So that’s why they call it Iceland!

After a stellar performance in delivering multiple blogs from the Faroes, well in my view anyway, the silence since we arrived in Iceland must have seemed deafening, to those on their couches. The last few days have been full for us, mostly wondering how to dodge more rain and cold and blogs have taken a back seat, so here goes…..

We are up early in our cabin after a luxurious night sleeping on a calm sea yet again. Are we lucky or what?! Fog or mist clouds our view on the TV screen from the bridge of the view ahead. Good thing they did not have that technology on the Titanic! Cabins need to be vacated an hour and half before arrival to allow the crew to prepare them for the next guests, so up and packed for us. Unlike the Faroe Islands, everyone is getting off so we gather up our gear, still damp from yesterday’s windy downpour and ensconce ourselves with a fellow traveller, Ralph, whose path we crossed from time to time in the Faroes.

Then we are down to Streak and Storm, remove the anchor ropes, load up and wait to dock. Motorbikes with knobbly tyres surround us, I believe they are heading for the centre with its gravel roads, river crossings and other challenges while we are taking the more sedate route anti clockwise around the country. I doubt our paths will cross and so far they have not.

Just as efficiently as we boarded, they have us off into a cold and wet Seyðisfjordur, the port in Eastern Iceland where we will start and finish our circumnavigation of Iceland. The first thing I notice is the trees, something we missed in the Faroes, which had virtually no trees, the second is snow a few hundred meters up the steep grassy hillsides, that explains the cold, snow near sea level in summer, whatever next… Now I know why all the UK motorcyclists head south from the Eurostar, they can get this kind of weather in the UK in winter.

Happily settled in the local coffee shop, these map apps are very good at locating them, we look at the weather forecast for the east of Iceland, rain rain and more rain it appears and sub 10 degree celsius weather predicted. Not our preferred riding weather and the alternative of heading south sees more of the same. With our gear still wet, we stay overnight to dry out and then set-off northwards.

Not sure I want to see the winter menu.

Seyðisfjödur

Seyðisfjödur


What a wild and windswept place, perfect.


Past the cyclists, they are crazier than us, although one we spoke to thought that those who walked were the crazy ones. Down the temperature goes and over the pass at 5 degrees, a hot drink and warmth starts to fill our thoughts and we make barely 80 kms / 50 ml before we find a place to warm up. Today will be a short riding day. We reach Möðrudalur, the highest working farm in Iceland, and probably the coldest and here we will stay. As we walk back from our room for dinner, who should appear but the cyclists, they have peddled the same distance as we have ridden, although we arrived about 7 hours earlier. My hat off to them, but not for me.

Möðrudalur

Typical Iceland creek, Möðrudalur

Very cute Arctic Fox cubs who just ignore our presence at Möðrudalur

Anyone seen the keys?

Anne is always willing to show those interested how Streak works

In the wilds, happy and together

Still grey the next day, but onward we go without the rain, we are thankful for small mercies. I am taken by the ‘fresh’ nature of the land, both the verdant greens and the volcanic activity that rents or covers the landscape we ride through – coming from Australia, an old and worn land, the recentness, if there is such a word.

Alaskan Lupine was introduced in 1945 as a way to add more nitrogen to the soil

On our way to Dettifoss – a lone house in the middle of lava flow

Dettifoss, Iceland

Dettifoss, Iceland


Hverir geothermal area

Þingeyjarsveit district – with some of the reforestation

Practicing for winter already

We chose to take a 7.4km tunnel linking Mivatn and Akureyri – what surprise that is as the temperature increases from 11 degrees to 34 mid-way – not the best experience for Anne being claustrophobic! We find out that Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel construction hit some difficulties when they hit a stream of underground, boiling geothermal water.

34 degrees in the centre of Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel is unnerving


We arrive in Akureyri from where in February 2018 two dedicated BMW riders drove their car 400 km to hear our presentation on ‘the Stans’ we were making at the Iceland BMW motorcycle club AGM. Then they drove 400km home to be at work the next day. We really hoped they enjoyed the presentation! We are catching up with one of them, Joi, while we are here on Sunday.

Saturday night we are eating at a local restaurant when our neighbours, seeing our clothing ask if we are the RTW motorcyclists meeting their friend Joi tomorrow. Of course we are. We spend time chatting and learn that Kristjan and Joi are friends and motorcyclists from childhood going on a road trip together the day after next. Connections again.

