Planless on Iceland - revisited

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

  1. Maddin

    Maddin Been here awhile

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    Was it the evening before? or in the morning? I had a look at the weather map because of the windy, rainy and cold weather in Vik and wanted to see if there is a chance of better weather.
    Looked like we did pic the best spot in Iceland :lol3

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  2. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    Definitely. That was in the evening on 31-JUL, i.e. the night we spent in Vik.
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  3. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    We now had the opportunity to see the F208 in sunlight. The route mostly follows the valleys between the hills and offers plenty of vistas.

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    Between the few bikers we had met on the ferry were 2 French enduro riders who traveled together with a bunch of side-by-sides. We hadn't talked much because of the language barrier, but we've seen them a couple of times here and there. It seemed that each time, they there 1 vehicle short, as if they were playing some sort of musical chairs. Here we met again, and only one of the bikes was left. He obviously enjoyed dashing through the water.

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    For a change, we stayed on the F208, rather than turning onto the F225. There were more fords, some with marked crossings.

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    I think this is the Sigoeldulon lake, just a few kilometers before the F26.

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    And the Thorisvatn ...

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    For the night, we rode back south along road 26, but passed the camp, where we'd stayed at before. This time, our camp ground seemed to be in the back yard of a farm. It was small, but very comfy.

    Route for day 8. This time with sunshine.

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  4. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    At the gas station on the south end of the F26 we met 2 Norwegians on a GS and a Multistrada preparing to head north. We chatted a bit and realized that they'd been on the same ferry as we were, sitting with the group around the annoying look-at-me girl. They went off, and we went in the restaurant to have some yummy waffles for breakfast. And when we packed up ourselves, the Edelweisss tour guides showed up. They were enjoying a rare day between group rides, where they could ride at their own speed and take their time to play with their drone.

    The F26 is the highland route known as the Sprengisandur, and apart from the 35 they only way across the island. It's a wide track in very good condition, but slightly less washboard than the 35, as there is less traffic. You can see the glacier in the distance, but otherwise the scenery doesn't change much at first. There are some easy fords to begin with.

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    There is a ranger station at Pvermoedur, where we stopped for coffee. The ranger told us to be careful, as just a few days ago, they had to airlift some tourists off their jeep's roof. In particular the southern route parallel to the F910 was currently closed due to flooding. On the bright side, a bulldozer was currently repairing the track. A long holiday weekend was coming up, and they didn't want to have dozens of cars getting stuck.

    The next 2 rivers just north of this station would be most interesting. This is where we had to turn around in 2011 ... The first one was wide and easy.

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    The 2nd one was going to be tricky. It was glacial water, so you couldn't see anything, and it was fast. We left all valuables, cameras etc. on the rocks, and Maddin went first.

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    He made it halfway across before getting stuck. I rushed to help, before the water pressure would push him over. Unfortunately, there was no-one else to take photos ... We got his bike across and then it was my turn. I decided to walk the bike across and choose a route diagonal to the flow, trying to lower the impact of the water against the side of the bike. I got stuck more or less exactly where Maddin had stopped before, and even with his help the bike wouldn't move an inch forward. The dumb part of my strategy was that I was heading diagonally against the flow, rather than with it.
    I don't know how long this took, but we could see that the water now coming up to the triple clamp and the exhaust started to bubble under water. The water was basically flushing the sand from beneath my tires. I definitely didn't want to stall the engine now. Waves would occacionally splash over the seat ...
    A land cruiser showed up, watched us and drove into the water. He stopped upstream of us, creating a dam against the water flow. This allowed us to get moving again and reach the other side. The land cruiser also offered to ferry our gear across the river, and we were very thankful for his support. As we were sorting things out, dumping the water from the boots etc. a lonely bicyclist showed up. He had just transversed the closed route and said that it basically lead through the water for several miles.

    The F26 connects with the 842, reaching the ring road maybe 15 miles east of Akureyri. You can also turn onto the F910 to Askia. We however decided to take the F752 to Laugafell, where we could warm up in the hot spring. There are some nice fast sections ...

