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Cycling around Iceland

On Arrival in Akureyri... mouthful ey!"

sunny 17 °C

On arrival in Akureyri.......

The last week has been rather a tough one. The wind has been constant and there hasn't been the slightest let up or break to allow for rest. Even when travelling down hills it has been essential to peddle, and peddle damn hard as well. After crossing route 59 at the base of the western fjords on rough terrain and having to cycle on into the night to find affordable accommodation the strain was getting to us. We really needed a break or something to lift our spirits. I know I keep mentioning the wind and its horrendous tendencies to be annoying, but its bloody true. It can really kick you in the teeth. We managed to find an amazing little place to camp at a place called Saeberg, near Reykir. There was a hostelling international hostel there and they offered affordable camping. They even had a hot tub, which was amazing to sit in at night and stare out over the cold Hrutafjordur. Its moments like that, that just raise Icelands profile, as an amazing place to be, and relax in.
The next day we set off for Blonduos. The wind was typically horrendous. It's probably not even that bad to the locals, but when cycling it's mighty hard. Up and down hills with finally a little break of sunshine for a few hours, the day looked like it was going to be fantastic. Around a few more corners however the wind really got up, and only allowed a few miles in an hour or so. We finally decided to stop at a little roadside cafe and gas station in Vidigerdi. After purchasing some bread and snacks, we thought it would be a brilliant idea to throw some energy into hitching again. Time passed by with the usual happy faces and waves from tourists in small cars. Eventually however a large truck pulled over. The Man was heading for Akureyri, which was the destination we aimed to be in, in a few days. We loaded up the bikes and extras and jumped in. The views were lovely. The small town Blonduos was now only a flying visit. It is in itself a well established town, with a very full looking campsite, I would imagine with the convoy of motor homes travelling between Reykjavik and the north. There is also a 9 hole golf course and another interesting looking church in the town. We traveled on around Skagafjordur and up into the high mountain passes near to Akureyri. The views were stunning. Jaw droppingly beautiful. Everywhere you looked the scenery was just amazing, and kept going for a good hours drive. Earlier in the day we were told by some Dutch drivers, that this area wasn't particularly special. I can't imagine therefore what the rest of Iceland shall be like. I can only imagine and prepare my jaw for more dropping moments of natural beauty.
Travelling across the north of Iceland there are a few beautiful towns and places of interest. In Borgarvirki the last Icelandic execution took place in 1830. Local folk law states that to be considered a "real Icelandic man" you have to be able to swim naked to the island of Drangey with a torch in your hand while singing the national anthem (wish me luck). In the Heradsvotn area in 1238 three of the most powerful clans in Iceland fought over lordship of the country, which consiquiently was the largest battle in Icelands History. The area also is the setting for one of Icelands most famous Ghost stories. The glacier named Eiriksjokull is named after a famous outlaw who lost his leg fighting farmers on the glacier, he still managed to escape though.
On arrival in Akureyri we headed straight over to central campsite. It was a nice enough site, with all the required essentials and brilliantly situated. The only downside was that the showers cost an extra 100ISK and were over the road, and the amount of motor homes there were, was rather annoying. We put our tent up and went straight to sleep for a good 10 hours or more. The next day we utilized the local swimming baths. Situated about one block from the campsite, the baths were perfect for the weary cyclists legs. 450ISK was the entrance price, which was more than acceptable due to the amazing facilities. Two different temperature hot pools, two swimming baths, one for lanes and the other slightly heated, there was also a great steam room. The three hours we spent in there was needed. Perfect way to spend an evening in a beautiful city surrounded by the mountains.
We must have done something right, because the sun has been out constantly since arriving in Akureyri. After two nights at the campsite, we moved in with two Polish girls whom are studying and working at the local university. I love couchsurfing. The girls have been fantastic sooo far making us feel at home. At the moment while typing this blog, I'm looking out over some amazing mountain scenery and getting prepared for another adventurous night 'downtown', however I'm still feeling a little precious after last nights antics. Great town.

Icelandic lesson..... remotions

Eg er = I am
godur = good
Hamingusamur = Happy
Aedisiegur = Fantastic
Brjaladur = crazy
ferskur = fresh
sorgmaeddur = sad
reidur = angry
full = grumpy

enjoy. x

Posted by tchgate 11:01 Archived in Iceland Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Cycling around Iceland

Hitch hiking in heaven....

overcast 9 °C

Hitch hiking heaven!

