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Iceland 2009 - The 'Baptism of Fire for a Lightwave' Tour

Part 4 -Kerlingarfjöll

19.08.09 - Grimstunga to Myvatn

We found out from the bus company that the bus to Akureyri wasn't until 2.30 pm, Siggy's husband at the B&B said we could stay until the bus went if we wanted. It was just as well as Frank wasn't at all well. How she managed to cycle the 3 km's to the junction of route 1 I don't know, when she got to the junction she was promptly sick! As she wasn't well we decided to only go as far as Myvatn, which was only 30 minutes away. When we got there I quickly pitched the tent and got Frank under the warm duvet so she could get some sleep. We were just in time as it started raining. As Frank slept I started writing up our diary sitting in the vestibule. It was then that I noticed that the seams in the vestibule were starting to drip. I knew it couldn't be condensation as we hadn't been in the tent long enough. This was start of our tent problems.

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20.08.09 - Myvatn to Akureyri

Fortunately the bus to Akureyri wasn't until 15.30 so we had a lazy morning which suited Frank just well as although she was feeling much better she still wasn't 100%. As it was a lovely morning I took the opportunity to wash a few clothes which were beginning to hum a bit. Whilst they dried in the warm sunshine I nipped over to the Bank to pay the money we owed for the B & B into Siggy's account. The lady teller obviously knew her and agreed that she was a very trusting person. From what she said it wasn't the first time. When I got back to our tent I turned on the GPS to check our distance for yesterday and I noticed that there was a geocache very near the campsite. I reckoned that we just had enough time to go and find it before we got the bus. It was situated in Stóragjá a rift in some lava where there are some thermal pools. It was nice to visit a place we hadn't seen when we were at Myvatn 2 years ago. Fortunately it was a fairly easy find so it didn't take too long and we were soon back on the bikes heading back to Reykjahlið. As we got close to the bus stop we saw the bus pull in off the main road ahead of us. When we got to the bus people were still loading. It looked pretty full, when I saw the driver I asked him where he wanted the bikes. "Oh it is no good turning up 10 minutes before the bus leaves and expect to get your bikes on the bus, it is full" Well I couldn't quite see how a few minutes would have made much difference but I didn't argue with him but just said that we needed to get Akureyri tonight as we had to catch the 8.30am Reykjavik bus the following  morning. He told us to hold on while he made a call on his mobile. When he had finished his call he told us that there was a tour bus coming through in a hours time going to Akureyri and they would pick us up. Just then two Italian cycletourer's turned up a few minutes before the bus was due to leave hoping to go to Akureyri so we didn't feel quite so bad. He told them to wait with us for the tour bus.

Whilst we were waiting for the bus to arrive I noticed that Frank's bottle cage was coming apart. We still had 35 minutes before the bus was supposed to arrive so it was out with the blue cord again to effect a repair. I can't stress how useful a small piece of cord can be, we have now used it twice before for mending our front racks and now this year for a bottle cage! The tour bus turned up on time and turned out to be the 'Jewels of the North' tour and we got some nice commentary as we went along. The woman in front of us had a very expensive Canon camera and was taking pictures every few moments out of the window, most of the shots weren't of anything in particular. She must have taken several hundred in our 2 hour journey, I would hate to have to endure her holiday snaps night !

When we pulled into Akureyri the tour bus first went to the airport and on the way there we saw the Dutch guy we had met going to Askja cycling into town. From our previous visits we knew our way from the bus station but we still didn't manage to ride up the hill to the campsite without getting off and pushing! When we were stopped at the top getting our breath back, the Italian couple who were on the tour bus with us came cycling up behind us. They were obviously much fitter than us! Later when we were booking in at the campsite we met the Dutch guy. He told us that when we saw him he had just booked his flight back to Reykjavik. He reckoned he had done enough cycling and wanted to go to a music festival in Reykjavik at the week end.The Italian couple were also booking in at the same time and they explained that the woman's frame had sheared at the rear dropout and that they were stopping there for a couple of nights as they were hoping to get it repaired. We were amazed that she had cycled up that hill with her bike in that condition, we wished them well and headed off to find ourselves a pitch.

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map link21.08.09 - Akureyri to Kerlingarfjöll

