Oct 4 Borganes
After a great tourist and photography day yesterday today stunk. Unfortunately my battery died yesterday and as I was heading back over some of the same ground I was hoping to hit the high country with the wonderful fall colours again. But this morning, and all day it poured and the high country colour was muted beyond recognition. I would have tried anyway but the heavy rain was accompanied by wind that made an umbrella worthless. I guess I am just a fair weather guy.
I was kind of heading towards the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, but as I was going to go slow through the Thingvellir area I was planning on sleeping at Borganes. So Instead of being out in the maelstrom trying to find images I spent a couple of hours in the Thingvellir visitor centre going through the film strips and researching history stuff in the excellent supply of books. I bought one on “Things” around Scandinavia from the time that they began to appear.
I dropped down out of the highlands to Hvalfjordur (Whale Fjord). I had ridden the bus through the 6 km tunnel that goes under the mouth of the fjord rather that bike the 80 km around the fjord when I first left Reykjavik. This time I hit the fjord near the mouth and so I drove most of the 80 km around it on my way to Borganes. The wind was howling so bad as I did this part that it was picking water out of the fjord and spraying it across the road. My little car handles well but it was still pretty spooky getting gusted around on the narrow road, one side of which is the fjord.
I managed to get to Borganes for the tail end of the Settlement Centre’s excellent lunch buffet. Very good value, or at least for Iceland. The hostel people were happy to see me again; I had spent two nights there waiting out heavy winds as I started out on my bike trip.
I was now really struggling with how to use my lasts couple of car days. The bad weather had continued all day and if it was similar in the morning I was not sure that driving another day in the rain made much sense. Oh well, it is still not as bad as on the bike when the options are so much less and the discomfort of bad weather so much worse.
Oct 5, Akranes
At least is wasn’t raining when I started out. I had decided to go ahead and drive out onto the peninsula. The weather wasn’t friendly but at least there were a few pictures I got. Snaefellsnes is a pretty popular seaside type destination; not in the beach sense, but you are in touch with the sea more or less continuously. It drove out the south side and back the north side of the peninsula. There was a pretty nice crossing going both ways that took me into the mountains and so it was a pretty day. I didn’t get a lot of photos and it was too cold and windy to walk around at all. I had lunch (more money and about 20% as good as yesterday) at Grundarfjordur. I was able to get some acceptable photos of the iconic volcanic cone, Kirkjufell. At Stykkisholmur, the biggest town, I walked around a bit and decided I didn’t want to sit around and wait for a couple of hours to check into a guesthouse.
So on I went, now headed for a hostel at Akranes. In the rain I tried for a quick side trip to visit Snorri Sturluson but things were shut up tight by the time I got there. In Akranes I drove around a bit and had to ask instructions to find the hostel. I was the only one there that night. Akranes is a pretty good sized town, but not much of a tourist draw, and possibly too close to Reykyavik.
I had a pretty good restaurant dinner at a place recommended by the hostel gal.
Oct 7-10, Reykjavik
Still not nice enough to head off into the back country on my last day before Reykjavik. I drove the Hvalfjordur tunnel for1000 Kr, which is about what I would have paid in gas to drive around the fjord, and I had just done that the other way. I stopped near Reykjavik and found a high-end knife-maker. His prices were in line with a knife I had mistakenly bought in South Africa a couple of years ago. A fancy knife is upwards of $300 for a very small one.
The hostel I am booked into in Reykjavik is booked for this night but they helped me find a guesthouse close by. I will need to drop my bags off at the hostel in the morning and then drive to the AVIS drop-off point and ride my bike back. All before 11:00.
The next morning went pretty well. I had breakfast at the hostel when I dropped of my bags and then found AVIS with only a little flailing around. My bike went together well and it felt so good to be back on it, even though there was light and then heavier rain. I stopped at the bike shop that helped me when I arrived looking for a bike rain cover, to no avail – too late in the season here. The bike will be outside here at the hostel and I don’t seem to be able to find a rain cover in Calgary. I also spent a couple more hours in the big book store. I am thinking about picking up a couple of Icelandic authors that we don’t get in Calgary.
These logistic days get fiddled away, but I will have two days to visit Reykjavik with the only task being to pack my bike in its suitcase as late as possible.
In the morning I rode around downtown Reykjavik in the rain. The temperature is around +3 but the rain is not real heavy. I found a place to park my bike and covered it with a tarp I found in the “leave behind” bin at the hostel. I would get good use out of the tarp for the two days here. I spent most of the mid-part of the day at the National Museum. I think it is pretty good on the historical aspects of Iceland and I was able to fill in a few gaps in my understanding.
I came back to the hostel and then walked over to the big swimming pool to have a hot pool dip. I happened to ask if they had a senior’s rate (normally about $7.50) and the girl sheepishly said that she didn’t want to embarrass me by asking if I qualified. I said she didn’t have to worry about offending me with that questions. She recovered nicely by saying I didn’t look over 60, I think seniors are over 67. At any rate it is free for seniors. I went both of my last two days; the second I had a nice conversation with five your people (40s) from Norway, Sweden and Finland.
I spent a part of each of my two days here having a light lunch and coffee in book stores. Mostly I peruse the Icelandic literature and then try to find the authors electronically. I have read a lot of electronic books while here; some from the library but I have also bought a couple.
On my second last night I finally saw some Northern lights and got a few photos, none very good. I was not prepared given that the hostel is in the middle of town. It was quite neat otherwise, as I walked into the middle of a big parking lot. The lights seemed to flash all around and lasted for about 15 minutes. I wish I had been better prepared.
My first night I heated grocery store fast meals. The second night, my last in town, I went to the restaurant I visited my very first night in Iceland. It is just across the street from the hostel and I remembered it as being very good. Last night I had a mink whale steak, which had the colour and texture of beef tenderloin, but its own excellent taste. While in the restaurant I kicked myself for not coming here each night I was in Reykkjavik. It is the best restaurant I have found and I think, as Icelandic prices go, good value.
My last full day here I came back to the hostel around 2:00 and started to pack up. I am having a bit of trouble getting my bike into its suitcase and so I decided not to leave it until the morning, even though I don’t leave the hostel for the airport until 1:00.
I struggled again, until I took one more part of the bike apart and then it worked out well. Trying to leave as much of the bike together as possible is part laziness and part worry about getting it back together effectively.
This morning, leaving day, for the first time in many days, it was bright and relatively cloudless. After a leisurely hostel breakfast I am finally able to wander in the vast series of parks in Laugurdalur. Besides the swimming complex there are playing fields, walking parks, botanical gardens and possibly a zoo. The geothermal fields are congregated here. It is about 3 km from the centre of town and in the old days people came out to use the hot pools for bathing but a big part was for people to carry their washing out here to do the clothes washing. The women would often cook fish and potatoes in the hot pools while they were washing.
Well, that was Iceland. In 15 minutes I will get on the bus for the airport. It has been a good trip. The biking I got in was great, unfortunately it had to be cut short, but the 7 days in a car did give me the chance to see some things I would not have been able to do had I kept riding. I think I got the most out of the history and the literature. But the scenery is so different that it has to be the big draw. The weather and being on the bike prevented me from getting out to areas of the country I now would like to see more completely. But then all trips leave me wanting to come back.