© 2014 by Kathleen Kemsley, entered in a contest by Icelandic Air
Iceland’s geysers, hot springs, and volcanoes always intrigued me. I planned to go in the summer of 1983, but life intervened. My car broke and I had to use the plane ticket money to buy a new car. The next year, I got a job in Alaska and moved up there to work for one summer. One summer turned into 14 years; I sobered up, got married, built a house, and launched a career. By the time I had the time and money to try for Iceland again, a total of 30 years had passed. This time, my husband wanted to take a trip to England, so I booked the flight on Icelandic Air so that I would be able to fulfill my lifelong desire to explore this mysterious frozen island in the North Atlantic.
We stopped over in Iceland on the way home from England for three days. Staying in a hostel room in downtown Reykjavik, we walked on Laugavegur Street, enjoyed cheddar soup in bread bowls, and shopped at a mini-grocery around the corner. One day we took a full day trip to see Gullfoss Falls, Strokkur Geyser, and Thingvellir. We met some Icelandic ponies and walked through a lava tube. I was moved by the untamed natural beauty of the land.
The next day, my husband wasn’t feeling well, so I left him at the hostel and ventured alone to the city bus station in search of an “authentic” Iceland experience. With the help of a friendly English-as-a-fourth-language ticket seller I secured a seat on a local bus that took me across town to Laugardalslaug, the best hot spring complex in Reykjavik.
I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Once entering the locker room, I asked a teenage girl how the system worked. Of course she didn’t speak English, but she pantomimed for me where to leave my clothes in a locker, rinse in the shower, and go outside to soak in the hot pots.
The outdoor temperature hovered near freezing, but the water was delightful. The largest of the six hot pools contained salt water, and it was there that most of the local people congregated. I lounged with my eyes closed, listening to them debate politics in the Icelandic language. It seemed like a friendly discussion. Even though I didn’t understand a word of it, they smiled and nodded at me while they talked, so I felt included.
After two hours of soaking in various pools, my hands were thoroughly pruned and my body was relaxed. I made my way back to the bus stop in a cold wind. As I rode back to the hostel, night was falling and the lights of Reykjavik glittered in the twilight. My experiences in Iceland were magic, and I knew I’d return again someday.