Planless on Iceland - revisited

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by pip_muenster, Dec 15, 2011.

  1. mtncrawler

    mtncrawler Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2003
    Oddometer:
    1,648
    Location:
    Fort Collins, CO
    :lurk...Awesome...this may be on my radar for this year..
  2. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    I had considered getting a new 690 or 701, but it was clear that my XChallenge was perfect for the job. By now, I knew each bolt, and despite its low weight the 2nd tank offered a range of 500km. Then there was the cockpit with navigation options I had always dreamed of.

    [​IMG]

    On a new bike I would probably much more fear to break something on the first trip. With the XC, I was willing to accept some damage. The track started in typical Icelandic fashion with a number of smaller and larger water crossings.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Starting from the coast, it was not surprizing that were was quite a few of creeks and streams. I hadn't ridden through any real water in 6 or 7 years, but it shouldn't take long to adjust.

    [​IMG]
    (photo: Maddin)

    [​IMG]

    I don't think there was much traffic on this track, as it only connected 2 points you could as well reach from the ring road. With the slow groth of vegetation in the northern climate, there was no telling how old these tire marks were.

    [​IMG]

    There was one more larger river to cross. Maddin went first and his KTM seemed to just float across.

    [​IMG]

    We came to a wide, dry riverbed which was full of larger rocks. It wasn't exactly clear whether we had to cross it, as we couldn't see the track continuing on the other side. I told Maddin to wait and made my way across, to see if I could see the track from there. This was like a mini Erzberg Rodeo for someone not used to ride MX or hardcore enduro, but it was fun. On the other side I realized that there was no need to cross - meaning I had to go back.

    [​IMG]

    We crossed some more technical sections, but overall the track wasn't too difficult on the lightweight thumpers.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Oftentimes we could see an old line of telephone poles parallel to our track. We speculated that he track existed to maintain the line, so we called it the Telegraph Track.

    [​IMG]
    (photo: Maddin)

    [​IMG]
    (photo: Maddin)

    After crossing one more river, the area became more and more green. By the end of the day, we reached a nice, small camp ground at Grimsstadir. There was a small hut with showers etc. and a sign that someone would come to collect the camping fee, or we could simply come to the farm on the other side of the road. We walked to the farm and paid. The farmer had an old American car, maybe from the 60ies or 70ies which he used to bring us back. First class service!

    [​IMG]

    If you wonder, yes that's the same tent as in 2011. I've been using the same model since I bought my first tent close to 30 years ago ...

    [​IMG]

    Here is the track for day 1. I loved it, and would definitely do it again. Not sure if I'd recommend it for large bikes, but it isn't impossible.

    [​IMG]
    Watercat, jeckyll, NSFW and 2 others like this.
  3. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    While there are nowadays plenty of fuel tank options for the 690 available on the market, they are expensive and mostly bulky/ugly, especially if you want to have a legal solution for Germany. On the other hand, it's original fuel range is actually sufficient in most of Europe, if you plan your trips. As gas stations are rare on Iceland, Maddin had brought 3 small jerry cans to match the capacity of my XChallenge. That was cheap, and wouldn't much affect the bike's handling when left empty.

    [​IMG]

    We headed north towards the Dettifoss, the waterfall with the highest volume in Europe. On the way we were met by maybe a dozen bikers on GS bikes, carrying little luggage. An Edelweiss touring group. The road surface was well maintained, flat and hardened gravel, but almost all of them were standing on the pegs as you're supposed to in the dirt ...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We continued north, until a bridge allowed us to cross the river. Then we took the ring road to reach a camp site with a gas station, about 60km to the east. They had a small restaurant were we could get dinner and breakfast. It felt like an oversized living room, with book shelves on the wall and kids playing on the floor. Of course, there was also a swimming pool.

    Track for day 2.

