Riding the Bullet - to Iceland
A Ride Report
Adapted from the report from ADV-Rider
Due to a small motorcylce accident I now have finally the time to write this ride report and post a few pics from a journey that lies already nearly a year behind.
Next week will start our trip to Ireland so I have to hurry up. (To post the report and to get healthy again).
Just to know the very essential details: "we" means Bernhard, my love and best friend and me, Karin, 25 years old, both from Austria and together for more than 9 years.
And the "trip" was a journey through the south of Sweden, Norway, the Faroese Islands and to Iceland.
And the motorcycles: well, we drove on two 2005 Royal Enfield Bullet 500, bought in Austria. No E-start, no whatever - just a "pure" motorcycle as it can be. They already took us to Scotland and the Orkneys, to Sardegna, Tuscany and will take us to Ireland.
But to start with, I don't want to bore you with personal details for they will come later on but I think I start with some of my favourite pictures from the journey so that you can imagine what you are going to see if you follow this report....
The first one:
You might know this picture - it's already on the front page. I took it in the south of Iceland at the Vatnajökull (meaning "Water glacier" in English - one of Europe's biggest glaciers). The Enfield is mine for it's the more beautiful one.
The second one:
Again the south of Iceland. We tried out driving in the sea and it was quite funny. Of course an Enfield is a great enduro as well. It's Bernhard on the pic because I'm responsible for photography as well as for carrying the equipment.
The third one:
This was again taken in south Iceland (yes, it's great there...) at a waterfall called Skogarfoss - "foss" means waterfall. You can put up a tent there and because we were there in the mid of September it was even for free. I took the picture in the morning after a rainy night and the water in the front should be a meadow instead of a sea. Luckfully we put up the tent on the hill so we didn't get too wet actually.
The fourth one:
That's my favourite area in Iceland (I will explain that later) - the Western Fjords, in this case it's on the Snæfellsnes-peninsula. Behind the church is the "magical" Snæfellsnesjökull, a glacier that is said to be the centre of the world. Well, at least: maybe you know Jules Verne and his book "journey to the centre of the earth"? This journey starts here, on this glacier.
The last one for now:
Again the Snæfellsnes-peninsula. The red sand is typically for this region. Together with the blue sky (well, that lasted for some minutes) and the green grass it's a very stunning scenery to my opinion.
Okay, now, before I'm going to tell you where we went I say a few words about our motorcycles and us. This is my beloved Royal Enfield from India, standing in the valleys of my town in Lower Austria near Waidhofen/Ybbs - a great place for motorcycling besides with lots of small and narrow roads.
500 cc no E-start single seat for a better riding comfort and some optical changes to the original Bullet, but I did no engine-tuning or anything else ... and the best thing is: we have two of them! in the front there is now Bernhard's Bullet with the TT-cases on them which are perfect for travelling!
So, and this is us. The picture was taken in Denmark after a long and very, very rainy ride. Bernhard to the right is, as mentioned, my lover, partner, best friend for over 9 years now and that's me to the left, 25 years old and a real fanatic in cases of motorcycling
Forgive the bad map, but I think you can imagine the route that we took...
We drove from our hometown Waidhofen/Ybbs to Vienna were we caught a train to Hamburg in Germany. Then we drove to Denmark via Puttgarden, then to København and finally to Helsingør/Helsinborg to Sweden. We tried to avoid the big roads and rode through the south of Sweden over mostly narrow roads until we reached the coastal and very scenic street to Fjällbacka in Sweden. We took a ferry to Sandefjord in Norway and drove via Kristiansand and Stavanger to Bergen where we caught our ferry, the "Norröna" to Iceland. There was a very short stop on the Faroese Islands and we went out for a short walk, not knowing that we would return sooner as we first planned... From Tórshavn on the Faroese Islands we headed to Iceland, first to the harbour of Seyðisfjörður, then to Egilsstaðir, then to the north to the geothermal very active area of the Krafla and the hot mud pots of Námaskarð and to Akureyri. After that, we went to the Western Fjords and had a visit at the Snæfellsnes peninsula with it's stunning scenery. Then we went south to Reykjavík and Keflavík (where at the Coffee house "Kaffitár" the best coffee of the world is roasted!) and then to the east again with visits at Geysir and Gullfoss as well as to the glacier lagoons of the south. Then back to Seyðisfjörður two and a half days earlier as planned because of bad weather at sea (they wanted to avoid storm and waves with a height of 10 metres or more... well... on an earlier trip we had that...) which brought us two days on the Faroese Islands. Yippiiiee... Well, I have to say I was there... erm... 6 times and I don't think the Faroese Islands are THAT thrilling after beeing there so often... From the Faroese Island we sailed to Hanstholm in Denmark and rode back to Hamburg in Germany where we again took a train and brought our Enfields back to Austria.
