Iceland 2009: The West Fjords

Saturday 6th June: HˇlmavÝk - Sta­urskßli (near Br˙) (114 km)

You know you are cycling in Iceland when ... the roads are rough, rough, rough.

Before we went to Iceland, we looked at other peoples' cycling websites on the internet. Most of them described the difficulties of cycling on unsealed roads but the photos really didnĺt look too bad. On our tour we covered more than 500km on unsealed roads, most of them in the West Fjords. Most of it was fine but some parts were almost impossible.

Perhaps a photograph cannot convey the full experience. Look at the photo below: does this look hard? No. Does it look steep? No, yet it led into one of the trickiest stretches that we encountered.

Route 61

Route 61, near Broddanes

Basalt dyke

Seabirds are nesting on this basalt dyke. The driftwood, which probably originated in mainland Europe or Siberia, was a valuable resource for the early settlers.

Between HolmavÝk and Br˙

Sunshine at last.

Karen's diary:

Despite the guesthouse being full of working men it was a very quiet night and we slept a good nine hours. A north wind was blowing, generally in our favour but terribly cold. As we set off into the damp morning, the grey, misty clouds low on the hills, Brian said wearily, 'There's no such thing as an easy day in Iceland'. Oh, what gloom and doom. It seemed colder down on the coast than it had seemed up on the frozen plateau yesterday. We wore hats and hoods, heavy gloves and mittens and neoprene overboots but still we felt cold.

We were still on Route 61, heading more or less south. The road climbed over two sizeable headlands. The first one was really horrible. The road was narrow, rutted dirt and very steep, I'm guessing about 14% or 15%. About 500m from the top we hit a patch of deep, soft gravel and I couldn't ride it - had to get off my bike and walk. Brian kept going a bit further, hit another bad patch and crashed sideways. No damage was done and we both walked the last 100m to the top. The descent was surprisingly good, still on dirt but smooth and hard. There were good views to the south and we could see the next big headland (our next climb). Soon we were there, plugging up the steep bitumen road. I was saddlesore and my legs were burning but it was easier than riding on dirt! The descent was lovely, fast and smooth. We had good views across the fjord to snowy mountains. The clouds were breaking apart and the sea was changing from grey to blue.

Down at sea-level the road changed back to dirt for a while but the surface was good. The sea-cliffs were teeming with birds and bleached white driftwood logs were piled up on the shore. When the cliffs ended we found ourselves amongst rolling sheep pastures. The sun came out, the sea and sky turned blue and the wind was behind us... at last we had pleasant cycling.

We came sailing into Br˙ at 4.30pm. There wasn't much there but a big N1 roadhouse and a few scattered houses. There was no sign of the campground so after a snack (a hotdog!) we asked for directions and were sent to the nearby Hotel Sta­arskßli. There was no camping available. We could not bear to ride another 25km into a ferocious wind to the next campground (and it might have been closed, anyway) so we have taken a hotel room. It has a comfy bed, television, nice soap and fluffy, white towels. It's not our usual style but it's not expensive and we are very glad to be here. The hotel restaurant was fully booked so we walked down to the back of a disused restaurant nearby and cooked our dinner on the sunny, sheltered terrace. The wind was still very strong but the sky was completely blue. Lovely.