I felt somewhere between a chicken and a potato! Not sure which whether I was both or just one. Here I was underground for the last 10minutes up to my neck in water that was so hot it was just bearable and listening to a local giving us a geological history of Iceland. My skin was like a chicken going from white to red or else I was like a spud getting boiled where my skin was soon to come off! Not sure if it’s physically possible to sweat underwater, or if chickens sweat, but I’m fairly sure I was. With nobody else for 10 or 20 kilometres this was one of the stranger things that happened to me.
It all started innocently enough as we headed on past the bubbling lakes, streams and steaming vents in Hverarond in North Eastern Iceland just before Myvatn Lake. An amazing place and one of the best we saw on our ring road trip on ‘the one’ around Iceland. As we descended the chicanes to get down to lake level we spotted the iconic looking Hverfell Crater to our left. It looks exactly like you would draw an exploded volcano. Perfectly conical. Like a scoop gone out of a giant ice-cream cone. This black crater sprinkled with snow loomed large as we drove up the black sand track to it just off the main road. I had a deal trying to convince my buddy to climb the 20min to the top but when two young Americans appeared seemingly out of the bushes he said he would. We got talking to them on our ascent and the reason they were in the bushes was that they were trying to find a hot spring but had no luck and were now trying to find their car! We hadn’t a clue of any hot spring but said we would give them a lift back to the main road where their car was supposedly parked.
We found the car easily, parked beside what could only be described as a huge scar or schism in the ground. This schism was kilometres long and was about 4mtrs (12ft) higher than the surrounding landscape just like an earthquake pushed the land together. Now though their car wasn’t the only one there and so the American guy went under this scar into a sort of cave opening to ask about the spring. He came out all red cheeked a minute later whispering ‘they are naked, they are naked’. Despite his embarrassment he now knew that this is where you can swim. Myself and my buddy had no intention of doing any dipping in freezing conditions but the young enthusiasm wore off on us so we said ‘feck it’ and said we would give it a try. So we ventured 100mtrs further down and in the zero degree (32F) temperatures in the absolute middle of nowhere we changed into our shorts. We said we would get naked the next time we were in a spring in the middle of nowhere, for our first time though shorts were good!
As we clambered down the rocks in our bare freezing feet we could see the crystal clear water slowly moving below and feel the heat rising off it. By now we were a tad cold so the water would be perfect. A dip of the toe put a stop to all that. The water was absolutely roasting. The 4 of us spent 10minutes trying to bare it but this underground stream was just too hot. Just as we were giving up one of the naked locals came down, with a towel, and told us to join them. The locals ain’t stupid you know. The reason they were where they were is because in that 100mtrs the water cools just enough so you can swim in it. We entered their underground layer to find a naked fifty something Icelandic couple in the water. Her swimming in the crystal clear water. Crystal clear! And him sitting on some underwater rock. The water was still roasting but it was possible to get into it. Even so after several minutes you had to get out and sit in the freezing air just to cool down. The young Americans were highly embarrassed by even being in the same room, cave, as naked people but with the guys excellent English he made them forget about it. It turns out that he is a guide during the summer so proceeded to tell us the history of the area and the island of Iceland. It was a bizarre scene – beside some black stone crater sprinkled with snow in the middle of nowhere in Iceland I was underground with a boiling stream and was listening to a lecture on Icelandic geology from a naked man on a rock! You wouldn’t dream it. It was very interesting all round but after about 30min he seemed to be reaching the end as the lava was finally reaching the surface. It was bubbling and forming these volcanoes, magma plumes and steaming streams. We sat in perfect silence for all this but as the magma plumes exploded he jumped out of the water with bits flying everywhere. Both left and right! The Americans didn’t look!
After this and 30minutes in the water we were so hot we had to leave. I was definitely medium to well done. Now that I think of it, I was probably more of a chicken!