Back to Top

Iceland 2007

Part 1 - Smryll line ferry journey & Sey∂isfjör∂ur to Myvatn.

23.07.07 - Home to Moffat

After sorting out all the domestic things one has to do before going on holiday we eventually left home at 11.30am. We had a reasonable journey up the A1 until about Doncaster where we hit some heavy rain showers. Listening to Sally traffic she warned us that the A1 was down to 1 lane at Borobridge due to an accident. We abandoned our idea of going across the A66 and instead cut across on the A65 to Skipton. It was a little slow at first going through Harrogate, but the road to Seatle was fairly quiet and we and we had a good run through. We decided to stop at Seatle for something to eat and at the ‘Naked Man Café’ had Yorkshire puddings with Cumberland sausage, stuffing, apple sauce and gravy. It certainly hid the spot! It was nice to see the area again as it had been a long time since I had been that way doing the Three Peak walk when I was with the college mountaineering club. Frank hadn't seen the Ribblehead viaduct so we took a slight detour via Horton in Ribblesdale to have a look at it before rejoining the A65 at Ingleton. It wasn't long before we were back on the M6 and heading north. We had planned to find a campsite for the night, but due to the heavy rain we didn't want to have a wet tent sitting in our panniers for a couple of days whilst we were on the ferry to Iceland. Therefore we turned of the A74 at Moffat to try and find a B&B. Fortunately the tourist information office is on the road into the town and although it was shut they had a list of the B & B's in the town on the door. The second one we phoned had a twin room available. It was situated just out of town on a farm. It was certainly a great find as it was run by the farmer’s wife who was very friendly. Our room was lovely with an en-suite and a beautiful view of fields and the mountains beyond.

24.07.07 - Moffat to Scrabster

Mrs Long provided us with the full Scottish breakfast, although she didn't offer us porridge much to the relief of Frank. This set us up for the day and we were soon back on the A74 by 9.30 and heading north. As we were going up the A80 Frank noticed the signs to the 'Falkirk Wheel'. As we had plenty of time to get to Scrabster and as it wasn't too far off our route we decided to have a look. It was well worth the short detour as it is such an elegant, efficient and well designed piece of engineering. It basically replaces a series of locks that link two canals where there is a drop of nearly 110ft, luckily for us the sun came out to give us some good pictures. The rest of our journey up the A9 was very pleasant as the sun was out and it gave us good views of the mountain scenery. At Newtonmore we stopped for a cup of tea and I checked the bikes and found that the back piece of Frank's rear mudguard had cracked near the rack bracket and was hanging on by a small piece. Any further and she would have loss her GB plate!


We arrived in Scrabster at 18.30 in plenty of time to get a meal, change our clothes, park the car and sort the bikes out. While Frank was loading her bike there was a crack and her stand started to collapse, it had obviously gone at the same point as mine had, what a great start and we hadn't even left the UK! We were able to check-in at 22.00, but were told we couldn't load until 0.30, so we sat in the waiting area re-checking that we had got everything and had not left anything vital in the car. Whilst we waited we got chatting to a Scottish tourer called Ian who was also going to Iceland, he had only 2 weeks and was hoping to get around route 1 and couldn't’t decide whether to go north or south first! The Norröna arrived at about 0.30 and we set off for the end of the harbour but were stopped by the officials and held back with some camper vans. It took them ages to get the ramp down, after about 15 minutes of hammering and banging they eventually started to off load and were given a round of applause from the waiting passengers. As we waited for them to off load and clear customs several tourers came past and we gave them a friendly wave. Two guys towing trailers came down on the wrong side of the road. realising that they were German I ran to the road and waved then to the other side "Llinks gefaren, dies ist die UK". They looked a little surprised and then the penny dropped 'oh links, links' and laughed at their mistake, saying it was a good start and I wished them a 'Gutes Fahrt'! We were soon loaded and we hastened to our couchettes to get our heads down. The couchettes on the Norröna are somewhat strange as they small cabins with 6 bunks and saloon style swing door. Contrary to the Smyrl line website they are mixed and unlike the couchettes we have experienced on trains, there are no modesty curtains!

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
See this set of photos as a slideshow
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image

25. 07.07 Ferry crossing.

