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Iceland 2008 - The puffin heat wave tour

Part 1 - Flatey and the western fjords

24.07.08 - Home to Keflavík

Our taxi came on time at 9.00am and we had a good drive down to Standsted and arrived at just after 10.10am Our driver asked us when we were coming back, l said 'on the 25th', 'that is tomorrow' he said! 'No August 25th' , 'Oh OK here is my card give me ring when you are through Customs as l normally wait 5 minutes away from the airport' and wished us a good holiday. The airport terminal was heaving with people as we weaved the bikes through the queues of holidaymaker's until we found the Iceland Express check in desk. Thankfully we were assisted but a very helpful chap called James who told us to check in all our panniers except the one to put our tools in. We paid for the bikes and then had to take them over to the oversised baggage section to be put through the scanner. After taking the pedals off and turning the handlebars around the security staff decided that they wouldn't go through the machine! They put the pannier that had the tools and the pedals through the X ray machine and then sent it down the line. We then had to wheel the bikes back again to the check in desk where we wrapped them in the CTC polythene bags and left them with James's who said he would get someone to take them down.
The flight was pretty uneventful and we arrived on time. We retrieved all of our panniers off the carousel and headed over to the oversized baggage. Our bikes were there and looked OK, we had just started to open up one of the bikes when a security guard arrived and told us that we couldn't re-assemble the bikes there and that the airport was a cycle free zone, we would have to re-assemble them outside. Well it would have been easier if we had left them on the trolley as Frank had to push the trolley with the panniers on whilst l tried to push the two bikes along. Even with holes cut in the bottom of the bags for the wheels you couldn't easily steer them as the handlebars, which had been dropped and rotated, kept fowling on the frame, The security guy escorted us right until we were outside the terminal building!
It was flaming cold outside with a chill wind blowing which made putting the bikes together a pain, It didn't help when my pump decided to pack up! Fortunately we had Frank's pump, although that wasn't working that well. In my haste to get going I didn't get the height right on my saddle and with the strong side wind l was all over the place and was quite glad to turn off to Keflavík. We passed the campsite but decided to go first to the tourist information office, the supermarket and the petrol station for some petrol for our stove and than back to the campsite.

Once we had booked in and pitched I went back to the reception and arranged to leave our bike bags with at campsite until our return.  Basically the guy at the reception gives you a sticker with your return date on it to stick on your bags and you leave them in the small room off the kitchen area.

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map link25. 07.08 - Keflavík to Hafnarfjörður

It was nearly 11.00 am by the time we got away from the campsite site. The 41 is a fairly busy road and we were glad to get off it at Njarðvík to have a look at an old farm which had a replica Viking ship the 'Icelander', When we were back on the main road it was still busy but there was at least a large hard shoulder to ride on. But soon we had had enough of the traffic and decided to take the 420. They were in the process of turning the road in to a dual carriage way so there were several sets of road works we had to negotiate and when we got to the 420 turn off we noticed there were no cycling signs on the slip road, so it was a good thing that we had decided to take the 420. At Vogar we saw a shop and bought some rolls for our lunch. We found a nice bench down by the shore line looking over a brackish marsh. As we ate our lunch we were kept entertained by some local kids who were running over the roofs of the buildings behind us. I dread to think what their parents would have thought if they had known what their little cherubs got up to! From Vogar the road was quite quiet and we stopped many times to look at the flowers and birds, several times we were mocked by Wimbrels who chased us along the road. The weather was good and being bright and clear we got good views across to Snaefell. We joined the main road again and were soon passing the massive Alcan plant which was nearly half a mile long. As we came into the outskirts of Hafnafjordur we saw a supermarket off the main road. We could see that it was a long way around to take the bikes and that it was too steep to get them down the rocky bank therefore Frank stayed with the bikes while I climbed down and went to get something for our tea. The campsite at Hafnafjordur was right through the other side of the town. It was a canny little site and it didn't take us long to pitch the tent and get ourselves organised. Camping opposite us were the two Dutch tourers who had also been on the campsite at Keflavik. We had a long chat with them about where they had been touring.

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map link26.07.08 - Hafnarfjörður - Rekjavík

While I went to wash I met the Dutch guy again and he asked about where we had been last year. Fortunately there was a large map of Iceland on the wall of the campsite seating area and I could show him our route and point out the places that we enjoyed. l advised him that if they intended to go into the interior that they needed to take plenty of food with them. After we had packed we said goodbye to the Dutch couple and wished them well. We cycled into Rekjavík on a mix of main roads and some cycle paths and ended up by the harbour side where there was a wonderful sculpture of a Viking boat by Gunnar Árnason. After that it we easily found the center and stopped at a cafe for a bit of lunch and after a couple of lovely chicken and blue cheese tacos we went off to the information office to ask about the buses to Stkkishölmur and the ferry to Brjánslækur.

