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Iceland 2007

Part 3 - Kölur highland route, Kerlingarfjöll, Gulfoss, Geysir & the Jökulsárlón glacial lake.

10.08.07 - Dettifoss

We both wanted to see the Dettifoss and Selfoss falls and as Frank didn't fancy the ride over there as she reckoned she had gone up the Namjafall climb too many times, we decided to go by bus. Our plan had been to catch the 8.00am bus to Krafla and have another look at the Krafla fissure in better weather and then catch the 12.00am bus on to Dettifoss, but when we woke at 6.45am it was raining fairly hard so decided to wait and catch the 11.30am bus. The bus driver was such a nervous character, he kept checking that the side window was closed or checking his hair in the mirror every 30 seconds, it quite unnerved Frank. When we got to up to Krafla the bus stopped and we had 5mins to have a look at quick look at the Veti crater. Most of the mist had gone but it was still quite overcast for a really good photo.

Once back on the bus we headed back down to route 1 and on towards Dettifoss. As you turn off the main route 1 you are on to a narrow gravel road which twists and turns its way towards Dettifoss. On several occasions we met 4X4's who had to move off the road to let us pass. At one point we over took a lass on a mountain bike, I recognised her from the campsite, so she had had a good ride so far. We arrived at the car park about 10 mins late, which meant we had only 35mins before we had to get the bus back It was a brisk 10 minute walk to get to Selfoss, take a few photos then another brisk 10 minutes walk down to Dettifoss to take a few more photos before a final brisk10 minute walk back up to the car park. It was a bit like Monty Python's tour of the capitals, it was hardly worth it, we would have been better getting the earlier bus despite the rain. The French guy was right, Dettifoss may be the largest waterfall in Europe but the dirty glacial water coming down it doesn't make it the most beautiful! Whilst we waited for the others on the bus to return, I spotted a Snow bunting in the car park, unfortunately this one wasn't as cooperative as the one Frank spotted a few days ago. On our return to Myvatn I had planned to go Gryfalcon spotting if the weather improved. I didn't have a chance to find out, as when I got back I felt a bit tired so I laid down in the tent and promptly fell asleep for several hours, I think my body was telling me something!

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11.08.07 - Myvatn to Akureyri

It rained for most of the night and into the morning. By lunch time it was still raining so we then had to do what we call a 'wet pack', which is in fact us trying to keep everything dry! We basically pack everything in the tent and move in to the vestibule, take down the inner tent and pack that in my pannier, put on waterproofs and get outside. This just leaves us with the tent outer which we shake dry as much as we can before packing.
We got up to the information center in good time to catch the 15.30 bus to Akureyri. The driver was a nice chap but insisted on us taking the front wheels off to get them in the luggage compartment. Soon after we had packed them in a middle aged chap with his young teenage son arrived with there bikes and shoved their bikes in on top. Frank was getting quite annoyed with this chap as he was shoving his bike in without any regard for ours. I managed to place some panniers in between them to try and stop them from rubbing each other.

It didn't seem to take that long to get to Akureyri, I was hoping the weather would improve, when we got there, it was still a little overcast but at least it had stopped raining! We had a quick look at the harbour and the boats moored up there before heading up to the campsite, which as normal was up a very steep hill past the cathedral with a banner at the bottom saying 'Welcome to Akureyri'! The Akureyri campsite is rather a typical town campsite being more like a transit campsite for those catching buses to other places. In the covered seating area while I was washing up I met up with the middle aged man and his son who had had their bikes on the bus from Myvatn with ours. They were also staying on the site and were from Austria and they like us were only there for the night and were catching the bus through to Reykjavik in the morning. I told them that we also were only staying one night and would be catching the bus to just before Kerlingarfjöll to do the last bit of the Highland route. While we chatted there were a lively but friendly group of English motorcyclists in the covered seating area, one of whom nearly set the place a fire whilst trying to light his petrol stove as the flames were nearly licking the ceiling. I soon realized why his mates weren't the least concerned and were finding the whole thing highly amusing, they had been supping from Sigg bottles full of whisky!