    [​IMG]
    jeckyll, rider1150gsadv, NSFW and 2 others like this.
  4. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    The next morning we took the 923 south to get to the F910 and into the highlands. It was cloudy, but at least mostly dry from above.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There is one larger river to cross, just south of the intersection between F910 and F905. On the photo below you can see that the water is relatively calm towards the left, but shows lots of ripples on the right. The threshold in-between follows an arc across the river, and just to the left of it is the actual ford. You could easily drown a car here, but by sticking closely to the arc, the water was only about a foot deep.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (photo: Maddin)

    The F910 continues through a field of lava, oftentimes with patches of soft vulcanic sand in-between. These can be as difficult as deep sand for a bike, as we had learnt on our first trip. I like the Kortabok road atlas as it accurately indicates sandy areas. Anyway, due to the recent rainfalls, the ground now felt quite hard.

    [​IMG]

    Then we had to cross the river which later forms the Dettifoss. It's the only bridge in the area.

    [​IMG]

    We turned south on the F903. This part was new to us, as we had decided to skip this very sandy area on our first trip. Now with the wet sand, it felt like cheating. We met a friendly ranger who stopped to check and see, whether we'd be alright. They have implemented large fees for offroad driving. You can't even leave the track to overtake or pass upcoming traffic, you have to find a wider spot and wait. Before we left, the ranger handed us a leaflet with the driving rules.
    These measures are very important, as the vegetation sometimes takes years to grow back in the cold climate. The rangers spend a lot of time repairing environmental damage from 4x4s on these tracks.

    [​IMG]

    We now got closer to the Vatnajoekull and the senery changed to mountains and variations of black, gray, and red lava fields. A bit of green and the white ice completed the color palette.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Our destination was the Kverkfjoell, where a stream of melted water comes from a cave underneath the glacier. In the past it was possible to get to the cave and walk underneath the ice, but recently the access bridge had been destroyed. I remember that there had also been accidents where tourists were trapped under the ice and died, so maybe they prefer not to repair the bridge. There is a camp site with ranger station nearby.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We chatted a while with a hiking group coming back to their jeep. They were working at the Krafla power plant and just on a daytrip. We told them that we would head up the F88 towards the camp site near the Herdubreit plateau, so that we would probably pass Krafla within the next days.
  5. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    There are 2 parallel tracks leading back north the F902 and F903. We didn't pay attention and took the same route we came on. More lava fields.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It was getting late, so we decided to skip the Askia for now and head directy to the camp. The Herdubreit was tipping its head into the clouds.

    [​IMG]

    The small red hut at the camp was still there. To get to the actual campsite we had to cross one last stream. You have to come back to get to the showers and toilets, but there is a tiny foot-bridge for that.

    [​IMG]

    As usual, we started setting up tents first. I noticed Maddin, who was at his bike, looking at his luggage. His tent poles were gone. He had strapped them underneath the flap of the Mosko Moto Reckless 80, and they had slipped out somewhere along the way. He did remember seeing them last at the glacier.
    So we went through our options. We might have had enough gas for one of us to go back to the glacier, but it was getting late and unclear, if we'd see the poles in the dark. He could sleep in my tent or try getting a bed in the station. Tomorrow, we would reach Myvatn, and it should be possible to get another tent somewhere. While we discussed, the 3 hikers from the Kverkfjoll came walking over from the parking lot, sheepishly smiling.
    They had found the poles just a few hundred meters from the glacier and deducted that we must have dropped them. So they decided to take the slower way back home to see if they would find us ... Maddin was very happy, and we invited them for a beer.

    It looked as if the night would get quite windy, so we tied down the tents as good as we could. The ground was quite soft, so normal tent pegs wouldn't do. I strapped the wind-facing side of my tent to the bike and used rocks for the other sides. Some jeeps with inflatable tarps/tents turned up - I wondered whether they'd still be there in the morning.

    Track for day 3

    [​IMG]
    jeckyll, rider1150gsadv, NSFW and 3 others like this.
  6. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    To my surprise none of the inflatables had been blown away in the morning. The camps at Herdubreit and Askia are a bit more expensive than usual, as all trash, toilet paper etc. has to be transported by 4x4. We had some coffee and got on the bikes. The F88 is well maintained and quite fun to ride with both fast sections and zigzacking through lava fields. There is one larger river crossing which can be quite deep - and it had been raining. We could see that the track was following a new route through the water. A line indicated the safest way accross.
    Maddin went first and had to stop halfway, but he got across fine.