With our tickets booked for the next day we headed for the campsite and on the way bought Frank a new pump from a bike shop in the town. The owner reminded me of Herr Flick as he came in from the work shop with a walking stick and sporting a similar limp! The Rekjavík campsite is near to the swimming pool and the athletics track and although it was quite big site it had good facilities and at first seemed very busy but everyone seemed to be pitched near to the facilities and there was in fact plenty of room as there was a large field at the back with hardly anyone in it . This was perfect for us as we would be leaving early in the morning and we didn't want to disturb anyone. It was a lovely warm afternoon so we sat and read and basked in the sun not quite believing we were in Iceland as last year I couldn't remember sitting much outside the tent!. After we had our evening meal l worked out that there was probably a way out of the campsite by the gate near to where we were camped and it would mean that we could leave early in the morning without disturbing anyone. I thought I had better check it out and I'm glad I did as just through the gate was a park. I noticed some steam rising near to a small building. It turned out to be the hot springs where the folks of Rekjavík used to come and wash their clothes in the early part of the 1900's. We decide on an early night to be ready for our early start in the morning.

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27.07.08 - Rekjavík to Flatey

The alarm went at 5.30am and we were packed and away from the campsite by 7.00am to give us plenty of time to get to the bus station. It was a bright warm morning and we got to the bus station by 7.20 in good time to buy the tickets and get a couple of rolls for breakfast in the station cafe. Just as the bus turned up I noticed two English touring bikes, a Hewitt and a Dawes Sardar leant up against the wall of the bus station. It turned out that their owners were on our bus and the bus driver didn't look to happy that he had to find room for 4 bikes. He opened up the rear luggage compartment and indicated that he wanted all 4 bikes in there, there was no chance! I eventually managed to get both bikes into one of the side luggage compartments along with the daily newspapers. The chap and his son were from Cheshire and were going to Olavsvik, also with us on the bus were a party of students out for a day trip from Rekjarvik to Stykkishólmur. I chatted to one of the girls and they hadn’t got a clue as to where they were going and what there was at Stykkishólmur. We were soon passing through the tunnel that goes under the Hvalfjordur and stopped at Borgarnes for the usual 15minutes break. At the junction of the 56 and the 558 we had to change busses to a small minibus as our bus went on to Grundarfjordur. Fortunately the driver had a rack he could put on the back for our bikes. In about 15mins we arrived at the N1 petrol station at Stykkishólmur and reassembled our bikes. We had several hours to kill as the ferry didn’t leave until 3 o’clock, so after a quick look in the tourist information place at the sports centre we decided to have a look at church first. It was absolutely stunning architecture and really looked magnificent in the sunshine. As breakfast seemed so long ago we decided that some lunch was in order and found a bakery just up the road from the church were purchased some fresh bread and rolls and cycled out of town and sat on a rocky mound for our lunch with glorious views of the surrounding hills.

While we were having lunch I had a brain wave, why not stop over at Flatey on the way over as it would be a shame not to see it. Frank agreed and back in to town we went to the ‘Seatours’ office near the harbour and got the tickets changed. We still had an hour to kill so we climbed the hill with a lighthouse on it above the harbour with the rest of the tourists and waited for the ferry. After a while we could see it coming in the distance. We dutifully lined up ahead of the cars as we were expecting to load with them but we were told by the ferry staff to go up the gang plank with the passengers and parked our bikes just inside the main car deck. It was a flat calm crossing a little overcast but fairly warm. When we got to Flatey there was a small jetty which is only capable of off-loading foot passengers. We wheeled our bikes down the gang plank which was fortunately fairly wide. Leading up from the jetty is the one and only road cum track that forms the main street that runs along the whole of the island. We found the campsite easily and booked in at the farm house, the lady said that the actual camping was in the field near the water but as they had cut the entire field for hay we could camp where we liked. There were only two other tents on the site one which had a bunch of teenagers with a ghetto blaster so we kept well away from them the other tent was down by the water. We found a nice level pitch about half way down the field. As we were pitching we noticed that the teenagers were packing up their gear and soon both the other tents were down and we found ourselves actually on our own in the field, they were probably all catching the ferry back to Stykkishólmur.

