Iceland 2019. Andy's rehabilitation tour.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by earthmover, Aug 23, 2019.

  1. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Warning: Word heavy!
    A little bit of a back story first, if you just want to go straight to the trip report you can skip this bit!
    It was around 37 years ago,1982, when I first met Andy. We were both racing AMCA motocross in the Greater Manchester centre, at a particularly snotty track, during a memorial race for a rider who had died of a heart defect. Only our class were eligible for this trophy, and I fancied my chances, until I got cross rutted at the end of a straight and fell off. I was riding a 500cc Armstrong (CCM), which was easy to start, if you got a full swing on the left hand kickstart. As where I had fallen was full of deep ruts, this became something of a struggle. Firstly to get the bike where I could get a full swing, and secondly to be able stand up at the side of the bike to do so. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing though, and I got the bike up and running. Just as I’m about to swing my leg back over, there came the unmistakable sound of an out of control two stroke. To be fair, if I had swung my leg over a millisecond earlier, I would have connected with his head. As it was he clipped my front wheel and down I went, again. Happily for our future friendship, I didn’t find out who it was until the next meeting!

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    Aforementioned Armstrong, on a dry day.

    Since then we have done quite a lot together. We both packed up motocross within six months of each other, through injuries. Andy introduced me to water skiing, I introduced him to Jet skiing. We went on holiday together with our respective girlfriends, who then became our wives.

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    Gods we were young then!

    We went to each others weddings, christenings, birthday parties, barbeques.. Kids, and kids activities meant we saw less of each other for a while, until I started enduro racing in the early 2000’s. Andy soon joined me, and we fell back into our previous pattern of weekends racing, with the odd hospital visit. As well as frequent green lane rides, we raced the original timecard events, multilap hare and hounds races, but our favourites were the UK rallies. It was at one of the events when he learnt of my impending divorce, one of the first people I told. He had often tried to persuade me to go with him touring in Europe, but at the time my wife and I didn’t do separate holidays (perhaps we should have?) .
    “What’s your excuse now?” he asked.
    That was early 2005. With the divorce settlement agreed, I went out and bought my first road bike, a shiny new 1200, and took him up on his offer.

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    Andy is also a keen mountain biker, and for the last few years has been a regular on the Thursday night rides in Delamere Forest with myself and a group of others, some of whom are also motorcyclists.
    On June 26th 2017 Andy rear ended a car whilst we were in the Dolomites, momentary lack of concentration severely punished. His left arm was badly broken, but it also took out his mojo. The arm didn’t heal properly (still hasn’t) and resulted in early retirement from his job. His Triumph was written off, he sold his track day bikes, only keeping his KTM 530 because it was in bits in the garage.

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    He started cycling again to try and regain some fitness in the New Year, and re-joined the Thursday night group in March 2018. Soon we saw the initial caution give way and after a few weeks he was back to his normal self, flying down our usual trails with the rest of us. During our frequent chats, he admitted to a complete lack of interest in motorbikes, and even feeling anxious if one passed him on the road.
    This wasn’t right.
    One day he happened to mention that the only thing that he would have liked to have done was one of Tim’s trips to Iceland……….

    I first met Tim when he was leading a TRF ride out in North Wales, probably late 2002/ early 2003. I spent most of the time trying to convince him that my race numbered Husaberg could be ridden at trail riding speed, and that I wasn’t just some hooligan looking for places to ride. I bumped into him again at Rhug, shortly after I bought the BM, and then more often through the UKGSer forum. Following him round Morocco for three weeks in 2007 cemented our friendship, and we have ridden together in all manner of ways since. Roads, trails, classic trials etc. Andy has ridden with the pair of us more than once, so Tim was well aware that he was a kindred spirit.
    So in around July of 2018, I rang Tim, and told him about Andy’s comment, and my idea for his “rehabilitation”.
    “Hmm,” he said, “leave it with me for a couple of days.”
    Tim had already got half a plan for an Iceland trip in the summer of 2019, but this was an added complication. Andy may not be able, or want to, ride for long periods. Tim rang back with a route idea that would enable optional short days, or even missing out some days but still being able to meet up at camp sites along the way. As much, or as little riding as Andy could manage. There was another complication. Neither I nor Andy are fond of camping….
    With this plan in mind, I started to drip feed little snippets to Andy whenever I could. I had already checked with his wife that she didn’t mind me trying to get him back on a bike, but she was as keen as I was. Slowly but surely he began to take it on board, and when I picked up my mount for the trip, a KTM 525 he was getting quite interested. I invited him to ride in a trial in November on my step-daughters bike, after checking that Tim was also going.

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    Andy managed a full day on two wheels, and barraged Tim with loads of questions about the potential trip. After I left him that night, I rang Tim. “We’ve got him!”
    There was one last minor detail. Andy was still “Under the Doctor” as it were, for his non healed broken arm. This would need to be signed off before he could sort out insurance. The specialist didn’t see a problem, as long as he was sensible. Andy had sent his 530 engine off for an overhaul, as the last time he had used it had been as a Supermoto at Oulton park! He set about rebuilding the rest of the bike with a view to the trip, even fashioning a rack and set of pannier frames. We compared notes on camping set ups, and what to take and not take. With insurance sorted, and the 530 mot’d and taxed, the first ride on the road since the accident was on Saturday 18th May 2019. Nearly two years!

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    This was a mainly tarmac ride, though we did manage a couple of green lanes at Andy’s request. He confessed to being nervous at the start, but by the end of the day he said he felt as if he had never been off the bike. We planned a more testing ride for the week after, just to be sure, and a ride to the Adventure Bike Warehouse chilli day on the Saturday. Then the bikes needed some parts swapping before the trip, only a couple of weeks until they were to be loaded into the container.
    Mark
    #1
  2. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day one. Wednesday
    A 3:00am start, and I drove over to pick Andy up. Overestimated the traffic, as there wasn’t any, so I was 10 minutes early! Watched by three urban foxes, we left for the airport, Andy at least now knows what bothers their cats.
    Landing on time at Keflavik airport, courtesy of Easyjet, we rushed through the terminal to get the bus into Reykjavik. Sadly we were too late for the 8:30, so waited for the 9:30. This gave us a little time to acclimatise to the somewhat damp and windy weather before we were joined by the rest of the crew! Geoff I have ridden with before, he had to endure a month of my company on an Alaska trip. Steve I have trail ridden with once before, and Jamie I first met as we dropped the bikes off in Hull.

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    It’s a 40 minute ride to the bus terminal, where we were met by Tim with a friend of his who had generously offered to ferry us to the warehouse on the docks. The bikes and gear had already been unloaded from the container and were waiting for us in a secure area.
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    We swapped clothes for riding gear, filled camelbacks, adjusted panniers and generally faffed about until by about 12:00 we were all ready to go. First stop was to be for fuel, then food, before 100 kms or so of tarmac to our next point of interest. I had taken the words “minimal fuel” for the container a little too literally, and ran dry 30 metres from the compound gates. Andy came back with his jerrycan to rescue me and then we stocked up on essentials at the supermarket next to the café, as we would be camping in the middle of nowhere tonight.

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    Setting off in convoy through the suburbs of Reykjavik and it is just like any other city, busy with traffic and junctions which aren’t immediately clear. Once we join “route 1”, or the ring road, things calm down and we settle into the 50 mph speed limit (or thereabouts) as we head South East. The weather is wet and windy, early test for how well my gear works. The headlight/screen combo that stayed solidly mounted through Welsh trail riding comes loose, thus directing rain under my chin and the headlight at the sky. I push it back into position at the side of the road, whilst trying not to get blown over. Just before Hveragerdi and climbing over our first “mountain” (contentious issue, hill over 300m?) means we are in the clouds, so can see jack. This stretch does at least have crash barriers, as we descend on a frustratingly twisty road, with zero visibility. I pass a car towing a minibus, except the rope is very slack, and getting slacker! Winding the bike on a bit gets me safely out of the way. On the other side of the mountain the weather is a little drier and clearer so at least we can see the countryside.
    We stop at Hvolsvollur to fill up and grab a coffee. Steve’s fuel pump is leaking, so he and Jamie have a look at it while Andy takes pictures of the balloon tyred 4x4’s that have come in to fuel up.

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    Turning inland from here we very soon leave the tarmac behind as the road turns to gravel. Up ahead I see Tim pointing at an animal that darts off into the field to the right of us. An Arctic Fox? Could well have been, but sadly it was too far away for the GoPro to pick it up! The road gets rougher, and I’m pleased to find that my bike set up appears to work well, no loose luggage, no bottoming out of suspension, everything seems to go pretty well where I point it. It isn’t the quickest turning set up, but that isn’t what I aimed for. Let’s not get too giddy though, a long way to go yet. The landscape starts to get otherworldly as we pass hundreds of waterfalls tumbling down the steep valley sides. Large patches of snow have yet to fully melt, if indeed they ever do, and numerous small stream crossings are their legacy. At the next photo/fag/faff stop I ask Andy how he is getting on. I don’t need to, I can tell from the grin that he’s ok.

