There was a time when I despised lazy days on vacations. Sounds strange doesn’t it? Growing up our family vacations would be packed to the brim with site-seeing and event. Sure we might have a few hours to hang out in one location (museum, beach, etc.), but then it was on to the next adventure. I’m certainly not complaining. I gained tremendous knowledge and experience on those trips for which I will always be grateful. However, now that I am older, I enjoy balance. Learning and seeing, but having a day or two to rest…to vacate and do little or next to nothing.
September 12th was a great day to rest at one of Iceland’s most famous locations: The Blue Lagoon. As mentioned in previous blogs, I’m not one for the standard tourist trap, nor have I ever been keen on overpriced spa experiences. The Blue Lagoon may contain minor attributes of that which I despise, but what a very heavenly experience it was. For 28 Euro per adult (no fee for children under 13), we could sit in warm aqua marine mineral water surrounded by lava fields for as long as we’d like and slather silica mud all over ourselves exfoliating and moisturizing our skin to infancy. The silica mud placed conveniently around the waters edge in wooden boxes is white and hardens in the cool air in about 10 to 15 minutes. Everyone resembled zombies or pale faced aliens, but by the numerous and varied body types in speedos, I don’t think too many people were concerned about how they looked; join in on the fun! There is a small outdoor bar as well where they serve up healthy smoothie shots, beer and their signature Blue Lagoon Cocktail. Delightful.
We also enjoyed the shoulder and neck massaging waterfall and lava rock seating around much of the lagoons perimeter. I had mixed feelings about the geothermal steam bath hidden in a lava rock cave with small wooden door. Maybe some of you are quite used to the sauna experience and enjoy pruning yourselves with your Finnish relatives. Being a fairly calm individual, I was surprised by the wave of panic that overcame me when realizing 113 degree steam encapsulated in a lava cave doesn’t allow much oxygen to the lungs. While attempting to slow my breathing and remain at one with the ‘tranquil’ environment, I would once again panic when the scorching steam would puff from the floorboards, increasing the temperature and my fear that my skin would soon start melting off. We hustled out of the sauna to the safety of pale silica mud masked faces bobbing in the water. Free at last.
A warning for the modest: You are required to shower before entering the lagoon and like most of the geothermal pools in Iceland, showering does not include a bathing suit. You are required to remove everything and most showers do not have curtains. You could tell the American tourists (for the most part), because they would read the sign, look around and rinse off with bathing suit. Birthday suits are far more freeing even if it is in a public location! The shampoo and wash in the showers are Blue Lagoon products. Apply generously for full pampering experience.
A warning to the ladies or men with longer hair: the minerals in the water will make your hair super nappy. All those pictures of beautiful blonde Icelandic girls with the perfectly smooth hair is false advertising. If you do not care about dipping your hair, if naturally oily, your coif will take on a greasy sheen for the next 12 hours or so, no matter how many times you wash on location. Bring a comb, maybe that would help in the showers.
A warning to the frugal: Bring your own towel, as they are expensive to rent. There is free water inside.
A warning to all: Drink a lot of water and eat. My body freaked out after cleaning up. Pretty certain the nausea and lightheadedness that settled in was dehydration. Thankfully, Trader Joe’s provided some trail mix back at the car so I didn’t pass out.
You truly could spend all day at the Blue Lagoon. Massages are available, fine dining, gift shop, robes, etc. It’s surprisingly extensive. And all the extra costs are racked up on a convenient blue wristband, which is also the key to your locker. Many tourist come here straight off the plane or make it their stop before departure as its locale is very near the Keflavik Airport, 2009 Best Airport in Europe! ☺ We spent four hours at this lovely tourist trap (3.5 of which were in the lagoon) and truly enjoyed our time.