We woke at about 9.00 and showered. We didn't feel too bad then but at breakfast we realised that we hadn't slept that well and went back to our couchette and slept until about 13.00!  Fortunately we were up on deck as we approached the Faeroes and although we had been in cloudless skies since leaving Srabster the islands appeared to be cloud covered. As we approached Torshavn we noticed how colourful a city it was with all the differently painted houses contrasting strongly against the stark treeless hills behind. The Norröna docked at 14.00 to let off passengers and we were there several hours before our departure on to Iceland. We sat in the cafe drinking tea watching the activity in the harbour. It mainly consisted of liberty boats ferrying passengers to and from the cruise ships moored out in the outer harbour and several rowing boats.  These were whalers with a crew of 6 oarsmen and a cox. I think it must be a Faroese sport as there were several teams out there practicing. Out of all the boats our money was on the red boat, it wasn't the most polished of crews but they weren't half fast! The Norröna left Torshavn at 18.00 amid a series of hoots from the other moored vessels in the harbour and the crew of the 'Discovery' waved huge cardboard hands mounted on sticks as we steamed past. It was soon after we left that we headed for the Smorgasbord buffet. We were lucky to have a good window seat at the rear of the boat which gave us excellent views of the Faroe Islands as we ate. It was an enjoyable buffet, however we still reckon that the Dana Anglia's is still the best! After a cup of tea in the cafe we headed for an early night.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
See this set of photos as a slideshow
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image  

26.07.07 Sey∂isfjör∂ur to Eglissta∂ir

We were woken by an announcement at 7.30am to say that we would be arriving at Sey∂isfjör∂ur in two and half hours and were told that we had to vacate our cabins in half an hour so that they could be cleaned. We had had a reasonable night and we must have got to sleep fairly quickly and been sound asleep as we didn't hear the German couple come in. In the middle of the night there had been a little bit more of a swell, but not that much to make it unpleasant. After a shower we headed for the cafeteria to get some breakfast and boy was there a heck of a queue. At this point we were going up the coast of Iceland, unfortunately like the Faroes it was covered in low cloud and as we pulled into the Sey∂isfjör∂ur bay it was raining slightly. Unlike Scrabster it didn't take that long to dock and disembark from the Norröna.

There didn't seem that much to Sey∂isfjör∂ur and we were keen to get going so we decided to get going straight away. There is only one road out off Sey∂isfjör∂ur and it's only when you get about 2km out of the town that you realise that the lump in front of you is what you have to climb over to get to Eglissta∂ir. After dropping instantly into bottom gear we only got a little way up the first part before we just had to stop as our legs were burning and we were puffing well. While we were getting our breath back, Ian the Scotsman came past and stopped, he was still debating whether to go north or south! The hill didn't seem to be bothering him, but then he had cycled up to Scrabster, so was well conditioned! We wished him well and he set off gaining a queue of traffic behind him as he hit the second steep section. As we stopped the second time to get our breath back we were caught up by the 3 German tourers that we had seen on the ferry. They said it was easier for them as they had had 3 days on the Faroes to get used to hill climbing! We wished them good luck and set off after them. The ascent to the top is 650m (2,132.ft) of hard climbing and the road is steep and most of it is of a gradient of 1 in 10! Being so early on in the tour and the fact that we were not match fit, we don't mind admitting it was a struggle.  When I came to what I thought was the top, I realised that it was in fact a false summit and that there was still more to come! As I waited there for Frank I collapsed over the handlebars of my bike panting like a mad dog when a young lass on a tourer pulled in and did the same thing. I didn't feel quite so bad, although she turned out to be half my age and from the Black Forest in Germany touring on her own. (We found out later that her name is Petra and you can read the blog of her Iceland tour here) Just while we were chatting a Polish chap on a tourer pulled in and we all tried to get our breath back whilst complaining about the hill! By the time Frank and I came to the last few hairpins our legs were virtually shot and we had to push the bikes up until it began to level out. It was bitterly cold on the top as there was an icy wind blowing. There had been a matrix sign in Sey∂isfjör∂ur that had told us it had been +5C, with the drop of 1 degree for each 100m we had climbed and the wind-chill factor it was easily -5C on the top. Even well wrapped up with a fleece and waterproofs Frank was shivering with the cold, I think she was wondering what she had let herself in for in Iceland. It was a very cold ride down to Eglissta∂ir with the icy wind in our faces and after asking for directions in town we were glad to find the warmth of the Supermarket and its café. The German lass and the Polish guy had also found solace there too. The campsite was only a 100yds away from the supermarket and it didn't’t take long to book in and get settled down for the night.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image image image image

27.07.07 Eglissta∂ir

We were shattered after the ferry journey and the long climb over from Sey∂isfjör∂ur. We thought we had better spend a day to recover or we would be chasing our tiredness. Due to the shock of the hill climb yesterday we decided to review what we really needed to take with us. Even after ten years of touring it is so easy to shove something in at the last minute, you know that ‘just in case approach. We sorted out a carrier bag full of stuff and arranged to leave it at the campsite to pick up on our way back, we were amazed at just how heavy it was.

