Pale As Hail Gets Sassy About Sulfur

I like eggs. Some of my fondest childhood memories were spent at my aunt’s house in an oversized T-shirt (spill proof, I was a messy eater) watching Disney movies while drinking hot chocolate and eating scrambled eggs. I’m not picky about how my eggs are cooked either. If they’re poached, over-easy, hard boiled, soft boiled, not boiled, etc. I’m into it. In fact I clearly remember watching Runaway Bride as a well-versed child of the 90’s and declaring it my favorite movie. In part, because even as a 7 year old I knew Richard Gere was easy on the eyes. But even more desirable was the scene where Julia Roberts cooked eggs, over easy. What Maggie Carpenter knew better than any Rom-Com heroine before her time, was that food was the way to really discover ones self. More specifically, eggs. Eggs are a gift that keeps on giving. And yet, after all that build up about my awkwardly positive relationship with eggs, I can’t stand the smell. And my shower? In my home? It smells like eggs. 

Sulfur is inescapable in Iceland. It’s great really, having the ability to get lava hot spring water straight through your faucets in no time at all. I’m not being cute or creative in my description here, it is lava water coming through my bathroom faucet and into the bathtub. Iceland has two water temperatures. Glacier and lava. And the lava? It’s as sulfuric as all get out! 

I was a child raised on the belief that a long warm bath can cure all ailments. Move over, dōTerra, all I’ll ever need is a hot bath and just enough shampoo to make bubbles fill the tub. The last year and a half we were living in an apartment that only had a shower and it’s simply not the same. Apartments in Reykjavik are expensive enough that I knew a bathtub would not be part of our criteria. And sure enough, the apartment we are moving to has but a shower head to wash me down. Fortunately, we are not moving to that apartment until the 9th of September and will continue to live in our airbnb until then. And the airbnb? Bath tub city! By that I mean yes there is one bathtub. 

After our perilous transatlantic journey to our new home the first thing on my list of new experiences was to climb a glacier, hike a volcano, meet Bjork, take a bath. I woke up at noon and, not wanting to waste any more of the day, decided to take a quick two hour bath and then get going. I turned the faucet on and stepped out of the room while the water filled to the top. After a short wait the anticipation was too much (it doesn’t take much to make me happy) and I gleefully pranced into the bathroom! I then walked right back out and shut the door. Fast. Sewage must have come up from the toilet and begun to spread across the bathroom. Filling the air in the apartment with an acrid smell the closed door could not contain. I was sure of it. I was wrong.

That smell was the water. The fancy earthy water Christian was so pumped up about because he is confused. “It’s naturally heated” he would say while he googled information about Iceland before we arrived. “The water where we’re moving is supposed to be fantastic on your skin!” he’d bring up when I complained about my complexion. “All their water smells like the seventh layer of the fiery depths of hell!” Was something Chris did not say. He left that part out. 

Eventually my desire to cook myself in hot water overcame my gag-impulse and I once again ventured into the searing sulfuric bathtub. I do not use the word “searing” by accident. Now, I like my water like I like my men, hot. But this water is not hot. It is the Nordic Viking version of hot. I held my breath to avoid the smell, but there was no way to avoid the heat after plunging into the hot tub. The water came from the center of the earth, through my faucet, and began to turn my glow-in-the-dark white skin into a fiery red as bright as my copper hair. Maybe that description is not doing a good enough job explaining the heat. Let me try again with a story. By this point I had survived my first bath and braved the smells and sites of Icelandic water. Eventually I chose to have another go at it. I turned on the water to medium heat (which could be translated to “boil a lobster temp”) and expected the hot water to pour out immediately, as it always does. Nothing but freezy glacier came out. I had no answer for this. Iceland does not run out of hot water. There are no heaters being over-worked. It literally comes from the ground. The same ground where they bury bread to bake it. I told Christian about this who, true to form, didn’t believe me and had to google a possible cause. The hot water wasn’t gone. The city had turned it off. A pipe had burst near our apartment and it was releasing scalding water into the city streets. The kind that kills people, people! The big wigs had to shut down the hot water in the city so that pedestrians wouldn’t die. That’s how hot the sulfuric water is. 

I have this new friend and my friend is a Canadian geologist. She teaches me what’s what. After spending years using Aveda products and teaching others how best to care for their hair, spending around 1,600 hours in classes with professional stylists discussing the chemical processes hair goes through in minute detail, I thought I knew my stuff. Turns out I had to talk to a geothermal engineer to figure out how to care for hair in Iceland. If you like your hair brittle and dry then, perfect! Sulfur is for you! If you don’t, which you don’t, you have to buy specific products to protect your hair from being attacked by it. And it’s not just hair the sulfur is after. It wants your esophagus too. Pro tip, if you don’t want your water to taste like rotten eggs and prefer not to ingest a corrosive liquid, let the tap run for about 30 seconds before drinking the water. Trust me, a Canadian told me. And I learned it the hard way. 

It’s not all bad, sulfuric chemical reactions made me rich! I have three rings I wear at all times. My white gold wedding ring, a silver Sundance midi ring, and a silver ring with a moon stone center (also Sundance, I have consistent taste). After basking in the bath for hours longer than the recommended dose, I lifted my hands and realized my two silver rings had turned to gold. Thanks, sulfur! Now I'm rich! 

Moral of the story: sulfuric water is even better than scrambled eggs. It’s the best and now my rings are gold so I’m rich enough to stop blogging forever. See you soon!