The ferry from Stykkisholmur to Brjanslaekur via the island of Flatey was a great way to pass a day and check out some interesting views of the coast line. We were heading into the rugged north western fjordlands with some interesting weather on its way. Not long into the 3 hour boat ride the weather on land looked horrible and therefore dashed any hopes of any nice photos of the coast. The waves grew and grew. It wasn't long until we could see them slopping at the windows of the lower deck, the motion of the ocean was now in full flow. Everyone else seemed to be either sleeping or eating the vastly over-priced food that they offered on board. We did however manage to find a cinema at the front of the boat and watch a few episodes of friends. Not normally my choice of tv, however it was nice to watch 'some' tv and try to relax for a few hours.
On arrival in Brjanslaekur the weather was gloomy and rather dull. A mist hung in the air and a cold wind slapped you in the face. It didn't appear like it was going to be an enjoyable cycle to a campsite. Brjanslaekur litterally on has the ferry teminal and few farms in the bay. Cars lined up waiting to get onto boat. We stopped at a small cafe to change into our cycling gear, and then proceeded to find the campsite and N1 gas station. We covered the distance in no time at all. The weather had actually brightened slightly, so we decided to carry into the early evening. It was a great choice until, route 60 threw a spanner into the works. About 10 miles down the road from ferry terminal the road turns into a gravel excuse for a road. There were signs of men at work but nothing appeared to be done. The road was to harsh to cycle on for a good 10 kilometers so the only way through was to walk. We finally got back on the bikes and made it about 20miles before stopping to get some refreshments. It was around 11.30pm. The light was dull and the cold air was drawing in and extinguishing hopes of getting anywhere. We spotted some headlights heading our way, and in our direction on the horizon. We thought it would be funny to try and hitch. We didn't expect the guy to actually pull over and pick us up. haha. He had nothing in his truck and so had plenty of room for our three bikes. we broke them down, wheels off and everything in in record time, and them jumped into the warm and cozy interior of his truck. He amused us as he looked a lot like Parker, Lady Panellope's driver from Thunderbirds. A brilliant guy, whom was just glad to be having some company I think. He drove us to just outside Reykhola which was about 100k. If it wasn't for Parker, I feel that we would still be lost in the western fjords today. Legend!!
The next day started soooo well. The sun was shinning, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It actually felt summer for all of about 2 hours. We spent the time chilling out and doing some yoga, trying to catch some rays. Eventually the time of take off was on us. We headed off into the gloom. The wind was up to its usual tricks, head on into our faces without the smallest break. The view back of the bay of Reykhola was stunningly beautiful. A small collection of tiny islands filled the bay forming a kind of archipelago. Just as we got to the best view the wind broke for a few minutes and gave us time to embrace the beauty of what lay before us. Bliss. A road side bar and a cheeky mojito wouldn't have gone a miss.
The cycle between Reykhola and Budardalur wasn't particularly easy or stunning. There is a rather long bridge crossing at Kroksfjardarnes which is amazing. The smell of the salty sea air and the view of the mountains is awe inspiring. We stopped for a small spot of lunch just to take in the surroundings before jumping back onto the saddle and heading into a wind tunnel situated between to large mountains. The road the deviated out of the wind and up and huge mountain, which was painful to walk up but the cycle down was awesome. Once again the view was stunning and the adrenaline rush from travelling at 50-60kph was a great rush!
We eventually arrived in the small dwelling of Budardalur and found a small guest house for the evening. A bed and a hot shower was just what we needed after a hard days cycle. The price was about average for Icelandic guest houses. 3000 ISK.
The town of Badardalur is apparently one of the best places in europe for producing new milk products and is also renowned for its cheese in the whole of Iceland. Other than that, it was just a nice cozy place to relax and look out over Hvammsfjordur.
Some small points of interest and historical importance lie in the west fjords. Located at Latrabjarg is Iceland's largest seacliffs. Stretching 14km long and at a hight of 441 meters high. The epic story of exile and adventure "the saga of Gisli Sursson" transpires around the region of Dynjandi. Lokinhamradalur valley is one of the most ghost infested and scary places in Iceland. In 1615 many Spanish sailors were brutally slaughtered by farmers led by a county sheriff in the region of Aedey, across the bay from Isafjordur.
When travelling in the Westernfjords be prepared for a bumpy ride. The weather seems to change in the space of 10 minutes and then change back again not long after. The mountain passes were unbelievable and savagely beautiful. My only annoyance was that we didn't quite see enough of the fjords. Not all at once though I suppose.

Icelandic lesson..... Animals.

Cat = Köttur
cow = kýr
dog = hundur
duck = önd
elephant = fíl
goat = geit
hen = hæna
horse = hestur
lion = ljón
monkey = api
mouse = mús
pig = svín
rabbit = kanína
shark = Hákarl

Untill next time.... just remember Ice keeps Ice cold. haha

Posted by tchgate 10:59 Archived in Iceland Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Cycling around Iceland

Party In Vegamót.....

semi-overcast 13 °C

Party In Vegamót.....