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    (Foto: Maddin)

    There is one more wide river crossing, where I had dropped the GS in 2011. Desite all the recent rain, the water level was relatively low this time, and we had no issues.

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    We set up our tents and jumped in the hot pool. It's large enough for a few swim strokes, and on its warm side really nice. Time to reflect on the day and our mistakes and accomplishments. The fact that I almost lost the bike in a ford which the Norwegian had managed on a Multistrada 1200 was infuriating. :dirtdog I don't know if he even had a 19" front wheel. They did go hours earlier and maybye the had less water to deal with ...
    While laying in the water, a group of horse riders turned up. They were on a weeklong trip, and probably had 3-4 horses for each rider. It was an all-female group, but we didn't mind when they joined us in the pool. Life is good after all.

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    Track for day 9. Exciting water crossings.

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    And to come back to an earlier question ...
    I never got water in the air intake, but I did get water in the tank, even though the breather valve sits just below the luggage rack in the fuel cap of the X-tank.
    This was a problem I would have to deal with in the morning.
  5. eaglescan

    eaglescan Borrego rocks

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    *This was the ultimate test for deep water I'd say. Very lucky to have the land cruise show up and help !
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  6. itinerant wool stash

    itinerant wool stash Inveterate optimist Supporter

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    Re the 2nd crossing after Nyidalur:

    Time of day definitely makes a huge difference. We left early in the morning, and most of it was wide and rather shallow, with dry spots in between, but there was one short-ish section (less than 10 meters, I'd say) that had wasn't that deep but had some strong current in the middle. After walking it I was willing to give it a go. I am sure you'd have had no problems crossing it.

    But we were a larger group with differing skill levels, and the weather was giving us a good display of an Icelandic summer: Temperature roughly around freezing, a slight breeze and some precipitation that couldn't decide whether it wanted to be rain, ice or snow :lol3. We were not going to flaff around deciding how who is going through assisted and who will ride through -- with the potential to go sideways -- so the folks who already had walked river and signed up for a wet-boot-day manhandled all the bikes through.

    re the southern alternative to F910 (Gæsavatnaleið syðri):

    Besides a couple interesting fjords it features a wide floodplain that takes several minutes to cross. Here's a 650 Dakar doing it:



    Note the length of the video, and that this is apparently "low water".

    I'd like to do that route some day -- no doubt because I am an idiot ;) -- tho I might bring something lighter than a Tiger 800.

    Edit: I think this is a video of the rescue the ranger at Nyidalur spoke off: https://www.ruv.is/frett/flaedur-straumhardar-vegna-hita-og-leysinga
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  7. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    Jepp, me too. :wave

    That's a cool find. It was posted on August 1 - we did the Sprengisandur on August 2.
  8. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    The boots had spend the night on the mirrors to allow the water to drain, but they were still a bit damp. I checked oil and airfilter, and looked the bike over. It was all fine, but the rear brake pads had suffered and were in need to be replaced. Especially the rear pads can wear down extremely fast if rain, mud and dirt come together. I had foreseen this and therefore bought pads at home to carry as spares. As I found out now, they were still on my workbench ...

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    Because of the long weekend we expected more traffic than usual over the next days. The landy looked quite small on that wheel set.

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    Again we rode down the F821 into Akureyri. For me it was the 5th time riding through this valley. We chatted with some locals on dirt bikes. There was a minor chance to find brake pads in town, but only after the holidays.

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    Last week, the hikers from the Krafla plant had recommended 2 tracks up in the north which we wanted to try now. The F839 starts near Grenivik and follows a valley up to the coast. Although the sun was shining, there were some low hanging clouds we had to go through.

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    Every now and then, water would come down the slopes and run across the road, but only towards the coast did we see more than 1/2ft depth. All the water reminded us on the Edelweiss guys, so on our way back (this was a dead end) I counted how often I would see about an inch or more running across. When we reached the road, I was at 27. So heading both north and south we had done more than 50 'Edelweiss fords' today, not counting the water on the F821 ...
    :lol3

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    We found a camp site at the coast near the intersection of 83 and 835.

