in place to create this cliff play set? Does it matter?

The water is just about deep enough to swim in although no one’s swimming here. It’s all about the views (except today when it was foggy, misty, cloudy and rainy) and the bar and the selfies. I know lots of phones these days are waterproof but it made me very nervous to see so many unprotected phones in the lagoon. Even worse were the definitely-not-waterproof ones in plastic sandwich bags or ziplock bags held carefully out of the water. The bar sells waterproof phone cases! Please invest in one!

I had a glass (plastic cup) of Egil’s Appelsin, an Icelandic version of Fanta that’s just a bit too orange. Then I did my Ritual.

Step one: lagoon. Done. At least an hour and half of lagoon.

Step two: cold plunge. Very cold (but “not as cold as it should be”). I plunged my ankles.

Step three: sauna. Better from the bottom step than the top. The sauna has a huge full-wall window open onto the sea. I’m astonished it doesn’t steam up but my glasses and camera didn’t either. I saw an eider duck bobbing about outside.

Step four: cold rain shower. Not as bad as I thought. You’re in a sort of high-sided open-top room and cold rain sprinkles down. I quite liked it.

Step five: scrub. Body, not face. Salt, eucalyptus and something else. You sit on the logs in the Ritual room to apply it and then…

Step six: steam room. Covered in scrub, you sit in the steam room and let it soak in. It was very steamy.

Step seven: shower off the scrub and return to the lagoon. I wouldn’t call this a “step” myself. Of course you have to wash the stuff off and of course you’re returning to the lagoon. This is admin.

But it was pleasant and my skin felt soft and smooth. I stayed in the lagoon until nearly 3pm when I decided I should face the wind and rain fully dressed and tackle the Maundy Thursday bus timetable and also get some food. I walked back to the main road until I found a bus stop and it turned out the anti-clockwise bus to Hamraborg was coming in one minute so I got on it. It took five minutes. The clockwise bus wasn’t due for twenty minutes and would take seventeen minutes to finish its loop and end up back at Hamraborg. Then back to Reykjavík on the 4 and get some cheese in Krónan. Actually, they didn’t have everything I wanted. Mango juice, check. Cranberry juice, check. Apple juice? Orange juice? Nope. I had to go back to 10-11 to finish up my supplies for the weekend – between Easter opening hours and long day tours, I don’t know when I’ll have another chance to top up.

Now the wind is howling and I might have a shower to wash the lagoon and the pool out of my hair v

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