The 17th of June is Icelands National Day. The sun was shinning, there was no wind for once.... it was a beautiful day. Then we got attacked by flies. We were still in Borgarnes hanging around to see if any festivities would be taking place for the big day. We waited till around 1pm. There was still no sign of much happening here. It truly is a slow moving pace of life. After asking a few locals, they informed us that the bigger towns would be having parties. So we fought off the flies at the old camp sight, took our tent down, and got on our way towards Stykkishólmur (the gateway to the fjords).
Leaving Borgarnes we took route 54 west north west in the direction of Snæfellsjökull (a journey to the center of the earth). Once again we fought an early hill, and then was rewarded with lovely flat roads and beautiful mountain views, the most spectacular being the view of Snæfellsjökull. As we passed near the town Eldborg the hills and the wind decided to play a game with us. Cycle up the hill = wind in the face. Change direction with the road and head up another small mountain = wind in the face. The Icelandic wind seems to be alive. Like a young child playing games, trying his/her mischievous best to break your spirit down. The sight of the mountain however was just too beautiful, and kept us going in our pursuit of route 56 towards Stykkishólmur.
After stopping for some food, to fill the energy bank route 56 started to come into sight. A huge moral lift was the sight of a N1 service station. We Stopped off for some coffee and a rest before attemting to head on to Stykkishólmur. After 65k we were all slightly warn down and in need of a good rest. In N1 there was three girls around our age working there. We got chatting to them, telling them what we were doing etc, and then asked if we could camp behing the petrol station. They allowed us too and then said we could use their tomorrow. They even invited us to a party the following day.
So we hung around in Vegamót for a day and another night. We had some alcohol with us and we had also obtained two further couchsurfers that were to stay in our allready full tent. The party itself was pretty crazy. Starting with some guitar songs and a buffet, it appeared quite formal. Then more crazy Icelandic party goers turned up and got the party started. Upside down drinking was to name atleast one of the crazy things going on here. Vegamót wasn't even a town. All that was there was a gas station and few farms. I have no idea where all of the people turned up from.
With a slightly wobbly approach we set off towards Stykkishólmur, hoping that we finally would get there, and that the ever looming hang over would stay away. Route 56 from vegamót back towards route 54, started with a slow climbing hill and then a huge mountain like thing that nearly killed all three of us. The only thing that kept me going was the hope of a huge down hill cycle. Sure enough from the top of the huge hill on route 56 it was all downhill into Stykkishólmur. It was the best day of cycling on the trip so far. We covered around 35k in about 2 hours with a few stops. The weather was great and arrival into the stunning little sea side town of Stykkishólmur made the day even better. Stykkishólmur is by far one of the prettiest towns so far. It will definatly be hard to beat. Old wooden buildings run down narrow streets to the harbour, all in different colours, sizes but following the same fashion. The bay and the view out towards the fjords is fantastic.

Fjords here we come. Today we are catching the afternoon ferry past the island of Flatey to the town Brjánslækur in the west fjordlands (Vestfirðir). All to do before setting off today is to stock up our food at Bónus and pack up the tent. Apparently we are in for a few days of rain..... wish us luck! x

Icelandic colours.... Litirnir (colours)

Svartur = Black
Blár = Blue
Brúnn = Brown
Grár = Grey
Grænn = Green
Bleikur = Pink
Fjólublár = Purple
Rauður = Red
Hvitur = White
Gulur = Yellow
Appelsinugulur = Orange

Posted by tchgate 05:27 Archived in Iceland Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Cycling around Iceland

Borgarnes and beyond!

semi-overcast 12 °C

Borgarnes and beyond!