    [​IMG]

    I followed, and Maddin might claim that I almost dropped the bike. However, although he took probably a dozen photos, there is no proof of that. It must have been in his imagination.

    [​IMG]
    (photo: Maddin)

    We did however both get wet feet, despite the Sidi Adventure GTX boots reaching up 12". Everybody has his strategy for water crossings:
    - some take waders (like I did last time)
    - some use water proof boots
    - some strip down and walk barefoot or in flippers
    - some prefer open MX boots in combination with water proof socks
    I don't want to constantly wear waterproof socks and would expect them to get chilly after a day of riding in cold rain. Our trick was to use the GTX boots as usual, which would be enough 90% of the time. We did bring Sealskinz water proof socks, which we could now use to keep the feet warm and dry, until the boots had dried. This worked great and I can definitely recommend it.

    They keep the track in good condition as the busses use it to reach Askia.

    [​IMG]

    There was another stream, but that was much easier. After that the track opened up.

    [​IMG]

    Once on the ring road, we followed it to Krafla, to see the thermal power plant. It sits on the side of a vulcano with an accessible crater lake on top.

    [​IMG]

    Just before Akureyri, the ring road goes through a long tunnel, but the map showed a small track zigzacking up the hill which we took instead. We filled up and visited a supermarked. Some lady complemented us for only blocking one spot with the two bikes, she was so annoyed that oftentimes so many spots were blocked by bikes. I do understand her, although I know how much space a big bike with panniers can need ...

    [​IMG]

    By the end of the day we had reached Varmalid (I'm misspelling almost all the names, sorry.) where we stopped at a fastfood joint. There was a nice, quiet campground on the hill behind the village, where we could even wash and dry our clothes for free. We noticed that many camp grounds would rely on your honesty to pay, and still offer free amemities, including wifi.
    A nice spot in the corner looked very inviting to us. The tent 'next door' had some storm damage and did barely stay upright ...

    Track for day 4

    [​IMG]
    jeckyll, rider1150gsadv, NSFW and 4 others like this.
  7. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    After another cappuccino at the gas station we took a track along the valley to connect with the F756. There were small farms around, so the tracks were very easy.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This brought us to the Bloendulon reservoir lake which has a power plant deep down in an artificial cave, about 600ft under ground. We got a bit bored and stopped to take some trail-of-dust photos. I don't think I was very fast here, but I kept the rear spinning in 3rd gear ... :lol3

    [​IMG]
    (photo: Maddin)

    This was now route 35 - not an F-road. It is the only way to cross the highlands without a 4x4 or river crossings. There is lots of traffic creating washboard corrugations, so you either have to crawl, speed up past 50mph, find a clean path along the side, or suffer. Guess what we did.

    Roughly in the middle at Hveravellir is a camp with hot springs and a hot pool. We didn't check, but there should also be a gas station here. It might be the only gas station left in the highlands, as the one in Adabol is apparently closed, and the one at Moedrudalur had a broken pump when we got there. If you plan on filling up along the way, do your research.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    More washboard, and we reached the Gullfoss, one of Icelands biggest tourist attractions, and part of the Golden Circle. Over the last years, lots of people were complaining that Iceland has been overrun by tourists, and that it wouldn't be worth going there anymore. This was the first time that we saw a crowd, starting with maybe a dozen tour busses on the parking lot. People stumbled down the stairs, bumping into cell phone wielding selfie zombies. A quick selfie, and back to the bus.
    As it was overcast, most of these photos must have been blunt. The waterfall was named after the sunlight playing with the water, so waiting 5 minutes for the clouds to clear was probably worth the time.

    [​IMG]

    We didn't stop at Thingvellir this time, but set the satnav for Stoeng, where we wanted to see an archaeological site with a viking long house.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    You have to take a foot brige across a stream to get there, and the ground underneath the path often sounds hollow. I'm pretty sure that flowing lava left a lot of cavities in the area.

