Iceland, Part IV

Day 13: Dalvík, Samgöngusafnið í Stóragerði, Skagaströnd

After two intense days in the mountains, I take a bit of a breather and sleep in until noon. The rainy weather doesn’t encourage riding, so I stay at the Dalvík campsite until 4 pm and only then ride north towards Siglufjörður.

The road seems incredibly long, and I start to nod off. A few kilometres south of Hofsós I notice a sign with a waffle and “coffee” written on it. Time for a break to get something sweet to eat, and more importantly to get a shot of caffeine, a must today.

As I come inside, it turns out it’s not only a cafe, but primarily a museum of vintage cars with an impressive private collection of more than 400 vehicles. This is how I got to Samgöngusafnið í Stóragerði (Vintage Auto Museum Iceland).

Samgöngusafnið í Stóragerði

The entrance ticket to the museum is 1,500 ISK and the coffee and waffles are another 1,000. The owner gives me a slight discount, so I pay 2,000 ISK in total.

I really like the museum and I’m glad I got here, especially because it was a lucky coincidence. Some of the exhibits are outside, around a roofed hangar, and the rest is kept inside. You get to see cars, motorbikes, snowmobiles, fire trucks, ploughs, and rescue vehicles. The owner tells me that most of them are still in working condition.

After leaving the museum, I head for Sauðárkrókur, turn north on route 748, and reach a spot where you should be able to see Drangey island, but unfortunately the fog is so thick you can’t see much.

Skagaströnd

Around 9 pm I reach the Skagaströnd campsite. The price, with a Campingcard, is 333 ISK for the night and 500 ISK for the shower. I meet a couple of Poles, a model and a photographer who are working on some commercial photo shoot. Grzesiek, the photographer, shows me the Vegasjá website, which has a map with cameras located all over Iceland; it lets you check the weather in each area. We share photos and exchange contacts. Then I shower, have sandwiches for dinner, and go to bed.

Day 14: Hvítserkur, Route F66, Route F608

I leave the campsite around 11 am and head south. I pass Blönduós and around 13 I arrive at the Hvítserkur rock (Icelandic for “white shirt”).

Hvítserkur

This 15-meter volcanic rock is the home of many species of birds, including seagulls and cormorants. I wanted to take some great photos here, but at 1 pm the light is really poor. It would be nice to get here early in the morning or in the evening.

I get to Laugarbakki, then ride further to Hólmavík in the Westfjords. I pass several villages along the way. In one of them, there are logs of wood that the sea has washed up.

Hólmavík

I fill up the bike and get groceries for the next few days. I eat my supper at the supermerket’s parking lot and set out toward route F66.

Route F66

I’m in for 25 kilometers of gravel. I’m coming from the north and it’s beginning to get difficult. The rocky road winds and turns along a stream, and then climbs up a steep hill.

The weather gets worse higher up. It gets cold, the visibility decreases, and it starts to rain.

I arrive at a viewpoint over a waterfall. Even though it’s midnight, it’s still bright out.

It’s about 1 am when I finally get to a tarmac road, and I decide Iceland is best visited at night. The light is brilliant for photos, there’s fewer tourists, and you can sleep in until noon. So, I put in another off-road route into the sat-nav and ride towards it.

Route F608

I start on route F608 at half past 2 am. It’s cold and the wind has picked up, so I let it go. I’ll come back here during the day.

I ride to the campsite at Reykhólar, 25 kilometers south, where I set up my tent in the dark, and fall asleep almost instantly.

Day 15: Route F608, Laugar Campsite

Even early in the day, the wind is so strong it’s hard to pack up the tent. I check the weather forecast for the Westfjords, and it looks like the weather is better around Drangsnes. I leave the campsite at about 4 pm and go back to F608.

Route F608

The mountain road is still not passable for a motorbike. Strong gusts of wind throw me off balance and make it hard to keep control of the bike, so going further is pointless. I feel defeated as I go back to the tarmac and try my hand at riding on route 68 to Hólmavík.

Things are similar here; the wind is so strong I can’t keep going. It pushes me all over the road and I can barely stay in the right lane. I’m getting concerned that one of the gusts might take the handlebars away from me, push me off the road, and make me crash on the rocks.

I’d like to stop and wait it out, but whenever I slow down the wind tilts the bike, so I need to ride fast to compensate for the wind and stay vertical. It’s the only way to stay upright.

After fighting the wind for a few kilometers, I notice a back road leading behind a hill. Maybe I could take shelter there. I slow down and let the wind direct the bike from the main road into the side one. I manage to stop, but the wind is still so strong I’m afraid to get off the bike, because it could fall over.

I think about what I can do, and eventually call 112 asking for help. But I learn the rescue teams don’t react unless someone is hurt. Apparently, a threat to one’s health caused by a hurricane is not enough. I’m given the phone number to the local police station, who should have more detailed weather information.

The policeman on the line tells me the wind should stop in an hour or two, and that if I’m fine, his suggestion is to leave the bike and take a coach to a hotel… so I wait for the weather to improve. And indeed, about an hour later the wind seems to weaken. I take advantage of it and head to the nearest campsite, about 49 kilometres away. On the way I go past several points where the wind is still strong, but I manage to arrive safely.

Laugar campsite

I’ll wait here for the weather to improve, because for the moment it’s too dangerous to ride a bike. On top of that, I’ve had a cold for the past two days, so I could use some rest. The campsite honors the Campingcard, so I pay 333 ISK for the night.

I check the wind data in the PredictWind app, and the spot where I stopped to call 112 had gusts of wind reaching 33 knots, or 61 km/h.

Up till now I’ve usually paid attention to rainfall and picked my routes to avoid it, but this day proved that I should be more concerned about wind than about water.

Day 16: Laugar Campsite

I spend the day at the campsite. I rest and drink Fluxin packets to fight my cold. I sort my photos, reorganize my luggage, inflate my tires, lubricate the chain. I also fix my suspenders — the Velcro was coming off. To mend it, I punch a hole in it, secure the suspenders with a zip tie, and wrap it all in insulating tape. I think this should be enough to hold them together through many more trips.

Day 17: Route F608, Garðar BA 64, Látrabjarg

The weather has improved, so I leave the campsite around 9 am. I go grocery shopping in Hólmavík, and then to the mountains, to route F608.

Route F608

I enter route F608 from the north, to ride with the wind. It’s not as strong as the last time, but you can still feel the gusts. The route is not very demanding, as far as technique is concerned. On the way I pass a few lakes, a wooden hut, and a viewpoint with a wonderful vista of the nearby fjords.

 

22 kilometers on, I get to a tarmac road and turn west. The next 160 kilometers look more or less like this:

Garðar BA 64

The wreck of a whaler ship from 1912 (the same year the Titanic sank), which ended its service on a shallow in the Westfjords in 1981. It’s the oldest steel ship in Iceland.

Rauðisandur beach

The Red Beach can be reached by a very picturesque gravel road, route 614. The beach itself is nothing to write home about. The colors look way better in pictures on the web.

Road to Látrabjarg

Látrabjarg

Iceland’s westernmost point is also one of Europe’s largest bird breeding grounds. Despite the late hour, there are plenty of tourists here.

Sunset at half past midnight:

Tálknafjördur campsite

I wrap up the day at a campsite I reach at 1:30 am. The weather tomorrow is supposed to be great, with almost 20 degrees, which would probably make it the warmest day I’ve experienced in Iceland so far.

Words & Photography: Damian Watracz

 


 

 

 

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