I was so broke I couldn't even afford to go anywhere once I arrived in Reykjavik, and had to travel everywhere on foot. This was not such the tragedy that you might imagine because I was so happy to be in Iceland, even walking around Reykjavik was an unearthly experience. Of course I looked at the distant mountains and yearned to be able to reach them, but there were plenty of things to see in walking distance of the youth hostel. Gold boats down at the harbour. Funky Nordic houses with blue corrugated iron walls and triange roofs. I was enchanted! The strangest sky I have seen in my life, which words can't describe. Yes, the weather was often terrible. Usually I don't like the wind when it is blowing strong, but in Iceland I could forgive it. The same goes for heavy metal music, which seems to be popular in this most northerly of nations. In other countries I can't stand it, but in Iceland it seems kind of cool and in context. It seems the natural style of music for a Viking wasteland.
I am proud to say that I never felt bored during my whole 8-day stay in Iceland, not even when I had to spend all night sleeping out at the airport because I didn't have the money for the youth hostel that night. The only problem is, I walked so much, my feet soon to develop enormous blisters, which plunged me into agony whenever I took my shoes off. But what was I going to do, hang around the youth hostel all day and recuperate? There was no chance to rest -- I had to push on. Anyway, I managed to scrape enough money one day for the bus ticket to the nearest attraction to Reykjavik -- the old Parliament at Pingfellir or Thinfellir, on the edge of the European and American continental plates. It felt great to finally get out of the city and see some of the stunning, often alien Icelandic scenery. At Thingfellir it was cold and windy (what else is new -- this is Iceland!) I ambled around the big canyon there, formed from the aforementioned American and European plates pulling each other apart -- a gorge of jumbled stones and moss. I've never seen so much moss -- it was the kind of moss wonderland I expected to find in Iceland. In some of the more secluded corners that the wind couldn't reach, when the sun peaked out from the clouds, I wished I could lie down upon these moss beds and have a nap.
I was working my way through one of these meandering gorges, somewhere near the waterfall pictured at the top of this page, and keeping a mental track of the time so I wouldn't miss the bus, when I bumped into a friendly Italian man with greying beard and impish bent. He was dancing from stone to stone, awed by the surroundings. "This is so wonderful!" he said. "Look at those beautiful rocks over there! Magnificent!"
I should have assumed then and there, by the way that he was prancing from rock to rock, that something was amiss here, and that I was falling in with a madman. I should have heard the warning bells. Poor gullible, trust-everybody-me. Little by little, I fell into the trap.
Let me put it this way: I can see now why they always say don't take rides with strangers! The Italian guy (I can't remember his name -- maybe something like Rodolphe) promptly announced, as the wind swept his hair: "Let's go to the spa -- to the Blue Lagoon! There's nothing better than ending your day in the hot waters of the Blue Lagoon. It is the best thing in Iceland. Come on, let's go."
"But I have a ticket for the bus," I said, "and it goes back to Reykjavik soon."
"Forget about the bus," he said. "I have a hire car. I can drive you back to Reykjavik tonight. And besides, I can show you round this corner of Iceland -- it's more than you can see in the bus."
He had a point there, and despite the obvious risks of "riding with strangers", I decided not to be a pussy. From my point of view, it was an offer too good to refuse. I had been forced to challenge Iceland by foot ever since I arrived, and here was this guy offering to drive me around, in his hire car. Besides, I could never have afforded the bus ticket to the Blue Lagoon, which I was interested in seeing. He seemed like a nice guy. Actually Germanic in race, lived near the Austrian border in northern Italy. Ran a record shop, liked Icelandic bands such as Sigur Ros (nice one). Came to Iceland every summer, for the past three years at least. (I can imagine doing the same thing, but next time I want to go there in winter. Just to see the real polar night.) So, I agreed to ride with him. We passed the bus on our way out -- suckers! I thought, looking at the passengers cooped up inside. I had moved a step beyond them -- I was now seeing Iceland by car!