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12.08.07 Akureyri to Kallingerfjöll

We were up early at 6.15am and were packed and ready to leave at 7.45am, one and a half hours to have breakfast, dress, wash and pack up the tent, what a team! Within 5 minutes were down at the bus terminal and did consider catching the SBA bus that left at 8.00pm, as we were there early. There didn't seem much room on the bus, so decided to catch the Trex bus as we planned at 8.30am. The SBA bus didn't actually leave till 8.20am so we wouldn't have gained that much. We nearly didn't get on the Trex bus, as the driver had locked himself out of the bus. Three of the Trex employees had to wheel a trailer next to the coach to climb on whilst the younger one was given a leg up onto the roof so that he could break in through the emergency hatch. As we loaded our bikes who should be getting on our bus but the Austrian chap and his son who were now going to Kerlingarfjöll! At Varmahíð we stopped at a petrol station and the driver told us that we had to change buses to a small 4x4 minibus. I had been wandering if the coach we were on would have been suitable for the gravel surface of the F35. They had the removed the last set of seats of the 4x4 minibus and there was only just had enough room for the 4 bikes, our two and the two belonging to the Austrian chap and his son! It was fortunate that there where no more than the 6 passengers, as the remaining seats were full of luggage and at Svarta¡ 2 Dutch people got on and only just managed to squeeze in after a bit of rearranging of the luggage!

As we bumped along the gravel road of the F35 I noticed that the minibus had a flip down LCD TV screen. Obviously I said to Frank this is for in flight movies for the Icelandic's in the winter when there is nothing to see but white snow. It got us thinking in true 'I'm sorry I haven't a clue?' fashion for film titles that might appeal to the Icelandic's.
These titles immediately came to mind;

'Four wettings and a Fumerole' ,
'40 miles east of Lava',
Harrison Fjord in 'Raiders of the last Great Auk'

At Hveravellir the bus stopped for 15minutes, which gave us time to have a look at the hot springs and fumeroles and it's make shift hot tub, however we didn't think it wasn't as nice an area as the Namjafall hveri. There is a mountain hut and a campsite there as well, with several cycletourers still packing up to leave, they must have had a rough night as it was 12.00am.  We decided as we went along that we might as well get off at Kerlingarfjöll with the Austrians rather than at the junction to Kerlingarfjöll as we had planned, as it would take too long to untangle all the bikes. When we arrived at Kerlingarfjöll and had unloaded the bikes we found that it was quite a canny place situated in a small valley with a fairly large area near the river for tents and a set of nicely styled high pitched wooden cabins above on the hill side. In the large building which houses the toilets there was a small restaurant on the first floor. As it was lunch time we decided to have something to eat before setting off and had a very welcome sweet potato and coconut soup with some nice fresh bread. Whilst we were having lunch we decided rather than go onto Hvítárnes as previously planned we might as well stay at the campsite and go for a walk in the mountains behind as the place looked quite interesting.

As we went down to pitch our tent a young lady came out of the restaurant to raise the Icelandic flag. I pulled her leg and told her that we were very touched and honored but there was no need to make so much fuss just for us. I then stood to attention and saluted as she raised the flag. I also joked with her that I hoped that she didn't want us to sing the Icelandic national anthem as we didn't know it, but offered to sing 'God save the Queen' if that helped! She seemed to take my humour in her stride and it transpired that although being Icelandic she worked in London and was currently home in Iceland just for a month. Obviously she was used to the mad eccentric English.

