First impressions.

My first impressions of Iceland were of the bitter cold. We arrived by bus from the airport, around midnight, even more hours than usual before the sun would come up. We were looking for our hotel, and the bus was virtually empty. It felt like a scene from some film noir detective movie, only a few backpackers around, and snow threatening.

You can imagine how good it felt to get to the hotel. It was a chic hotel with modern design, about the size of a shoebox, and with clever space-saving features. But best of all it was wonderfully warm and cosy. The duvet was light but really effective, and we went to sleep almost immediately.

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A perfect hot spring

We drove out Rekyevik and finally found the small village nearby which the hot spring was supposed to be located. There was a pretty church, typically Icelandic, but no signs at all to the spring. How were we going to find it? I’d been here so often before, reaching a dead end after hours of anticipation. We looked behind the church, and then headed off down a small lane. I didn’t hold up much hope of finding the hot spring.

But then I smelt the slightly chlorine-filled air, and I knew it was not that far away. Still, I tried not to get too carried away. All too often, when you find the spring, it turns out to be disappointing. Usually this is because the water is too cold, or because the facilities have been over-developed.

We finally found a small hut, that looked like it had been used as a pen for sheep or goats. In front of it was a concrete bath about five feet by three feet wide, and two to three feet deep. The temperature of the water was perfect — slightly more than 40 degrees C. We changed in the threadbare hut, which hade one or two rusty hooks on which to hang clothes, but no other adornments. It was freezing cold outside, and snow was scattered on the low hills nearby the spring.

Perfect relaxation

I eased myself into the water, and knew immediately that this was perfectly blissful. I felt my muscles relax. My partner also was wearing a blissed out smile, slightly apprehensive at first, but then easing into the experience. When a hot spring is that perfect, you don’t have to talk much; the mind goes numb, and it feels you have slipped into the well of unconscious bliss.

I remember feeling sleepy after 15-20 minutes of this bliss. I got out and felt the icy air wrap itself around my body. The towel felt damp and icy to the touch, and my skin burned when I towelled myself dry. My feet were chilled as soon as I walked on the cold ground.

Getting back into the warm water was almost as nice as dipping in for the first time, it felt like striking up a new conversation with a friend. We relaxed some more, noticing little details like the sound of the water trickling over the edge of the hot spring, and the curling steam that the water gave off. It was blissful, and we spent most of the next hour wondering how we were going to drag ourselves out of the warm water.