Iceland 2022: day six

Today was a lazy day. I got up at 6.50 the last two days and not a lot later the day before.

The sun was out and the sky was blue! I’ll take it where I can get it but imagine horse & river day in the sun! Imagine seeing the volcano without a heavy mist hanging over it! It was a good thing it was warm, though, because my boots were still soaked although sitting them on the towel rail had made a big difference. I planned to go to the big pool at Laugardalslaug today but that could wait until later. Since it was nice, I was going to Nautholsvik, the geothermal beach.

I got on the wrong bus. It did say the wrong destination on the front but it was from the stand with the right timetable on it. For the first two or three stops I waited for the sharp right turn as it had headed off in what felt like the wrong direction. Yes, wrong bus. I got off at Artun B which is a kind of mini bus hub along Miklabraut, went under the big road to Artun A with the plan to get the 5 if possible but any bus back to Hlemmur would do, really, only for the 5 to arrive at the same moment I did. So off we went, back to Hlemmur and beyond, to the university next to the Domestic airport. That’s the nearest stop for Nautholsvik. The bus only comes this far at weekends, after 6.30pm during the week and on bank holidays. If I’d gone tomorrow I’d have had to walk a huge chunk of the way but it happened to be Easter Monday.

The beach is fairly small and made of imported golden sand. When the tide is in, the lagoon on the beach connects to the fjord and the hot pot on the sand is surrounded by water. Today the tide was low. I think that’s for the best – there’s no freezing fjord water flooding in and diluting the trickle of hot geothermal water. As it was, most of the lagoon was freezing but if you paddled in a straight line from the hot flow the water was pleasantly warm. Pleasantly hot in places. However, it only took literally two steps to go from hot to freezing. There’s a reason most of the sea swimmers are wearing neoprene gloves and boots and the kids are all in full waterproof snowsuit things. And then there’s me in my t-shirt and sandals.

The hot pot on the beach was empty at this time of year but there’s another at the beach club. Well, it’s not a beach club. It’s a building with changing rooms, showers and a steam room with an outdoor hot pot above the beach. That one was packed – far too packed for me to bother paying admission when I was going to a better pool later anyway. I suspect you can use it for free if you change on the beach but there was a freezing breeze, hence the snowsuits, and that didn’t make the pot any less packed. I walked back up to the university and got the bus back.

Having topped up my food supplies again, I had an extended lunch break before getting the bus to Laugardalslaug. Yes, mid-afternoon on a warm sunny bank holiday. Most of Reykjavík had had the same idea and although there are five hotpots here, they were all packed too. I tolerated it and eventually plopped into the 50m outdoor lane pool. Maybe it’s the better weather but it’s warmer than Sundhöllin’s outdoor lane pool.

I swam 32 lengths because that’s 64 lengths of QE and a mile is something like 63.333 QE lengths. Imagine how happy I was to discover that 1600m is only 0.994 miles! Always do one more insurance length just in case!

Anyway, because it’s Iceland and because I’m out of practice in casually swimming a mile, I did ten lengths at a time and then sat in the 40-degree sunken hotpot for a while before going back for the next ten. The sun was low but still up for several hours and I promised that once I’d done my 32 lengths I could swap my goggles for sunglasses and sit in whatever hotpot I wanted.

I’d been there more than four hours by the time I decided I’d better be getting the 7.55 bus. Mostly because I hadn’t actually done my walk and I wouldn’t want to do it much later. I didn’t want to do it then at all. The sun was about to set by the time I was adequately dressed and fed and going out and the breeze was up. I walked along the shore half-frozen and then turned left to downtown Reykjavík and walked back via Laugavegur which runs straight from the heart of the city to Hlemmur, at the bottom of my road. It’s sheltered there and I was positively hot by the time I got back.

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