Running hot and cold: Reykjadalur

Last night, my wish came true. Sort of. We journeyed out to a lighthouse peninsula outside Reykjavik, away from the city lights (which definitely aren’t that bad compared to home). As the car rocked in the wind, we watched a few nutters attempt to reach the lighthouse, but swiftly come back when they realised they risked being blown into the icy ocean. A couple of hours passed, as we tried to play I Spy in the dark, and eagerly waited for the sun to set.

About 10:45pm ish, Ross noticed a green rift in the sky. According to him, he has above average colour perception, and was also on the right side of the car. I’m in luck, I thought, my first proper night in Iceland and I’ve already seen the Northern Lights. It was definitely them, but they were faint. We all raced out of our cars into the wind to get a pic – pointless, really, because all you capture is black.

It looked vaguely like this:

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It was there, and then it was gone.

Still, they were beautifully mesmerising. An eternal, brilliant reminder of our humble place in this universe. It’s somehow comforting to know that all our problems are earthly and small in the grand scheme of things – reminds you that bad times will always pass, and that good times are ahead.

We’re going to be popping out a few more nights this holiday to see if we can get a better glimpse – rumour (well, the Icelandic meteorological office) has it Wednesday is going to be a good one.

Today, we went off to sample our first hot spring, after Mum had a tipoff from her hiking-loving boss. It’s called Reykjadalur, a sulphur-heated stream that runs down the side of a mountain. It’s just perfect for bathing, if you’re prepared to take the hike an hour up the mountain.

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The windchill was too much for me to look hot, so here’s a shot of me looking cold instead.

You start at a rickety old bridge over crystalline blue water, before beginning your 3km ascent. I thought I was good at hills, having been an honorary Bristolian for a year now, but clearly not mountains. We all split up and I ended up walking by myself for a while. In the brief moments of solitude, you can almost hear nothing – total silence. Only the wind and the faint noise of the road are there to disturb you, until the next set of Mountain Warehouse-clad hikers arrive.

Some highlights of the hike included a beautiful waterfall:

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And these stinky as hell bubbling sulphur pools:

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That steam smells like rotten egg.

Ross and I arrived before Mum and Dad did, and cold as I was, I jumped straight in. He was too cool for school to join me, but I found a nice spot after trying a number of locations. Downstream is cooler than upstream, which is good because you can find a perfect place to plant yourself.

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This is the farthest upstream I could go – I quickly got out after this photo was taken.

Mum and Dad joined me after 20 minutes and we managed to ruin it for the irritating couples and Italian lads around us. It was pretty busy, but as you can probably tell from the complaints about the hiking, it’s an uphill battle that’s not for the faint of heart.

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To the right you can see the world’s most pointless changing booths, which are of no use to anyone as the entire world gets to see your arse if you drop the towel. One German bloke forewent the booths altogether and got dressed on the public path, baring his behind to unwitting bystanders such as myself.

Wolfing down a sandwich, I got dressed – saving some dignity but still probably accidentally flashing some skin, because those changing walls are absurd – and started down the mountain. It was a much easier hike on the way down, obviously, and you’re treated to some spectacular views of the coastline if it’s a clear day. You can tell the entire landscape is made of fallout from thousands of previous volcanic eruptions, but it does make you worry that if Iceland had a major quake… would it all fall apart?

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Chilly solitude.

Hopping back in the car, we’ve come home now for some hygge hot chocolate and pancakes before – potentially – heading out to see if we can meet the Aurora later on. No lie, if I ever had a daughter, her name would have to be Aurora. Maybe I’d then get a son and call him Boris after the Borealis, but people might associate him with our fascist foreign secretary. I’d better think on that one.


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