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    We were climbing now, above 500m and either the mist came down or we went up into cloud. Whichever way, visibility dropped to 20 metres or so which was quite disorientating. The surface had turned to ash, or black sand, and needed positive throttle to keep the front light, whilst peering through the murk for the next yellow post. After what seemed an age, it finally cleared and we were able to see the plain we were riding on. I spotted something colourful amidst the grey off to my right, which turned out to be a couple of hikers. Just as I was pondering this fact we came to quite a wide river crossing, where there was a 4x4 just about to cross. (First vehicle we’ve seen for 90 minutes) It didn’t look too deep where he had gone, but it felt a lot deeper to me! With us all safely across, albeit with damper feet that a few seconds ago, Andy and Tim got chatting to the couple in the 4x4. They turned out to be the support vehicle for a bunch of hikers. This crossing was also at the junction of a popular hiking trail.

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    Doesn't look too deep.

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    Does now! Photo credit Timolgra.

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    Less sand, but more streams to cross until finally Tim calls a halt. We left Rekjavik seven hours ago, but we’ve been awake for seventeen. Here, in the middle of nowhere, is a grassy patch in a valley with a trickle of a stream meandering through it. Not many flat areas, but we managed to find six that would do and set up camp. Jamie and Steve had a more in depth look at the fuel leak on Steve’s bike while the rest of us offered advice, encouragement, or just took the proverbial.

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    Yes, that is snow!

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    Over our rehydrated dinner, I asked how Andy’s aches and pains were. He said they were no worse than after a session on the mountain bikes, although his thumb was giving him grief. Odd, as that was one of the few bits he hasn’t broke? Making a brew after my food, I tried to pour the milk, from the plastic pint bottle with the green top, to find that it was in fact yoghurt. Schoolboy error. Not ideal, but guess what I’m having for breakfast? Thankfully Tim doesn’t laugh too hard, and has plenty, having bought a litre of milk, in the purple coloured container. Geoff has also bought yoghurt, so I don’t feel quite as dumb. Small flies are a bit of a nuisance, they don’t bite thankfully, but neither do they taste good. Glad I brought my mossie net.
    Mark
    #2
  3. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 2. Thursday
    I wouldn't say I slept well, but I did sleep. No problem with comfort, just the strangeness of being under canvas. Packing away the camp didn't take long, especially after my nutritious pint of yoghurt breakfast. Tim led us back the way we came for a couple of miles, and then further East on more ash and black sand tracks. Some of the views we couldn't see yesterday were now visible so I tried to capture some of them on camera.

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    It was like being in a black desert, with steep green mountains poking through it. At one point there looked to be a track leading off to the right that Tim wasn't too sure of. It soon petered out, and didn't show up on any satnavs, even though it did seem to be headed in the direction we wanted. U-turns all round. A bit further on we came to a river crossing on the edge of a small waterfall. The bottom was quite uneven and slippery but we all managed to get across with dry feet.

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    Where's Tim striding off to?

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    Don't know if I'm breathing in, or got wind?

    The track following was rocky and fast all the way to Holmsafoss waterfall.

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    Tim had mentioned that we had a few miles on tarmac to ride to get fuel before returning to re-join the gravel. The tarmac was in fact the ring road again, and we set off towards Kirkjubæjarklaustur and fuel. After a few miles, Jamie's Husaberg FE400 stuttered to a halt. The bike has an extra fuel tank and has plenty of fuel still left, but isn't playing the game. Having had one myself, Jamie and I brainstorm solutions to no avail. After a while my mobile goes off, it's Andy checking where I am, and am I with Jamie? I explained our predicament and where we were, which turned out to be only ten minutes from the services. Andy asked if it was airlocked, which indeed it was! A minor modification to the fuel pick up line in the auxiliary tank cured the problem. Bikes refuelled we set out refuelling ourselves. A family of Chinese tourists in front of me surprised me with their rudeness towards the staff, so much so that I over exaggerated my "please" and "thank you". The young lad behind the counter rolled his eyes towards the Chinese and said that they were all like that. Who would have thought?
    Steve at least acquired a mug for his coffee, having left all three of his at home. Tim tries to convince Ange over the phone that he'd seen an Arctic fox, I helped by saying I thought it was a sheep!
    Back on the tarmac to where we joined it, then onto fast gravel tracks again as we now headed North.

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    Things get interesting after one of these signs.

    Tim had an idea to visit a lake, then take a track he had found on the map. There were a couple of river crossings, then the surface turned to ash and black sand again and we started to climb up to nearly 700m. The weather started to turn a tad damp, and by the time we reached the lake it was chucking it down. You could see how picturesque a spot this could be, in the right conditions. At the moment, it's rather bleak!

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    There is however a toilet block, and a potential camp site for future reference.
    The new track Tim has found is all black sand, but quite a bit more technical than previous. I'm really enjoying it, and so is the bike. Andy has a grin on his face too.

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    With a better camera/photographer, you would be able to see that the stuck up rock left of centre was giving us the finger.

    Things get a bit more interesting when we come to a river crossing. It's quite wide, and flowing quickly from left to right. Tim walks in to check the depth, and by halfway it is only up to the top of his boots, so he walks back and gets on his bike. When he rides across though, the last few metres are quite a bit deeper. I go next, and give it a handful to clear the deeper bit, nearly too much. Andy comes next, then Jamie, but just before the exit he loses traction and gets stuck. Steve rides across and nearly comes a cropper, filling his boots in the process. Geoff puts in a textbook ride, and we turn our attention to freeing Jamie's bike from its watery grave. Andy and I stood either side, and with my tow rope passed through the Husaberg subframe and over our shoulders we were able to both lift and pull from dry land, while Jamie pushed from the water. This did the trick and after upending the bike to empty the exhaust it burbled into life as though nothing had happened. (For those that don't know Husabergs, note the lack of airbox to fill with water)

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    So near, yet so far.

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    Should we just leave it there?

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    Waiting for the next victim.

    Whilst this was going on, Steve was lying on his back doing a "dying fly" impersonation to empty the water from his boots, forgetting the milk carton in his rucksack.........
    From the last picture of Jamie's 'Berg, the river opened into a lake, with a hut at the shore which seemed to be occupied by a family on a fishing trip. There was a well used track leading off to the left, but Tim headed straight on towards a pretty decent sized hill climb. This had obviously been used by vehicles, but as it was loose ash it was going to be fun! Tim had taken the left hand rut, Andy the right, and I was currently undecided. Tim's less aggressive back tyre, and depth of rut conspired to bring him to a halt halfway up. I heard Andy wind more power on his 530 and followed his example, swerving into the right hand rut and flying up to the top.
    "Wait there!" I shouted at Tim as I passed. Jamie had also got up with no trouble so the three of us walked back down to help Tim. We soon realised that once stopped, forward motion could not be regained, so we helped turn the 640 round so he could ride back down and try again. This run was successful, closely followed by Steve, but Geoff got cross rutted and came off. He was pretty winded and suggested one of us ride it up, Andy and I were looking at each other wondering who was going to volunteer first when Jamie stepped in. His first attempt failed, the added weight and milder tyre not helping, so we unloaded some of the luggage. Second attempt got further, but a slight kick from a rut sent the bike sideways, third attempt worked though and Jamie flew up to the top. All we had to do now was drag the luggage up after him......

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    Tim memorising the right line for next time....

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    Thankfully from here on the tracks got easier, and a little faster. Unfortunately it also started to rain. 20 km later and we re-joined the main track and headed West. Part of today's itinerary was to ride to Ljotipollur, a lake in the rim of an old volcano, but when we got there the road was closed.

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    Yes, we could. But we won't.

    The rain got steadily heavier so Tim suggested that we take the campsite at plan "B", which was nearer to where we were, about another 20 km away. This was universally accepted, though the prospect of putting a tent up in these conditions was less than appealing. The site, Landmannahellir, had a number of huts for rent, but these were all booked. We sheltered in a small barn with a German couple, them cooking their evening meal, us waiting until it abated. Sure enough, half an hour later the rain eased enough for us to pitch tents for the night. It had been quite a day!

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    Denise and her daughter bought me the comedy eye mask, to help me sleep. [​IMG]

    Mark
    #3
  4. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 3. Friday
    A slight breeze had got up overnight so tents were dry, and some of the riding gear was well on its way. Except Jamie’s boots. We left the campsite heading South West, on a minor track, through a lava field. This is far too small a phrase for a mind blowing place. The track skirted around what had very obviously been a wave of molten rock that had lost its momentum for whatever reason. The surface had patches of red shale amongst the black sand and ash, and plenty of elevation changes to deal with. Some very unforgiving rocks at the side of the route made sure you paid attention. Pictures really don’t convey the gravitas of the landscape, and imagination struggles with what must have been going on here not that long ago.

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    Climbing up the sides of Hekla, a volcano which last erupted in 2000, we reached 930m before the track ran out. The last bit of the climb was quite technical, so I was very glad to be on a lightweight enduro bike. The skies had cleared giving us stunning views towards the Central Highlands, which is where we were heading next.

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    Andy once had a pushbike called a Heckler.