Before we left for our walk I asked the flag lady if she could suggest a good route to explore the mountain range behind the campsite. She suggested the route up the ridge to the hot spring area 'Route 2' and back via the road track, she reckoned it would take about 4 to 5 hours.  We were glad we did the walk as it was an awesome walk. The first bit was up a rounded ridge and as the weather gradually improved it gave us some excellent views of the glaciers. As we walked along the wild flowers were amazing it seemed that at this altitude they were just that bit later in coming out in flower. As we got nearer to the tops and the glaciers it seemed like the whole mountain side was about to erupt as there were hissing steam vents, bubbling fumaroles of hot boiling mud and a pungent sulphurous smell, it was an amazing sight! It was hard to comprehend as you were standing on the glacial ice with a boiling water vents bubbling right next to you. The valley was an amazing contrast of colours with the white glacial ice and snow, the golden brown of the hot spring areas dappled in places with the bright almost fluorescent green of the plants lining the springs. As we made our way through the area the route took us across snow, ice and up and down some steep and slippery muddy slopes, we really could have done with some proper walking boots with a better grip soles rather than our cycling shoes with their cleats. By the time we got back it was 8.50pm so the flag lady was right it was a good 5 hour walk. Unfortunately we were too late for a shower and the hot tub as it closed at 9.00pm, but we didn't mind as we had had a superb walk.

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13.08.07 - Kerlingarfjöll to Hvítárnes

It was a bright sunny start to the day which bode well. We chatted to a couple of Dutch guys who were pitched near to us. They were going off on a rough jeep track to the east round the back of Kerlingarfjöll range towards the þjorsa River. They had come up from Geysir on the F35 and had stayed at Hvítárnes where we hoped to camp that night. The place sounded wonderful as they described the site to Frank as a very romantic place with beautiful views. Apparently the campsite was abandoned but there was camping at the mountain hut where there is also a well for water. We wished the lads well as they set off and we weren't that far behind them in leaving in the opposite direction.  We had to take care as we started out on the F347 as there was quite a lot of loose gravel and ruts and it made for slow progress at first. The weather was glorious with clear blue skies, but there was a biting cold wind. We had some glorious views of the glaciers and across to Kjalfell in the distance. After crossing the bridge over Jökulkvist river earlier we came to the first of our fords* a small tributary of Jökulkvist river at Gyafoss. It wasn't that deep, but to be on the safe side we decided to take all the kit of bikes and do several trips across with the panniers before wheeling the bikes across. A woman in a passing 4X4 very kindly offered to give Frank a lift across the ford, Frank thanked her kindly but declined the lift. When we got to the junction of the F35 we turned south and the surface was a bit better but it was quite corrugated in parts. The wind was very strong and still quite biting but fortunately it was at our backs so it aided rather than hindered our progress.

The terrain along the F35 is quite open and desolate with very little in the way of vegetation, however it has a beauty of its own due to the distant views of the large glaciers and the snow dappled mountains of Kerlingarfjöll range. Come lunch time we managed to find the only boulder for miles just a few meters off the road that gave us some shelter from the wind which seemed to be increasing and getting colder. By the end of lunch we had donned yellow jackets over our fleeces with gloves on and hats under our cycle helmets, even in the sunshine it was cold. A few hundred yards after our turn off the F35 to the campsite at Hvítárnes we came to our second ford of the day this was much wider and deeper than the last one and came up to my knees. We decided to again ferry the panniers across and I carried the bikes across on my shoulder. The campsite was indeed as lovely as the Dutch guys had described, it is on a bend in the river that feeds the Hvítárvatn over looking the Langjökull glacier. The camping is part of the mountain hut built and maintained by the Iceland Touring Association. Before pitching our tent we had a quick look around and in the kitchen area we found a young lass trying to light the wood-burning stove. I recognised her as the lass we had seen at Myvatn campsite and on a mountain bike going to Dettifoss. She turned out to be Canadian and was traveling around Iceland on her own. She had caught the bus from Akureyri and had walked there from the F35. I explained that we were camping outside and were just looking around the hut, she thought it strange that we were going to sleep in a cold tent rather than in the hut, perhaps she had heard the story about the ghost that is supposed haunt the hut and didn't fancy spending the night on her own. There was a note in the hallway explaining where the well was and what the camping fees were, so we pushed the camping fee of 200kr per person through the slot in the honesty box on the wall and went out to pitch our tent. It was still very windy and fortunately there was some good flat ground to camp on to the lee side of the hut. The well was kind of interesting as it wasn't exactly deep being a circular piece of concrete pipe sunk about a foot into the ground of a boggy piece of ground not far off the hut. It was only just deep enough to get our Ortlieb water carrier in. The netty was kind of interesting too as it had a few too many ventilation slots in the floor so it was kind of draughty. Just after we had pitched our tent 4 French guys turned up in a 4x4 to stay in the hut, so the Canadian lass wasn't going to be on her own for the night after all. It was a beautiful evening as we cooked our evening meal and we sat eating it watching a lovely sun setting over the glacier and luckily for us the wind died as the sun set so we had a comfortable night!