We were up early to catch our bus to Kerlingarfjöll, the clouds were low over the mountains and we could see that they had had a good dusting off overnight snow, obviously the overnight rain we had in the night had been falling as snow above 700m. The bus was quite crowded and our bikes were loaded up onto a rack mounted on the the rear of the bus as there was no room in the luggage compartments underneath. At Varmahlið we had to swap to a minibus. There weren't quite enough seats but luckily there was another bus going to the Hveravellir so one chap who was only going that far was asked to go on that bus. We were soon in to low cloud when we got on to the Auðkúluheiði and there was quite snow storm, which above 700m was settling well. We stopped at the view point at Áfangafell to look at the Blödulón reservoir created to feed the Blandaa hydro power station. Unfortunately the cloud was so low and it was snowing so hard there really wasn't much of a view. Our next stop was at the hot spring area of Hveravellir where it was again snowing hard with a strong northerly wind. A French coach party turned up and were bravely trying to get their tents up in the snow storm. When we finally got to Kerlingarfjöll the snow had stopped so we decided to pitch the tent before any more snow came. After some very welcome and warming soup in the campsite restaurant we decided as the snow showers seemed to have stopped to head off for a walk up to the hot spring area. We set off up the spur from the campsite initially on the same route as 2 years ago along route 2 on the Ásgarðshryggur. It was absolutely wonderful to see it all covered in snow, it looked so different. As we got to Giljabrún there was some lovely snow rime on the grasses and as we got to Neðri-Hveradalir it looked quite amazing with the steam coming up through the snow. Unfortunately Loðmundur and Snækollur were mainly covered in a cap of cloud. Later as we came down the road to the campsite the clouds lifted and we were treated to some wonderful colours on the snow clad mountains as the sun set. It was nearly nine o'clock when we got back to the tent, the air temperature was getting decidedly chilly by then and we knew we were probably in for a cold night.

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map link22.08.09 - Kerlingarfjöll

When we woke in the morning there was a heavy frost on the tent. We knew it had been cold in the night but we had been toasty warm as we had slept in our thermals and hats. We decided to take our bikes up the road as the walk down yesterday was quite long and tiring. It was really a little too steep and too loose to ride, so we had to push the bikes up on some of parts. We left the bikes at the car park and headed out into the hot spring area. We decided it would be nice to climb one of the mountains to get a good view over the area and headed across the Neðri-Hveradalir to Giljabrún to follow path 4 and climb the summit of Mænir 1357m. We followed the post markers until they ran out and we then had to make up our own route to the summit. Initially it was easy going up moderate slopes of shale and scree, but as it got steeper we moved across on to the snow as the scree was quite loose. The snow was quite hard and we had to kick hard to create some good steps. After several hundred metres the snow slope ended and what I thought from the bottom off the snow slope looked like good rock turned out to be loose ice encrusted shale. At this point we were within 102m of the summit but it was getting fairly steep and without ice axes to arrest our fall and crampons to give us purchase on the ice we decided that we had better er on the side of caution and retreat back down our steps. Reversing steps isn't quite so easy as climbing them so it took a while to reverse our route till we got on to easier ground. I guessed that perhaps we should have gone slightly more to the west where the shoulder was perhaps less steep, however it was now getting late in the day and we decided to leave the summit for another day. We went back through the Neðri-Hveradalir by a different route, however the snow had started to melt at the lower level and thus made the yellow sides of the Hveradalir quite slippery. We were getting quite tired by the time we got to our bikes and were quite glad we had brought them with us as it made it much quicker to get down the road, although we had to take it steady as the surface was quite rough. It caught me out on one occasion as I braked a bit too hard and skidded off to the side and peeled out the side door. Fortunately it was on to a soft sandy bank so I didn't hurt myself but mainly bruised my ego! It was a good day and boy did we enjoy our supper when we got back.

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23.08.09 - Kerlingarfjöll

The wind had increased in the night and we woke to extremely high winds. We could hear the gusts coming down the valley. We decided that if it was this windy down where we were it would be worse on the exposed tops, therefore our plans to climb another of the mountains was put on hold. It was a shame as it was quite a bright sunny day. We decided that we would instead go for a walk up the Innri-Ásgarðsa river River. Being in the gorge it was reasonably well sheltered from the wind. The route took us along the path to the hot spring pool. The pool was about 8ft by 4ft in size and built from some concrete blocks and fed by a pipe from which gushed a constant flow of warm water. I understood that this was the legacy of some early drilling attempts at harnessing the energy from the hot spring area. You could still see pieces of the rusty pipe work leading back to the campsite and chalet area at Ásgarður. There were four people bathing in the pool and as I dipped my hand in to test the water they agreed with me that although it was warm it wasn't the warmest hot pool in Iceland. We left them to their bathing and headed up the west side of the river. We walked as far as we could but couldn't find a suitable place to cross the river without getting wet feet so we decided to walk back to the bridge at Ásgarður and then walked up the other side. It was interesting to note the different types of plants that were on the two sides, obviously the west side seemed to be more in the shade during the day and had a different set of plants to those on the eastern side which probably got more sunshine. There were quite a few plants and fungi that we didn't recognise and hadn't seen in Iceland before.

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24.08.08 - Kerlingarfjöll

Well we weren't having much luck with our attempts to climb some of the mountains here at Kerlingarfjöll. The weather today was quite atrocious. The winds were again very strong and unlike yesterday it was very overcast and it rained heavily. It wasn't really worth making the effort to go out but it did however give us time to have a shower. The shower block is only open at certain times in the day, due I think to them using the thermal waters to heat the shower water through a heat exchanger. We spent most of the day reading in the main hut and enjoying their lovely hot waffles with cream and homemade jam!

