Thursday, July 14, 2011

Reykjavik and the Golden Circle

Thanks to an abundance of geothermal heat, swimming is a national institution in Iceland, and nearly every town has at least one sundlaug (heated swimming pool).  In our first five days in Iceland we went swimming outside almost every day and ate a total of seven ice cream cones per person.  We never achieved this quantity of swimming and ice cream eating in our time in the warmth of the Caribbean. The weather was very sunny and relatively warm (between 8-15 Celsius) and the hot pots (thermal pools) were delicious.  After 9,5 days at seas we felt in need of a little pampering and touristing so we rented a car and headed out on the Golden Circle to see the major sights in the area.  The countryside is stunning with huge rocky cliffs and bright green hills leading down to shining lakes and fjords.  The South coast was bleak with black evil lava rocks lumped across the landscape giving the place a mysterious and wonderful feel.  You can easily see why stories of trolls and fairies and other wonderful creatures abound in this landscape.  The countryside is relatively untouched and there are few houses (over 35% of the 320,000 Icelandic people live in Reykjavik) but the tourist hot spots are crowded.   

Our first stop was Geysir, location of the mother of all geysers after whom all other geysers in the world are named.  Geysir used to shoot up 100 metres but over the years visitors have thrown stones into it and now it only spouts a few metres high.  Sometimes people do things that aren’t very clever.  Just next to Geysir, however, is Strokkur and this one shoots an impressive 25-35 feet of water and steam every 8-10 minutes.  It was hard to drag the monkeys away.  They would wait eagerly and then throw their hands in the air with a big ‘whooaaaa!’ whenever she blew.

The Blue Lagoon is a field of milky blue water glowing and steaming in the middle of a black lava field, impressive.  The spa area consists of a huge rocky pool heated to 38 Celsius by the Svartsengi geothermal plant. Our hotel was locate 600 m from the lagoon and the path us led through an eerily beautiful lava field.  Each day the walk would take a little longer as Emma and Macsen honed their troll and fairy hunting skills.  There were hundreds of exciting little nooks and crannies in the moss covered lava that they peered into each one hoping to make friends with the little folk inhabiting them.  We spent hours floating around the pool, eating ice cream in the water (nothing is closer to heaven for a 3 and 5 year old) and smearing the silicon mud on our faces.  Seb and I both tried a floating massage and had our tense passage-weary muscles rubbed while floating around outside in the huge warm milky bath.  After two days we headed back to the Pjotter glowing warm, relaxed and with skin as soft as a baby’s bottom.  

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