* As of 2009 all the fords on the F347 have been bypassed by pipe bridges.

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14.08.07 - Hvítárnes to Geysir

For some reason I woke at about 5.30am and had a quick look out of the tent. It was an absolutely beautiful morning with not a cloud in the sky, I decided I couldn't miss out on some photos, as it was so stunning. It was great time there was just me and the sheep grazing next to the hut and I just wandered around the marshes by the river looking at the flowers and taking photos. There were some great views of the mountains, glaciers and the light on the mud patterns was superb. A little later Frank came out to join me as she couldn't get back to slept after I had got up! After a hearty breakfast we packed up our tent and loaded our gear on the bikes. We both didn't really want to leave as it was such a lovely place, but we needed to get on otherwise we wouldn't get to Seyðisfjörður by the 23rd. The wind was beginning to increase and we could see dust storms forming in the distance. As our route was south to Geysir we didn't have to cross the fjord that we had used to get to Hvítárnes but took a track south to meet up with the F35. At one point just after crossing the bridge over the Svarta River the track was very sandy, it was hard work trying to keep the bike upright through the deep sand and coping with the dust storm. Fortunately by the time we got to the F35 the worst of the dust storm had blown pass us towards Bláfell.

When we got to Tangaver and crossed the bridge over the outfall from the Hvítárvatn there was wee hut by the side of the road. As it was just after 11 o'clock I suggested to Frank as it was elevenses and that the hut would make a good shelter and that a brew might be in order. So we dutifully got the stove out and started a brew. Soon after we had made the tea a couple and a teenage lass arrived to get back into their car, which had been parked by the hut. They started chatting to us asking us about cycle touring and where we had been. They were an Austrian family who were traveling around Iceland for two weeks. The guy thought it very English of us sitting there brewing tea that he asked if he could take a photo. I told him no problem and we dutifully posed. We wished them well and good weather for the rest of their holiday. They had only just left when a couple of tourers came by going in the same direction as us, they stopped to have chat. One was German and the other was from Luxembourg, they were also doing the Highland route. They had spent the night at the Arbúður mountain hut just off the F35, not that far from where we had camped and they like us were heading on to Geysir. As we were chatting another couple on touring bikes turned up this time coming from the south. It was turning into a cycle tourers convention and we stood there exchanging touring stories! They were a German couple and they told us that they had had a hell of a time battling uphill against the wind and had only managed to do 25km in the last two days. We all commiserated with them and I suggested that if they got really fed up they could catch a bus part of the way, "There is a bus that comes up this road?" they seemed surprised and relieved at the same time as I handed them our copy of the bus timetable for them to keep. The guy thanked us profusely and kept saying how pleased that there was a bus, I think we had made their day. We were getting a little cold by then and although it would have been great to carry on talking we decided that we had better get going. We wished them all the best for the rest of their holiday and set off.