Our rest day also gave us an opportunity to find someone to weld Frank’s bike stand. I asked the lass in the campsite reception if she knew of someone who might repair it in the town. She directed me to what turned out to be a tyre place. The guy there very helpfully pointed me in the direction of a firm called ‘Millars’ in a small industrial area opposite. The young lad there was most helpful and after explaining how the same thing had happened to my stand and how I had repaired mine he set to work. We chattered away as he worked, apparently they had had little rain in the last 2 months and were grateful for it. He reckoned that if the weather was good in the UK it was usually bad in Iceland and vise versa. It was all to do with which way the Lows track across from the Atlantic; if there is a high over the UK it tends to push the lows up over Iceland. I told him we hoped for bad weather in the UK in the next 4 weeks and he laughed. He did a good job on the stand and I fitted it back on that afternoon.

28.07.07 Eglissta∂ir to Saenatasel

We had had some more rain in the night, but in the morning we woke to broken skies and sunshine coming through the trees. Although it had been cold in the night the sunshine warmed things up and quickly dried the tent. It always seems to take longer to pack on the first morning, it’s just getting back into the routine and although we were up at 7.30am we didn't get on the road until 9.30am! It was good to get underway and things seemed much better than the day before yesterday. The panniers were nicely balanced and Frank was so pleased to be able to use her stand. If you have used one for a long time and then it's not there it's so frustrating to have to find something to prop the bike up on.

The first bit out of Eglissta∂ir going north on route 1 was on cycle path alongside the road for about 3km before you join the road again just after a bridge. After that it was good easy cycling on a slightly undulating asphalt road through a mix of moorland dotted with lush green hay fields. As we went along there were the wonderful calls of Whimberls and Curlews. Some came flying close to us sounding there alarm calls to chase us away from their nest areas. We stopped for our lunch at a bridge over the Jökulsåådal River at a conveniently placed picnic area. It was next to an unusual concrete arched bridge which spanned the dirty glacial melt waters of the river. After leaving our lunch stop we came across a noisy Bar tailed Godwit sat on a post close to the road and I managed to get reasonably close to get a reasonable photo. The route along the Jökuldalur valley was easier going than we had thought with only a gentle climb. Half way along we met a couple on touring bikes they were Anna and Mari a Croatian couple and we had a long chat about were they had been and Mari had a few questions about our gear and was most interested in what stove we had. He was having problems with his MSR stove. He reckoned he had to clean it every day as it kept blocking up and he was amazed when I told him that I had had my Coleman Apex 2 for 5 years and have never had to clean it, even when running on unleaded petrol. We took a picture of them and he laughed that I was going to titled it ‘the MSR losers’.

We stopped at a lovely waterfall at the head of valley for our afternoon cuppa. There wasn't a shop at Gilså which we had hoped for only a café, which meant for a dehydrated meal that evening. As we headed on we could see that the road ahead included a long 300m climb up to Armörssta∂amüli with 3 steep hairpin bends. We were loosing the tarmac at the bottom and the climb would be on loose gravel. It was infact a bit touch and go at times as it was difficult to keep momentum going in the loose gravel but we both made it up without incident. At Armötasell we came across the ruins of an old farmstead with the buildings made out of turf blocks. It seemed a bleak place in summer let alone what it would have been like in winter? According to the information board it was finally abandoned in 1943. We had a short spell back on tarmac before turning off route 1 on to the 901. The gravel surface was slightly rougher than route 1 and with several steepish ups and downs it was quite tiring in the cold wind. We were certainly getting tired by the time we got to the emergency shelter at Bjallkalluhraun and were glad when we found the turning to campsite. The clouds in the distance looked threatening and we thought we were in for a wetting. It was a long 3 miles over a very rough rutted rockyl road and we luckily escaped any of the heavy showers and were treated to a lovely rainbow before we eventually arrived at the campsite. The campsite is at a museum farm and is a basic site with just cold water and a loo, however we were grateful just to get there and get bedded down for the night.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image