    [​IMG]

    I am now checking the area on Google Earth, and it seems there is a beautiful spot with another waterfall less than half a mile upstream, and accessible by bike which we unfortunately missed. It was already a long day, so we wanted to find a camp site. There was one nearby, but it was not much more than a patch of grass with an outhouse. Instead, we rode on to route 26, where the map showed a camp. Iceland doesn't need to be crowded.

    [​IMG]

    Track for day 5 - mostly tourist stuff.

    [​IMG]
  8. eaglescan

    eaglescan Borrego rocks

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Oddometer:
    743
    Location:
    Langley,B C
    What a super report , I only read half of your first trip, will finish later. I saw the X Challenge picture ,so am reading your latest adventure.
    So with the X bike air intake where it is, did you have any H2O get into the intake?
  9. NorseCycles

    NorseCycles n00b since 2008 Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Oddometer:
    276
    Location:
    SW CO DRO
    Yes! Thank you for revisiting Iceland. Your original trip was inspiring. This new stuff is great too.
  10. itinerant wool stash

    itinerant wool stash Inveterate optimist Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2016
    Oddometer:
    282
    In. :lurk

    re fuel in Hveravellir: I was in Hveravellir in 2018, and there was no fuel station there. In an emergency you may be able to bum off fuel from the visitor center, though.
  11. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    Yepp. The OSM map doesn't show it either. Acc. to my old road atlas there used to be one.
  12. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    During our last fuel stop yesterday we had met the Edelweiss tour group again, who told us that they just did their most serious day, with maybe 20 water crossings (I don't remember the exact numer). We wanted to go to Landmannalauga today, and suspected that most of our route should be the same as theirs. To be on the safe side, we first rode the 26 north to find a station where we could top up the tanks. It was quite windy and the clouds looked dark.

    [​IMG]

    When we reached the F225 the sky opened up and it started to rain, so we stopped to put on our rain gear.

    [​IMG]

    The streams at this end were mostly relatively shallow. When in doubt, we would stop and walk to scout the best way accross. Despite the rain, we could always see the ground and estimate the depth without actually walking through the deepest parts. Normally, you'll find the shallowest spots, where the river is widest.

    [​IMG]

    This was a great track, but because of the rain, we didn't want to stop for photos. Instead we made a detour to check whether we could find some coffee at Landmannahellir, a smaller camp ground about 10km west of Lanndmannalaugar. There was one last river crossing, and it seemed as if the ford itself was by far the deepest part. We used it anyway to avoid damaging the grass. Unfortunately, there was no coffee, so we pushed on to Landmannalaugar.
    It is famous as a hiking spot and visited daily by bus loads of tourists. You can do day trips or cross-country tours. Several groups of identical tents huddle together at the camp site, probably placed by tour agencies for their customers. When we got there, the kantine tent was so cramped with people hiding from the rain, that we couldn't even stick our heads in to check for coffee. I don't really mind that. If all the tourists stay together, it's easier to avoid them.
    The F208 was probably even more spectacular, but covered in clouds as well. I suspected that we'd get back in a few days, and hoped for better weather then. The day ended at Kirkjubaejarkklaustur, where we found a gas station, a supermarket and a camp site. And it had stopped raining. While there were often smaller puddles and streams running across the track, maybe 6-9 would count as water crossings - i.e. water, where you'd want to slow down and think about your way. I guess the GS people on the tour counted differently.

    [​IMG]

    Track for day 6 - Great route, lousy weather.

    [​IMG]
  13. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    We haven't gotten to the deep water yet ... no spoilers.
    eaglescan likes this.
  14. itinerant wool stash

    itinerant wool stash Inveterate optimist Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2016
    Oddometer:
    282
    Landmannahellir has no coffee, but the scenery especially at sundown is spectacular. So is the Landmannaleid road ... well, for most of us it was spectacular. One of the AT riders with us had a bit of a scare, and discovered why you don't head through the middle of a water crossing. It was just a teensy, tiny one, maybe 5 to 7 meters wide, and on the side barely deep enough to drown a rat. In the middle, however, it almost drowned his bike.