    Descending to the foot of Hekla without incident, the tracks got faster, and busier. Andy and I stopped for a photo at a signpost and lost sight of the others. I knew where we were headed, but wasn’t prepared for the hidden dips and twists of the track, Just big enough to hide a Merc 4x4 in fact. I skidded to the edge of the track to avoid becoming a bonnet mascot and thus chastened, we made our way slightly less quickly to where the rest of the group were waiting. In a small car park sat a particularly secondhand Land Rover. It had obviously rolled in a big way, T-cut was not going to be enough.
    We turned North east onto 26, which was a wide gravel road mostly, and very windy! This was where we joined the notorious long distance route known as the Sprengisandur, the F26.
    My headlight came loose again (because I didn’t fix it last time) and my tyre repair kit fell out, so a quick u-turn to retrieve that. Fuel and lunch wasn’t far away so I promised to fix it this time. The road turned to tarmac for a few miles, and we came to The Highland Center Hrauneyjar, last fuel for 150 miles. The Lodge requires you to change to indoor footwear, or to put on disposable overshoes if you want to use their restaurant. It is worth it though as the food was very good.
    Finishing mine quickly, I rummaged in my pannier for some cable ties to fasten down the headlight, and tried to tighten up my chain guide which I noticed was loose while filling up. The threads in the swing arm were stripped, and the guide itself had taken a beating from the back tyre, so I decided the best thing to do was leave it in the bin with my disposable overshoes.
    Setting out with brimmed tanks Northwards on the F26 the tarmac soon turned to gravel, and I started to worry about my bike. Tim had set off at 40-45 mph, but a vicious cross wind was making me nervous, along with the feeling that something wasn’t right. Did I have a flat? No. Has taking the chain guide off altered something? I was down to 30 mph and Andy stopped to see what was wrong. Turns out his bike felt nervy as well, so I carried on slightly less concerned.

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    The combination of the wind and the track surface combined to make the first hour less than fun. We were climbing steadily towards 700m and at least had clear views for miles around. After 60km or so we pulled into a small parking area for a break. Everyone commented on the road surface, and the wind. Tim nodded, and said it was like that each time he had ridden it. The wind meant he had to avail himself of my electric lighter to have a smoke, as his wouldn’t catch.
    “It gets better.” he assured me.

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    He wasn’t wrong. Without me actually noticing when, the wind eased, the track narrowed down to a single lane, the surface became rockier, and I started enjoying myself again! Stream crossings became more frequent, with more twists and turns and elevation changes. Our next break was at Nyidalur, where there is a cluster of huts for travellers on the Sprengisandur, or the nearby Vatnajokull National Park. We got chatting to a Canadian couple who were walking the route. When we asked them why, they said it had seemed like a good idea at the time! We were now in the Northeastern region of Iceland, having crossed the boundary from the South region a few km back. The river crossing just after the Nyidalur is one of the more notorious, melt water conditions can make it fast and powerful but it was in benign mood and we crossed it easily. The landscape was back to moonscape now, black ash and next to no vegetation.

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    Tim had promised us a campsite with a hot pool that night, turning West towards Laugerfell (Renamed for our amusement, Lagerfanny, with apologies to Bungle and Zippy) Sure enough, about 40 km later we pulled up at the parking area where there were a couple of huts, a toilet and shower block, and a natural hot pool. The bikes weren’t allowed onto the grassed camping area, but we were only a few metres from them. Tents erected and we all made a bee line for shower then the pool, to soak for a while. In view of the exposed nature of the site, Andy and I surrounded our tents with loose rocks that were scattered around, just in case. There weren’t many other guests, but as I was to find as the trip progressed, other people seemed to stop later than we did. Tim had already sussed this, if you wanted the best pitches, you got there early. Sure enough, by 9.00pm when we were thinking of our beds, the parking area had a few more vehicles on it, including a 30 seater coach full of “young people”! Thankfully they hadn’t brought a disco with them. They did however, appear to have brought an awful lot of gear for what turned out to be just one night. They all left before we did in the morning. A lone GS had appeared overnight, but he too disappeared early. Just as we were about to settle in, the campsite warden came round for payment. I asked if it would wait until morning, as Jamie and Geoff were already in their respective tents, but she was having none of it. We must look untrustworthy?
    Mark
    #4
  5. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 4. Saturday
    I had washed some of my smalls in the (geothermally heated) sink yesterday, and left them hung on the communal airer overnight. As I was taking them down a Swiss cyclist came over for a chat. He was on a solo ride doing the Sprengisandur the other way. Think I prefer having a motor!
    A relaxed morning saw us leave at around 10.00, after a joint operation to get Geoff’s steering damper working. The first hour or so was the grey moonscape again, as we climbed a little more up to 900m, before starting to descend. The first hint of green appeared as we followed a stream down into a valley, that with many other streams would eventually become rivers and empty into Eyjafjordur.

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    The weather was bright and sunny with temperatures getting up to 15 C, and the contrast with the landscape of yesterday was startling. The river we were following down from the plateau was around 10m wide by now, and fast flowing over rocks and boulders, with lush green sides to the valley. Imagine my surprise to round a left hand bend to find Jamie, on his bike, in the middle of said river. Steve and Geoff were in the process of dismounting at the side and after a brief WTF moment, I realised what had happened. This was confirmed by Jamie himself, he had been looking at the scenery and missed the bend. His initial though had been to ride it out, but the boulders were slick with algae and provided no grip. No injuries (well pride maybe) and no damage, so as Jamie pushed from the river, we pulled from the bank and soon had him on dry land. His boots had only just dried out too!

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    After the detour.

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    Andy does "Man at C&A" while Jamie does "The full monty".

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    As we were heading North, and down, quite a few people were heading South and up. It was the weekend after all. At the last of the river crossings we saw a group of “older” gents on more road orientated machinery heading on what is obviously a popular day trip. Geoff’s bike had started to stutter over the last few miles, and nearly stalled in the water, so he pulled over to investigate. Head scratching stopped after finding a battery terminal loose, once tightened the stutter stopped too. Wish all problems were as easily solved.

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    The valley had now opened up, the track turned to tarmac with cultivated fields on either side and plenty of habitation as we approached Akureyri. This town is known as the “Capital of North Iceland”, and is also a cruise port. Tim had hinted at a surprise for today, and as Geoff and I were looking for any signs of the others, we spotted Jamie waiting at what looked like the entrance to an industrial unit. Turns out to be the Iceland Motorcycle museum!

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    We used to have one of these!

    After whiling away a pleasant hour looking at the eclectic mix of bikes in there, we rode just down the road to refuel and grab a sandwich for lunch. We ate overlooking the Fjord and the cruise ship moored there, watched carefully by the local seagull population.
    60 km of tarmac followed, as we rode up the West of Eyjafjordur, stopping briefly at a small parking area on the side of a cliff, next to a tunnel entrance. People were watching the whale watching boats in the waters below, hoping for a glimpse themselves.

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    Riding into the tunnel I was surprised to find how cold it was, and how dark, as my headlight wasn’t working. Needless to say, six grown men on motorbikes, in a tunnel, can make quite a din!
    Through into daylight and just past Olafsfjordur we turned left and South onto a road which promptly became gravel and very dusty. As the houses grew fewer and we climbed a gentle incline, the pace picked up, until Steve stopped. Tim and Andy were ahead and hadn’t noticed. Geoff spotted it in his mirrors and turned around, Jamie and I were behind so pulled up to find Steve’s drive chain wrapped around the front sprocket. It had snapped.

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    There are worse places to break down.

    My first thought was that the chain guide had suffered the same fate as mine, and had brought the chain off. As Jamie unravelled it the reason became clear though. The chain was completely shagged, with a number of seized links and enough sideways play for it to be used with derailleur gears.
    “But it’s only done one trip!” protested Steve.
    “To the effing moon and back?” asked Geoff.
    Between us we had a number of spare links and split links, but no means of separating the broken link. Who carries a chain splitter with them? And if they do, why bring it if it is also shagged?
    Tim rang to find out where we were, and then he and Andy rode back. I was scoping out a camping spot for the night, but Tim had other ideas. He and Jamie rode down to the nearest farm, borrowed an angle grinder and fixed the chain so we could carry on!
    Somewhat gingerly at first, we rode on, flirting with the line between the North West and North East regions of Iceland. The track looped around a ridge and the turned North again, running along the shore of a lake. Stifluvatn is a popular fishing lake, enlarged by the dam for a hydroelectric plant, and very picturesque. A little further on we passed alongside Miklavatn, another popular fishing lake, beyond which is the sea. Just after this, Tim leads us off onto a somewhat narrower track, past a “Road closed” sign. The sign is on the floor though, and doesn’t look very official.
    The track is great fun, although restraint is required as it climbs quite steeply and is more akin to Welsh green lanes in its feel. After a few minutes we come to a halt as there are powerlines across the track. Are they still live? It looks as if the new ones are strung from the poles, but who is brave/stupid enough to be first? We are on rubber tyres, but still……
    After artfully piling some rocks over the wires, Steve goes first. Nothing happens, so we all look sheepish and carry on. A few minutes further and we come to a halt again, the track is blocked by snow, and the chances of getting around it safely are slim. The views from here are magnificent though.

