I had such an amazing sleep last night, mostly because i was so exhausted by the evening. In fact, it was really hard to get out of bed this morning even after 9 hours of sleep. And it was raining a bit – something I may have to get used to over the next couple of weeks.
Most people would say that Keflavik is a waste of time but my day today would prove them wrong. I pedalled out of town on a dirt road toward the famous Blue Lagoon, something that alone brings in visitors from around the world. The road was flat and somewhat desolate, a bit like Yukon or Alaskan tundra but it changed to lava fields that NASA used in the 60’s to prepare astronauts for what they thought they might encounter on the moon. But this is nothing like the sandy moon – it’s incredibly rough, uneven, and probably very painful to fall on. The Haleakala crater on Maui had some rocks like this but here it goes on as far as the eye can see. I also passed over the rift where the 2 continental plates meet and create all this geothermal activity.
The 18km passed really quickly and soon I was at the Blue Lagoon with steam belching from everywhere. The lagoon is actually a byproduct of geothermal energy generation but i will get to that in a sec. Basically, the lagoon is a 6 million litre hot spring in quasi-natural rock formations. It’s also bright blue with a white silicon base set amongst black lava rock and green mountains. It’s like looking into a dark haired icelanders intensely blue eyes. Tourists go apeshit over this place and for good reason. It was $50 to go in and it was worth every penny. I floated around boiling cauldrons of seawater, through tunnels, and under waterfalls for about 2 hours – for sure the longest I have ever spent in a hot spring. And it’s so huge that you can easily find caves and nooks with no other people. Highly recommended.
On my way back to Keflavik I thought I’d pedal up the road to the power plant and snap pics of this crazy looking place with all the steam. When I got to the parking lot they had a huge bay door open so I walked in and checked out one of the turbines. Then I found an unlocked door so I walked into another building with an even bigger turbine. Then a worker showed up and wagged his finger at me. I guess waltzing into dangerous industrial facilities is frowned upon in some places. Go figure.
However, the worker saw how enthusiastic I was so he explained what were looking at. Then he showed me a spare turbine that was being shipped out for repair. Then he took me on an hour long personal tour of all 6 turbines. It’s amazing the things people will do for when you show genuine interest. They generate a total of 100 megawatts by pumping ~250 degree centigrade freshwater from as much as 2000m underground, superheating it with salt water (found closer to the surface), and running the steam through turbines. This fills 20% of Iceland domestic demand. And the plant was bought by a Canadian firm after the 2008 crash. Still, aluminum smelting done by ALCOA uses triple what Icelanders do. If Iceland could connect to other grids, they could sell power from thousands of these plants that consume no natural resources and produce no harmful byproducts. Oh yeah, the Blue Lagoon is the waste saltwater, rich in all kinds of rare blue-green algaes that have numerous health benefits. It also turns out that the bay door was opened just for an hour or so to let in some cooler air. Lucky me. It was the highlight of the day and it only cost me a few smiles.
Icelanders are unfriendly people according to many travellers. I have to disagree. They are a little standoffish, like a wary dog, so they seem gruff and impatient. But under that exterior they are very helpful and selfless. When you show respect and humility their icey facade melts quickly. I also notice a slight change in demeanor when I mention that I’m Canadian. They like Canada and see similarities in the 2 countries. I chatted with the guy at the power plant for a good 45 minutes about Icelands economy, history, women and various other topics.
I still haven’t found any Icelandic food and that might not be a bad thing since their traditional fare includes sheep eyeballs and rotten shark meat. Seriously. Last night I had Thai and tonight maybe I’ll get some Chinese or some BBQ. There aren’t many other options. Maybe Reykjavik will have more tomorrow.
What a great day. I feel like Cameron, reluctantly getting pulled out of bed by Ferris and having the time of his life.