Lagoon

“Nordic Exposure” An Icelandic Adventure – Part Three

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Previously in Part Two of “Nordic Exposure” An Icelandic Adventure – being in Game of Thrones (sort of, but not really), tectonic plates and a late sunrise, exploding hot springs, punishment for crampon-related cockiness, selfish people who make buses late, toilets that accept credit cards, discovering Satanic turds in toilets that accept credit cards, waterfalls, being in heaven (sort of, but not really), snow testicles, snow angels, and snowmobiling, oh, and a second cancellation of the northern lights

 

Day Three – Sunday (my 40th birthday)

I woke up, sat up, and assessed my situation.

The headache was still there.

For fucks sake!

 

I got out of bed and climbed into the shower, and it is at this point that I’ll now share another impression that I have of Iceland; the hot water stinks!

But despite the initial disgust that you’ll most likely feel from bathing in water that smells like rotten eggs, the water resources in Iceland are actually something to envy.

The simple reason for the hot water containing this sulphurous smell is because the origins of the water go right back to their natural geothermal source. This naturally hot spring water has been used for public bathing in Iceland for many years, but despite the smell you’ll encounter while bathing it won’t actually remain on your skin once you’re finished. So rest assured my fellow travellers, you won’t ever be walking around smelling like a bad egg.

On the flip side of this you then have the cold water which is sourced completely separately to the hot water, but which also comes from natural sources. The cold water in Iceland is amongst the cleanest and purest on the entire planet, meaning that you can drink water straight from the tap as well as from their natural source. In fact the only reason they sell bottled water in Iceland is to give another option to travellers that have the ‘never drink tap water’ mentality.

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I have to admit, having done most of my travelling in South-East Asia I am very much a tap-water wary traveller and it took me a little bit of time to convince myself to try it here in Iceland. But when I finally did, it was beautiful.

Believe me, Iceland is a natural wonder in so many ways; and just think about how it must feel to be able to bath in hot water straight from the source, and drink pure ice-cold water straight from the source.

 

As I opened the bathroom door I walked straight into a banner that read ‘Happy 40th Birthday’.

“Happy birthday!” Alex said enthusiastically.

She stood in front of me holding a muffin with one candle in it, and a huge smile spread across her face. I looked around the room at the various letterings and banners that were strung up over doorways, across the top of the bed, and around the mirror.

Birthday

“Is this what you were up to last night?” I asked.

“Yep! I brought the banners from home, but I had to find the cake and candles last night, but then I forgot about the lighter.”

“Ah, so that’s the item the guy went out to fetch last night?”

“Exactly.” She said.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

“Thank you so much Alex. I really appreciate it.”

 

If yesterday had been the day of adventure and activity, then today was to be the complete opposite.

Alex had let me in on what we’d be doing before we went to bed, and me being as pragmatic as ever I wanted to ensure we were out early. This is normally done on a tactical basis because if I were to say that Alex sometimes (almost always) struggles with her punctuality then it still wouldn’t be doing it justice.

But on this occasion my forward planning resulted in the two of us stood waiting for the bus, in the rain and the cold, for over an hour; because I got the time wrong. Yes, that’s right…I, me, yours truly, Elliot; take your pick, I got it wrong. And I knew I’d never be able to live this down.

Thankfully we both have the tendency to make fun of each other at every opportunity we can and so rather than standing there moaning about getting wet, Alex saw it as an opportunity to make fun of the situation and to laugh at me.

We were both relieved to see the bus coming towards us with the headlights shining through the rain.

 

One of the hot spots (no pun intended) for tourists to Iceland is the Blue Lagoon; a man made lagoon that is fed by the natural geothermal waters.

Alex had been there previously and was aware of just how busy the place can get. She also knew that I’m not a fan of huge crowds and that I like to avoid overly ‘commercial’ places where possible, and so she’d looked into an alternative destination; the Secret Lagoon.

While it may not actually be secret, it is certainly much lesser known and this is reflected in the transport options that are available to get there. Coaches full of tourists will depart daily from Reykjavik heading direct to the Blue Lagoon, but in order to get to the Secret Lagoon you must either drive there yourself, take a public bus (which requires changes and can often be unreliable), or take one of the few minibuses that head out that way. We’d opted for the latter.

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The Secret Lagoon is located at Hveraholmi, near Fludir, about 90 minutes from Reykjavik. It was originally made in 1891 and is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. Just one look at the photos summarised exactly why Alex knew I’d be much happier going there; it seemed to be a much simpler and more natural setting than the Blue Lagoon, and you could believe that it’s probably not changed all that much over the years.

I’d originally expected it to be situated within a grand setting in the middle of nowhere, with big and shiny signs declaring that we’d reached the Secret Lagoon. But in reality it was more like arriving at a barn in the middle of a residential and semi commercial neighbourhood. Understated doesn’t even begin to describe it; and I loved that.

The driver let us off the minivan, reminding us that we only had an hour and a half until departure, with a maximum permitted time of one hour in the lagoon. And with an all-year round water temperature of 38-40 degrees Celsius, you can understand why entry time is limited. Dehydration was a genuine risk.

We set off for the changing rooms, agreeing to meet back outside so that we could climb into the lagoon together.

Now I’d heard rumours that it was mandatory to take a shower before entering the lagoon, which I was absolutely fine with. But what I’d also heard was that this had to be done completely naked and that there were no individual shower cubicles. I’d checked their website on the way in and consulted the FAQ page where one person had asked:

“Do I have to shower without swimsuit before entering the pool?”

To which the website had replied:

“YES! YES! YES! You have to shower and you have to be butt naked to properly cleanse yourself.”