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    This was apparently the original road to Siglufjordur, which is where we are headed for tonight. Retracing our steps, I claimed lead spot and enjoyed a dust free ride back to the bottom. (I generally ride at the back, force of habit) Turning onto the main road, a mixture of sweeping tarmac and fast gravel, we are soon in the centre of Sigufjordur. Tim had mentioned camping on the village green for two nights and sure enough, that’s where we pitched. The toilets and shower block were on the opposite side of the road where the caravans and motorhomes were parked for a folk festival.
    Andy and I have obviously spent too long in built up areas, as ours were the only bikes chained together.


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    A few minutes later a black Range Rover pulled up next to us, and Tim introduced us to Dori. A larger than life character, Dori lives in Sigulfjordur, and after a few minutes you felt as though you had known him all your life. The owner of one of what can only be a handful of Husaberg 650’s in Iceland, he was going to join us for a ride tomorrow, if the weather wasn’t as forecast….
    We asked his opinion on which bar would be the best to eat in, as by now my stomach was growling. Torgid, he said without hesitation, and pointed across the square. We all piled in and his recommendation was spot on, so we treated ourselves to a couple of beers in his honour.
    Mark
    #5
  6. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 5. Sunday
    I was woken in the morning by the rain dripping on my tent. Sticking my head out confirmed that a) it was raining and b) visibility was zero. Today’s planned ride was looking in doubt.

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    Tim, enjoying a morning smoke and a brew, is lucky enough to have a direct hit by a low flying seagull, all over his tent and even in his mug. Nobody laughed, much.
    We monopolised a table in the village bakery for a couple of hours, Steve swapping trade tips with the head baker in the kitchen.

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    The cloud still hadn’t lifted any higher than the rooftops by lunchtime so Andy and I explored the Herring museum. Not as boring as it sounds, and gave an insight into how the town developed. It looked a hard life.
    Tim was being pestered by a local kid on a mountain bike, so he helpfully sent him over to mine and Andy’s tent. Kid was full of shit, telling us how he rode his YZ to school, but had crashed it and broke the indicators off. Don’t suppose we were any better at his age.
    By now we had all given up on getting any riding done today, so we sat and nursed drinks in the bar until it was time to eat, then nursed some more drinks after. Dori bade us farewell, he was going to Reykjavik to collect his wife and a chain for Steve. He stuck his head round the kitchen door and had a quick word with the manager before he left, resulting in a discount when we came to pay the bill. Exceptionally decent of him!
    In the middle of the night I was woken by very heavy rain. Oh joy.
    Mark
    #6
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  7. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 6. Monday
    Gumi, the campsite warden tells me it’s going to be clear today, after the damp start. Hope he’s right. We grab breakfast at the bakery giving the tents a few minutes to dry out some more. Leaving the town by the road we came in on, it’s cold, but at least the rain has stopped.
    Half an hour later, Tim turns off the main road onto a muddy track around a lake. Not going too fast so I flip up my visor, just in time to ride into a cloud of small flies. Both eyes full of the little blighters I have to stop, as my contact lenses are awash. They hover above the lake in a dense cloud, and where the track approaches the shore you run into them. A slow moving tractor and trailer holds us up for a few minutes, with no apparent passing places. Tim said he was probably just on Icelandic time, I thought he was being an arse.


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    Stopping briefly to empty flies out of helmets and ears on a headland overlooking the sea, and sure enough, the weather is clearing. Next stop was at Hofsos, which was an important port for people wanting to emigrate from Iceland to America. Tim spotted another break in Steve’s chain though, so the priority was finding an angle grinder. A couple of minutes further on there is a garage, and the offending link is ground out.

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    1 cook, 3 bottle washers.

    It’s tarmac for 30km or so to Varmahilo (every night I’ve been hugging my pillow?) for fuel and lunch, and to stock up for tonight. From here, to be on the safe side, Steve continues on the main road to where Dori has arranged to meet him with his new chain and sprockets from the KTM dealer. We headed South, onto gravel, and a superb long distance trail that climbed steadily up to 500m. The moonscape was back! With clear visibility a bit of playfulness came to the fore, and it was easy to forget the luggage and ride a little “loose”. Turning West again, we crossed a dam and came to a junction, to stop and giggle at the road sign that some wag had altered.


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    More fast gravel followed, until Tim turned off onto a slightly less used and more technical track. This was great fun, and showed up just how well the suspension on my bike was working. Descending to around 200m the gravel turned smooth and fast again as we rode through a wide valley. Brake lights all round heralded a herd of 50 or so Icelandic horses being driven down the road towards us. The lead and tail horses had riders on them, trotting with the strange gait that they are famous for. Following the valley wall I was amazed at the scree slope type sides, but with beach ball sized rock!

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    Are we having fun?

    The gravel ran out and we returned to the ring road riding West for 30 km until Tim pulled over into a quaint little petrol station and cafe. The inside was full of old bric a brac, and odd stuff from history. I saw a set of hair curlers like my Mum had, forty plus years ago! There was a box of skulls under a table, which I took a picture of to send to the virtual step daughter, she likes that sort of thing.

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    As we were leaving, Jamie pressed the start button for the ‘Berg and Tim and I exchanged a worried glance. “Bit of a rattle?” asked Tim. Jamie shrugged it off.
    The next track Tim had in store for us was a real green lane. As we were lower down there was vegetation, and this track ran alongside farmland. An errant sheep ran out in front of Andy and boosted his adrenaline levels (not because it was an attractive sheep, honest!) and then a couple of hidden ditches caught us all out to various degrees. After one of these, which Andy bounced through, I saw something fly off his bike. Anchoring up, I found his tyre levers lying in the grass, which I returned at the next stop.

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    Our campsite for the night had another hot pool, and a large communal area to cook in. Steve was already there, having collected his chain and sprocket from Dori. He was now waiting for the farmer to finish his day so he could borrow his angle grinder, as the chain was a few links too long. I had a look at my lights, as I had lost main beam and my brake light. Both of them had blown bulbs, and as I was trying to take the rear out it smashed and sliced my thumb. I may have used a few choice words.

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    Utilising the communal area Andy and I cooked up the pork steaks we had found at the supermarket, along with some packet rice. It wasn’t cold outside, but it was windy. Shortly afterwards the campsite started to fill up, with a group of people who had obviously planned to have a get together. Masses of food were produced from the backs of vans and cars, and tents started to fill the remaining space on the field. They didn’t make too much noise, just enough though, and until 3.00 am.

    Mark
    #7
  8. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 7. Tuesday
    The late revellers got up pretty early and had packed up and left before we did. Made for quite a wait for the bathroom. Jamie’s bike wouldn’t start, so while he adjusted the tappets, Andy and I rode on to the petrol station around 15km away to see if I could find replacement bulbs. A couple of young tour guides came over to admire the bikes and we had a chat until they had to take their passengers off on their adventures. The other four bikes arrived shortly after, and with them fuelled up we set off North, on the opposite side of the fjord. Over 100km of fast hardpack, sometimes tarmac, led us to Holmavik and the Icelandic sorcery and witchcraft museum.

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    The cafe there was to be our lunch stop. The fish soup was very tasty, albeit a bit lacking in fish? I would have had a look round the museum, but Tim had promised us some stunning scenery that afternoon.
    Sure enough, a cold but clear afternoon saw us hugging the coastline on a mixture of tarmac and gravel tracks. Around an hour later though, Jamie called a halt. His bike had started to vibrate badly. He daren’t switch it off in case it wouldn’t start again. As we were heading out into the middle of nowhere, he opted to ride back to a campsite at Holmavik to investigate, where at least he would be near civilisation. Hopefully it would be something simple, and we would be able to meet up again the next day. Tim’s promise came good as we rode around another 100 km of coastline, the landscape more dramatic around every corner.

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    What you doing chaps?

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    Oh, nothing.....

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    Djupavik, a tiny fishing village at the head of a small inlet, looked rather familiar. The rotting hulk of a fishing boat , the concrete walls of the processing plant, and the waterfall backdrop. (None of which came out on my camera.) It had been nagging me for a while, until the other night, when virtual step daughter persuaded us to watch "Justice league" again. Lo and behold, this is where Bruce Wayne meets Aquaman. It also houses the Hotel Dujupavik.

