“Of Ice and Men”- A Two Week Journey in Iceland

“Of Ice and Men”- A Two Week Journey in Iceland

Day 3 – Reykjavík to Stykkishólmur via the Snæfellsnes peninsula and Snæfellsjökull – 147 mile

Travel Map – Day 3

Mostly cloudy but not raining, high 50s. Glimpses of sun over the mountains north and east of us.

We were off to get the bikes as soon as the port office opened. This was a painless process. Show paperwork, pay, and you’re escorted in safety vests to the container area to unstrap and ride the bikes out of the container.

We had to figure out where to store our extra luggage from the flight. While we had reservations at the same hotel at the end of the trip and had hoped they could store it for us, the hotel didn’t have the space to hold it for two weeks. Fortunately the local BMW dealer, Reykjavík Motor Centre, was happy to hold them for us. We also got their contact card and info in case rescue was needed. David choose a long-term locker available at the central bus station and many parking garages. Once sorted, we had some logistical swapping of gear at the hotel/AirBnB.

The bikes had to ship with less than 1/4 tank, presumably to prevent spillage during the voyage, so after a fuel-up and swapping bags, we were finally off.

Beautiful windy roads led us north out of the city along the shore. Traffic was light and free flowing. We saw the first of many black sand beaches along the way. The mountains ahead and to our east looked like crumbling sea mounts – hard, flat basalt tops with debris filtering down to create a rocky skirt.

A long tunnel, about 6km, took us under Hvalfjörður to Akranes. It was very warm on entry compared to the surrounding air but smelly with exhaust fumes inside. We were surprised by a toll upon exit and hit the automated booths – we have EZ Pass after all. 😉

David and Danny split from us then to head due north for their reservation at Ísafjörður for the night. Recall we planned to spend an intermediate night together in Stykkishólmur but the delay in getting the bikes meant they had two days riding in one if they wanted to keep the rest of their reservations. The rest of us could still make our planned campsite, an easy ride. Campsites in Iceland don’t take reservations except for the some that have small cabins or cottages.

Warren, Steve, and I headed west across the Snæfellsnes peninsula. We followed the slow, sloped shoreline dotted with red-roofed white farms along the strand between sea and foot of the mountains. The top crevices of which still had snow this late in August, feeding multilayer waterfalls. There are also Iceland’s famous free-range sheep everywhere. There are no fences. Major towns and cross-roads have steel grates to keep the sheep off the roads.

We saw the peninsula’s namesake glacier, Snæfellsjökull, from afar, its white peak cloud-capped. Crossing the peninsula east of the glacier on gravel, we were intercepted by a herd of 50+ Icelandic horses, immediately recognizable not for their long manes but for their peculiar gait. They have their own fifth gait, unique to Icelandic horses, where all the motion of the horse seems isolated from the rider. We ran with them, between elegant galloping lines, so close we could hear their breath and almost touch them. Steve, bringing up the rear, got the best pictures.

We continued through multi-hued mountains that reminded me of the Painted Desert in the American southwest and expansive black lava fields. The lichen seems to like them as its light green splash is everywhere. I wondered how long it takes for the lichen to break down the craggy volcanic rock.

The heated gear felt nice at speed even though wind was light. We stopped along the way at a rest and fuel area for a hot dog and chips from a food truck. Prices for pylsa must be regulated, they seem to be 450ISK (about $4.50) no matter where you buy them.

Making Stykkishólmur relatively early, we fueled up for the next day’s 09h00 ferry and set up camp at the local site (1,800ISK but free showers), about a mile from the ferry boarding. The sun was peeking through layers of thin clouds. It was great to relax and camp and share impressions of the first day’s ride.

You’ll notice no campfire in the pictures; nothing around which to gather, warm-up, and socialize. That’s common in European campgrounds – especially in Iceland where there’s nothing to burn – but unexpected for the American camper. It’s odd at first and definitely adds to the cold. You layer up off the bike and become thankful for a warm sleeping bag. The hot pots and pools in towns take on even more significance as a result. Too there are no supplied grills, hibachis, or the like as is common stateside. Again, there’s nothing to burn. Even charcoal would need to be imported and I’m sure at a very high price.

I feared I was catching Warren’s cold as my throat was feeling scratchy and I was starting to sniffle. Fortunately I brought plenty of meds to treat the symptoms.

Some bike tweaks later and dinner of rehydrated food, coffee, and a nightcap, we turned in amongst the late twilight and looked forward to reuniting with David and Danny in Hólmavík the next night.