I guess my question had been answered (and it was they who wrote the text in bold, not me), but maybe the claim about communal showering was false. So I checked another FAQ that addressed this matter, to which the website replied:

“Along with Icelandic customs there are public showers with open space (no cabins). There is no shame, we are all the same!”

But I call bullshit on that claim, because although it’s a wonderful ideal to say that we are all the same, the reality is that we’re not. Most human beings tend to have the habit of being body conscious to some degree and will draw comparisons to others; particularly those of the Instagram and Photoshop generation.

I stood in the changing room in my underwear, psyching myself up to go communal. But I had nightmare flashbacks to school days and post-PE class showers where I always preferred to avoid showering and chose to smell for the rest of the day rather than taking a communal shower with the rest of my stinky classmates.

But then I reminded myself that I’m in Iceland and that nobody knows me, and so I whispered to myself:

“Fuck it. In for a penny, in for a pound”

And then I pulled down my boxers, threw them in my locker, slammed the door shut, and then strutted through the changing room and allowed everything to swing free.

 

Two minutes later I was stood outside, freshly showered and shivering. It was well into minus figures and freezing rain was falling from the sky. A breeze blew in, making my already wet skin feel colder than ever, and the headache was still pounding away inside my skull.

I told Alex that I’d wait for her so that we could go in together, but I glanced across at the lagoon and saw steam rising to the sky. It looked magical and so irresistibly inviting.

But I held off, and held off, for what felt like an eternity, and then…

“Sorry Alex.” I said to myself.

And then I went running to the lagoon with a big smile on my face and jumped in, without her.

“Oh! My! God!” I said out loud, as the warm waters caressed my freezing body. It was AMAZING.

A couple of minutes later Alex came walking out of the changing rooms, screamed at the cold, and then ran and jumped into the lagoon. She’d not even stopped to see if I was waiting for her.

“Well that’s just bloody charming.” I said.

“What is?” She asked.

“At least I tried waiting for you”.

“How long did you wait?” She asked.

“About ten seconds.”

Her eyes rolled at me.

“How long I waited is not the point. The point I’m trying to make is…”

“Isn’t it amazing!” Alex said, cutting me off.

“Yeah it’s bloody gorgeous!” I returned, smiling.

 

The Secret Lagoon lived up to every expectation that I had and its charm was in its simplicity. It had just one modestly sized pool with a floor made of black lava rock, and there were rocks set around the edges on which you could sit. There was just one building that contained the changing rooms and waiting area/cafe, and to the back of the lagoon was a wooden walkway which you could follow and wander past several geothermal spots and also observe a small geysir which erupted every five minutes. You can watch a video of this by clicking on the thumbnail below.

 

The water was perfect, and it blew my mind to think that the heat was completely natural. In fact, in some parts of the pool the water got so hot that you had to physically back away from it. It really was a privilege to get to experience such a fine and natural wonder of our planet.

There are many guys that would scoff at the idea of spas and well-being treatments, but I’m a definite advocate for them. I’ve visited spas and masseuses during times of stress and when my body (and mind) was in desperate need of recovery, and I’ve felt the benefits that such an investment brings. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of telling yourself that you’re okay and that ignoring the problem will make everything alright, but if you can get past your own ego you’ll see that we all need a little help sometimes.

I moved slowly through the warm water and felt it washing over my body and shoulders as the freezing rain fell onto my head, creating a contrast of sensations. It was incredible and I could already feel the lagoon’s healing properties at work. But regardless, my headache was still there.

I moved towards the edge of the pool and then right out of nowhere I was given an additional and very alternative kind of birthday present. Because just I was sat lounging with Alex against the rocks, two rather attractive young ladies decided to do the same, not too far from us.

At first glance the two of them seemed like close friends, but then it turned out that they were actually very close friends. In fact, some might say they weren’t really friends as such and that they were more like, lovers; because these two attractive and ample-chested young ladies started to get really cosy and started making out with each other.

“Can you see what I can see?” Alex asked.

“Oh yes!” I responded, with a huge smile on my face. “Did you arrange this for my birthday? Oh you’re just the best girlfriend ever!”

“No I didn’t arrange it for you.”

“I mean, honestly Alex, thank you. It’s the perfect gift!”

“I didn’t arrange this for you Elliot.”

“It’s like you can read my mind. Like, I have no idea how I’m going to be able to top this for your birthday.”

Alex clearly decided it was better to just let me enjoy the moment.

“You’re welcome.” She said.

And then it suddenly occurred to me that my headache had disappeared. After two and a half days, it had finally gone. It was a miracle!

Maybe it was that I’d been given some form of alternative therapy. Maybe it could have been the stark contrast of my body being in hot natural geothermal waters while my head was met by the freezing rain. Or maybe it was the wonderful sight of the two ladies fondling each other right before my eyes. I’m not sure which it was, but personally I don’t think it’s worth taking the chance of picking just one and getting it wrong. I’ll just go with both.

One thing’s for sure; it was way more effective than ibuprofen.

Lagoon

 

That evening as Alex and I set out for our evening meal, I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by everything that she’d done to make my 40th birthday so truly special. And as we sat down to eat and to open the birthday cards that I’d brought with me from home, I knew that I was a very lucky man.

We’d only been here for three days and yet so much had happened. Tomorrow, for our last full day, we’d be hiring a car and heading east towards the seafront village of Vik.

I’ve always been a huge fan of a road trip and I always will be, but as I sat opening my birthday cards, chuckling to myself at the jokes my friends had written in them about me, I had no idea of just how adventurous this latest road trip would turn out to be.

 

Click here to read the Fourth and Final Part of “Nordic Exposure” An Icelandic Adventure

 

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