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    This quirky hotel serves free coffee to travellers, so we had stopped to avail ourselves of this. We were met by a very “manish” woman who seemed to be in charge, she having a distinct Adam’s apple, and fairly wide shoulders. When Steve told her he was a Master Baker, she replied that she had been looking for one of those. Needless to say we didn’t stay too long! The track from here clung to the sides of the fjord, with twists and turns and elevation changes aplenty. Great riding, just watch the edges! Turning inland to cross a peninsula and through some mist/low cloud we carried on to Nordur, where there was a marina with fuel. Tim rang Jamie to see how he had got on. The news wasn’t good. He had found a collapsed cam follower bearing, but not all of it. Even if he could get the parts (unlikely), open engine surgery on a campsite with limited tools wasn’t something he fancied. He had made arrangements for the bike to be collected the next day, his trip over. We were all absolutely gutted for him.
    Backtracking a few km we turned away from one coastline, rode over a short steep hill then back down to the shore on the other side. Following the track through an abandoned factory we skirted the edge of the fjord on a route which got gradually less used and rougher. Another Arctic fox ran in front of Tim and disappeared into the rocks. After what seemed an age, a house appeared, with a couple of cars outside. Surely they don’t use this track? A river crossing stopped us. Tim said the track continued for a couple of miles, then just ended. The land North of us was uninhabited. We were pondering the wisdom of trying to cross the river to explore this track, as a drone flew overhead. A drone? Must be from the house checking us out.
    Consensus of opinion was to camp near the beach a little further back. Tim walked up to the house to check that it was ok, and the owner pointed out the toilet block they had put in with fresh water. There was an “honesty” box inside for payment, whatever you felt it was worth.
    Four of us pitched on the grass, but one of us wanted to be nearer to the sea. This annoyed the Arctic Terns, who were there first.

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    Non avian annoyiance camping.

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    Avian annoyance camping. Steve's jacket made a lousy scarecrow.

    We thought it was funny, until we realised that walking from the tents to the toilets also attracted airborne assault.
    “Squawk!” said the Tern.
    “F*ck off!” said all of us

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    Tim, keeping a close eye on his coffee cup.
    Mossie nets were necessary again.

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    Apparently they attack the highest point?

    A hiker appeared, who was on a 60km solo hike South, having been dropped off by boat. When he claimed not to have any cash for the campsite, Steve good naturedly tore him to shreds about the amount of expensive gear he was carrying. He didn’t stay, and we later found out that it was his drone we had seen. His you tube video here.



    Surprised we didn’t feature, thought we might have been a highlight? Does give some insight into the scenery, even if he was a tool.
    Mark
    #8
  9. Samspade

    Samspade Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2015
    Oddometer:
    134
    Location:
    East Tennessee
    My wife and I loved Iceland (although we didn't do it by bike). Different than anywhere we've ever been.
    #9
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  10. Fenianbastard

    Fenianbastard Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2014
    Oddometer:
    219
    Location:
    Princeton (the center of liberal hell in NJ)
    Brilliant RR. You are a good friend.
    #10
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  11. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 8. Wednesday.
    A bright sunny start, but as I am brushing my teeth in the sink, I hear a yelp and a stream of expletives. Andy shouts me, and as I step out of the door he is stumbling towards me, blood running down his face from a gash on his head!
    “Christ, those Terns really are vicious!” I thought.
    Erm, no. The clumsy sod had stood up too soon from underneath his tarp, and caught the underside of his handguard. I think I prefer the Tern story. My first aid kit gets plundered and he’s good to go.

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    Breakfast, complete with protective headgear.

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    "Why have we stopped?"
    "Mark is still trying to take a decent picture."

    Riding back the way we came and Tim sends me off first. We don’t see any stranded hikers, or the Arctic fox, but it is an idyllic morning. The track that was fun on the way here is even more so in reverse, and we are soon back at the Hotel Djupavik. Not because we of any other reason than the free coffee, honest! As we sat admiring the view, a truck stopped and blocked it. Typical. The staff, and some of the guests, then formed a human chain to unload it. I almost felt guilty enough to help. Almost.

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    A couple of hours of fairly smooth swift riding sees us near to the junction where Jamie left us. Here Tim suggests adding a layer, as it we are climbing up to 450m, and it has always been cold on this particular stretch. Geoff curses as he realises his rucksack has been open all the way from Djupravik, and a bag containing his glasses and headphones is missing. Just then a Shogun pulls up behind us and one of the passengers gets out. “Does this belong to any of you?” he says, holding Geoff's bag. They saw us leave the Hotel, and then saw the bag on the floor.
    Sure enough, it is cold as we climb. Tim turns off the tarmac onto a well used track, but then turns off again onto one that looks disused. As it wends its way down into a steep valley, the temperature rises so we all stop to shed the layers we added earlier. As we near the bottom I recognise a washed out bridge from pictures of Tim’s previous trips. Sure enough he is ready with the camera, so I am instantly on my guard!

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    Smile for the observer/cameraman. Photo credit Timolgra.


    All across without incident we ride on to where there is an intact bridge over the now wider river. Tim and Andy take a track to the right, but both mine and Geoff’s satnavs suggest that it is a dead end. Sure enough, as we ride over the bridge and run parallel to the river, Tim and Andy are on the far bank looking for places to cross. There appear to be numbered fishing pitches along the bank, and one of these looks as though it could be fordable. I point this out to the hapless pair and moments later we are all on the same side. 20km of fast, dusty tracks lead us to the shore of another fjord, and a bank of sea fog. This is quickly passes thankfully, and after half an hour of following the shore, we ride into the Hotel at Rekjanes for fuel and lunch. The Hotel looks as though it was modelled on a Russian Gulag, but it has good food, beer, a campsite, and a geothermal swimming pool. The manager has a very highly specced pick up, and encyclopaedic knowledge of where you can and can’t go. He also has a garage full of “toys” as he described them, with a wry smile. All this leads us to decide we’ll stay here tonight. The manager pointed out that the “keep out” sign on the lower level of the campsite didn’t apply to us, giving us first choice of the best plot.

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    After pitching the tent, I did a spot of bike maintenance, swapping the filter skin, topping up the oil (100ml), adjusting the chain etc. Nothing loose, my head light bodge having worked perfectly. Tyres are starting to show signs of wear now.

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    With the essentials done, into the shower, then into the pool. Steve makes the sensible move of calling at the bar first, and comes to the pool beer handed. I decide that swimming in a hot pool is too much like hard work after two lengths, and so follow everyone else’s example and float or sit on the benches set into the sides.
    Leaving before I turned too prune like, I also took the opportunity to get some washing done. Sure enough, by 9.00, as we were sat around our tents finishing off the beers and talking rubbish, the campsite and the pool had both filled up.
    Mark
    #11
  12. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 9. Thursday
    Breakfast in the hotel seemed like a good idea, but it wasn’t. Hoping for a full English I was disappointed with a fairly meagre continental. Ah well.
    A last chat with the manager, and Andy is wondering why they go to so much trouble with their vehicles, when going “off piste” isn’t allowed? Sensitive habitat means transgressors are severely punished. Turns out they can drive wherever they like, when the ground has enough snow cover to support them. Makes perfect sense now.
    We were waved away by a coach load of tourists, quite why I don’t know. Tarmac, up and down fjords for an hour before we stop on a small headland famous for its seal colony, and homemade jam. There are only a couple of seals visible, and my zoom isn’t good enough. They were probably all keeping their heads down to avoid the drone that someone kept flying over them.

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    More fjords follow, and I’m just admiring the earthmoving machinery cutting a wider road over a low saddle between two inlets, when I spot a commotion at the shoreline. There are a pair of whales right up against the beach where people are taking photos. For about the hundredth time I wish I had room for a SLR.

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    Pressing on to catch the others I find them stopped at the side of the road a few km further, where there is another whale. We watch for a few minutes, hoping for a better view, until it’s bubble trail heads back the way we came.

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    Rounding the next headland we can see a P&O cruise ship anchored in the middle of the fjord, and Isafjordur on the opposite shore. This is a fairly large town by Islandic standards, and for the first time since we left Rekjavik there are groups of houses built in the same style. A bit too regular. There are older houses in the centre that look typical of towns we have seen before though.
    Commandeering a corner of a petrol station we fill the bikes, ourselves, and panniers from the nearby supermarket. Tim has an electrical issue, the feed to his instruments keeps cutting out, so he has the spanners out. An older American bloke, from the cruise ship, comes over to talk. He’s envious of our bikes, the trip, and our youth (?) He has had to buy a scooter back in the States, as he can’t manage a bike any more. The cruise was the cheapest way for him to get to his ultimate destination, Ireland, where he hopes to look up his ancestry. Interesting guy.
    Further North and the original coast road is closed, a couple of km tunnel having been built. At least I now have a headlight, but only five exhausts bark off the walls. At the next village we turn inland onto a wide gravel track, and then onto a long zig zag track cut into the side of a 600m mountain. The drop from the edges of this track are precipitous, so no feet up drifting around the hairpins! (well certainly not from me!) At the top is an ex US radar station, now Icelandic controlled, hence the well groomed road. We have the benefit of a clear day, so the views are spectacular over the uninhabited area of the Westfjords and the sea towards Greenland. The cliffs on this side are even worse than the side of the road we just came up. Vertigo sufferers would not like it.

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    That is a long way down!

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    No one lives over there.

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    We are headed thataway.

    Carefully making our way back down we then took a twenty minute ride on a great little track to a small cove. Here there were a couple of beach huts and a flat grassy expanse overlooking the sea. It’s still early afternoon, but it looks like a great spot to camp. Geoff has already nodded off (resting his eyes) lying next to his bike. So camp we do. This is the most Northerly we have been, just marginally higher than Sigulfjordur. Not quite into the Arctic circle though, that would involve some swimming.

