Iceland 2009: Reykjanes

24th, 25th and 26th June: Reykjavík, Keflavík and going home


You know you are cycling in Iceland when ... you haven't read a newspaper, watched television, or checked your email for a month.

Karen and I leave the technology at home when we go in holiday. No phones, no computers, no electronic organizers, not even a GPS. We put our normal lives on hold for a month and immerse ourselves in another culture. So, did we find what we were looking for? Did we find 'The Real Iceland'? Perhaps only an Icelander can answer this question.

On the internet you will find plenty of advice on how to find The Real Iceland. Here are some of the suggestions on offer:

Here are two perceptive and well-written views on The Real Iceland, both connected with the same town in the east of the country:

Looking for the Real Iceland: Moving to Neskaupstađur
Looking for the Real Iceland: Leaving Neskaupstađur


Reykjavík

Downtown Reykjavík


Packing the bikes for the journey home

Packing the bikes for the journey home



Karen's diary:

Wednesday

At Keflavík, waiting for the bus to Reykjavík, we talked to a group of teenage students who wanted to know what we were doing. They impressed us with their excellent English. They were proud of their country and they were pleased that we were visiting their land, but they could not comprehend why we chose to travel by bicycle. And what was their hope for the future? A warm summer.

The bus trip took just over an hour. We could see that cycling into the city on a busy workday would be a bit tricky (we did it easily on a public holiday). The city centre is small and easy to negotiate on foot. It reminded us of Bergen in Norway, with its steep, narrow streets running uphill from the harbour. Many of the older houses and shops are clad with corrugated iron, but they are nicely proportioned, have gabled roofs and are painted in clear, strong colours. The effect is lovely.

On top of the hill is Hallgrimskirkja, a large, modern church with very beautiful, sweeping lines. Unfortunately the steeple was being repaired and was covered in scaffolding, but we went up to the top anyway. The views of Reykjavík and its surrounding bays and mountains were wonderful but the noise of the jackhammers was almost deafening. We wandered through the streets for a while, looking for souvenirs and food. Reykjavík is full of Thai restaurants but we didn't feel like it and ended up in a tiny Indian/Pakistani place for a set-price buffet lunch. There is a lot of knitwear on offer in Reykjavík - traditional Icelandic jumpers were everywhere, and very nice hats, mittens and scarves. We were tempted but had to admit that most of these lovely things were simply too hot to use in Australia.

Thursday

Our clothes were so dirty! We spent the day sorting gear, doing laundry, cleaning and packing bikes, grocery shopping and eating and drinking.

An American stopped by for a chat and we talked for a couple of hours. He had started a bike tour a fortnight ago, but had developed an injury and could not continue. He gave the bike away and now plans to finish his vacation in a hired car. He was fascinated by our 'minimalist' baggage and also by the fact that we completed our tour of Iceland without using buses. This, it seems, is very unusual!

Our bikes and bags were packed. There was no more to do but eat and sleep. It was our last night in Iceland.

Friday

We rose at 4.00am. Breakfast was at 4.30am and our shuttle bus departed at 5.15am. Long distance plane travel is so strange. The queues, the forms, the stilted conversations in unfamiliar languages... as our plane taxied down the runway I shed a few private tears. I was not yet ready to leave this strange and beautiful country. Despite the rough roads and the cold winds, despite the mud and aches and pains, Iceland and its people had touched me more deeply than I had expected. I knew that in years to come, I would be yearning for those dark lava fields and those long, white nights.