Iceland 2009: The East

Monday 15th June: Dj˙pivogur - H÷fn (104 km)


You know you are cycling in Iceland when ... car drivers stop to have a chat.

In Iceland, riding a bicycle can be remarkably sociable. It is easily the friendliest country that we have visited. When bicycle tourists meet each other on the road they usually stop to chat, but on three occasions motorists stopped in the middle of nowhere just to talk to us. We got many friendly waves from other tourists in cars, in buses and on motorbikes.


Route 1, Hamar

A short, steep climb on Route 1 near Hamar


One lane bridge

Even on main roads most of the bridges have only one lane


Krossanes

The highway takes an improbable route across a scree slope near Krossanes


Route 1 north of H÷fn

Going south


Sea coast, Krossanes

Fantastic views and fantastic weather at Krossanes


Reindeer

Reindeer were introduced to Iceland in the 18th century


Vikurfjall

Vikurfjall



Karen's diary:

Early this morning the sky was half clear and getting clearer as we watched. We rose early, ate and packed and were on the road by 7.00am. We have both been quite saddle-sore for the last week, but feel better after our rest day. The road was almost deserted as we rode along Hamarsfj÷r­ur. The mountain-tops were clear at last and we could see range after range of snowy peaks. In this region the coastal inlets are protected by long, narrow sand spits so the fjords are more like lagoons. Today they were mirror-smooth and very beautiful. The next fjord along was ┴lftafj÷r­ur, not very long (more like a bay) but also lined with snowy peaks. The road started out with lots of small, steep hills (not my favourite!) but calmed down later.

After leaving ┴lftafj÷r­ur we found ourselves on a really remarkable and gorgeous stretch of road cut across a big, steep series of scree slopes. It was very dramatic. The scree does not look at all stable and I wondered how often the road was blocked by landslides. At the end of this wonderful stretch we dropped down to beach-level and crossed a strange, wide, grey beach that seemed to stretch inland for several hundred metres. Signs warned of high winds and sandstorms. Crossing this section we could see that a number of people had driven their cars off the road and along the gravel - practising their off-road driving.

It was here that we met a Dutch cycling couple; they had tales of woe about wind and weather but seemed cheerful anyway. At the end of the grey sands we reached Hvalnes, a promontory with a lighthouse, and turned right into Lˇnsfj÷r­ur. It was more like a bay than a fjord and was protected by a sand spit. The lagoon was breathtaking, mirror-calm and speckled with hundreds of white swans. Far across the bay were steep, dramatic peaks pointing up out of the sea. The first half of the bay was easy as the wind was still behind us but after we crossed the J÷kulsß river (a braided glacial stream in a very wide, stony river bed) the wind turned against us and became stronger and stronger. It was here that we met two more Belgian cyclists and a bit later, two pairs of Canadian cyclists. They were all raving about the wonderful glaciers further down the coast.

Then we were flagged down by a French couple driving along the coast with their caravan. We had met them in Dj˙pivogur and they recognised us by 'le bonnet bleu', Brian's blue hat. It has been a very sociable afternoon! The struggle against the wind got more difficult but we could see the end of the bay and knew it could not go on for much longer. We were expecting a road-tunnel to take us through the headland to the next bay - and there it was, up a big, steep hill. Oh well, at least the tunnel would be downhill. We emerged from the tunnel at the east end of Skar­sfj÷r­ur, another sheltered bay lined by big screes. At the end of it lay H÷fn (a short, simple name mispronounced by almost everyone!), the biggest town in this region. From the campground we can see four or five glaciers coming down from Vatnaj÷kull, one of the world's biggest icecaps. A lot of cloud has built up inland and the sky is full of cirrus. There is a faint rainbow ring around the sun - all signs of approaching bad weather.

The campground is very big and there are a lot of tents here. The kitchen area is very sociable and we've done lots of talking. We met a Swiss cycling couple who have been on the road for three years - and it's their first bike-tour! We've also met up with a very nice Swiss man whom we'd met before, way back in the western fjords, on the ferry to BrjanslŠkur. He has been travelling by bus and doing some hiking and will be on his way home tomorrow.

It has been a stunning day's cycling - one we will always remember.