The journey so far:
36 days on the road:
3160 miles by land, about 1000 miles by sea,
Days without any rain 9
Days with rain almost all day 3
Nights camping 30 Nights in hotels 3 Nights at sea 3
Countries visited 7
Days driven out of our tent by the weather 1
Days we nearly checked into an hotel due to lack of sleep caused by high winds but changed our mind because of the price and then slept surprisingly well 1
We stayed in Vik for 2 nights to do exciting things like the washing and lazing around drinking beer- we actually did not leave the camp site at all on Thursday. There were about 10 loos there and 2 showers, plus warm water and a good sized room to sit in when the weather turns bad. It was looking very promising and we nearly stayed for three nights, but it became very crowded and the queues for the showers were interminable. We met up with an elderly German bloke who we had previously met at the campsite near Geyser. He looked very much like a Raymond Brigs’s character, and my suspicions about him were confirmed; I wanted to take a photo of him for my blog and he refused, ah ha! he was going incognito! Now we really know where Father Christmas goes for his summer holidays. Nah, he was very sweet and has actually been coming to Iceland on his own for many years. He said this was his 27th time travelling here in his camper van.
Vik itself is a lovely spot. It is framed by emerald green cliffs on one side and by a beautiful black beach on the other.
At one end of the beach is a group of granite stacks, that, of course, are meant to be two trolls pulling a three masted sailing boat into the harbour and then got caught in the sun. They love their troll legends here.
Further west is the bird sanctuary at Dyrhólaey, which straddles the most fabulous set of stone arches.
We had the delight of watching pufflings fledging. It was hilarious and very sweet to watch the parent puffins flying backwards and forwards to the ledges to try and encourage the youngsters to fly. You could almost hear the stroppy teenage birds saying ‘I don’t want to and you can’t make me!’.
The mist and rain made it seem even more atmospheric.
On Friday we drove on round to Kirkjubæjarklauster (luckily the locals call it Klauster) where we visited the ravine at Fjardrarglúfur (Imagine how much fun it would be to ask for directions around here).
I have never seen anything like it before; it was very quiet, calm with an atmosphere that could quite easily have you believing in the Icelandic elves.
The rain was hacking down by then, so went to the camp site at Klauster (the one that actually HAS hot water) and pitched the tent and awning in a hurry. After cooking the evening meal in our usual outdoors manner we decamped to the dining area to thaw out. It was packed, and we got talking to a German bloke who was driving all across many of the F roads on his own. He loves the barren wastes of the highlands and was very sniffy about such pleasures as the waterfalls, where so many people go. He thought the bits we found quite dull were very beautiful and up-lifting. Iceland seems to be the country that has something to make nearly everyone happy.
We were just happy to see that the rain was easing up as we went to bed, but, boy, did the wind make up for it. I was very nervous, after the time we had to take the Tentipi down, due to high winds, but this time we had managed to pitch it properly. The awning on Camel, which is really designed to work in hot places like South Africa, flapped like mad all night, as did the tent. I think that I only slept for about three hours, but it all held together perfectly well.
On Saturday we briefly visited Kirkjugólf in Klauster, which is like a mini, flat, Giant’s Causeway (not as big a contradiction as it sounds). Its name translates as ‘Church Floor’ (you can see why when you go there) but it is completely natural.
We then drove on through the Sandar, a vast area with a seemingly endless plain of black sand and silt, past the various glaciers that come down very close to route 1. It turns out the barren areas are the result of a range of huge floods that occur from time to time from the glaciers. There are several active volcanoes under the largest glacier outside the polar regions and the results can be, and often are catastrophic. The effects on infrastructure are also far reaching. There is only one road across this region; route one. If it gets cut off in one place, you have to drive RIGHT round the rest of Iceland to get from a to b. If the road gets cut in two or more places, the people in the middle are totally stuck.
Everywhere you look here, you see the volcanic history of the island writ large. The lava planes go on for miles and miles. You can see layer after layer of lava built up on the mountains. Apparently, when the Laki volcano went off in 1793 30 billion tonnes of lava were spewed out, covering an area of 500 sq km in a layer up to 19km thick (according to Lonely Planet)(as that is double the height of Everest, we suspect there is a decimal place error here, anybody know any better?) There are huge areas with barely anything growing at all. You have to admire the people here for getting on as well as they do. Last time the giant floods swept down from the glacier, it took 21 days to get the road back in action. To save money they wisely make all of the bridges single lane, but we found this one with passing places.
And then there are the glaciers themselves. They look quite inviting, until you look a little closer and see the huge great crevices. Not to be tackled lightly
The glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlon, is one of the most famous and popular sites in Iceland, and I was worried that it would not live up to all the hype. It was, however, without doubt, the best place we went to in the whole of Iceland. I actually yelped when I first caught sight of the lagoon, well see for yourself.
In case you like Lara Croft,
they used these amphibious vehicles, which were painted grey and used as Russian boats in Tomb Raider. Apparently, they froze the whole lagoon over in 2002 so they could destroy six Aston Martins for Die Another Day (cribbing from Lonely Planet again).
I don’t think my photos do it justice. If you ever come to Iceland, this is the one place that you should not miss. Even Tim was running out of superlatives. (Having chatted to a nice young German female cyclist, I must moderate the phrase ‘must not miss’. She said, quite rightly, that Iceland is absolutely full of places ‘you must see without fail’ and there is not enough time for them all.)
As we have been driving around, we have been full of admiration for the cyclists, that have managed to get themselves to the most remote and challenging areas. Saturday appears to have defeated nearly all of them and her kind parents, who are driving along the same route that she and her boyfriend have been cycling, spent the day rescuing poor soles that had spent 4 hours against the wind to cover 13 km. The ones going the other way looked pretty happy!
We spent one night in Höfn, where I nearly bottled about camping due to lack of sleep (the wind was still belting along), but the local hotels were so expensive (it would have cost over £300, by the time we had paid for a room and eaten in a restaurant) that I decided the wind wasn’t so bad after all. I did sleep amazingly well, for me- over 8 hours. It was still windy, but I am getting more confident about the tent.
On Sunday we drove to the tiny village, Djupivogur after trying to reach the lovely mountains of the Lónsöræfi national park. It was all going well; we were feeling confident about the tyres and the F road was not too challenging and then we came to this
How deep? no idea How fast? also not a clue. Was there anyone to help us out? Nope.
After we had turned around and got back on to route 1 we saw a convoy of huge-wheeled Land Rover Defenders, that seemed to have picked up a coach party to go where we could not. There are some places in Iceland that you probably should not go alone, and I think that was one.
As we approached Djupivogur we enjoyed how the scenery kept changing once again. It did help that the sun came out.