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    Andy and I went for a walk up the river to work up an appetite, attempting to get to a waterfall tumbling down from the opposite side of the valley. Geography not being our strong point, perhaps we should have crossed the river at the bridge near where we had camped first? “Opposite side of the valley” being a big clue. Without getting wet, we had no option other than retrace our steps.
    It had worked though, we were hungry. Breaking out the lamb steaks we had picked up in the supermarket, Andy’s frying pan was soon getting another hammering. A small dog appeared out of nowhere and took great interest in our feast. We threw it some of the scraps to keep it occupied while we balanced the pans, as we could only cook a small amount at a time.
    Shortly after, a family walked down to the river and the dog followed them. Their young daughter, wearing a wetsuit several sizes too large for her, spent a noisy half hour leaping off a ledge into the river. She would then climb out squealing, run up and do it all over again. We had already tested that water, it was freezing! About an hour later another family turned up in a car, to do exactly the same thing. Popular pastime in these parts.

    At around 2.00 in the morning I awoke to the sound of voices. I was sure one was Tim, so stuck my head out of the tent to have a look. Steve had his back to me, and it looked as though he was covered in blood! Climbing out it soon became obvious that the sunset had painted everything red.

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    One of my favourite photos of the trip.
    Mark
    #12
  13. holckster

    holckster dougholck Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,470
    Location:
    Lodi, Ca
    Great report
    Stayed in the Gulag Hotel and swam in the thermal pool on our 2016 loop around the Ring Road.
    Really enjoyed seeing your pictures of the inland terrain
    We were on rentals from Thor at Viking Rents and they don't allow water crossings.
    #13
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  14. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 10. Friday
    Breaking camp earlier than usual, we retrace our steps along the track to Bolungarvik. The café that we were aiming for wasn’t open yet, so we continued on the tarmac to Isafjordur and the same petrol station as yesterday. Whilst the bathroom was being over utilised, I got chatting, over the coffee machine, to a couple who were on holiday from their native Switzerland. Turns out she is originally from Wengen, near Interlaken, and whereas she doesn’t actually know my cousin, she has seen his van with the skydiving graphics! Small world! (but I wouldn’t want to paint it)
    Our route for today is to follow the now redundant mountain road to the West towards Flateyri. Since the opening of the Vestfirdir tunnel it seems very few people have used the old road beyond its highest point at 620m. Before this there were signs of life, after it less so. Rockfalls had been left where they stood creating a slalom course down the mountain. On the lower slopes there was evidence of some small scale quarrying going on, and a diversion leading back to the tarmac below. Tim wanted to follow the old route though, which was looking more and more like a trials section. Followers of the sport will be familiar with “The pipeline”, a rocky hillclimb in the Scottish. This was downhill, but equally rocky. Steve and Geoff decided to take the diversion, unfortunately I had now followed Tim so far that turning back was harder than pressing on. As he came to a halt for a breather, I carried on, relying on line choice and momentum, and no small amount of footwork, to eventually get to the clearer path beyond. The track was so little used that the exit wasn’t obvious, so I was glad to eventually reach the main road again. By now I was keen to remove some layers, as I was sweating from the exertion, and a frisson of fear! I didn't take any pictures worth adding, so you will have to imagine it.
    Pulling up at a café in Flateryi, Tim pointed out some of the interesting little quirks of the village, which I had a wander around after coffee. Then we had another track to explore. This went up towards the top of the cliffs to the North, just outside the village. As the track became more overgrown, and steeper we came to a gate. Steve and Geoff opted to stay here, while we clambered up an increasingly difficult path. As we climbed the vegetation thinned out making it easier to see, but looser under tyre. Momentum was the key, if you stopped it would be difficult to get going again. Eventually we came to a rockfall that blocked the path upwards to anything other than a mountain goat. Fridge sized rocks also blocked another path to the left, that wasn’t marked on the map or satnav. We would be going no further. The descent could be too much fun if you let the bike get away from you, but it proved uneventful and we were soon back with Geoff and Steve.
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    You shall not pass.

    Retracing our steps we then headed South on tarmac, over the base of another peninsula, before turning North West onto a single track tarmac road. This led past quite a large hotel before changing to gravel. The hotel seemed a little out of place, as there didn’t seem to be anything around to justify its existence. The track however was a gem, 25 km of winding twisting switchbacks, climbing up to 520m before descending again to shore level at a pretty little cove.

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    After a break here, we unfortunately had to ride back the same route. Damn!
    I spied my chance to take the front again and clean air. Halfway up I was stopped by two young lads in a small (rental?) 4x4, asking if the track led to a beach they could drive on. Yes, it led to a beach, but whether they could drive on it, who knows.
    After a thoroughly enjoyable half hour on gravel, then another half hour on tarmac around the shoreline, we arrived at Pingeyri. This was our destination for the night, but first fuel, and to stock up for the evening. As we were drinking coffee at the petrol station we could see where we had just ridden from on the other side of the water. Two Dutch guys in a Land Rover 90 came over for a chat, surprising us with the fact that they washed their car three times a day. Weirdos.

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    The campsite was at the back of a swimming pool and leisure complex, with excellent showers and a communal kitchen. There is a mock up Viking settlement next door, in memory of Gisli, one of the famous warriors from the Iceland Sagas. This does sound like a Jeremy Kyle show when you read about it, but in the 10th century I suppose things were very different. One of the staff came out to ask us to pay at the swimming pool, and to let us know that they are filming Iceland’s strongest man there at the moment if we want to watch. We would, but Tim has promised us a trail ride before supper.
    I have seen pictures of this ride before, so am looking forward to it. We have set up camp, so the bikes are lighter and more manageable without camping gear. Tim leads us to the start of the track running anticlockwise around the end of the peninsula, then nods at me to lead. “Off you go, but be careful!”
    Heeding his warning, which the reason for soon become obvious, I make my way around the twists and turns that have been cut into the side of the cliff. This was once a goat track, and someone drove a bulldozer down it to make it wider. It is only one lane wide for the majority of its length, with fresh air to the right hand side. This helps restrain any foolishness!

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    As the track turns more westerly, the land is flatter, but there is still the odd place to catch anyone riding too quickly. In a picturesque little cove there is a camper van, a wild camp spot for future, and two young lads jumping off ledges into the sea. We wait while one of them sets himself up for a backflip, which he pulls off to a round of applause. Around the corner is their car, I’m sure it’s the ones that asked me about driving on the beach.
    As we ride further, as well as admiring the scenery, I’m starting to get worried. I’m wandering, and don’t feel connected to the bike. I slow down and try to concentrate more. Is this dehydration, general tiredness, hunger, sensory overload? Combination of the above?
    I make a concerted effort to empty my camelback as I potter along, and then around the next bend my attention is taken by the sight of the track dipping to the waterline. Here is the undercut cliff that we had seen in previous photos, and heard so much about. After taking a few pictures we had a break, and I dug the packet of trail mix from my rucksack for what would hopefully be a quick energy boost.

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    Something did the trick , as I felt fine afterwards. Crossing the stretch of large rounded stones was pretty easy on the lighter bikes, I think a laden GS might find it challenging though. We turned off onto a minor track which started climbing up the sides of a fairly steep valley. Ten minutes of a little more technical riding saw us at 550 m, aiming for a saddle between two peaks. Tim was stood at the side of the track, so I took it that we were going to stop here. Just as well, as there was a blind right here that could have spoiled your day. The view was breathtaking, and my pictures do not convey this, unfortunately.

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    Surreal moment came when I heard a text notification on my phone, and was surprised to find I had better signal here than I do at home. The text was from my daughter, so I rang her back briefly, then my father.
    “How’s Grimmy getting on?” he asked.
    “Oh good, back to normal.” I said.
    “Grimmy was never normal.” he replied.
    Andy was still chuckling at this comment as we started our descent, a brilliant trail ride back down to Pingeyri on a mixture of surfaces. Just before the camp site I diverted to call at the petrol station we had been to earlier. Missed by me, the others had picked up a couple of cans of beer each to wash our meal down with. When I went in and asked for beer, the woman behind the counter said they don’t sell beer. Now I’m confused. I see the cans and point them out.
    “Oh, that’s not beer,” she says “that’s pilsner”
    Turns out it is low alcohol, and it’s all I’m going to get at this time of night without going into a bar.
    It did a satisfactory job of washing the dust from my throat, after one of the best day's riding I've had for some time.

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    Tim pondering tomorrows route back at the campsite.
    Mark
    #14
  15. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 11. Saturday.
    A gloomy looking morning, we broke camp and then headed into the village for coffee. An old Norwegian house has been converted into a coffee shop called Simbahollin, which does amazing waffles. Tim was having trouble with his phone, but their wifi sorted that out while we chilled for an hour.

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    On the way out there was a track up to the radio masts, which gave a great view of where we had camped last night. In some places the track sloped away on either side, and the illusion that it was narrower than it was gave cause for concern, but everyone got up, and down safely.

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    That's where we camped, down on that pointy bit!