    Track for day 10. Easy, but entertaining.

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  9. rider1150gsadv

    rider1150gsadv Long timer

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    You’re making too much fun of the Edelweiss guys....:imaposer
    Enjoying this RR greatly!:clap
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  10. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    After breakfast we headed up the F899 through the 2nd valley. There were various abanded farms in both of these valleys, it seemed as if nobody lived here anymore, except some sheep.

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    We road up to the beach, which consisted of very soft, deep sand. Time to have a break and head back. This was a dead anyway.

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    Both these valleys were easy and fun to ride. There is plenty of opportunity where you can get used to water crossings, and since they are dead ends, there is no harm in turning around at any point. I would definitely recommend them, even for larger bikes.

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    After filling up at the Godafoss gas station, we headed south along the river. The 842 and 844 run along the river, with maybe 1 or 2 bridges in-between. We wanted to find a nice spot for a rest, but there was nothing here. If you follow the 842, you can get to the Hrafnabjargafoss which seems to be quite scenic, as you can see here around the 2:45 mark:
    https://advrider.com/f/threads/iceland-land-of-thousand-faces-trip-of-my-life.1363847/

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    Unaware of that, we eventually stopped somewhere on the side of the road and just had some cookies. Refreshed, a small track we had found on the maps should bring us towards Myvatn. The area was relatively flat with a vegetation reminding me on moorland, but of course with some lava fields here and there. I don't know why we didn't take any pictures.
    We stopped at a camp site near the lake which to our recollection had a nice pizza restaurant attached to it.

    Track for day 11. Easy going.

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  11. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    I forgot to mention, what we did about the water in my tank ...

    With the water at the bottom of the fuel tank, the bike didn't like to run near idle, so I tried to keep the revs up a bit. The XChallenge tank is underneath the seat, and removing it is non-trivial. My aux tank was routed through the main tank, so I couldn't switch between them either. Before leaving I had read somewhere that a shot of alcohol in the tank could bind the water and allow it to be consumed by the engine. I had also seen that it was the main ingredient of various additives sold as ignition cleaners.
    So I bought some alcohol at the next pharmacy and poured about a shot glass in the tank. The bike run much smoother again.
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  12. itinerant wool stash

    itinerant wool stash Inveterate optimist Supporter

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    The F821 turned out to be one of my favourite routes. It is not technically difficult, but the scenery makes more than up for it -- even in bad weather. This is the first time I see the section between Laugafjell and Akureyri in sunshine.

    We had quite a bit of fog on the plateau, but that combined with the landscape made it an oddly medidative experience: I waited until our fast group had passed by and the last headlight vanished into the mist, then set off myself surrounded in a cocoon of white, with nothing visible except a circle of desolation and volcanic desert.

    Whereas successfully riding through a difficult section would have left a feeling of profound satisfaction, this ride through solitude left nothing, except peace and calm.
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  13. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    I agree on the F821 though there are some tight switchbacks at the end of the valley, so you should be able to ride tight corners.
    Look at post 34 for a route which can be even more eerie in fog, as you might not even see the track. This is where we'd be heading next.
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  14. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    As indicated, today's route would be interesting. Back in 2011, Ernst and Joerg had mentioned a very deep river and deep sand with whiteout conditions. The weather now was good, but we weren't sure what to expect.
    We turned off the ring road at Gardur onto a track leading south. The landscape was very similar to the end of yesterday's route - not too surprising, as we were less than 5 miles away. There were some small creeks, but nothing difficult.

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    The route then zigzagged through some lava fields. Smooth and easy ones at first, but getting rougher the further we rode.

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    We passed two or three tracks leading to the side, one of them being closed. According to the map, it should be possible to reach the 843 from here.

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    Like the rocks in the top-left of the photo above, the vulcanic rocks became coarse and uneven - and with it the track. We passed a parked MAN 4x4 truck, whose driver was climbing the rocks to find a suitable path where he could take his vehicle across. No problem with the bikes.
    It became more interesting, when the lava fields mixed with patches of soft sand. It was impossible to build up speed between the sharp rocks, so riding the sand was difficult. After a while the track straightened, with less lava, but more sand.