25.08.09 - Kerlingarfjöll to Reykjavik

We had a very disturbed night, as it was again extremely windy. We could hear the gusts coming down the valley before they hit the tent. The gusts were easily in excess of force 6 or 7 as they certainly rocked the tent quite violently. At one point we were both awake and Frank was thirsty and wanted a cup of tea, so I lit the gas stove to make a brew. We had to hold on to the vestibule sides as they were being blown in by the wind and we were worried that they would knock the stove over. I know it goes against all principles but if you are careful you can use a gas stove safely and there is nothing more comforting on a cold stormy night than to be supping a lovely hot cup of tea! There was a lot of water in the vestibule and some on the inner tent. From the amount of wind we doubted it was condensation but we couldn't work out exactly if it was the seams leaking again as the sides were flapping about too much. The rain eventually stopped early in the morning, however the strong wind kept up. We must have got some sleep as we woke to sunshine but the wind was still horrifically strong. We had intended to go for another walk this morning but the wind was again just too strong, we were nearly blown of our feet just walking across the bridge to the toilets. We decided to leave taking the tent down till later hoping the wind might die down. But by 12.00 it hadn't so we very carefully took it down and managed to get it all packed away without incident.  However on getting across to the main hut we met a guy from Manchester in the lobby, he hadn't been so fortunate. He had the remains of his tent on the floor and was trying to sort out the contents. It looked like it had been put in a tumble drier for several minutes, there was food all mixed up with his clothes and he was then trying to get the coffee and spaghetti out of a jumper! Apparently he had gone for a walk for a couple of hours and when he got back he found it nearly 500yd's down wind from where he had pitched it. He reckoned that he'd pitched it well, unfortunately the wind had badly bent and broken two of the poles and put a large rip in the fly, it was a North Face Tadpole so it wasn't a cheap tent. We offered to help him try and affect some sort of repair but he reckoned it was beyond repair and that he intended to catch a bus to Akureyri to see if he could get a replacement. Our Reykjavik bus left on time at 1.00pm and fortunately for us the message must have got through as the bus had a trailer for our bikes. It was quite interesting to ride the route we had done 2 years ago and point out to each other the places we recognised. We had the usual half hour stop at Geysir so we decided to have another look. Unfortunately the weather wasn't as good as it was last time but Strokkur didn't disappoint and erupted several times, it is always impressive to watch. The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful and we got into Reykjavik just after 7.00pm. We decided to catch a bus on to Keflavík as there was one at 8.40pm rather than stay a night at Reykjavik. We had to get off at the airport as there wasn't anywhere at the junction near Alex for the bus to stop, fortunately it wasn't too far to cycle back to Alex. As we were pitching the tent it started to rain and kept on raining all night.

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26.08.09 - Keflavík

I woke feeling awful and spent the rest of the day on the toilet and throwing up, need we say more. Frank managed to get us a room in the Motel at Alex, which made it much more comfortable. There was no way I was going to fly the next day and Frank managed to get our flight put back to the following day. Frank unfortunately had the unenviable task of packing up the tent in the rain on her own and couldn't believe the amount of water that was coming in through the now shot seams of the tent. She said it was first time she had to put waterproofs on in the tent to keep herself dry! This 'Lightwave' tent was definitely going back when we get home!!! Later on in the day Frank went down to Keflavík to find a chemist and spotted an amazing house build into the side of a hill next to the marina.

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27.08.09 - Keflavík

I woke that morning feeling a bit better as things had calmed down but I felt absolutely washed out and all I wanted to do was sleep. I was so glad that we hadn't had to travel that day as I just wasn't up to it. Frank very valiantly packed up the bikes on her own while I slept.

28.08.09 -Keflavík to Home

Fortunately our flight wasn't until 3 o'clock in the afternoon so we had time to get ourselves organised. I arranged with the guy at the reception for their driver to take our bikes and us to the airport. At about 2 o'clock I went around to the cooking area to get the bikes that Frank had packed up and as I was coming out with one of the bikes to take it around to the front I did a double take on the guy coming in. It was Leo from Belgium who we had met at the service station near Brú and camped with last year. He like us had come back again and in the brief chat that we had before the driver came had had a great time. He had been back to Ólafsvík to see the guy who had given him a boat ride last year and gone on a fishing trip with him. By all accounts we were surprised that we hadn't bumped into him before as we both seemed to have been to similar places in Iceland this year. Leo helped us load the bikes on the trailer and waved us off. It was a real shame we hadn't been camping on the site as he had arrived the night before and we most certainly would have bumped into him earlier and could have had more time for a longer chat.

The flight went well and as we left Keflavík it was quite clear and I got some nice shots of the town from the air. As we flew back over Scotland there was a great sunset, which made for some good photos. Our original intentions were to catch the early flight from Keflavík which would have got us into Gatwick at 11.00am giving us plenty of time to get a train home. Unfortunately with me being ill we had to catch the late flight, which meant we didn't get to Gatwick until 7.30pm, which was far too late to get a train home. We managed to get a National express coach to Stansted, luckily for us there were few people on the coach and there was plenty of room in the luggage compartments for our bikes. We managed to ring through to Frank's sister who agreed to drive our car down to meet us at Stansted.

As we sat on the coach driving up to Stansted airport we reflected on the tour. We had managed to visit all the areas we had planned to see in Iceland and generally the weather hadn't been too bad and apart from us both being ill towards the end we both agreed it was another great tour full of some wonderful memories!

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The End!