29/07/07 Sænautasel to Mö∂rudalur

It was a much brighter morning than the previous evening and it looked like the rain had passed us by. After a breakfast of freeze dried ‘Speck unt Kartoffel’ courtesy of Reiters, which actually wasn't that bad we were soon packed and ready for the off. We walked over to the the museum place to pay for our nights camping. They have recreated the farm as it was back in the 19th Century complete with people staying there dressed in period costumes. There were two really cute Icelandic sheep dog pups running around the place. Unlike normal young pups wanting fuss, they were more concerned with hunting for things and chewing on bird wings!

We eventually got away just before ten o’clock with Frank not really looking forward to the road back up to the 901 as it was quite rocky and rutted when we came down last night. It was actually easier on the way up as you didn't’t notice the rocks quite so much and we had several stops to look at the amazing bird life. As we got around to the east side of the Sænautavatn we spotted a pair of Great Northern divers, which came reasonably close. They are lovely looking birds which I had last seen in northern Scotland. I thought I had heard their eerie wailing cry late last evening but I wasn't’t sure and this confirmed it. We kept stopping all along the N907 to check out the bird life. They were manly Golden Plovers and some smaller birds that we couldn't quite identify, we thought they were Pectoral Sandpipers but we couldn't be sure.  We were soon back at the junction of the 901 and started heading west. The road through Bjallkolla was gravel but in a reasonable condition, however as the 4X4´s went past you got clouded in dust. Most drivers were thoughtful and slowed down as they passed, others obviously hadn't ever ridden a bike or just didn't seem to care! The area is basically a cold dessert with sparse barren rocky terrain with the occasional oasis of green where a small stream or river crossed it.  It very much reminded us of being back in Ladakh in the north western Himalayas, only the mountains need to be a tad higher! We stopped for some lunch and a brew just off the road a small stream bed and managed to find a sheltered spot out of the wind. The wild flowers were lovely and there were several small fish in the stream. It was quite peaceful apart from the occasional 4X4 roaring by above us.

About 5km further on we were treated to a fine display of the lovely Arctic Beauty (Epilobium Latifolium) in the Lónakill  river bed whose green sides were punctuated by small swathes of pink. From there it was a fair climb up through the Mö∂rudalsfjallgardur eystr ridge onto the Geitasandur a flat sandy rocky plain with hardly a hint of vegetation which stretched on for a couple of kilometres before the climb up to the view point on the Mö∂rudalsfjallgardur vestrari ridge. Here we got an amazing view across the flood plain of the Jökulsa á Fjollum valley that stretched for miles around, It was a shame that the clouds were so dark as it cast menacing shadows over the plains. As we were descending down past Miklafell, Frank who was in front said “watch out the gravel is a bit loose”, too late! As I tried to manoeuvre around a rut my front wheel went away from me and I went out the front door! The gravel was just like ball bearings, fortunately I wasn't going too fast and suffered only minor gravel rush and there was no damage to the bike. After picking myself up and dusting myself down we carried oncarefully down.

Our slowness was rewarded by the sighting and close view of a Snow Bunting, Frank managed by stealth and patience to get quite close with the camera. We could see Mö∂rudalur in the distance and as we got down further onto the plain we got good views of the 1682m snow and volcano topped mountain Herðubrieð which dominates the skyline. As we had to slow down for the umpteenth 4X4 to pass us, Frank came out with a cracking statement ”I’ve eaten so much dust today I'll be constipated for a week!” We were glad to reach our campsite at the farmstead of Mo∂rudalur, which at 469m is reckoned to be the highest farm in Iceland. Even with the tumble on the gravel it had still been a great days cycling and in the evening we were treated to a lovely sunset.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image

30/07/07 Mö∂rudalur to Reykjahlid, Myvatn

It was reasonably bright start with a fair few clouds in the sky and a keen wind. Just before we left we had a look at the small church in Mö∂rudalur, which was built by a local farmer in 1949 in memory of his wife. Unfortunately as we set off we found that the tarmac was short lived as it ran out just as we left the village and we were back to gravel road. It wasn't too bad a surface and at least it was relatively flat for the next 8km and gave us good views of the surrounding mountains. There was a bit more vegetation along this route and we could see the justification of a farm here. As we approached the junction of the route 1 we noticed a bus stopping and off loading passengers. When we got there they were cyclists and we stopped for a chat. They were 3 German cyclists heading into the highlands, I noticed that their bikes had their front wheels and seats removed. I asked them if they had been asked to do that by the bus driver, and apparently they had to do it to get them in the bus. We have used buses before but never had to remove wheels and seats! We wished them well and set off west grateful to be now back on tarmac.

