Iceland 2022: day three

Volcano day! I walked down to BSI, Reykjavík’s main bus station if the bus in question belongs to Reykjavík Excursions, sat outside on a concrete bench and waited, as I’d given myself over an hour to walk 2km. I wonder why I didn’t opt for the customary pickup. Maybe I booked this as soon as possible, before I’d settled on accommodation and so didn’t know where my pickup would be?

There were more of us on this volcano hike/visit to the geothermal wonders of Reykjanes than I’d expected, given that the weather is pretty horrible (April & May are spring in Iceland, which means winter) and the eruption stopped six months ago. A full size coachload (well, 43 seats as best I could tell) with only one pair empty and the odd one here and there where solo travellers haven’t had to pair up.

We drove 45 minutes to Grindavík to borrow their campsite’s toilet facilities since there are none at the volcano and the usual stop is closed for Good Friday. Then onward to the volcano!

The group was too big to hike together and I’d managed to lose Halldor, our guide, by the time I’d got off the bus. Fine. Follow the track up onto the ridge in front of us and the lava is on the other side.

Oh yes, it is. A valley filled with black lava, steaming and smoking in a thousand places, all of it rippling in a violent wind that made hot but solid rock look like the sea. It was incredible. We had two hours to explore. Climbing the mountain to see the original crater from the top was an option was it was cloudy and a long way up and I decided I’d rather see the lava up close. We were told not to walk on and especially not where it’s steaming because it’s still hot and there might be thin patches of crust which can break and drop you, or at least your feet, into the molten rock underneath but tourists will tourist because they’re stupid and there were plenty of them just marching out across the steaming lava. I stood on a nice cool solid-looking edge for a photo and felt guilty enough about that.

Two hours was plenty. I could have spent longer looking at this amazing thing but it was so windy. So so windy. I walked back down from the ridge leaning forwards which isn’t a thing you do when walking downhill in normal weather.

Two of the group were late so most people had eaten most of their lunch by the time we departed. First to Grindavík again for a lunch break at Cafe Bryggjan where almost everyone disembarked despite me watching them eating their lunches twenty minutes earlier.

Message from the Dark Side there is! said Yoda’s voice suddenly into the silence as we waited for the last few cafe-goers to return and the entire front half of the bus burst out laughing.

Next we had to experience the wonders of Reykjanes, which I’ve seen before in equally revolting weather. I was expecting to go straight from the volcano to the Blue Lagoon so I had no enthusiasm for this waste of three and a half hours anyway but on and off the bus every fifteen minutes in howling wind and rain to look at something grey when the entire world was grey… well, it was eating into my Blue Lagoon time.

We visited a bit of cliff with a blowhole (actually just curved concave cliffs that throw violent waves upwards. Ok, that was quite fun when one of the waves splattered the viewpoint), Gunnuhver (hot spring area consisting of one massive steam vent and lots of hot reddish mud, plus the remains of the old boardwalk twisted and broken under the steam vent – a ghost did it), the bird cliffs at the tip of Reykjanes (more black gravel car park and violent waves than birds) and the Bridge Between the Continents (bridge, yes. Between the continents, no. Between two low cliffs over a sandy hollow that you can walk down to from both sides in ten steps and a hop if you’re feeling adventurous).

And at last, at nearly 5pm, we made it to the Blue Lagoon. I thought this was a combined volcano & Blue Lagoon tour but somehow 25 of the ~30 of us were just doing the volcano. So Halldor dropped the five of us in the car park and everyone else went home v

A few small changes since I was last there. Now they don’t give you towels at reception – there’s a man with a little booth just inside the lagoon door who gives you a towel when you’re ready to return to the changing rooms. The face masks are now ladled out by a person in a little box instead of kept in a plastic tub under a grating for you to scoop up with a long spoon. And the in-water bar has moved. The new corner was open last time I was here.

Oh, and you check out at the self-service machine. Scan your bracelet, pay off anything you spent in the water and then use it to open the exit gates, which swallows the bracelet as it opens.

Anyway. The wind howled. It was cold enough for huge clouds of steam to come off the lagoon which the wind then whipped up into a low dense mist. I went out with my glasses on but they were permanently steamed up and I got fed up with having to push them down my nose and look over them, leaving me half-blind in an unusual horizontal way. I got a towel and returned them to my locker (you’re not allowed in the changing areas while wet).

Anything out of the water froze while the water itself ranged from scalding hot in one place via pleasantly hot to pleasantly warm to “how is there cold water swirling around here???”. I went in the steam bath and my nose began to throb in an alarming way. Was it about to fall off? Did it have frostbite? I’d worn my mask outside for the last couple of stops just to keep my face warm; my nose shouldn’t be so frozen but I guess it had been out in the fresh air for quite a while as I bobbed around the warm lagoon.

I got the last bus home, far too early. 8.15. That only gave me about two and a half hours and for all I’d decided the Sky Lagoon is better and I like it more, it felt too soon to be getting out. I’d managed my free (it’s not technically free, it’s prepaid) drink of blue ice and my face mask and already it was time to go.

I got the bus. The driver said he wasn’t stopping at bus stop 13, which is my local, but could give me bus stop 10, “which is the same place”. It turned out to be Hlemmur, right opposite the supermarket. 10 and 13 are therefore so close that I wonder why they bothered creating two of them. Anyway. Home, food, unpacking, charging and bed. Pickup tomorrow is 8am but at least it’s at my own door

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