Outside the center of that village of Oval (population 1,900), floating on a small rubber raft above the gravel bar, one’s gaze is caught by a vast collection of Icelandic blue-gray glaciers. In the distance is a small ocean of blue sea, and below is the Beaufort Sea. The thermometer has recorded 32 degrees F. in the air and is dipping slightly. From here, it is a 20-minute boat ride to the Blue Lagoon, which looks to be right on time because I’m here today.
I’m halfway through a trip to the Blue Lagoon, a bathing spot 1,430 feet above sea level, about a mile and a half from the nearest entrance. The center of the island is a casual resort town called Gollsmuldafjordur. The rest of it is the Blue Lagoon. It’s a reserve that has been known for years for natural isolation, and it must not be confused with a spa. This is not a geothermal, mineral-laced oasis in the beautiful mountains. This is a crystal-clear lagoon for bathing, and you can’t go deeper. The water is almost nonpareil. As I stand on the edge of it, I notice on the lake a kind of swirling mass of swirling water, which resembles a stream of smoke.
It seems as if everybody on the island has an account there, and anyone who has been there before is immediately welcome. That said, many of the Blue Lagoon’s regular visitors have been around for a couple of decades and own a small house, the better to settle in and soak in the feel of the island. Everyone who comes, after all, wants to learn more about the lagoon’s natural magic, and the Blue Lagoon’s manager, Nils Smuldefjord, has a magic of his own, and welcomes this special morning of outdoor soaking, in the center of which I’m standing.
As I walk towards him, it seems as if he is rushing to accommodate us. So he takes me into the lagoon and we trek along the boardwalk, along with a few other guests, like me, who have been there for several years.
A pair of eagles hover above our heads. Two others sit across the water, nestled on the back of a rocky island. From here I can see volcanoes rising along the coast of north Iceland. We pass nothing but mountains, and the mountains are arranged in bands. One mountain in particular stands tall, and I don’t know if it is a mountain, or if it is a gray-scale example of massive glacier formation. I tell Smuldefjord that it’s that one. It is a mountain, Mr. Smuldefjord says, with a glacier like the one under the Blue Lagoon. I go back out, and later, on my way back to my hotel, I drive along a mountain road. The road is deep and narrow, and the road has a wonderful gradients — they are not steep, just moderate, and it’s so beautiful, no one notices it.
By the time I got back to the hotel, I was late for a dinner with an Icelandic friend, as I had forgotten to get my luggage on the plane. I bought a ticket for the ferry, and it turned out that by the time I got there, the ferry was leaving, and that was that. So I take the old tram and go back to the Old Harbour, the entrance to the lagoon, a restaurant, and, of course, my bungalow.