    Was the F208 southeast from the branch with the F224 still bumpy for a couple KM? In 2018, there were very good bumps every 50 meters or so; just goose the throttle a tiny bit and ... ;)
  15. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    I can imagine. In 2011, Benni hit a deep puddle which apparently blocked his air intake just enough for the engine to stall. He had enough momentum to reach the other side. No water in the engine, and the bie started again ...
    I can't remember whether there were jumpy bumps on the F208. @Maddin?
  16. Bonnie & Clyde

    Bonnie & Clyde Wishing I was riding RTW

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    4,238
    Location:
    Gardnerville NV
    Great stuff:lurk
  17. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    The clouds were still hanging low in the morning, but at least it had stopped raining. Today's destination was Laki, a very scenic area with more vulcanos. To get there, we followed the F206 across a number of rivers.

    [​IMG]

    I really like this shot ...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (photo: Maddin)

    There was even a crossing with road signs. After this I was expecting a crossing guard or at least some traffic lights for the next one ... It was quite important here where you rode. Along the white poles, the water was barely 6" deep. However, you can see that Maddin's front tire almost vanished - he was no more than 3ft from the poles away.

    [​IMG]

    The area around Laki is full of vulcanic rocks and smaller vulcanos.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A ranger welcomed us at the small visitor center and informed us again about the driving rules. We used it to have a break and heat up some soup for lunch. The road then loops through the valley and connects again with the F206.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A foot path leads to a crater lake, and possibly further through the valley. I prefer riding - nobody says that you can't stop to smell the flowers.

    [​IMG]
    (photo: Maddin)

    [​IMG]

    Before reaching the F206 we had to cross another stream. We walked up to the edge of the grass to decide on our route. This crossing had some loose gravel and was a bit tricky as I could see when watching Maddin. I chose a slightly different route and had no issues. Sometimes you're lucky.

    [​IMG]

    Back on the ring road, we headed west and stopped for the night at the camp ground in Vic. It was very windy tonight, so we spend a lot of time finding the best spot for the tents. In the end we set up our tents at the foot of a wall which seemed to be build to shield from the wind. You can see that almost all the tents in the area were small and stable constructions - some even had snow flaps.

    [​IMG]

    Track for day 7. Very scenic, and water crossings. Of course.

    [​IMG]
  18. Maddin

    Maddin Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2010
    Oddometer:
    188
    Location:
    Germany
    Hi Sayan,
    I think this was on the 210. Just before the Maelifel when I remember this correctly.

    I could swear that you have a small EMP on your bike that you can nuke my camera :jack when such things happen to you.... someday Sayan ... someday
    pip_muenster and eaglescan like this.
  19. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    Not an EMP, but I bribed the imp in it.

    Edit:
    Jepp, and we might have accidently bypassed the worst bit of that part, when we missed the shortcut. Benni couldn't judge the water due to rain. There were long stretches like this:

    [​IMG]
  20. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,070
    Location:
    Karlsruhe, Germany
    There is a crashed C-47 on the beach and we thought it would be fun to start with a visit at the wrack. It turned out that you can't drive/ride the beach anymore, so we would have to walk or use the shuttle service. It's about a mile each way, and we didn't want to spend that much time here, so we turned around.
    The south of Iceland can be very beautiful. We started on the F210, a route we had taken before in 2011. Oh, and did I mention the weather?

    [​IMG]

    Then we turned onto the F233 to circle back to the F208.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This brought us to another river crossing, whicth appeared to be quite deep. We talked about possibilities, but frankly I didn't see the point. There were at least 2 alternative tracks nearby on the map, and we had plenty of fuel. I was quite certain to get wet the next day, and preferred to keep my feet dry for now.

    [​IMG]

    When we turned around, I noticed a local jeep on a side road, so I turned and asked what they'd do. It was a farmer with his son, and his response was surprising: 'Why didn't you take the bridge?'
    As he explained, this wasn't a normal bridge. Instead, a stream of lava had crossed the river, leaving a natural bridge, where the water passes underneath the earth. What an exceptional location!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The lava provided lots of grip and it would have been technically possible to ride this. We played it save and pushed the bikes, no need to break a leg.

    [​IMG]

    Mandatory beauty shot. This was definitely the most memorable location of the trip for me.

    [​IMG]
    Peter640, Watercat, jeckyll and 10 others like this.