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    And that's the way we rode back from the coast ride last night.

    The main road South was well graded gravel, and climbed quickly up to nearly 550m. The cloud started at 300m though, so reduced visibility, water droplets on your visor, and unbelievably, dust from the vehicle in front conspired to make it a cautious ride. I noticed a Skoda estate at the side of the road, and my spidey senses tingled. Sure enough, he pulled out just before I got to him, completely oblivious to my approach. Just as I was thinking of gunning it past him, a Swiss GS passed us both, making me jump. So much for my spatial awareness!
    Turning left along the side of a fjord a waterfall was visible at the far end, which Tim and Geoff had both warned us was far bigger than it looks from afar. The weekend had obviously brought out lots of tourist traffic, and as the road was none too wide, approaching coaches gave a few nervous moments.

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    Go pro still, notice waterfall in the distance, and approaching 48 seater!

    At a temporary bridge, a set of traffic lights changed to red just as we got there. Steve went to put his right foot down, but the leg of his waterproofs had slipped over his kickstart and he crashed to the floor. Trying not to laugh, although it must have really hurt, we helped right him and the bike whilst directing the traffic around us. Quick check that everything is ok, then he swings his leg over and bugger me if he doesn’t do it again!
    Dynjandi is the name of the waterfall that we are heading for, and the car park is quite full when we get there.

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    For scale, car park is to the right.

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    The falls themselves are spectacular, as thousands of gallons of water cascade down the hillside. There is a path to get closer, but I am quite happy where we are. The bikes attract a lot of attention, including one wise guy that says “KTM’s, have any of them broke down yet?”
    I wish a voodoo hex on him, hoping he hasn’t wished one on us. Leaving the falls behind us, we travel further South over some fast gravel roads, with plenty of turns and elevation changes to keep us occupied. The low cloud is ever present, and we are beginning to get filthy.

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    Another waterfall, not quite as big!

    Turning generally Northwest, we drop back down to sea level and follow the convoluted shore of the fjords towards Bidudalur. It has now started to rain, which at least washes the worst of the muck off. Tim pulls in at a small petrol station next to a cafe come grocery store, the Vegamot Bidudal. We claim one of the outdoor tables under an awning and sit down to eat. Geoff and I choose the blue cheese burger, while the others have fish and chips. The burger was excellent, but I’m envious of the fish and chips, especially when Steve asks the chef how he has made the batter. We stock up at the store for tonight’s meal, and there are cans of pilsner in the fridge cabinet. Chef, who is also the storekeeper, looks disdainfully at our choice.
    “That is like, how you English say, piss!” he laughs, and offers us some Gull lager from under the counter. Better tasting, but significantly dearer. “Yes, it is expensive to drink here in Iceland!” he laughs again, as if we hadn’t sussed that out already.
    Further West we go for another half an hour on a great track with the sea to our right. Past a beautiful yellow sandy beach, in a small cove, where the sand has blown onto the road in places. Nearing the end of the track is a small museum to an Icelandic artist, who made sculptures out of concrete. I’m not a great art fan myself (heathen, yes I know) so don’t take any pictures. We are intending to camp nearby, but the toilet block opposite is out of order. The water supply has burst somewhere, which is of more concern to us. Looking after the museum are three generations of one family, Mother, daughter and grandchild, who are there for a week on a voulantry basis. They are more than happy to fill our water bottles, and even offer us a slab of cake to take with us. A couple of hundred metres further on the track dwindles to nothing and we pitch camp. The rain has stopped, but the cloud is low over the cliffs inland. There is obviously quite a bird colony up there from the noise. We don’t get to see them though.

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    Inadvertent selfie. Not my best look.
    Mark
    #15
  16. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 12. Sunday
    The lack of toilet facilities meant some “return to nature” type experiences for the majority of us. I just hope there was a high tide before anyone else walked on the beach.

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    Stay away from small piles of rocks, with footprints leading to and from them!

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    The clouds hadn’t lifted much in the night, so we still couldn’t see the top of the cliffs we had camped next to. Making our way back towards Bidudalur it did at least start to get brighter, so better opportunities for photos.

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    So, how was the beach Geoff?

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    Turning inland again, we headed Southwesterly on a tarmac road that climbed swiftly up to a peak of around 500m, before dropping back down to sea level again. This of course means bends, and the edges of the knobblies got a little more hammer than usual. Towards the top there was what looked like a track leading off to the right, but it soon petered out to nothing. Great views of where we had just come from though.

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    We turned to ride through Talknafjordur and back on to gravel, Northwesterly this time. After a few kilometres Tim turned up a nonedescript path which led to a small hot pool. There was a campervan parked nearby, with an elderly couple who had obviously been in the pool, and had done all their washing in the outlet. This was strung on a line from the wing mirror.
    All bar Andy we dumped our bike gear to go for a soak. Etiquette requires showering first, and I am having a quick swill under the very hot water. Steve decides it’s too cold stood outside in his shorts and announces that he is joining me. All very innocent I assure you, and no, nobody dropped the soap!
    Andy is on the phone, and the rest of us are enjoying the peace and quiet when a car rolls up. Out clamber Mum, Dad and their two young children to splash about. Then another car, with a family of three. Starting to get a bit full. I had spotted a small yacht near to the shore as we rode up, and lo and behold six people in full sailing gear walk up and start to get changed. As they were getting into the pool, I thought it about time that I got out. It was starting to get a bit human soup like in there. The small changing room reflected the diversity of the guests, with a very strange collection of clothing!
    Refreshed, we headed back round the fjord and South across the foot of the peninsula to Patreksfjordor. Here we stopped for fuel for both bikes and ourselves. The diner staff seemed a little surly, and the coffee took ages to refill. Perhaps we had caught them on a bad day? With no other alternatives close by we sat down to eat. This time I went for the fish and chips, but I wish I hadn’t.
    After stocking up for tonight’s campsite at the grocery store in Patreksfjordur, we set off South again. Tim had been told of a place called Raudisandur, Red Sands, that he felt we should explore. On the way, we passed one of the tourist landmarks, a beached fishing boat.

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    The signboard tells of the history of the vessel, launched in Norway in 1912 it was originally a whaler, then a Herring fishing boat, and passed through several hands until being deemed unseaworthy in 1981. I have seen many pictures of this boat before, and make no apology for adding mine.
    Continuing on towards Raudisandur, the road crosses another ridge at 360m, but it does it on the most glorious of gravel switchbacks. We had some brilliant fun riding over them! The Red sands are actually golden, and aside from that, there was little to do. That meant we had to ride back! Excellent!

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    Retracing our route past the fishing boat we joined a tarmac road Eastwards for half an hour to Engey and the ferry port. The coffee shop opposite the harbour sells the tickets, and endless coffee, and gradually filled up with fellow travellers. A fine drizzle had started as the ferry appeared on the horizon, looking no bigger than the beached one we had just passed. Turns out it isn’t small, it was just far away, as numerous vehicles pile in for the trip South. We are leaving the West Fjord region and cutting out a lot of tarmac, sailing to the Western region at Stykkisholmur. (Go on then, how would you pronounce it?)

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    In the queue to board, Steve’s bike won’t start, and after trying to kickstart it fruitlessly for a few minutes, he pushes it down the ramp. The crew hand us ratchet straps with the instructions to fasten them to the sides of the hold. With the bikes secure we set ourselves up round a table for the three hour trip, with a short stop at the island of Flatey. More passengers board here, they all seem rather damp. Looking outside it seems the drizzle has turned to heavy rain. As the tannoy announces that its time to return to your vehicles, one of the crew looks at us in our bike gear and says “Good luck!” with the kind of smile that suggests we’ll need it.
    Steve’s bike starts without fuss, and we ride out into the now persistent downpour. Our first call is at the nearby campsite to get water for tonight. Rather ironic, given the quantity falling from the sky. Bottles and camelbacks filled, but Steve’s bike won’t start again. After he’s kicked it over for a few minutes, I offer to have a go. His kickstart is at a funny angle though, and your foot slips off before you have given it a full swing. Closer inspection reveals that the base of the lever has split, so it is next to useless. Trying to bump start it doesn’t work, and Steve at least gives us all a laugh as the famous waterproofs slide down to his ankles as he runs. Our only option is to swap my kickstart, which I am a little concerned about. I have had mine loctited on, as the bolt had vibrated loose before now. Taking it off breaks the bond, but we don’t really have an option. My toolbag zip jammed, as a combination of dust and water had got between the teeth. I managed to fix that, swapped the kickstart onto Steve’s, which started after a team kicking effort, put all the tools away, and then my bike wouldn’t start. I’d left my phone plugged in to charge, not expecting us to take so long, and it had taken just enough juice out to mean I needed my kickstart back. Because I have been doing this with my helmet off, water has now seeped down my neck. I think I may have had a sense of humour failure at this point. Tim has seen this phenomenon before, and was backing away, out of toy throwing range. I put the kickstart back on mine, hoofed it into life and went to put the ratchet with the allen key socket in my pocket for future use. Only the socket was missing. Thankfully it had only fallen on the floor next to the bike. I went to put my gloves back on, but they are saturated with the water that has run down into the lining.
    “Oh well” I said.
    Or something similar.
    I thought I had heard it was only five minutes to where we were wild camping, so I stuffed the gloves in my pocket and rode without. Thirty five rather nervous minutes later, in the darkest light all trip, on very wet roads, with no gloves on. Not ideal. The rain eases as we head into another lave field, and thankfully stops in time to throw the tents up. My sense of humour is restored by the prospect of food and soon all is well with the world again.
    Mark
    #16
  17. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 13. Monday
    Up early, and tried to pack my gear away without it getting too wet. As I hadn’t been able to see much of the campsite last night I rode back a little way to take some photos. There had been a couple of camper vans in the prime spot when we arrived, that had just left. This is almost completely hemmed in by walls of solidified lava with a flat grassy base. One of the few times we were beaten to the best pitch.