While we were having a brew one of the sheep who were grazing in the field decided my Teva's looked rather tastier than the grass and started to chew them, it was rather quickly discouraged! After our meal we decided to explore the island and started with the church which was just in the next field to the campsite. It was obviously being renovated as there was wooden scaffolding around the outside and inside there where some beautiful ceiling paintings. From the church we headed around the north of the island on a footpath with lovely views across to the main land and saw loads of bird life, mostly Arctic terns feeding chicks but also some Snipe, Meadow Pipits, Guillimots and Puffins. The footpath eventually brought us to the main part of the village where there were the main dwellings and a restaurant cafe. Just down from this was a small harbour for fishing boats and a while we were there a rubber dirigible came and landed near the rocks below us and off loaded. I guessed by their large nets they had been Puffin catching, but just to be sure I asked the guy and he showed a plastic bucket with about a dozen or so puffins in it. After some supper back at the tent we were treated to a lovely sunset.

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28.07.08 - Flatey

We decided over breakfast that we needed to slow the pace down a bit, what with JH having just got over a chest infection and with all the early morning starts we decided that we would stay on Flatey for another night as it would also give us a chance to have a really good look around the island. We were really glad we did as the bird life is absolutely brilliant. We basically circumnavigated the whole of the island walking along the shoreline and the shoreline path. It was quite fascinating with several wrecked boats which made for some great ‘Arty farty’ shots and loads of birds. We saw flocks of Dunlin feeding in the shallows which, when spooked flew around in a great cloud before settling down again. Others included Black Guillemots, Shag, Ringed Plovers, Female Eider ducks with young, Arctic terns with young, Turnstones, Grey Phalaropes, Snipe and Puffins.

While we were at the north end of the island I spotted two Puffins sat on a rock about 30 yards off the path. Frank knew exactly what I was going to do and sat down carefully by the path and waited while I very carefully inched my way closer and closer to them. After about 30mins of moving very slowly and carefully I must have got within 6 feet of both birds. Fortunately I had been taking photos all the time I had been inching forward as then some idiot came up the path saw me taking photos of the puffins and obviously thought ‘I want one to’ and marched straight up behind me and guess what to his surprise they flew off! If it hadn’t been for the fact that I knew I had got some good close up shots he may well have got a mouth full but I just ignored him looked at Frank and we both rolled our eyes sky wards. Some people just haven’t got a clue!

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map link29.07.08 - Flatey to Skápadal

We had had a few showers in the night but it was a dry morning. As the weather was good we decided to make the most of it and catch the 10.30 ferry. As we waited for the ferry I got chatting to a chap who had been born on Flatey but currently worked on the mainland. I asked him about the water supply on the island. Apparently they have a couple of bore holes but the water is not very fresh so they bring in fresh water from Stykkishólmur on the ferry and that they get their electricity from a diesel generator housed in a building near the jetty, with the diesel being brought over on the ferry. Again the ferry crossing was calm and it took about an hour before we were docking at Brjánslæker under a rather overcast sky. There isn’t a lot at Brjánslæker just a cafe, we asked there if there was a shop along our route and the lady kindly advised us that there were no shops along our route but the petrol station at Hagi sold a few things. As we cycled along the 62 the weather improved a lot and it actually got quite warm in the sunshine. We had lovely views as we cycled along looking over the Briedafjordur to the Snæfjellsjökull. The bay at Vadall was quite beautiful with its wide sandy beach which oddly enough had a swimming pool at its head. When we got to the petrol station at Hagi it was fortunately open and was manned by an old boy who spoke Icelandic but with the odd word of English. He asked us where we came from when I said England he went on about the our English football teams which one did we support was it Liverpool or Arsenal? He was a bit surprised when I said Norwich! He was an A C Milan fan and proudly showed us his AC Milan pennant hanging on the wall! The only food he sold was milk, butter and 1kg blocks of cheese, but we were grateful for that as it would help out with our supplies until we could get to another shop which probably wouldn’t be until Patreksfjördur.
We found a nice grassy knoll just off the road by the shoreline for lunch and we basked in the sunshine and couldn’t quite believe that we were in fact in Iceland. After we set off again an English motorcyclist came up along side us and shouted over the noise of his engine at me that with this good weather and scenery it can’t be Iceland we must have been suddenly teleported to New Zealand. I told him that we had never toured in NZ. Believe me he said with the temperatures and scenery it was like parts in the north island. It was a hard climb over the Kleifaheidarskard with 410m of ascent and descent over 12km with a 9% gradient. We had to stop halfway up to have a drink it was so hot. The run down the other side was good and thankfully was on tarmac so we could enjoy it. When we got to the shore of the Ósafjorður and the junction of the 612 we realised that there was no way we would make Breðaveik that night as our legs were shot after that hill. We decided to wild camp and looking at the map the spit near the airfield looked promising but after just managing the next small hill we realised just how tired we were and decided that the next available place to camp would do. As we came down to a bay with a beached old trawler in it there was a valley on our left with an outwash plain from which they were extracting gravel. Behind it we found a good level grassy area which made a good camp site. It was a bit of a trek to find a good stream for water however I found some Bilberry bushes on the way and picked a good amount to make a tasty dessert after our pasta meal. While Frank read her book I sat at Hendrik's place just above our camp and watched a beautiful sunset over Patreksfjörður.

