The campground is right in the center of Hveragerdi, a small town of 2000 inside the uber tourist route the ‘Golden Circle’. As such, it should get much more attention, but barely merits a page in the Iceland guidebook.
It’s an area famous for geo-termal fields of bubbling water and mud. maybe because there are no actual geysirs here, it has escaped the world’s attention. Driving around, it seems bigger than any of the towns we saw in the East. Lonely Planet hysterically says about the 2000 population town: “This art gallery would be worth of a town four times the size.”
And it has, for instance a pharmacy, which is the first place I go. My toe is still pretty fucked up, and it probably needs to be lanced.
I’d settle for some topical antibiotic, but the cute pharmacist tells me you can’t get that without a perscription. I do my best to be nice, and eventually she forges a doctor’s signature and gives me some cream.
Supposedly there are pools in which to swim, so we search the local store for towels. I have vigilantly brought chamois towels everywhere for years, but forgot them when we left most of our gear in Reykjavik. $12 each, ugh. Iceland is expensive.
The town is covered in hot spots. Most of them have been used for centuries, and more recently as winter warming for greenhouses that line the streets. (Note, however, that glass greenhouses should NOT be constructed in earthquake zones.)
At first we are pretty dissapointed. There are trails just on the outskirts of the town are long and boring. We walk past some industrial trash, and a few steam vents that are fenced off pretty far away so you can’t see any of the water. It’s not an unattractive area, but nothing like we’ve seen. It was good exercise at least – a few mile walk for a handful of little hot springs.
Interestingly, Emma has had an easier time eating here – since she discovered that she likes ham and cheese pannini, croissants and grilled sandwiches. Those are Northern European staples and can be found pretty much anywhere. Lily has been more picky.
The local guide book says there is a ‘hot river’ north of town, but mentions little else. We would have missed the turn off but for a sign that says ‘Hot River Cafe” Although once closer the location is unmistakable – there are at least 50 cars. The cafe serves good vegetable soup, something I have learned to actually enjoy about Icelandic food.
These are completely exposed thermal fields, with bubbling hot water and mud everywhere. It’s amazing the formations it makes, from small pools of moss and slime, to large blue pools of sulfur water, to brown exploding mud holes.
It’s a cool day, maybe 55F, and one can get a sense how valuable these would be in the cold winter. Although fed by the gulfstream, Iceland is not nearly as cold as one would think – southern Iceland averages around 32-33 and is quite wet in winter, with only occasional snow.
Farther north, however, you actually touch the arctic circle and the gulf stream is blocked by the big volcanoes. They get full on arctic winter.
Iceland’s five major geothermal powerplants give electricity to a third of the country and provide heat and hot water for almost all of the major metropolitan areas. Some small towns heat their streets in winter with hot water to keep them clear of ice and snow.
The walk there feels long, but it’s supported by one fantastic geothermal formation after another. And if that weren’t enough, the hills are beautiful in themselves.
As we descend over the last peak, there is a winding stream below with people bathing. There are separate pools in which to bath, sectioned off by stone dams so that groups can have their own area. It gives off steam and the banks are soft grass.
This isn’t really hot water, maybe 82F, so it never heats you up enough to want to get out. And so we don’t. The water is soft, full of minerals, and slightly sulfuric. But not distastefully so. Emma has been complaining alot about the farty smell of sulfur. She endures this happily.
It’s a freezing change into our clothes, but a good thing we bought those expensive towels. Drip drying would be painful. The walk back is warm and quick. We find a decent pizza place in town, which is warming. And sleep again at the cute campsite under a full moon.