Kristjan and Gitte whom we met at the restaurant


Joi and Gudrun

Akureyri city centre

Typical Icelandic church

We spend longer in Akureyri than originally planned for some bike maintenance issues on both bikes. Stefan, whom we met at the Motorcycle Museum, has kindly let us use part of his Velaverkstaedi garage for us to work in, away from any potential rain and gives us hand at times.

They don’t make things easy to get to


I had wondered the last time we were in Iceland, in February 2018, about the lack of trees around Reykjavik, and have since learned that it was a combination of natural disasters, volcanic activity, and clearance for sheep farming and timber for heating and charcoal that denuded the landscape. It is believed that when the first settlers arrived, around 25% of the country was forested, This was reduced to 1% within three centuries. Later volcanic activity covered large areas and strong winds also eroded the soil. Until 100 years ago, many Icelandic people had not seen forests. At the present rate of reforestation, it will still only cover 1.5% by 2050. A reminder to us all, man’s actions cannot always be quickly remedied. See https://hmdecozine.com/2014/01/21/iceland/ if you are interested in more info on this topic.

Example of the erosion


It snowed here last week, mid July – notice the reforestation


From Akureyri, we continue our way westwards, stopping at Hvammstangi for the night.

You come across all sorts of travellers – each to their own

Skagafjödur

Dry fish sculpture at Hvammstangi, near Haðlan Kaffihús

Hvammstangi

Our home in Hvammstangi

Walking through a new forest in Hvammstangi

The plan was to spend a week exploring the Westfjord region but more forecast rain put us off and we decide to head to Snæfellsness National Park instead. What a special place, especially Djúpalónssandur, or the Black Lava Pearl Beach.

Walking down to Djúpalón


Djúpalón

Amazing lava at Djúpalón

Remains of British trawler Epine wrecked in 1948

So many amazing lava rock formations at Djúpalón

At Djúpalón

Anne in her element at Djúpalón

We have seen, experienced and learned so much since we arrived so instead of writing a ‘novel’, here is a simple list of things that have become normal for us over the past couple of weeks but are worth a mention or we might forget about them:

  • The smell of sulphur when taking a shower can be strong in places
  • Hot water from taps is extremely hot here
  • Night time is still light enough to read in summer
  • You can’t see the stars at night in summer
  • The tiniest villages exist everywhere especially in tiny coves accessible to fishing boats
  • Hellnar

  • The tiniest village will always have a church
  • Hellnar

  • Life here, at least in the countryside, revolves around fishing or sheep farming and Icelandic horses
  • Icelandic horses are a prized and unique horse breed with 5 gaits

  • Whereas sheep in the Faroes are kept predominantly for meat and therefore would be seen with long strands of wool hanging off their bodies, waiting to snag against a bush to be removed, sheep here have a beautiful fluffy coats for the prized Icelandic wool garments
  • The Icelandic language is the closest to original Old Norse that was spoken by the Vikings and has a number of unique characters such as ð (th as in ‘this’) and þ (th as in ‘thing’)
  • The power of nature can be seen and felt throughout Iceland with its numerous volcanoes, moss covered lava, waterfalls, wild coastline, geothermal activity noticeable with steam coming out of the ground, wildflowers growing out of lava rock cracks
  • Grábrók, Iceland

    Inside Grábrók – where’s Wally?

    From Grábrók

    Moss and flowers

    Kirfjúfell

    Gotafoss

    Wildflowers everywhere

    Magical nature

  • Many legends of trolls, demons, and prophets exist around the origin of numerous rock formations, islands, canyons
  • Elves might live here, so do not disturb

  • Everyone speaks English in Iceland
  • Winds can be ferocious here – thank goodness for Cape Town riding experience
  • No need for wind turbines when there is so much geothermal energy
  • Iceland is heaven for hikers and nature lovers
  • Don’t think of earthquakes when you’re in one of the many long tunnels
  • Sheep are as stupid as kangaroos, running out right in front of you at the last minute – thank goodness for good brakes
  • Staying connected is tricky when you camp and need to recharge your devices
  • Too many devices?

  • There has been a lot of “chatter” in our heads as we work hard on staying positive in the relentless grey, cold and windy weather
  • Snæfellsjökull glacier, the entrance to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, is right behind us, in the cloud…


    Anthony won every game!