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map link30.07.08 - Skápadal to Breiðavík

We had a good peaceful nights sleep as we were so tired after the hill climb yesterday. While we waited for the tent to dry in the sun I took Frank over to the out wash plain where I had seen some Icelandic poppies. We set off at about 10.00am and had a quick look around the old beached trawler. The 612 was a gravel road but the surface wasn't too bad although it was still a little slow going. At Raknadalur there is a sandy bay and we watched Herring gulls fishing for mussels and then dropping them from a height onto the rocks for their youngsters to eat. A little bit further on at Sandoddi there was a small tarmac airstrip with a few small light aircraft parked by the control tower. At Skalladalsfjall we stopped for some lunch in a small sandy bay where there had been once a small settlement as there were the remains of some old turf houses. The colour of the water was quite a beautiful turquoise all along the coast and with the warm weather we were unusually very hot for Iceland and we could have cheerfully gone for a swim, but we knew it would be too cold! After cycling around two more headlands each with there respective climbs we finally reached the valley of Örlygshöfn with its estuary and wide golden sands and headed in land. We could see the road at the end with its steep climb up over Kjölur. Near the end of the valley at Hnjótur there was a museum and cafe so we stopped for a cold Coke to give us a bit of a sugar boost to get over the hill. The climb was fairly steep and it wasn't easy in parts due to the gravel surface. Fortunately it leveled out for a short section near the right hand bend so I waited for Frank and we got our breath back. There was little traffic going up and as I was just 50m from the top there came a cry from Frank over the radio that her pannier rack had broken. I guessed it was one of the front ones as the same thing had happened to mine 4 years ago in Norway. I left my bike and walked down the 100m or so to where she was, sure enough it had gone at the same place mine had, it had fractured across at the lower fork attachment. I carried Frank's panniers up to where my bike was as the gradient was a little less steep than where she was. Like the time in Norway the easiest way of mending it was the good old scout square lashing, fortunately I had a spare piece of strong cord which we carry for such emergencies. With that mended it didn’t take too long to get to the summit and the turn off to Breiðavík campsite. When I booked in I noticed that they served food and asked the lady if there was a chance of a meal for us as we had little left but dehydrated food. No problem we serve a meal a 7.00pm, as it was just after 6 0’clock we had just got time to get pitched and get a quick shower.

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map link31.07.08 - Látrabjarg cliffs
We were up early at 8.00am and took advantage of the free washing machine that was in the utility room It was such a warm sunny morning that most of our clothes were dry before we left at 10.30am and we could wear our Coolmax cycling tops as they were dry enough to wear. We left the tent and just took yellow jackets, lunch and brew making kit with us. Getting out of the camp site was fun as it was quite a steep hill to the main road. As you looked down on Bredavik bay you could see it’s lovely sandy beach and what was a telling message of the storms that could rage in the winter the NE cliff of the bay was covered in sand. We were followed up the road by two cyclists who when they caught up with us when we had stopped to take photos of some flowers turned out to be French and were staying at the guest house at the campsite. From there it was still a bit of a climb on gravel up the hill and then a long ride down to the bay at Latravik where there was a wide sandy beach with an airstrip. At the end of the beach at Brunnaverstodo there were the remains of an old fishing village, it was mainly just the stone remains of some buildings and a rather large stone which according to the interpretive board was probably used for strong man competitions!.
While we there a 4X4 pulled up and two lassies came up to us and asked us if we had found a camera, they had been taking photos there earlier. I said we hadn’t but the chap in the camper van was there when we arrived he might have found one. I noticed the 4X4 was Austrian and got chatting to the two guys who owned it. Apparently they were just giving the girls a lift. They used an interesting expression they said the girls who were also Austrian were just 'tramping around Iceland', They got no joy from the guy with the camper van and headed off towards Látrabjarg For us it was a short climb around the next bluff and then about 1km or so to the car park and lighthouse at Látrabjarg. The two Austrian girls were there with smiles on there faces they had got their camera, it had been found by the two French cyclists that we had met earlier and were in front of us.
The cliffs at Latraberg are spectacular with huge colonies of Kittiwakes and little Auks. The sounds of their cries together made a wondrous chorus. Unlike the Puffins on Flatey who were naturally wary of humans for obvious reasons the Puffins at Latraberg seemed more used to humans and being photographed as you could get really quite close to them without any real stealth tactics!. We spent several hours walking along the cliff top just taking it all in before heading back the way we came for a well earned evening meal.
We decided to turn in at 10.00pm as we wished to be up early to get over the hill before it got too hot in the morning.