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    Heading Westwards on gravel for fifteen minutes, then onto tarmac. The road has been extended across the neck of Kolgrafarfjordur on a low earthworks with a bridge near the end, cutting out a few miles. This stretch is our first taste of the wind today, as it gusts across the open water. A few minutes later a tank bag cover whips past me doing its very best kite impersonation. Both Geoff and I u-turn to catch it, eventually pinning it down before returning it to Steve

    At Grundarfjordur we pull in to the excellent visitors centre and café for coffee. Nearby is a small harbour which brings tourists in to visit the most photogenic mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell. Sadly for them, and us, low cloud is hiding its magnificence today.
    Caffeine levels restored we make ready to leave. As before, the bikes attract a good deal of attention, and today is no exception. An American couple ask us about our trip, and how we fare on the roads. They wish us good luck and ask if we would like to swap for their hire car. An older Austrian lady is admiring the bikes, and tells us how much her son at home would like to see them. We gather round for a picture, and Tim and I suggest she sits on his bike for a photo, to see what her son thinks of that. This makes her giggle like a schoolgirl, and she walks round each bike deciding which one she prefers. Geoff’s looks the biggest, and Andy’s the smallest . Funny how they can tell these things.
    Yet again, there are waved away by a crowd as we set off further westward!

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    Skirting the base of Kirkjufell, still shrouded in clouds despite the strong wind, we pass Kirkjufellsfoss. “Foss” means falls in Icelandic, and there is a coach parked at the side of the road and various hire cars jockeying for a parking space. Glad to be past them we cross a spit of land onto the North facing coast, only to get the brunt of the wind. Sitting on one side of my saddle, leaning into the wind, works for the prevailing but not the gusts. Not the most enjoyable 30 minutes riding sees us at Olafsvik, where we stop to refuel. The first petrol station we come to has an electrical issue and the pumps won’t work, but thankfully the next one is only down the road. Pressing on along the coast for another 20 minutes or so we turn South into the Snaefellsjokull National Park, home of the mountain and glacier of the same name. Apparently this is where Jules Verne started his “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, through a passage in the side of the volcano. Tim says “Welcome to Mordor.”

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    Misty mountain hop?

    The wind abates slightly as we head inland and West, but as the cloud is at around 200m we won’t be seeing very much. The track peaks at 700m, where you should be able to see for miles around. Not today though. As we climb the wind returns with a vengeance, bringing with it horizontal rain. There is a point on my go pro footage where I am laughing maniacally in my helmet. This is not because I have remembered a joke, this is laughing in the face of appalling riding conditions. This is battling the elements, and by simply being there, I am winning. We pass a couple of hikers, who give us a round of applause. I would have applauded them, had I not had bars in my hands that needed to be kept straight. After 15 minutes of this, which felt a lot longer, Tim stopped at a junction which was doing an impersonation of a river.

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    Photo credit Timolgra.

    Here we turned more Southerly, and we climbed over the highest point past banks of grubby snow. As we started to descend, the wind dropped but the cloud closed in, giving visibility of a few metres. I was glad someone else was leading, and simultaneously felt sorry for him. Geoff's tail light was as much as I could see, so Tim wouldn't be seeing very much at all. Hope he knows where we're going! Half an hour later we rode out of the cloud and down to Arnarstapi, a huge sense of achievement for all of us. Sounds silly typing it now.
    There is a touristy feel to the place, fast food vans and coaches, so just like the tourists we are we dive into fish and chips, with free coffee!

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    To counter the high adrenaline levels we go for a walk to the nearby cliffs to watch the sea battering the lava formations, past the statue of Bardur. This the mythical half man, half troll who was supposedly the first settler of the area. Looked like Gimli the dwarf to me, another “Lord of the Rings” reference.
    Tim warned us that it was a tarmac slog for 120 km to our campsite for the night at Borgarnes. First East, then South, with very little traffic to bother us. The bikes probably didn’t enjoy sitting at constant throttle for long periods, but none of them showed any ill effects. My seat had the longest period with my arse on it for the whole trip, and proved it was worth the money!

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    A pretty little campsite on the shores of a tidal lagoon is our destination. Steve makes the mistake of pitching just off the hardstanding, while Tim claims the high ground on a grassy knoll. Andy and I make a quick run to the nearby supermarket to stock up for what is to be our last night under canvas.
    Mark
    #17
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  18. earthmover

    earthmover Opinionated, me? Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    264
    Location:
    Kelsall, Cheshire, UK
    Day 14. Tuesday
    Icelanders like to party. Well the ones on the campsite certainly did! I woke a couple of times but at least managed to nod off again. Steve was less lucky, being only a couple of metres away from them.

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    There had been light rain in the night so all our gear was packed away damp. Needless to say, we crept away from the campsite without creating any noise.
    Taking the ring road South out of Borgarnes on a causeway across a stretch of open water we then turned off East. Tarmac for 15 minutes or so until Tim found us some gravel again. The track climbed gradually up to 425m giving us some great riding. In some places the surface was in need of grading, which of course made it more fun for us. After an hour or so of this, during which time we crossed from the Western to the Southern region, we rejoined the tarmac. After 20 minutes of following a sinuous single lane road we came out at the rear of the Pingvellir National Park visitor centre, where we piled in for coffee. Pingvellir is one of Iceland’s top tourist destinations, one of the few places on Earth where you can actually walk where two tectonic plates meet. It was also the site of the Worlds first Parliament, in 930 AD. As we were leaving this chap tuned up on his pushbike. Looks like hard work!

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    Leaving the visitor centre via the main road we cross over the plate gap ourselves, not noticing any particular continental change. We then turn off to skirt the Western sure of the lake, Pingvallavatn. Turning off again we pass near to a Geothermal energy plant, and follow its pipeline on a brilliantly twisty tarmac road that climbs 200 m in a short space of time. Oh for Supermoto wheels and tyres! In complete contrast it then falls away again on an arrow straight road, directly West towards Rekjavik. We have a slight diversion, as Tim leads us onto some fast gravel tracks, past a picturesque lake where some arse has dumped their pizza box on the floor. I went to water the bushes and one of our lot had picked it up. From here it was a short ride into the suburbs of Reykjavik and the KTM dealership where Tim wanted to check up on a couple of things. We all had a good look at the new 790 parked outside, and a chat about it with the shop manager.

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    All too soon though, it was time to head for the warehouse to drop the bikes off. Jamie’s stricken Husaberg was parked in a corner, along with the cases and bags we had left there a fortnight ago. Andy and I had both got a luggage allowance for the way home, so opted to take all our riding gear with us instead of leaving it on the bikes. We also stuffed our tents in the cases so they wouldn’t be left damp for weeks. I had a bit of a lump in my throat as I thanked Tim, as we had achieved everything we had set out to do in pretty comprehensive fashion. We pushed the bikes into their container line astern and left them to the tender mercies of the shipping crew. Except Tim’s of course, as he was due to meet trip two. While we are having a sandwich at the nearby cafe, a minibus pulls up. Steve asked him if he was free to take us to our hotel, which he was, and so we were whisked into the city centre.
    After checking in, the receptionist mentioned that it was “happy hour” in the bar from 5.00. Guess what time we are all meeting up.
    First order of business was a shower and a shave. I hadn’t bothered all trip and my bumfluff was getting annoying. After Steve mentioned hanging his tent up to dry in the room, Andy and I did the same, leaving puddles of water everywhere.
    We convened in the hotel bar at 5.00 for pre dinner drinks, then at a nearby bar at 6.00 for dinner. Tim had walked back from his friends house for our last meal together.
    In honour of mine and Andy’s early flight we said our goodbyes not long after 9.00, and had a dry run to find the bus stop. There had been some confusion as to where it was owing to road closures. Turns out it is only 15 minutes walk from the hotel. We booked a 4.00 am alarm call and enjoyed our first sleeping bag free beds for two weeks!
    Thanks for reading
    Mark
    #18
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  19. GoatOfDoom

    GoatOfDoom n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2016
    Oddometer:
    4
    Many thanks for your very nice and entertaining report, sir.
    Happy travels!
    #19
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  20. Pongo

    Pongo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2011
    Oddometer:
    439
    Location:
    Victoria, BC Canada
    Amazing write up!
    #20
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