    Anne jokingly trying to recreate a brilliant photo a friend took at this place under clear blue skies

  • It is amazing how excited we can get when the low cloud and fog clears, even if only briefly, to reveal impressive scenery
  • Helgafellssveit

    Skagaljfjorur


    We finally saw the top of Snæfellsjökull glacier – such an exciting moment!

  • Green is so vivid even under grey skies
  • Grundarfjördur

    Grundarfjördur

    Grundarfjördur

  • Birds chirp all night
  • We definitely prefer wild camping to organised camping but nature is so fragile and precious here that we decided to respect the Icelandic government request not to wild camp unless absolutely necessary
  • Iceland is expensive
  • It’s been fun repeatedly bumping into Ralph and Charlotte since the Faroes and making new connections
  • Nice catching up with Charlotte

  • We have enjoyed our time but the weather has been a bit of a challenge – yes, that’s why they call it ICEland! – we are especially disappointed to have had to decide to skip the Westfjord region this time
  • Too much low cloud!

  • It is Anthony’s turn to pick the next holiday/trip destination!!
  • A hot tub anyone?

A bit of trivia: we have now ridden Streak and Storm in 50 countries.

Just a couple more days here, time to catch up with our Icelandic friends, store the bikes in Reykjavik for a month thanks to these friends here before special time with family.

– A&A

23 comments on “So that’s why they call it Iceland!

  1. What a blog! Superb! Have just spent 20 minutes travelling across Iceland via your text and photos. Think I’ll turn the heating up. Oh, and I didn’t find Wally. xx

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  2. OMG. – amazing photos & amazing stories; making my life seem very ‘unamazing’!!!!! Ha ha – continue with the adventures but enjoy your family break first. 💋😊 Nola

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  3. What an experience A and A !! Great blog stories and photos once again. A real test for the wet weather gear…..and a real test for your keyboard with all the extra bits above letters in the names ! Well done…love it. Take care !

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  4. OMG, the places you have been, the people you have met and all the things you have seen. Thank god for all the great photos to keep the memories alive. And Anne, well done for letting Anth win every game of cards without him knowing. Great effort.

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  5. Amazing contrast! I’m on my phone so will come back and look at these magical photos again. I had a chuckle at Joi wearing a short sleeved t-short… enjoy the rest of your stay xx

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  6. Thank goodness for this blog, I was getting a bit ‘antsy’ sitting on my sofa with nothing to read. Fabulous pictures of stunning views but I’m not going there… too cold !
    I didn’t find Wally but I wonder if the strong sulphur smell is the water or has Anne been at the pork and beans again……
    Please don’t leave it so long until the next entry…. I wasn’t worried but….
    Keep safe

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    • Sorry to hear that you got a bit antsy, hope the cream works OK. I think Anne meant “a Wally”, me, rather than “the Wally” so as to avoid any copyright issues. Next blog will be armchair riding.

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  7. Thank you very much, simply a fabulous blog. Quite an amazing place But thought of going from 5° to nearly 30 in the middle of the tunnel I find rather creepy. Stunning photos. All the best stay safe

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    • You are welcome, although it was 34 degrees in the tunnel. It is somewhat unnerving to ride through such long tunnels in such an active volcanic region. No more tunnels planned.

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  8. Yet again a fabulous insight into another country, amazing photos too. The grey seems to add to the wildness . It must have been good when the blue skies suddenly appeared. Enjoy the rest of your trip xx

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    • Thank you Celia. That was my thought too Celia, that grey and fog adds to the wildness and atmosphere, but after riding and camping in those elements day after day got tough – we are obviously too soft!! Xx

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  9. Fantastic photos which make me want to go there! Bad luck with the gloves, what was the problem? Had that particular make not tested them in such cold and wet conditions? Great blog and I managed to find Wally by zooming in and zooming some more ;))xxx

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  10. Hello you 2 old speeds. I’ve finally had time to sit and read this blog. Thank you Anthony. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The last few weeks have been ridiculous. I don’t know how I ever had time to go to work. I just love the Icelandic scenery and the green!!!!! So green!!!! Such a contrast to the Red Centre here in Alice Springs. Those churches and the wildflowers…simply stunning. Stay safe my friends…until next time x x x

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