so you ask, what’s the best part of so much hot water in iceland? definitely hot pots! :D
hot pots are pools heated by natural springs of geothermal water. sometimes they resemble big swimming pools, but more often than not, they’re just man-made ponds on a countryside hill, small and “rustic”. sometimes there’s a little hut for you to change, sometimes just the hole in the ground filled with steaming water. all you need to do is take your clothes off, have a wash and then soak to your heart’s content…
on our way back from the golden circle, we went by hrunalaug, a small pool featured in a number of guidebooks. you change and wash in a little side cabin, and in you go!
the feeling of being wrapped in warmth in the middle of a quiet hill, little bubbles sticking to your skin as you dip your toes in the black sand at the bottom of the pool… it’s just pure bliss. let me try to show you:
we had it all to ourselves for a while and it was easily the best part of the trip. i wish i could bottle this feeling, this simplicity, this magic.
and speaking of hot water, did you know that the word for geyser actually comes from geysir, a famous icelandic geyser? (according to wikipedia, the word geysa means “to gush” in icelandic.)
geysers are a rare occurrence in the world, and notably temperamental, being affected by earthquakes which can trigger or make them go away. the science is complicated but the simplified mechanics resemble those of a pressure cooker… water gets superheated, pressure builds up, and then steam and water get released!
though the original geysir rarely erupts these days, its neighbour strokkur delights tourists every few minutes with an awe-inducing show of strength. due to the variable time between eruptions and how sudden they are, it’s hard to catch on a photo, but with some patience and space on your phone…
did you know that iceland runs almost entirely on renewable energies, every single day? true story. between geothermal, hydropower and a little wind, the electricity generated is more than enough to power the whole country. the hot water also takes care of showers, heating houses, swimming pools and even the roads in winter. they still import oil for running vehicles and boats… but with the rise of electric cars, who knows? they might be 100% renewable in a few years, which is nothing short of amazing.
on a roadtrip in the island, we stopped in deildartunguhver to see one of the springs where the hot water comes from. it’s just a humble crack in some rocks… and yet, boiling water gushes upwards from it at the astonishing rate of 180 liters per second — the highest flow of any hot sprint in europe. whoa!
they pipe this water in a nearby facility and deliver it to households in a 65km radius. the leftovers get dumped on a nearby river, the steam making everything rather cinematic :)
the sulphur does make the water smell a bit like overcooked eggs, which is funny when you open the hot water tap, but one quickly forgets it after jumping on the shower. it’s lovely not having to wait for water to heat up — it’s instantaneous and super hot.
the best part of so much hot water? i’ll tell you in another post! :)
having spent a couple of months going over daniela’s geology lessons in preparation for her national exams a few years ago, it all came rushing back to me in iceland. first, the black stones and sand that adorn residential gardens in reykjavik, and then later, out on the road.
the first lava field we drove by was a thrill of recognition, its spiky edges talking of semi-viscous, slow-moving a’a lava. then came the familiar slopes of old volcanos, the ropey waves of fluid pahoehoe lava, the neat geometrical columns formed by the quick cooling of basaltic lava…
all so familiar in theory, and yet, so foreign in practice.
in a different life, i think i could have been a geologist!
so… iceland. as we flew high above europe on our way back from 2 weeks there, i tried to gather the words to write about this place that so thoroughly charmed us. but how do you convey awe and speechlessness and magic, all wrapped into the same breath? the words i have keep coming up short of the quiet rush at every road turn, every snow-capped mountain peeking in the horizon, and at the sunset reflected on black pebbled beaches, crunching softly underneath our feet.
it’s… magnificent. it feels as if you’re suddenly rendered insignificant, part of something much much bigger, a tiny speck on miles and miles of tundra without a single tree in sight. and so words fail me. iceland defies labels, it’s just breathtakingly beautiful.
going to iceland is also like finally seeing something you blindly believe in — a sort of secular confirmation of a geological faith, if that makes any sense. we spend years learning about vulcanos and tectonic plaques, geothermal energy and how rocks and mountains come to be… but for the most part, it’s all so slow as to give us the illusion of being static. but in iceland… well. if seeing is believing, a field trip there should be a required part of the school curricula.
there are many little things to share about iceland, from the scenery to the food… and i do miss writing. now that our post-easter influx of visitors has ebbed, i’m hoping to catch up on my thoughts and have a little quiet time with the blog. so — more on iceland soon!