    At this point we met two Swiss guys on CRF1000 Africa Twins, both heavily loaded. They were on their way to Myvatn and taking a break. This was their 2nd day after getting of the ferry, and they looked very tired. They couldn't remember how often they had to help each other with the bikes, and they had enough of the sand. My feeling was that dude #1 had chosen the route and dude #2 had no idea what was coming ...
    Although we hadn't seen the rest of the route yet, we were quite sure, that we hadn't seen the majority of the sand yet. So I tried to encourage them, saying that from now on, it would only get easier for them.

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    The landscape changed again to mountains and ice fields when we got closer to Askia.

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    But it didn't take long, and we were back with lava rocks and sand. Ups ...

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    We came onto a wide, flat area, where the track connected with the F910 coming from the Sprengisandur.

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    For a while we rode aside a large wet area which looked very similar to a salt lake. Wooden stakes marked the track.

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    A tired KTM.

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    Around the south of Askia, we basically rode across a sand desert - only without dunes. It wasn't difficult to imagine that you could loose your bearings in a sandstorm. My bike felt most stable above 40ish mph, and there were no rocks. Days later, we would meet some guys in 4x4s who wanted to come back and see whether they could reach 100 mph ...
    Maddin didn't feel that comfortable and preferred a lower pace, so I had time to stop for photos.

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    Somewhere here, we met a lone bicyclist, stuggling with the sand. He had stopped and decided to air down to 0 psi, but he was still optimistic. Only the last few miles before Askia became easier. We had a lunch break and relaxed in the sun.
    There was a German Rotel Tours truck parked here. After WWII the company had started to convert busses, with the back half consisting of individual berths. Each one was slightly larger than a coffin and had its own little door/window. Back then this allowed Germans to visit remote areas, without touristic infrastructure. To me it's strange that they still exist. I can't imagine sleeping in that thing.

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  15. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    When the Rotel people started setting up lunch tables next to us, we decided that it was time to leave. The F910 east was still wet enough to be easy riding.

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    As mentioned, there is exactly one larger water crossing here. It was still surprising to see not only Vitaras or Pajeros, but even Dacia Dusters on these roads.

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    (photo: Maddin)

    The F905 then brought us to Moedrudaltur, where there is a very scenic camp site with grass roofs on all buildings and an excellent restaurant. It was already getting dark and we were tired when we arrived, so we hurried to set up tents and order dinner.

    Track for day 12. Sandy!

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  16. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

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    this trip has the most water crossing than any ride reports i ever read....fun fun fun


    now i remember this guy....last i saw him was on a 660. hello martin...:wave
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  17. itinerant wool stash

    itinerant wool stash Inveterate optimist Supporter

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    The unnerving thing about many sandpits in Iceland is that they have a rather hostile landing zone.

    The wide open ones? Eh, ass to the back, throttle open and hope for the best :)
    The ones with sharp and pointy volcanic outcrops right next to the road? An entirely different matter. :patch
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  18. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    The good thing about them is that they're relatively rare and identified in many maps.

    I haven't seen very fine sand similar to Fesh-Fesh (aka bulldust) anywhere on Iceland. That, combined with lava rocks would be a nightmare.
  19. rider1150gsadv

    rider1150gsadv Long timer

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    That stuff is just batshit crazy :loco
  20. itinerant wool stash

    itinerant wool stash Inveterate optimist Supporter

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    Oh, yes, that's fortunate -- especially if you add in the potential for oncomming traffic!

    With that, everybody behind you gets to play an exciting game called "somewhere in this sandcloud, there are two oncomming landrovers; I wonder where they are." :photog

    This is what it looks from the inside, and that particular patch wasn't deep, just a couple inches over bedrock, after a single bike went through. After two or three bikes (or a single bike if its deeper), you cannot see anything, and if there's no wind the cloud can stay airborne for minutes. Fun times. :)

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