From where we had left the others there is about 6km of moderate climbing up to the col next to Bláfell, with the wind behind us this didn't take us that long and we were soon looking down the other side towards the Hvítá river valley and towards Gulfoss and Geysir, we could see further dust storms in the distance. On the flat part near to the side of Bláfell we were doing 15mph without even pedaling! It was soon downhill and fortunately the road surface wasn't too bad and we could enjoy the downhill, although there were places where we had to slow down and take care. Unfortunately it wasn't downhill all the way there was a section where we dropped down to a stream and there was a steep climb up the other side. We managed to get up most of it but had to push the bikes up the last bit. There is still very little in the way of vegetation at this point and it is quite rugged and barren. As you look west you can see the mountains of Hlöðufell 1188m and Högnhöfði 1030m which almost look like they were submerged in a sea of lava. It wasn't that long before we got to the tarmac, it confused me a bit as I wasn't expecting it so soon and then realised that they had obviously laid a new section about a mile and a half up from the Sanda bridge. When we got to the bridge I spotted a small Nissan hut, which I thought would give us some shelter for lunch. It turned out to be a mountain hut and the south side made a very nice suntrap out of the wind. After lunch it didn't take us long to do the 12km to Gullfoss being downhill and with a good tail wind.

Gulfoss must be the biggest tourist trap in Iceland, but it is an impressive waterfall and not to be missed. Even though there were a lot of people there it is more spread out and it didn't seem as frenetic as Godafoss. Amongst the tourists there were 30 or so people all with the same red bomber jackets and white Baseball caps on, from the Canadian flag and badge embroidered on their jackets it must have been a McPherson clan reunion trip to Iceland! After we had a quick drink in the café, which is kind of enormous, we headed down the last 10km to Geysir. I'm not sure what Frank was expecting but she seemed surprised that the Geysir were next to the road and I had to explain to her that the road was there because of the Geysirs. "Oh yes" she said "dur, I had not thought of that"!

There are actually several Geysirs on the site the largest one called Great Geysir erupts less frequently but the smaller one Strokkur erupts about every 10 - 15 minutes and is worth staying to watch. It took as ages to get a really good video of it, as the video on my camera only lasts for 30 second bursts, so I had to guess when it was going to erupt from the water bubble forming. By the time we left to go to the campsite we had got really cold and we went into the Petrol station to buy something to cook for our evening meal. They were serving hot food so we decide that a Hamburger & chips would warm us up and save cooking! Who should we meet in there but the two tourers from Germany and Luxembourg who we had met earlier. They very helpfully explained how we had to book into the campsite, which was at the gift shop counter in the petrol station! They also told us the campsite fee included the use of the Hot tub at the Geyser Center hotel. After our meal we went across the road to the campsite and put up our tent and then headed for the hotel and the hot tub. Initially we were on our own but then we were joined by a nice Canadian couple who we chattered to for ages until we suddenly realised how hot and pink we were!

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15.08.07 - Geysir to Hella

I got up early at 7.30am to see if I could get a camera battery charged and managed to get it plugged in at the hotel. When I got back to the tent I made Frank a cup tea and after drinking it suddenly felt really tired and we both promptly fell back asleep! It was 9.10 by the time we woke again, certainly we both felt better for it. But it did mean that we didn't get away until 11.30! As we had to pick up the battery from the hotel we popped into the petrol station café for a warm. As it was nearly lunchtime and we didn't have much for lunch we decided to buy a small pizza between us. While we were there we noticed the Austrian tourers bikes outside they had obviously made down from Kerlingarfjöll. As we cycled off down the 35 again the wind was behind us so we made good speed. As we cycled along we saw a couple of 'points of interest' signs the first one we ignored as it said it was a good distance away and we did the same at the second sign at Faxi, but just after it we could hear the sound of a waterfall. We quickly turned around and headed back into the wind. Boy was it hard work thankfully it was only for 500m!  It was worth it though as it was only a short way down a road to a view point over the lovely Faxifoss waterfall with its Salmon ladder!

