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

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

Day 4 – Stykkishólmur long way round Westfjords to Hólmavík via the Ferry Baldur and Flatey Island across Breiðafjörður – 204 miles

Travel Map – Day 4

Cloudy 50°, clear to the west at dawn, steadier rain overnight turned intermittent at camp in the morning. Westerly breeze overnight, backing at dawn.

Overnight was comfy. The wind rustled the tent a bit but wasn’t cause for concern. I woke before 05h00 with the sunrise then again at 6h00 as rain tapered. I made coffee in the tent, grateful for the new tent with extended vestibule for exactly this purpose, and planned a rainy pack-out. The rain paused long enough and the breeze helped dry the tent quickly to allow easier packing.

We rode the mile to Ferry Baldur in heated gear and an easy on-board. I noticed Warren and Steve eyeing Icelandic wool hats but the cold wasn’t yet enough that they were willing to pay the price. Finding a suitable spot to hang out near the weather deck, we took breakfast on board for the three hour ride. 2,300ISK (about $23, get the pattern?) gets you coffee, fries with “fry seasoning,” and a baldursloka. Seemingly named for the ferry, it was an large sandwich made of toasted white bread, the insides of a BLT, some sort of sauce, raw red onion, cheese, and a fried egg. It was delicious, warm, and filling.

I noticed an axe under glass on board – must be a Viking ship! But what’s up with the different M/V name on the axe? Was this an emergency item or a trophy of some past conquest?

In 1.5hrs we reach Flatey Island as the sun breaks. Flatey is a flat cigar of a place with small port (a one pier island?) and a few brightly coloured buildings, where small box cargo is still loaded by shipboard crane. We leave low ceiling clouds for high hazy ones at Flatey. It’s been so cloudy the break makes the island look like a hallowed place. It’s a quick stop, off & on cargo and few passengers. We look forward to the Westfjords and their clear blue sky and few puffy white clouds. Good for the upcoming 40 miles of gravel. 

An hour later we’re in Brjánslækur on the Westfjords. Do we go north or west to the famous 440m bird cliffs at Látrabjarg? I was outvoted and we went north, the thinking being there’d be plenty of cliffs and fjords farther on.

We hit a good section of gravel today from Flókalundur, named for Raven-Floki an early Viking settler and explorer of Iceland, to Þingeyri. It was brilliant riding, like the Moon in spots. There were numerous dirt switchbacks up and down the mountains surrounding the fjords, from sea level to 1,200’. We saw a lot of multilevel waterfalls spilling runoff from the higher peaks, including the famous Dynjandi or Fjallfoss where we’re surprised to see David and Danny (they were coming the other way), fjords galore, and lichen-covered lava fields. It’s so varied as to be difficult to describe in words and my pictures can’t do it justice. Just amazing.

Past Þingeyri, we find more fjords and a 15km tunnel through live rock. There’s even a turn off in the tunnel for the more western reaches of the peninsula. The views past Ísafjörður continue to astound as we round fjords the rest of the day. It was a long day of focused riding.

We find a campground in Hólmavík next to the municipal pool and enjoyed alternating between 42° hot tubs and the cooler pools. Being so warm was relaxing after the long ride as it had turned colder with spitting rain later in the day. We setup the Gnarwhal tarp over the lone picnic table at the campsite, a real treat as the wind picked up a bit and rain spat hard and cold. We lent it temporarily to an Italian family traveling with young kids and unprepared for such weather (well, OK, they actually squatted while we were at the pool, but we didn’t kick them out).

Where to tomorrow, who knows? The Westfjords will be tough to beat for scenery. It’s colder, windier, and wet in camp but dry under the tarp. My tent fly is still wet from the morning and I’m hoping more serious rain holds off. We reunite temporarily with David and Danny at the campsite and snack on smoked salmon, crackers, a delicious kind of lamb pâté or rillettes, and Icelandic rind cheese procured from the local market.