Iceland 2009: The West Fjords

Wednesday 3rd June: Flókalundur - Ķsafjöršur (119 km)

You know you are cycling in Iceland when ... you can drink the water from a stream.

Finding water to drink is not always easy. Of all the water in the world, only 3% is fresh water - the other 97% is salt water, mostly in the oceans. Of all the fresh water in the world, about 70% is frozen as snow, ice or permafrost - and 90% of this frozen water is in Antarctica. Most of the unfrozen fresh water is in subterranean aquifers, which doesn't leave much in lakes and rivers.

In many parts of the world, untreated water from lakes and rivers is not considered safe to drink. In Iceland none of the tap water has been treated yet it is quite safe to drink - in fact it is better quality than the tap water in most other countries. Out in the Icelandic countryside it is considered safe to drink the water from lakes and rivers (with the exception of sediment-laden glacial rivers or those flowing through farmland).

Near the Dynjandi waterfall we filled our cup with cool, clear water from a stream and drank our fill.

Route 60 near Flókalundur

Only 115 km more to Ķsafjöšur


On Dynjandisheiši, looking west


Near Hrafnseyri, looking back towards Dynjandisheiši


Almost at the top of Hrafnseyrarheiši


The south side of Hrafnseyrarheiši


The north side of Hrafnseyrarheiši. Somewhere in the distance is our next climb, Gemlufallsheiši

Karen's diary:

We set off at 7.45am. We were on route 60, heading north. The air was cold but the road was steep and we warmed up very quickly. The road surface was actually good despite its bad reputation. It was hard-packed earth, nice and smooth, and any pot-holes were easy to avoid. A climb of about 400m brought us to the junction with Route 63 from Patreksfjöršur and then we climbed up a bit higher. It is very harsh, stony country; there is almost no vegetation, just moss. It doesn't look photogenic but it's very interesting - I have never seen another place like it. The descent was much more spectacular, with brilliant views down to Borgafjöršur and at the bottom was Dynjandi, the biggest waterfall in the Western Fjords.

After travelling some distance west on a very pleasant, undulating gravel road we reached Hrafnseyri, the last settlement before the climb over Hrafnseyrarheiši, the biggest climb of the day. This road gets a fearsome write-up in the 'Rough Guide' to Iceland so I wondered what on earth we would find up there.

Steep and difficult it certainly was, but also exhilarating and beautiful beyond all expectations. The sun was shining and we rode up in shorts and teeshirts. As we climbed higher the views got more spectacular - water, mountains and snow stretched away as far as the eye could see. It was cool on top of the pass so we had to put all of our clothing back on again.

The descent was fast, rattling good fun. There were fabulous views down to Dżrafjöršur and the village of Žingeyri looked lovely with its multi-coloured houses shining brightly in the sun. We didn't feel inspired to stay there so despite our fatigue we decided to have a rest and a snack and push on. A flat ride around the fjord was very fast in one direction but painfully slow in the other owing to a powerful wind.

It was a relief to start the next climb, Gemlufallsheiši (270m) because we got a tailwind to help us. The road was sealed and not very steep, there was little traffic and the descent to Örnundarfjöršur was good and fast. We crossed the fjord on a causeway and rode steeply up to the mouth of the 6km tunnel. I found this last climb terribly hard but took some comfort from the thought that we would ride through the tunnel downhill. We organised lights and reflectors and cruised through the Taj Mahal of all tunnels... smooth, well lit, spacious and almost free of vehicles. We emerged some time later above the lovely, sheltered harbour town of Ķsafjöršur. It was 7.20pm so we headed straight to the supermarket and then to the campground... which was closed. Our next option was a guesthouse back in town, Gistiheimili Įslaugar, which offered sleeping-bag accommodation and kitchen facilities. Whilst modest and plain on the outside, it was very welcoming and comfortable. By the time we had showered, eaten and chatted with the other guests it was 11.30pm! So much for an early night.