We stopped at Reyholt for supplies and as we pulled into the petrol station we spotted two touring bikes with Bob Yak trailers. It was easy to spot their owners who were sitting in the café part of the petrol station. They were both slumped over with their heads on their folded arms on the table looking absolutely buggered. One guy raised his head and I gave him a wave and smiled, he acknowledged the wave, but obviously the effort was too much as he promptly put his head back in his arms, they were obviously traveling north into the wind!

Although it was nice and sunny there was quite a haze in the sky at a lower level probably caused by trapped dust in the lower strata. There were mountains in the distance but you could hardly see them! As we cycled along we kept being passed by a lot of camper vans, they were obviously part of a group as they had the names of the occupants written on stickers on the back. We concluded that although they were Icelandic registered vans they must have been German as they were names such as 'Manfred & Gertrude' and 'Wolfgang & Friedel'. On the 31 we passed Skáholt monastery with its striking white bell tower. There was no shop at Laugaras so it was a good thing that we had bought some food at Reyholt We crossed over the bridge over the Hvítá river and carried on our way along the 31 which was fairly straight and with the tail wind we were cruising along at a steady 17-18mph by the time we had gone along the 30 and got to the ring road we had done 35 miles at an average speed of 12.5mph! This is the best we have ever managed on any of our tours over that sort of distance. We were eternally grateful that we weren't going in the opposite direction!

We had a late lunch come afternoon tea stop at the picnic spot at the junction of route 1. We couldn't see the picnic tables at first but on turning into the car park we spotted one in a hollow in the ground. Due to the lack of trees in Iceland they had dug out a hollow to give some shelter. It didn't work that well as in the high winds that day we still had to hold onto our lunch to stop it blowing away! As we were packing up our bikes which were leaning against the interpretive boards we were conscious of being surrounded by a large group of people who had just got out of a minibus. Realising that we were in the way we moved our bikes to finish putting away our lunch things. We were then treated to an impromptu lecture from a guy about volcanic activity in the area and he was using the interpretive boards to help explain his talk. I spoke to one of the guys after he finished and it turned out that they were Finnish geology students from Turku University on a 2-week visit to Iceland and the guy that had done the talk was a Brit working for the Icelandic meteorological office.

There was an awful side wind as we cycled along route 1 towards Hella with some very strong gusts, which kept trying to blow us off the road. Frank didn't like it at all and when I offered some helpful encouragement to kept to the other side of the white line she used some very un-parliamentary language in her response! It seemed a long 16km and eventually we made it to Hella and we were glad to see that it had a good supermarket and that the campsite was just across the road. When I went into the reception area in the restaurant they had a large plasma screen with a lot of people watching a football match it turned out to be premier league and Man U v Pompey! We went of to pitch our tent and found that it was a nice and well-organized campsite with tree partitions. And guess what all the German camper vans were parked there. As we ate our evening meal we had a lovely sunset as the sun set over the Ytri-Rangá river.

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16.08.07 - Hella to Skaftafell

We were up early to make sure we were packed up in time to be at the bus stop by 9.30am in order to catch the 10.00am bus to Skaftafell. It was a lovely day and it was a shame that we were going to on a bus for this stretch rather than cycling it, however we reckoned we needed to catch a bus if we are to get to Sedisfordur in time for the 23rd. While we waited I got chatting to an English guy who was waiting for the bus up to Landmannalauger, he was hoping to do some hiking there. As we chatted three buses turned up at the same time, one said on the front that it was for Landmannalauger, one said Porsmork and the other was a Reyajvik excursions bus going to Skaftafell. As the Pingu bus hadn't turned up we decided that we might as well get on it. I checked with the lassie in the font that was going to Skaftafell and that they could take two bicycles. No problem said the driver and opened a luggage compartment. He asked us to remove the saddles and take off the front wheels and then he put them in upright with the panniers around them, they went in a treat! I paid the lassie for our tickets and we set off, a little further on the driver set a CD going and we got a commentary telling us about the landscape and that we would be coming to Séljalandfoss and that we would be stopping for 30 minutes. I asked the lassie what time the bus got into Skaftafell? She said "5.15pm". We then realised that we were on a excursion rather a scheduled bus!

