New country is last country

New country is last country
Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Lots of people bathing in the Blue Lagoon. Mountains behind.
Busy blue lagoon.

And with that, I was back in Europe. ‘That’ being a simple 5 hour flight from Toronto, off at 9 in the evening, landing in Reykjavik’s (‘Smoky bay’-geothermal energy) cloudy early morning skies at 6 the next morning. It looked like a long flight from the times, but there’s nearly as much time difference as flight time in there.

The bus ride from the airport is in itself scenic, let alone any tours you book. It is mostly coastal, with a stark landscape between road and sea. It included a billboard with “Nei takk!” My Icelandic is non existent, but that imprecations on a billboard, with an EU flag liked to the Icelandic one is simple enough to understand. Once we reached the city we were separated onto smaller shuttle buses, mine driven by a local hewn from granite just that morning. In before 9, time to chill out before my Blue Lagoon trip at 11, pick up half an hour before.

“Oooooh” said the lady on reception. “Ooooh, they haff bin to pick you up”. A phone call later and it turned out my 11.00 lagoon trip was a 9.00 one. I made it, but it meant my journey was bus, change to shuttle, drop bags, back on a different shuttle to the bus stop, another bus. We were at the lagoon and queuing before they opened at 10. I’ve no idea what happened there, but it meant I could pay my 35 Euros – maybe the 25th person to do that – change, work out the locker, coded to the chip in the wristband they’d given me, shower, get downstairs, and be in the lagoon – the 6th person to do that. Seriously, what do people do with their time?

Me, with the lagoon behind
Me, post lagoon.

It felt like a privilege, though, with hindsight-by the time an English school party had drawn attention to themselves by noisily pointing out that standing outside was cold, and then that getting in the water was warm, all flat vowels and self consciousness, it was pretty busy. There was another big group arriving as I left, too. Room for them all, but nice to see it empty. The lifeguard patrols in high vis and fully clothed-I reasoned it out. It was 2 degrees outside early on, so he needed clothes or to get in, but once in he would shrivel, ending the week raisin-sized. More importantly, from in the lagoon you can’t see everywhere because of the clouds of gas. Only a small one of which was thanks to me. I made myself giggle, imagining that he would have some kind of full Monty style Velcro outfit on, but the more I considered it, the more likely it seemed.

Sun Voyager, a viking ship-sculpture on the Reykjavik waterfront
Sun Voyager.

Nothing happened to prove it, but then, nothing to disprove it-“hang on, coming, just pull these trousers off, oops, stuck on my shoes! Continue drowning.” The lagoon is a warm delight, perfect for a tired man off a plane. Or woman. Or children-fewer English teens, though, please. But I did think there was a slight sense of ‘what now?’ We moved slowly through the water, which starts shallow and gets to about 5ft deep, people heading for the silica mud buckets to paste themselves for a few minutes, walking around thereafter like living dead, but, well, you just enjoy the pool. Everywhere I looked there was someone moving one way, then trying a different direction, slowly changing direction, looking hard in that direction only to find that that, too, held people, water, rocks. Lovely, if aimless. That can be the point, but make sure you’re up for it.

And do take a towel. The next price up includes a towel and drink, but whether that’s worth another 25 euros to you may vary. Above that are packages with more treatments and the like, but I was happy with a couple of hours in pool and surrounds, then on the bus back to the city.

Checking in properly I had my thrown together lunch and then an extra one. My company in the kitchen, the girl cooking, was leaving for Chicago after spring break, and trying to get rid of food, so I lucked out. She was lovely, and not just because of the free food, though that and “your vest makes you look adventurous…” [think gilet rather than string] – for her the break was partly a chance to sneak off (she hasn’t told her parents about any of her seven European trips) and see a new country, partly a working and networking trip to fashion and design conferences. Energetic! From her I learned that the Northern Lights are coming to the end of an eleven year cycle. I had no idea, but my trip is booked for tonight. One last bit of travelling serendipity.

Much more my speed, this hostel, after some busy city ones. Scott from Peterborough, “had a walk down to the front, took some pictures – something to do” is the only other in my room so far, we’ve chatted, and Felix from Germany was next into the kitchen, and is also ending a several month trip here. People are talkative, and the place not full. For me, those go together, and I’ve even had three actual conversations. As opposed to meeting travellers set to ‘transmit’ only. The owners seem to not be lumping us all into one room and filling it, either, but spreading us out. Which is nice, but might account for the grumpiness of the cleaners.

Sadly, my Northern lights tour for the evening was cancelled, but I get two more stabs at it. I explored some of the city in the afternoon, learning that there’s an ‘Icelandic music experiment’ on at the Harpa. 13-25 year olds putting together bands, and tonight and tomorrow are the semi-finals. Even if they’re terrible, it’s cheap and reasonably short, so that’s my backup if there isn’t a lights tour tomorrow.

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