We drove the remainder of the Rekjanes Peninsula on our way home via Grindavik, a largish fishing town for this coastline and Highway 427. This area is called Reykjanesfolkvangur and it is a wilderness reserve. I have used the word desolate numerous times in writing about Iceland, but perhaps I spoke to boldly previously as this short stretch of land on 427 toward the Krysuvikurberg Cliffs and then left on Route 42 is bleak un-inhabitance. I’m sure it’s a happening place in the summer, but I certainly felt alone in the world. Kleifarvatn is a black hole of a lake especially as sunset is approaching; black sand beaches, black lava cliffs, black picnic tables and not a soul to be seen. Rumor has it that a worm-like monster the size of a whale lives in the grey waters. By the looks of it I wouldn’t be surprised – it is just an eerie location. After driving the narrow roads down in to the lake recreational area, you drive back out to some semblance of civilization and a comforting sense of calm in relation to the aforementioned location. But even here there are abandoned farms, wandering sheep and geothermal fields that have histories of tantrums.
These tantrum prone fields of Krysuvik and Seltún are located a few miles south of Kleifarvatn Lake as you head north toward Reykjavik. In the 1990’s Icelanders created a borehole at Krysuvik to harness the geothermal energy, but the whole thing exploded in 1999 and the project was abandoned at a result. At least Seltún has a boardwalk through its bubbling waters. However, after reading about the history of the area, I wasn’t too keen to stick around long. And looming lake Graenhaven, another crater formed by a past explosion, made the landscape rather uninviting. We drove on, anticipating dinner.
How blessed are we? We are romping around Iceland and have had the opportunity to see so many amazing places in the world. When I reflect on this aspect of my life, tears of gratitude come to my eyes; who are we that we have these opportunities. But it’s not just the marvelous sights that make me so thankful, it’s the people that we meet and the many experiences that we share with them. The idea that there are individual persons walking this earth in the billions and I have had the privilege of meeting the many that I have; and not only meeting, but growing in relationship with them is nothing short of a huge blessing. I get to know not only my neighbors back home, but I get to know people in countries not my own and stay at their houses or grab a meal. We don’t start over – even if its been months or years, we continue whence we left off. I would never have believed if you told me that this life could in fact be mine and I still find it a challenge to express the joy that it brings to my heart.
With that said, I highlight a very special couple in Iceland.
We met Mrs. Couper before she was a Mrs. in Harpenden, England in 2006. We were there on a mission of sorts and prayed for her there. We instantly fell in love because she was Icelandic and we knew what a rare thing it was to meet someone from the country of 300,000 people. We got on well as we carried on about Iceland and their pure gene lines, etc. She was dating Mr. Couper, an Englishman, at the time and we kept up with her sporadically after we departed via email and through her in-laws who had become good friends of ours. Who knew we would actually have the opportunity to see them both in Iceland?
As it is with anyone you haven’t seen in a long time, one can fear potential awkward hangouts; we had only visited with Mrs. Couper once. However, this meeting with the Coupers was wonderful! We found ourselves in the upstairs of a little kaffi house eating dessert, sharing about life and finding we had so much in common. This couple loves to laugh about everything and thinks very seriously about positively impacting culture. What can you say when God knits hearts together? You fall in love with the character, wisdom, joy, goofiness which resides in the wonderful creation that sits across from you and you know that you will see them again.
A little wisdom shared from the Icelandic residents: “If you get lost in a forest in Iceland, just stand up.” Apparently, I’m not the only one who has noticed the bare hillsides.
After dessert, it was necessary (as fellow beer lovers), that we go to the ice cream shop and grab a beer flavored ice cream. Beer flavored ice cream warrants second dessert and everyone should try it.
From there Mr. Couper drove us all to the end of the Reykjavik Peninsula where we were fortunate enough to observe the Northern Lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis, much earlier in the season than normal. It is amazing what you can see when you pray for abundant natural wonders. After a few years of life in Iceland, we were the first of the Coupers visiting guests that they had been able to show the Northern Lights.
As the green danced across the sky, the cold September wind kissed our cheeks. We all stood in silence watching the skies move as if a separate living entity. It’s as though there is a fine couple waltzing through the heavenlies and kicking up moon dust as they turn and sway; not a care in the world, but dancing and bringing color to a cold dark sky. So much wonder and romance in that night sky captivating our attention and enthralling our senses. Then slowly the song ceased to play and the green was consumed by the black twinkling blanket of the universe. It was then that I smiled, knowing I had peered in on a beautiful moment in time.
Someday I hope that we and the Coupers meet that dancing couple and have occasion to tell them how much we enjoyed their waltz on that fine September night.