And what a rush it was sitting in the passenger seat with Rodolphe as we sped down the narrow roads being buffeted by winds, with the hills green and strange all around us. This was the Iceland I had been dying to see! As we headed south to the Blue Lagoon, I looked at his hand and wondered: where's the wedding ring? I remembered concluding that he had to be gay. In my naive way, I didn't think that would be a problem. (Not that I have a problem with gay men, mind you -- they just always seem to want to crack on to me! And I was only trying to be friendly!)
The area immediately surrounding the Blue Lagoon is one of the strangest and most impressive moonscapes I have ever seen. It is the closest thing I have experienced to seeing an alien world, and everything is different -- ground, sky, you name it. Out of the fields of lava suddenly pools of bright blue water appear -- the world-famous Blue Lagoon! According to explore-reykjavik.com, the Blue Lagoon is "located in the lunar-like landscape of a lava field... accidentally created by the run-off water from the Svartsengi power station. The reputed health benefits (particularly for skin ailments) of its mineral-rich, geothermal seawater have made it one of the most visited locations in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon (tel: 420 8800; fax: 420 8801; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.bluelagoon.is) is situated on the Reykjanes peninsula, about 50km (30 miles) southwest of the city. Bus 5 leaves Reykjavik's central bus station three times a day, and the journey takes about 40 minutes)."
It is cooler to go there by car, however, and it was blowing a gale and absolutely freezing when we arrived in the barren car park. I was out of cash, so luckily Rodolphe (like a sugar-daddy) agreed to donate some gold Icelandic coins to help cover the rather lofty entrance fee (kr 1200). Into the showers where we stripped naked and soaped up before putting on a pair of swimming trunks, and hitting the spa. It was a wonderful and surreal experience, especially after it started hailing, and my head was softly massaged by falling chunks of Arctic ice! Absolute warmth below, cold ice above -- that's the Icelandic polarity.
Rodolphe suggested a spell in the sauna, which I didn't really like, and which should have provided me another confirmation of his sexual status (pardon the stereotypes here). However, he hadn't made a move on me even when we were naked together in the showers, so I figured even if he was gay he a cool gay (rather than the in-your-face aggressive kind of gay.) Anyway, we were at the Blue Lagoon for ages, floating under the stream drifts which were thrown this way and that by the relentless wind. We smeared white mud on our faces. I noticed my blistered feet began feeling better -- within the next day or two they were almost completely healed. Remarkable! We stayed right up until closing time at 9pm, and the world turned dreary and cold all around us. I love Icelandic weather which is one reason I want to come back in the winter, and see real desolation! Rodolphe and I drove back to my youth hostel in Reykjavik. It had been a great day, and I wondered how I could match it tomorrow (although the tomorrow did indeed prove more memorable, as I met a future lover. But that is another story.
I was forgetting -- there was meant to be a punchline here! Well, the punchline is, Rodolphe was in fact gay! And as we hit the Reykjavik city limits he made his move, and tried to grab my hand. It was touch and go there for a while, but I managed to get out of it with my dignity attached. Some of the guys at the youth hostel were horrified when I told them the story. The way I figure, it was worth taking the risk of riding with Rodolphe, to see a part of Iceland I would never have been able to see. Sometimes you have to take a chance. To be honest, even though he had a mistake in assuming I was gay, I still think Rodolphe was a nice guy. Maybe I will bump into him again on future trips to Iceland -- perhaps in the sauna at the Blue Lagoon!
In regards to Gay Iceland, I have heard it said: Although a gay scene does exist in Reykjavik, it is very small. One good place to meet gay men is the sauna at the Vesturbæjarlaug-Vesturbaejar Swimming Pool (Hofsvallagata, IS-101 Reykjavik, phone: 354 551 5004). If you are that way inclined, you might as well check it out. I don't go for saunas myself, but many guys swear by them...