On Thursday we tried to camp in Patreksfjordur, we really did. We knew we had to stay there overnight to get our new tyres on Friday morning, so we thought the fairly basic campsite would be OK, especially as there was a nice kitchen and good clean individual showers (that was the shock at Talkaffjordur, because you had to use the swimming pool’s showers which were…. gasp .. communal. I have never showered so quickly and luckily no one else wanted an early morning wash).
We set up the tent with much difficulty and not very well, because the soil was very shallow and, even our toughest rock pegs could not penetrate very deeply through the rock under-layer. We then decided to explore the town. Well, we got as far as the tourist office, with free Wi-fi, and a nice warm seating area, and there is really nothing much else there. If you don’t believe me, you should check out how rude the Lonely Planet guide is about the place.
Strolling back to the tent we stopped for a while to watch some local workmen diverting a small stream to re-lay the town’s major utilities. It was fascinating to watch the JCB operator move earth around as delicately as a surgeon and the other workmen dodge around him. The health and safety bods in the UK would have gone bananas. Nobody had a hard hat, the men working seemed to be extremely relaxed and they let Tim and me watch it from very close quarters. Lucky us, the men were very friendly and it was truly fascinating to watch.
What we didn’t notice was how the wind was building. By the time we got back to the Tentipi, it looked as if it was about to explode. We tightened all the guy ropes, put in extra ones as well, and put rocks around the edge,but it still was flapping like mad and grit was blowing all through the tent. It was then that we realised that we were one of the last three campers left on the site and the other two were caravans. There was also a nice young couple trying to set up their frame tent, which looked like it was about to blow away (no exaggeration here). We decided that it was likely that our poorly pitched tent could be damaged by the wind so we took it down as quickly as we could- an interesting experience that involved me sitting on top of it and Tim desperately gathering it in around the edges. We were relieved to see the other couple give up, not surprising when she showed me the bent pegs that looked like pretzels.
So we stayed in a very pleasant hotel/hostel called the Fox hostel (phew, there were rooms left). We met the nice young couple again, because they too had taken shelter there. I had a lovely chat with Erin, who was on a camping holiday with her boyfriend and was as friendly as I had come to expect Icelanders to be. We went to the local cafe and had a truly delicious meal which cost quite a bit but it was very good value.
Friday, Tim went off to get Camel’s new ‘boots’ (tyres for us mere mortals, who don’t talk four wheel drive car lingo) fitted and then we headed off towards the Snaefel peninsula. The journey was as again beautiful and magnificent and…. well see for yourself.
We camped at Stykkisholmur, mainly because the Lonely Planet said the camp would be five star. It was nice enough and the tent did not try and take off, despite the pouring rain. BUT the showers were on the outside of the loo block with no roof! Yep, someone thought it would be a great idea to build an unheated set of two showers for a whole campsite without even a roof on each in ICELAND. I guess they were trying to keep the demand down.
Enough said about that place, apart from another weird Icelandic church.
We drove right round the Snaefel peninsula
and we drove across a rather more exciting gravel track than usual (route 570, in case you have a map) which went very close to the Sneafells Glacier. Tim was totally in his element, as was Camel in her new fancy, foreign boots, but we could not see the actual glacier. We loved the remote terrain, but decided it would be stupid for just the two of us to head up into the mist to try and see the actual glacier.
The Saefel peninsula is well worth a visit if you come to Reykjavik, the guides describe it as a kind of potted Iceland, where you can get a feel for the whole country, without going too far, and I agree with them whole-heartedly.
We decided we had to push on to ensure we had enough time to see as much as possible of the rest of the country before we had to catch the ferry, so we drove on to a fairly basic camp (are you sensing a theme here) in Akranes near Reykjavik. The sun was shining, the Tentipi was easy to pitch, we had a chat with the locals, who were very interested about our set up. We had a walk along the beach, where there was a fair bit of stuff washed up. We found the remains of several shoes, which were, weirdly, all right foot ones. The sand was a very undistinguished grey, but it sparkled in the evening sunlight as if it was shot through with diamonds.
When we returned to the tent, one of the friendly locals, called Eddie bounced up with three shot glasses and a bottle of Toras, a local vodka based drink and insisted that we had a shot together. It tasted like salty liquorice and it really warms up your stomach, makes your eyes water and stops you caring about the cold. I think I am getting a clue about how Icelanders cope with the weather, but they are seriously the nicest and most fun people I have met any where.
On Sunday we moved on to Reykjavik, via the Blue Lagoon and the peninsula near the city. The route is quite noteworthy, not least because of the massive lava fields on the way.
The Blue Lagoon was very expensive, but well worth the trip. You have to shower in the nude (the phrase is ‘without your swimming costume’) before you go in and , if you have the patience, there are cubicles to do this in private. I got bored and let it all hang out in front of all the local svelte young things, after all, nobody knows me here. Luckily the men let it all hang out elsewhere. You are advised to slather your hair with conditioner, which I did, and then went into the pool. Tim and I spent about two hours wallowing in the pool, which was milky blue, hot and fabulous. You can buy a drink, scrub your face with the local silica sand, stand in the path of the steam vents and just relax. I think all of my aches have gone away.
We drove back up to the camp site in Reykjavik via the cute little national park near by. It was good,but I thought that it was being so fiercely protected because it is so close to the big city. I think I am suffering from Icelandic scenery overload again.