The scheduled bus would have got us into Skaftafell at 2. 00pm, but we didn't mind getting in 3 hours later as it did mean we saw things we wouldn't have seen on the scheduled bus. We had stops to see the Séljalandsfoss, and Skógafoss waterfalls and we also had an hour at Vik, which we spent wandering along the black sandy beach near to the Reynisfjall cliffs with its colonies of Puffins and Terns and the famous Reynisdrangar sea stacks. At our final stop at the N1 station at Kirkjubæjarklaustur we met the 3 German lads that had been on the ferry. They seemed to have had a great time although they had had one disaster. One of them had broken the seat clamp on his bike going over rough washboard surface of the gravel roads on the highland route. He then had to ride several kilometres without a saddle and then had to catch a bus from Geysir to Reykjavik to get a replacement. 

We finally arrived at Skaftafell at just after 5.15pm and after pitching our tent decide that we had better go for a walk to see Svartifoss before our evening meal other wise we might loose the light. It was a fairly easy walk up a reasonable path to Svartifoss passing by Hundafoss and Magnúsarfoss along the way. Svartifoss was absolutely lovely it was like being in a church organ, as the basalt columns looked like giant organ pipes. As it was such a lovely evening we decided to climbed up to the view point at Sjónarsker and were rewarded with a brilliant sunset and views looking across the Skeidarársandur and the mountains and glaciers that make up the Skaftafell National Park.

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17.08.07 - Skaftafell to Kálfafellsstaður

We were not overly impressed with the campsite at Skaftafell compared to others we had stayed on in Iceland. For one thing the toilet block had no hot water and was flooded, there was an extra charge of 200kr for showers and also they made an additional charge of 200kr per item to charge our camera battery, phone and PDA overnight. We had just managed to get the tent down before it started to rain and we quickly moved to the shelter of the reception canopy to put on full waterproofs on before setting off. After the beautiful day yesterday this didn't look good for photos of the glacial lake. Out of all the places in Iceland this was the one place I really wanted to see in good weather!

We set off in heavy rain, which kept up for the first hour or so. The cloud level was fairly low but there were some breaks in it they at least gave us some views of the glaciers as we headed north on route1. At one small car park we pulled in to take a photo of one of the glaciers and we ended up chatting to a German guy who had pulled up in his car. He was asking about cycle touring and how far we had been and where we had toured, finally he asked if he could take our photo, so again we dutifully posed for him. Just after he left I noticed an elderly couple taking the slight break in the rain to collect some berries. I had a chat to them and they were from the Faeroe Islands and were collecting the berries for making jam. Apparently they used to do it when they were kids back on the Faeroes, they reckoned that there weren't as many berries on the Faros as there used to be due to there being too many birds.

The break in the rain was only short lived and it rained again all the way to the picnic site underneath the snout of the Kviarjökull glacier. We must have been a sight as we sat on the picnic bench in our waterproofs brewing up and trying not to get our sandwiches too soggy. We weren't surprised that we get some strange looks from the tourists in the cars that also pulled in to the picnic spot. After our soggy lunch stop it carried on raining for a fair few kilometres but it started ease as we made our way across the Breiðamerkursandur. As we cycled along this straight section of road with the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier in the distance we noticed that we were being accompanied by several Great Skuas, which inquisitively flew alongside us. At one point near the Fjallsjökull glacier there was a small lagoon by the side of he road where we spotted a pair of Red throated divers. They are lovely looking birds close up with beautiful markings.

