We had one day in Iceland where we couldn't dive before we flew back to Germany. While I would have dove Silfra all over again, Iceland has a lot of other things to do and explore. From my research, I learned that Iceland has some pretty unique horses and that there is this huge outdoor heated 'pond' called the Blue Lagoon. Being lovers of new experiences and spas, we just knew we had to try them both! Kaelene over at Unlocking Kiki clued me in to a company not far from Reykjavik that had just the thing: a combination tour of horse back riding in the morning and a trip to the Blue Lagoon in the afternoon to relax (and warm up).
Again, the morning was early, but seeing as how the sun starts to rise at 3 in the morning, it was already full light when the nice people at Eldhestar picked us up in their van/bus. After picking up a few more people from their hotels, we headed out to their farm, about an hour drive outside of Reykjavik. The drive was beautiful though (as is most of Iceland) and in a completely different direction that we hadn't been before, so we got to see some new scenery.
Once we had arrived at the farm, we were quickly outfitted with warm clothing (which I mistakenly thought I didn't need), helmets and matched with our horses. These horses are really something. Shorter than most horses I am used to, with longer manes and thicker fur, you can tell that they are specially built for the rough, uneven, terrain of Iceland and well suited for the cold, blustery weather that is so common there. It had been quite a few years since I had ridden a horse and the minute I stepped out of the van and smelled the warm scent of farm in the air, all my childhood longings for a pony came back to me. I think I may have almost convinced Aaron that when we move to Texas, I will need a horse ;)
Our ride was along the flat lands near the farm. We crossed a river, took in the sights, tried out the special trot of the Icelandic horse, the Tolt, and generally tried to stay as warm as possible. I had severely underestimated the power of the wind to cut though all the clothing I was wearing and chill me to the bone. We both commented on how good the Blue Lagoon was going to feel afterwards, a chance to really warm up.
The ride lasted about 2 hours, after which we both had sore butts and sore thighs. Included with our tour was lunch in their hotel which consisted of deli meats and cheeses and hot mushroom soup. There's nothing like a hot bowl of soup on a cold day to warm you up. After our quick lunch, we were back in the van to return to Reykjavik where we were dropped off to catch the shuttle bus to the Blue Lagoon.
The bus trip was pretty quick, only abut 35 minutes. When we got there, we were greeted with a meandering path though lava rocks stacked about 7 feet high. What struck me most about the walk from the parking lot to the Lagoon entrance was how quiet it was. I'm used to rocks reflecting sound, not absorbing it. After the brief 5 minute walk, we had reached the entrance. We checked in, headed to the locker rooms, showered, where I applied liberal amounts of condition to my hair in an effort to protect it from the silica in the water (a tip I picked up from researching the Blue Lagoon), and met outside. The Lagoon is truly outside, not just enclosed in glass, so you were exposed to the temperature, the sun, and the wind. We quickly hung up our towels and bolted for the pool.
We both sighed as we relaxed into the warm, milky blue waters of the Blue Lagoon. It was decently busy when we were there (not not overly crowded), but we still headed to the far side to find a little more space to ourselves. In one corner, there are pots of a silica mud mask that you can apply to your face and skin. It's supposed to help exfoliate and be really good for your skin. I even got Aaron to try it, and photo evidence. I don't think he enjoyed it though. Before it could dry completely, he was already rinsing it off.
Now, want to know the dirty secret of the Blue Lagoon? It's not completely natural. Next door (but well hidden from view of the Lagoon), is a power plant. All of Iceland produces electricity from geothermal steam. But before it can be used, the steam must be demineralized (have the minerals removed since they can cause damage to the equipment). After producing electricity, the steam is condensed, but must be cooled further before it can be either pumped into a lake or back into the ground. Enter the Blue Lagoon. It's essentially a large pond in which the minerals are placed and the water can cool before being further processed. There are actually quite a few of these ''lagoons'' all over Iceland. Pretty sneaky. So they aren't actually lying when they saw it's a geothermal lagoon that it has a high natural mineral content, but it's the how it gets there that's the real secret. But, the water is still completely safe to be in, so don't let this dissuade you from going!
In the lagoon is a swim up bar where they serve Icelandic beer, juice, smoothies, sparking wine and regular wine. While chilling around the bar, we got talking to some people from Minnesota. Turns out, they both even went to Michigan Tech like Aaron and I. Even more surprisingly, the woman was a member of the same sorority! She had graduated before I was able to meet her, but we did have a lot of friends in common. Small world for sure!
Our last day in Iceland was nice and relaxing and we both agreed that we want to go back someday. Neither one of us wanted to return to the hotel and pack up our dive gear and sort out our clothing. I wonder if BASF has any facilities in Iceland? Next expat assignment perhaps?
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