Iceland 2009: Reykjanes

Monday 22nd June: Selfoss - Grindavík (93 km)

You know you are cycling in Iceland when ... the lava starts to look beautiful.

If you stand at the junction of routes 42 and 427 and look around you will see lava in every direction. This is Krísuvík, nowadays little more than a tiny wooden church, built in 1857. North of Krísuvík on route 42 is the Seltún geothermal area.

In Clint Eastwood's film, 'Flags of our Fathers', the Iwo Jima flag raising scene was filmed at Arnafell, the hill opposite the Krísuvík church.

Route 42

The lonely road east of Strandakirkja

Route 42

Near Krísuvík


Arnafell and Krísuvík church

Route 427

Route 427 makes its way over uninhabited lava fields

Route 427

Route 427, the coastal route east of Grindavík, is quite challenging in places

Karen's diary:

There was heavy rain overnight and we expected more today. We left Selfoss quite early on Route 34, heading more or less south. Across the flat plains and out to sea we could observe more rain clouds blowing in. When we reached the coast we turned right... the wind was not too bad. On our right was Ölfusá, a big estuary. We crossed it on a bridge and a causeway and found ourselves surrounded by sea-birds. They flew round and round in a panic as we rode by; it was just like a Hitchcock movie. The road changed direction again and went inland. Rain alternated with sunshine and headwinds alternated with tailwinds. Before too long we turned off the bitumen and onto Route 42.

It was bumpy and a bit corrugated but quite rideable. It was 19 kms to Strandakirkja (literally 'beach church'); the road rises steadily across rough, lonely pasture, then falls down almost to sea level. This route is popular amongst cycle-tourists; it has a reputation for being very rough but it bypasses Reykjavík and carries very little traffic - just a few tourists in small cars.

The road skirted around a small, pretty lagoon and climbed again over a headland. The road got rougher and we were crossing lava fields once more. It seemed to us that nothing could survive in such a harsh landscape but in amongst the rubble and stones, tiny, intricate flowers grew in profusion. The sky turned black once more and a cold rain fell for about 20 minutes - then it was fine again. Here we met another cyclist, a cheerful Frenchman who was just starting his journey. A ten kilometre stretch of bitumen road made a pleasant change. Another cycling couple rode by - we waved but didn't stop to talk.

A few minutes later, as we were taking photos, we met another lone cyclist, a German gentleman who warned us that the road ahead was very bad. It had taken him longer than he expected and he was worried about the distance still remaining to Selfoss. We, however, didn't have very far to go.

We turned left onto Route 427. The road skirted around a tiny church on a steep knoll - the gradient increased sharply and I changed gears too clumsily and too late. The chain jammed up completely; the next thing I knew I was lying on the road and Brian was lifting my bike off me, saying 'Where does it hurt?' I had a sore hand but the bike was undamaged so we kept going.

After the church, the dirt road began. It wasn't flat but undulating; the surface was challenging and required our full concentration. It had corrugations, loose gravel, potholes and rocks - everything except mud but then, it hadn't rained very much. The further we went, the worse it got. The countryside was very interesting - barren and stony, lots of lava - striking to look at. We were almost at the end when we stopped to take more photos and just then another cyclist came along. He was a young German who'd spent the morning at the Blue Lagoon and was setting out rather late. I kept my fingers crossed for him; it was a long way to the next campsite and we hadn't seen any water.

Another 200 metres of slippery, corrugated gravel and it was all over. The last few kilometres to Grindavik were on a smooth, wide, bitumen superhighway... yes, it was ridiculously steep as it crossed the headland but we didn't care. The view down to Grindavik was magnificent and if it was obscured by yet another freezing, black rainstorm (which it was) we didn't care about that either. Grindavik is a bustling harbour town with good facilities. We found the new campground easily.

Some other cyclists have arrived but it's too cold and drizzly outside for socializing - we are all keeping snug and warm in our tents. I have a big bruise on the palm of my left hand and my wrist is now very painful. I have strapped it and taken a painkiller - hope it's not too serious.