Leaving the south we have slowly made our way up the coast. After being trapped in a wind storm and beaten by the rain we tried our luck at a little bit hitching through a tunnel which would cut out travel time to Akranes down by a day. However bicycles are not allowed through the tunnel. We were not so lucky with the hitching as there was 3 of us, but an old German man that we met was lucky and was wisked away within an hour of hitching! It was around this time, after 3 hours with our thumbs out that we decided to take on ´the de-tour´. This was atleast one days cycle extra. The bay we were heading around is called Hvalfjörður and some amazingly beautiful scenery. The weather was a total mix, but as the locals told us this area can be one of the windiest in Iceland. Mind you, im sure they say that all over!
After a nights sleep in the middle of nowhere we woke to life in a cloud. The mist was litterally that thick that you couldnt see 10yards in front of you. We held off our estimated time of take off... with a coffee and some food. Only 30 minutes later there was no cloud and the skies were showing blue. It was time to leave the stunning fjord/bay behind us and move beyond, into uncharted teritory..... and on our way Borgarnes.
We made it back to route 1 pretty quickly. The weather had lifted our spirits, and the sight of route 1 also lifted the mood further. Borgarnes 23k from the turn off, this time on the otherside of the tunnel. We set off and quickly came up against our major challenge for the day. The first and pretty much only hill of the day. It was a slow, long climb to the top. What didnt help was the annoying ´racing car drivers´ motoring past with no respect for cyclists. This isnt usual here in Iceland. Most of the drivers have been very respectful, even going out of their way to drive into on coming traffic as not to get to close to you! Nice people. The cycle up route 1 towards Borgarnes was almost one straight, flat road. The smells of the local plants and flowers filled the air giving a gorogus aroma as you cycled. There were a few mountains and lodges around but nothing major untill we saw Borgarnes in the distance. The town/city sits to the north side of Borgarfjörður. There is one ´main street´, but this seems to have all the usual shops and extras a town of this size should have. There was a nice feeling about the place. We got talking to a local girl in the library, who told us that we could camp in the old camp sight, located behind a few buildings..... true to her word there was nobody there and the camping was perfect.
A funny occurance, which I am still unsure about is known as 'the runtur'. This is where people drive in circles, around the block or up and down a street. It looks like one of the most boring, pointless things on earth, but actually ammused me to see what small town folke do with their evening time. Borgarnes was alive with the runtur drivers. Back and forth they went, up and down the half mile long road. Half mile would probably be genorous too.
On searching for a bar or some nightlife in Borgarnes we cam across a place called B57, but this was only open on weekends. The only other bar seemed to be a 2 in 1. A Phillipino resturant and bar, with the classic five clocks on the wall allowing you to know what time it is in Sydney or LA, a strange big town feeling in such a small place. Borgarnes however was a lovley break and allowed us to fill up on supplies and gaze at the beautiful mountains before putting our heads down.


Icelandic days of the week....... Vikudagurinn (days of the week),
Mánudagurinn = Monday
Þriðudagurinn = Tuesday (Þ and ð are th sounds in english)
Miðvikudagurinn = Wedensday
Fimmtudagurinn = Thursday
Föstudagurinn = Friday
Laugardagurinn = Saturday
Sunnudagurinn = Sunday.

Bless bless (goodbye)
Tom Cartledge
xx

Posted by tchgate 05:25 Archived in Iceland Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Cycling Around iceland

Wet & Wild

storm 5 °C

So, the past few days have been soooo crazy! Reykjavik is an amazing party town. I will call it a town, not to sound too American, but it is a very, cozy and cute little capital. There is definately a buzz about it though!! We arrived in keflavik around 4 pm on saturday afternoon, and took a bus into Reykjavik for around £14! I called my couchsurfing contact gummi from the bsi central bus station... He was still at work, so told us to keep busy for a few hours and head over to his place later! We decided it was time for something to to eat.... But we didn't have in mind local delicasy "sheep head"! It actually wasn't that bad. The eye ball was interesting and the flavour was a little strong but otherwise it was well worth a try.
We arrived at gummi's place around 9pm. His younger sister was round. She found it funny to try and teach us Icelandic, in the end I felt rather happy with the few words I knew! Once she was picked up by "father", gummi announced it was parttty time! In amazing fashion and 10mins, we got ourselves ready for a night on the tiles! We took the bus down to central and then exploited everything the bars on "laugavegur" had to offer! Gummi and his friends were insistent on taking us too loads of different bars! In many of the bars and clubs there is no door charge, which is a refreshing change from most scandinavian and most worldly towns and cities! We mist have returned home at some early hour..... 7amsounds about correct! Very good night! The average beer price was about £4!
Sunday wad as the lord intended it to be.... A day of rest! Hangover!
Momday morning came around, and with a fresh week, came time to leave Reykjavik and get on the saddle! Our first destination was to be akranes, however due to a no access to foot passangers or bikes, we began to re-route ourselves around the bay untill we hit considerably stronger winds than anything us weather moaning Brits had ever experienced before! Raising a tent, out of the question. Walking or cycling 20 yards a massive challenge! No exageration the mix of the harsh rain slapping you in the face and the wind doing whatever it wanted with you, we were at the peril of nature! A car soon pulled over, and old lady asked if we needed a place to stay? Hope and smiles. She called her friend to come and pick us up and take us to their lodge. A beautiful little summer lodge, surrounded by nothing but fields. A mountain to our rear, the bay to our front and islandic horses grazing around the lodge. Thank god, we had been dropped in heaven!
Anyway the battery on this palm top phone is nearly dead so Here is your Icelandic lesson for this blog......
Ja = yes
Nei = no
Takk = thankyou
Saell = hello to a male
Sael = hello to a female
Above ae are supposed to be together like the Danish note, and sounds very much like the English word for eye! Good luck with those words, colours and days of the week will be in the next blog!!!! Haha

I read a passage in book that said "elfish children are just as shy as human children". Still no encounters with them yet though!

Over and out!
Bless = goodbye
TC

Posted by tchgate 05:22 Archived in Iceland Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

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