Friday, September 19, 2008

Day Seven: Departure via the Blue Lagoon

Woke up after dreams of an online friend calling me (she does not have my number IRL) because I associate her with world travel, and here I was in another country. It's like a kind of validation, suggesting that I've arrived or am on the rise. I wouldn't want my Reykjavik excursion to represent the last time I left this country. I'm not one of those who threatens to leave every time a jackass is (re)elected president; I'm one of those who says people should stay and fight, rather than hand the nation over to the undereducated and xenophobic. All things considered, where is it better anywhere else?

Anyway, we did not shower today because we anticipated doing so at the Blue Lagoon. Whenever we talked with anyone about leaving the country, they would inevitably insist that we must hit the Blue Lagoon before we go to the airport. Each one recommended the tour that stops at the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport, iterating how relaxed it leaves you when you board the plane. We really had no choice in the matter: had we refused, I have no doubt that the local gentry would have raised a collection to pay for our tour tickets, bound and gagged us, and hauled us in Superjeeps to the Blue Lagoon and forced us, at gunpoint if necessary, to relax there. No one can fault the Icelanders on lack of pride in their nation, and they certainly have much about which to be proud.

I packed up my clothes, and my note in my journal indicates I packed "very effectively," probably hearkening back to my military training. We learned how to stuff quite a lot of clothing and supplies into a single rucksack and we got a lot of practice at that. Rebecca and I shared a quick skyr for breakfast and waited outside the guesthouse for our shuttle.

The morning was drizzly and overcast, so we wore our swank rain gear for the day. The Blue Lagoon Tour shuttle scooped us up and we headed out into the volcanic wasteland: miles and miles of craggy black rock and undaunted patches of rugged grass. My gamer geek mind went back to the logistics and I couldn't imagine trying to ride a horse over the landscape. Even with horseshoes, the odd crag would poke up into the horse's hoof, into the frog, and potentially cause a lot of damage. It would even be risky to get off and lead the horse through this unnavigable terrain: movement would be cut to 1/3 normal rate.

We arrived at the Blue Lagoon. Disembarking from the bus, we passengers followed a trail of wooden planks wending between excitingly chunky volcanic boulders. The facilities are quite elegant and inspiring, and I felt as though I were entering a prohibitively exclusive spa. I went on my best behavior to represent my nation (or the exceptions within my nation) most positively. We were given magnetic bracelets--magnetic, not for health but for security, as they let us through turnstiles and synchronized with our lockers. I'd never seen anything like that before. We locked up our stuff, went to our showers--and they are very insistent that everyone shower. The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland's prized locations, and staff and patrons alike take personal offense to anyone who thinks they don't need to shower or forgets to do so. They want to keep that water clean and present, and no one gets in without having scrubbed down. I only wish the bottles of colored fluids in the shower had been labeled: I assumed one was a body wash and the other a shampoo and attempted to use them as I saw fit.

The Blue Lagoon is not a geothermal spring but is fed directly by one nearby. The water is channeled in through pipes so it is just as hot as anyone could desire. I left the shower area with my large spa towel and was struck by the chilly light rain of the day. The milky blue pools, spilling around the volcanic scenery and sensually steaming, were more than welcome and I inducted myself rapidly. The water is a whitish blue because of the silica that lines the pool everywhere there is water. At several locations there are reservoirs set up where one may ladle out great dollops of silica: you scrub it all over your skin, leave it caked on your face for five minutes. From this treatment your skin stays fresh and soft for days. I skipped the reservoirs and scooped it directly from the bed of the pool, exfoliating myself with wanton abandon.

The tour factors in two and a half hours of relaxation here. The shuttle bus drops you off, and you are left to your own devices for 150 minutes before it's time to leave. Imagine that, wading around in startlingly warm geothermal mineral bath, drifting among tourists from all over the world, and killing a couple hours in this manner. If I lived in Iceland, I know I would lose a lot of money to visiting the geothermal pools, I know that for a fact. I'd be broke and my skin would glow with vigor.

We finally emerged from the pools, washed up, and reconvened in the café where once again I had to have an Icelandic hot dog. Not "the city's best" but still okay. I also picked up a pouch of fish jerky, BITAFISKUR, for the trip. Rebecca had no interest in sharing any of that: even dried, it still bore a musk reminiscent of a fishing wharf. We spotted Bob (Golden Circle Tour host) with a large group of teenagers. He must run a variety of tours, good for him.

After a quick scan of the tourist shop we boarded our bus and headed off to Keflavik. Our flight wasn't due for over and hour so we had time to peruse the snack bar, find a mailbox to send off the last batch of postcards, and do some last-minute shopping at the souvenir shops.

The flight back to the States was uneventful. I slept pretty well, after a couple episodes of Malcolm in the Middle. This plane had little TVs on the back of each headrest so I watched what I wanted, and that ended up being a map showing our trajectory across the globe.

I had no time then to be sad to have left Iceland because I hit the ground running: we got our car from the airport parking lot and Rebecca drove me straight up to St. Paul, where I was only 30 minutes late for my first class of Information Search: Food and Culture. After class I slept like a rock. And that's that.

END

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