Iceland 2009: The South

Saturday 20th June: Flu­ir - Laugarvatn (71 km)


You know you are cycling in Iceland when ... you are kept awake at night by live music.

In the guest house at HˇlmavÝk there is a framed black and white photo of a sixties rock band. The host laughed when I asked if he was in the photo. 'Is that photo still here? It is my brother'. Bj÷rk is Iceland's most famous musician, but she is not alone: there are many singers and bands, with many different styles.


Gulfoss

This site was to have become a hydro dam, but now Gulfoss is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland


Horses

Icelandic horses are small, sturdy and long-lived


The Strokkur geyser at Geysir

Strokkur erupts regularly for the onlookers


Route 365

Route 365 is a short but sometimes dusty route linking Geysir and ■ingvellir



Karen's diary:

It is Midsummer's Weekend, a time of celebration in Iceland. Last night, the campground was rocking... exuberant young people were partying until 5.00am so we didn't get much sleep. We had to concede that it was well-behaved partying - no loud electronic music, no fighting, yelling or smashing bottles and not much evidence of alcohol abuse. Instead, there was a lot of laughing and singing and we even recognised one of the songs - 'Fairytale', the winner of this year's Eurovision Song Contest. The 2.00am soccer match sounded like good, healthy fun. We rose at 5.30am, just after everyone else had gone to bed. The sky was overcast but the temperature was mild and the wind had almost gone. After yesterday's difficult conditions we both felt very saddle-sore.

We continued on Route 30 and found it very pleasant. The road undulated, climbing slightly, and the countryside got more rugged. We were still in farmland but we had left the emerald-green, manicured pastures behind. Here, the sheep had to graze amongst rocks and stubble. Route 30 ends at a T-junction with Route 35; we turned right and took a small detour to visit Gulfoss, a famous waterfall. We weren't disappointed. Gulfoss is a majestic, thundering torrent that falls down over two drops into a deep canyon. Route 35 continues past Gulfoss and into the interior but we no longer have enough time to go there. So we turned back and went the other way to Geysir. Along the way we could see a little bit of Langj÷kull, one of the ice-caps of the interior region.

Geysir is a geothermal region of hot pools and waterspouts (geysers). At this time only one of the geysers (named Strokkur) is active. It erupts every three minutes, sending big spouts of hot water and steam fifteen metres into the air. Dozens of people stood around, cameras ready, waiting for the next eruption. It was quite good fun but not enough to spend the whole day there. The touristy village of Geysir includes several resort hotels, a golf course, an enormous fancy restaurant and a 'visitors centre' which is really just an expensive cafÚ and a gift shop. As we rode away to the south, a stream of tour-buses passed us heading north. They were doing the 'Golden Circle', a tourist route near ReykjavÝk. The next big attraction was Ůingvellir but we didn't get that far. As we approached Laugarvatn the western sky looked dark and watery; we stopped in the town to eat lunch and consider our options. After a long lunch break we decided to stay here for the night. The campground was some distance out of town and we didn't want to stay there; if it rained it wouldn't be very pleasant and if it didn't rain it would be very noisy.

We have checked into the 'Edda' hotel - one of a chain of summer-only hotels in school dormitories. It is clean, comfortable and inexpensive if you use your own sleeping bags. We will have dinner in the hotel restaurant, a special treat for my birthday. From our bedroom window we can see tomorrow's road, the steep, unsealed Route 365. A steady stream of buses and cars came down the hill as we watched - clouds of dust drifted up from the road and we were glad that we hadn't continued... it looked pretty awful. I wished it would rain a little bit - it would settle the dust.