It had started to snow heavily by the time we’d moved on to our second breakfast cuppa, so rather than driving a bit further afield as planned, we decided to stay close to Reykjavk and head for Heidmork, a conservation area just twenty minutes south of the city. The cross country trails are very well marked so we didn’t worry about not having a map. Instead we were disappointed that there wasn’t enough snow to try out our new snow-shoes!
Whilst we saw a few cross-country skiers and runners, we had the park largely to ourselves. With the mountains looming in the distance, it felt like the perfect Winter wonderland setting. We walked about 5 miles and then huddled in the warmth of ‘The Snow Plough’ for a picnic lunch.
I braved the return drive. It’s strange how snow and ice covered roads don’t phase me, neither do remote mountain roads in South America, but I dread driving through town at home. Maybe I should just buy a Monster Truck and scare other drivers out of the way!
From Heidmork we drove north to the Alftanes Peninsula and parked by Bessastandir church to look at the amazing views of Reykjavik and Mount Esja. I’d been a bit silly and had been taking my liner gloves on and off all day to take photographs. When I took them off again at the church they got excruciatingly cold very quickly in the biting wind. So much so that the pain bought tears to my eyes and we had to go back to the car so that I could warm up. I certainly learnt my lesson! The liner gloves stay on in future. The peninsula really is a wind trap, and the sea had frozen into big, solid chunks along the shoreline. Whilst the church is very impressive to look at, and you can walk from here across the spit to Grund, we decided against it because of my cold hands, and headed to Alftane’s geothermal pool to defrost.
Whilst I love the Blue Lagoon, the local geothermal pools are so worth a visit or three. Alftane’s is quiet, quirky, and has the only wave pool in Iceland! For £3 each you have access to a water slide, a small indoor pool, a larger outdoor pool for lane swimming, and three hot pots. I’ve never been a fan of spa resorts or even day spas, but this feels like the luxurious end of wild swimming. You can’t beat bobbing about in hot water, whilst snow flakes land on your head, especially after a hard day.
After about thirty minutes of bobbing, one of the locals told us that the wave machine was about to be switched on in the wave pool. Everyone made their way to the small pool, and we waited for what we assumed would be similar to our experience of wave pools in the UK. No. The Icelanders certainly don’t do things by half. In the UK, the waves start slowly, and build up to a moderate size that will move you but not that much. Here, they try to replicate gale force conditions, without a build up. High waves hit you instantly. Without any cochlears to balance himself, poor Rich had to scramble as quickly as possible to the shallow end or risk drowning. By the time the machine was switched off, we all looked as if we’d been washed out to sea. Forget aqua aerobics, 45 minutes of treading water in these conditions will turn you into an athlete in no time! After helping a little girl retrieve the shoes which had been swept off her feet, and Rich to stand up after swallowing half the pool, we retreated to the safety of the hottest hot pot (40 degrees C).
After negotiating the sheet ice in the car park we headed back into Reykjavik and the nearest 10-11 supermarket for some much needed chocolate. Such local supermarkets aren’t cheap, but the budget supermarkets don’t re-open until December 28th. After tea and biscuits to recover from our adventures, we cooked a comfort food dinner of chile con carne and settled down to plan our final day with ‘The Snow Plough’.