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map link01.08.08 - Breiðavík to Patreksfjörður

We were up at 6.00am and as planned we were away by 8.00am so that we could do the big climb over the top before it got too hot. It actually wasn't quite as steep going this way and in fact the worst bit was in fact the climb out of the campsite. By 9.35am we had got to the top and we promised ourselves a drink at the museum cafe at the bottom. Unfortunately you couldn't enjoy the downhill run as the surface had a lot of loose gravel on it. The cafe was doing waffles with rhubarb jam and cream, so we wolfed down a couple of those plus a couple of cups of coffee, both certainly hit the spot! The weather was again beautiful and if anything hotter than the day before when we cycled along Patrekfjordur the water was still a lovely turquoise blue as we past the little bay where we had lunch a couple of days before. I stopped at the entrance to the Flughavn to give Frank a chance to catch up and saw a sign which said they served food. Frank didn't need much persuasion to stop! We had the house special burger & chips, we don't normally eat this type of food but all this cycling does tend to make you ravenous!
When we got to end of the Fjord we where back on tarmac and we worked it out that it was only 7 miles to Patreksfjordur. We had a bit of a slight head wind, but with the better road surface we could keep up a good pace even though the road was a bit up and down. Part way along the fjord I stopped to show Frank a great example of a vertical basaltic dyke that had form in the strata on a cliff right next to the road when a Berlingo pulled up behind us and shouted something out of the window. I suddenly realised that it was the owner of Bredavik campsite. She said that if she had known that we were coming this way she could have given us a lift and then offered to take our luggage on to Patreksfjordur. We told her it was very kind of her to offer but it wasn't that far now. She wish us a good trip and we carried on, as we had made good time we decided to stop for brew at a picnic spot. By the side of the picnic table was a fine example of Angelica with loads of flies on the flower head. As we headed on the last stretch to Patreksfjordur it was so warm that the tar was blistering in the heat and started to stick to our tyres and began picking up small bits of gravel which kept pinging off and hitting the backs of our legs.
We got to Patreksfjordur at about 5.30pm and the information board said there was no campsite. Acccording to our map the next one was over the next hill at Isafordur so it was either another 13km up over a hill or it was a wild camp somewhere. I asked at the N1 station and he said there was one up the hill behind the town on the old football pitch that there were facilities and it was free. It was a good pull up the gravel road and indeed it was and old football pitch nice and level with reasonable grass. The facilities were a white container with loo's, sinks but no showers however there was lovely hot water so we filled the bucket with hot water and had a good wash. While Frank was washing I spent half an hour or so cleaning the tar and gravel out of the tyres before it got colder and the tar set, yet another use for the chopstick.
As our legs were tired we decided that although we would like to cycle all the way to Isafordur it would take us several days and if we were not careful we would have time to get to Lamanalauger in the south. So I went down to the N1 station to find out if we could catch a bus. There was a timetable on the petrol station window which said there was one at 16.50 tomorrow.
There had been one trailer tent on the site when we arrived and then as were brewing up some tea an Icelandic couple arrived with a small toddler. Not long after they had put up their tent did the woman come over and asked us if we used a gas stove as they were having problems with theirs. I went over and had a look at and took it apart, it seemed as if the gas hole was blocked but as we had no pricker I lent them our gas stove to cook their tea on. At 12.30pm we were woken up by two lads who turned up in a car and made a hell of a noise trying to put a tent up. I'm afraid they got the rough end of my tongue. The joys of campsites give us a wild camp any day!

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