Fortunately by then the rain had stopped and the clouds had began to lift and we got some reasonable views of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier as we got closer to it. We finally reached to the glacial lake and although it wasn't in full sun with blue skies it was still quite a stunning sight. We had a long walk along the southwest shore and the Icebergs were amazing. I had seen Icebergs marooned in the sea ice in Greenland, but in some respects this was quite different as the colours were such wonderful shades of blue amidst the white and grays with the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier behind. As it was such a very calm day there were some lovely reflections in the still waters and you could hear the icebergs creaking and grinding into each other.  We must have stayed there several hours it was that fascinating and in doing so fortunately for us the sunshine eventually did come out and we were then really treated to the full wonder of this spectacle. At near to 6.00pm Frank finally persuaded me that perhaps I had taken enough photos and reminded me that we still had another 25 or more kilometres to get to our campsite! As we left and looked back we got a good view of the top of the Öræfajökull glacier as it appeared through the clouds.

Fortunately the road was fairly level and as there was little wind it didn't take too long to get to Kálfafellsstaður. When we saw the sign to the campsite it appeared to be pointing to what looked like a school building. As we went up the gravel driveway we couldn't see any tents but the door seemed to be open, I popped inside what was the entrance hall and as I did so a young lass came out of a side door. I asked if we could camp, no problem she said and you can you can use the kitchen and showers all for an inclusive price of 600 kr per person. Apparently it used to be the local school, until with the depopulation of the North East of Iceland and falling roles they had to close it as a school. However the village now used it as a community centre and as a hostel and campsite. The facilities were lovely and it was nice to have a kitchen to cook in. The hall was lovely and warm and as we were the only people staying we had the place to ourselves, so after the damp weather we took the opportunity to get things nice and dry on the radiators.

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18.08.07 - Kálfafellsstaður to  Höfn

We had had a cozy night sleep for once due in part to a warmer night time air temperature and the fact that we had got under a nicely aired and warm duvet! It was a lovely sunny morning with clear skies and it was a shame that we hadn't had this weather at the glacial lake yesterday. It didn't take us long to have breakfast and pack and we soon away just after 9.30 am. There was little traffic on the road as we passed the small lake near Vagnsstaðir and we headed for the craggy sides of Hestgerði 382m. Which fortunately for us the road went around although there was a slight climb up to Uppsalir. From there it was downhill to cross the flat area of the Myrar an alluvial area bisected by several out wash glacial rivers coming down from the Vatnajökull glaciers.

There are large green hay fields dotted with numerous white bales of hay. As we cycled across the Myrar we had some great views of the Skálafellsjökull & Heinabergsjökull glaciers and we stopped at small picnic area on top of a small rocky knoll just of the road. It was a great place for a picnic as it gave a great vita of the whole of the Myrar. As we cycled on further we could see Höfn our destination in the distance. It didn't seem that far away, however the Hornafjörður estuary area is in the way. There is a spit of land that goes almost to Höfn but there is a river in the way and route 1 takes you almost 12km inland to cross the bridge over the Hornafjarðarfljót before turning south towards Höfn. Shortly after crossing the bridge we came across what the Icelandic's call Álft a family of Whooper Swans. It was strange to think that in a few months this family would be heading south to probably over winter in the UK!

This was certainly one of our warmer days as we pulled into the petrol station at Nesjahverfi for a drink as there was a matrix sign proclaiming it to be +14C. On leaving the petrol station a local dog befriended us and sort of guided us on our way by running on ahead of us along the road, stopping every so often to let us catch up. He did this for several kilometres before disappearing off down a farm track before our turning off to Höfn! We easily found the campsite in Höfn as it was just off the main road into town. After pitching our tent we went of to find a supermarket and the tourist information office to find out the times of the buses, as we thought we might need to catch one to Egglistaðir if we were to get there by the 23rd August.

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To part 4 - Höfn to Sey∂isfjör∂ur and the Faroe Islands.