From the junction it was a stiff climb up over the col at Vegahnjúkur, but we enjoyed the downhill on the other side through a sparsely vegetated valley with a river running through it. As we cycled along we set up a flock of  geese who where grazing on the out wash areas, unfortunately they were too far away to get a clear identification. It was interesting to note that they had been replanting the edges of the roads with a coarse grass, which looked rather like Maram grass. Further along I noticed that there were Lupins growing wild. We found out later that they had been introduced to stabilise the soil to try and prevent the dust storms. However they have since found that the Lupins have had a bad effect on the ecology of the area as they have formed large clumps that prevent the growth of the slower growing indigenous plants, which in turn has a knock on effect on the wildlife. Hence the planting we saw which is now of indigenous grasses.

At the junction of the 864 we stopped to have a look at the information boards. As we were discussing our options, deciding whether to go to Dentifoss or not, a guy who had obviously overheard our discussions kindly advised to go to Myvatn. He was French and had been traveling around Iceland and he didn't rate Dettifoss as although it was the biggest waterfall in Europe the water was as he put it 'dirty' and therefore not that impressive. He reckoned that Myvatn was very beautiful and the highlight of his holiday. We thanked him for his advice and it confirmed our decision to head on to Myvatn. As it was lunchtime we decided to seek some shelter from the cold wind. We found some just around the corner at a small hut by the bridge over the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river. Suitably refreshed but starting to get a little cold we quickly got underway. The climb up from the river soon warmed us up and we headed on towards Myvatn. There were several squally showers in the distance but we fortunately seemed to miss them. As we carried on up route 1 the vegetation began to increase and there wasn't a soul apart from us and a few sheep and the odd passing car. Just after the Dettifoss turn off the road crosses the Burfellshraun a relatively recent lava field with some amazing contortions of lava that looked like crusty bubbled cake that had burst open.

As we were cycling along this stretch of road I had notice at various points red pipe sticking up from the ground and signs of soil disturbance. All was revealed when we came across the culprits, it was a cable laying team. They had a very neat machine that laid the plastic pipe, it had 4 independently controlled wheeled legs that could be controlled to keep the plough that dug the slot for the pipe at the correct depth and it was winched along by a lorry that had a hydraulic spade anchor to keep in from moving. I had a long chat with a guy who was overseeing the laying. It transpired that they were laying an optical fiber cable to give broadband access to the whole of northern Iceland. After they had the pipe in place, they blew the optical fiber cable through under high pressure. They usually used air pressure, but were experimenting will water pressure as the water acted as a lubricant and they hoped to blow greater distances. The guy I was speaking to was from Sey∂isfjör∂ur and he waxed lyrical about its beautiful bay. I told him we didn't like the hill climb over to Egglissta∂ir and he agreed although it never worried him in his 4X4!

Just before the Námafjall we stopped at the Hevrir (hot spring) area where there were some amazing mud pools, fumaroles and steam vents. In fact the whole of the mountainside was one mass of hot steaming vents.  I had studied geology at ‘A’ level and it was great to actually see these things at first hand. We stopped for quite a while taking it all in and luckily for us the sun had got out. As we left we stopped at the road junction and stared at the hill that we had to climb to get over Námafjall to get to Myvatn, We did consider going up to krafla to see the volcanic area there, but it would have added another 14km on to our journey and we were both getting tired. If the climb over Námafjall hadn't been looming we might have gone for it. We both struggled up the Námafjall on tired legs and were both grateful to get to the top and see the Myvatn lake stretching out in front of us. It didn't take us long to get down to the lakeside and the campsite at Reykjahlid.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image

31/07/07 Myvatn

We woke to heavy rain and low cloud which obscured any view of the lake. And basically we slept in for a bit hoping the rain would stop. Unfortunately it was set in for the day and we spent most of the day in the tourist information centre across the road planning out our routes for the next few days assuming that the weather improved.