All in all, the Speedo on my machine counted from 18955 to 23723 kilometres which means quite a lot of driving on such a small machine. But our Enfields did well and nothing had to be repaired or so... we only gave her some fresh oil somewhere in Iceland.
We took a train from Austria/Vienna to Hamburg because on a Royal Enfield it's not very exciting to ride through Germany - would last a bit longer than on other bikes... We were now heading to the north, to Denmark first. The weather in Hamburg was okay, well, a bit wet maybe, but not bad actually. But soon as we left Hamburg the "bit of a rain" became a real, meaning: real bad, heavy rain. It was not fun at all and somewhere on the way I even recognized that my brakes (drums of course...) didn't want to break any more. That was really exciting now because you really had to watch out long before every crossing to reduce speed properly.
Having some hot coffee to warm us up on the way to Denmark, still in Germany.
Okay, but nothing to worry about, after all, it was fun having so much water in the gloves. Trains your muscles because they're so heavy.
I had no real ambitions to take a lot of pictures this day so a final one for the first day that says a lot to people who know us. To explain it: we are this campers who really love sleeping in a tent but on this very special day we rented a cabin on a camping ground and switched on the oven in it to dry our clothes because we were wet to the skin, literally. Although we had good clothes. And this was our cosy cabin on a campingground in Køge, Denmark. It was our only night in such a cabin during the whole trip.
We took the ferry from Helsingör to Helsingborg in Sweden and the weather became better and better. We had to go north, to Bergen in Norway, but we wanted to avoid the main streets because they're no fun on an Enfield. So we found some really nice, narrow streets in the south of Sweden.
Hmmm - is the direction right?
We drove to the coast and followed the Margerite-route to the north. Nothing special to tell you, the weather was superb and the only thing I was worrying about was whether I get a sunburn or not. And I always thougth it was cold in Scandinavia. On the way we met a guy from India who is something big here in Sweden - sales manager from whatever, I don't remember, but he seemed to be very happy seeing two Enfields up here. He has one (a Bullet Machismo for the insiders) in India he said, but no driving license so he can't ride it in Sweden. Hey guys from India - do you really need no driving license? Well, to the route: just as said we went north and passed a nice little town called Fjällbacka on the Swedish coast... I knew it already because we've been there in 2003 too (but with a car and a folding kajak). So, here are the last pics from Sweden: The coast on one of our campgrounds.
Sleeping with that view - what can be better for a landsman as we are in Austria?
Love that big granite rocks!
Archipelago off the Swedish coast. Would like to sail there one day...
On one of the 100.000 ferries you need when driving on the coast... (some of them are even for free!!!)
That's a MUST: a pic with the first Elk-sign!
And finally: Fjällbacka.
Now some pictures from the stage from the Swedish-Norwegian border through Norway to Bergen. Norway is a great country, I like the people and their language. I learned Norwegian (Bokmål) for a year and I think it's a very beautiful language. You can't really curse or swear in this language because every sentence you say sounds like happy singing. I was at the North Cape some years ago and I think the best places in Norway are way up in the north of the country, but the spectacular fjords and mountains in the south are great too of course! Well, maybe I have to mention that I studied Scandinavian literature and so it's only natural that I love everything here, in the north... the people are friendly (comparing to the people in Vienna...) and more relaxed. The Norwegians have the sea, the great sea! and they have style! So, now a few pics of Norway and then I'm going to take you to ICELAND!
That needed some trail-skills but at last I was able to ride my Enfield to this beautiful place.
This sign says: without coffee Norway stands still - well, not only Norway I suppose
Bernhard doing the dish-washing.
A storm arising - just short before Stavanger.
After the Storm, near our camping ground:
And now - to make everything more exciting, I post some pics of Bergen and the ferry passage to Iceland before I start with the Iceland pictures... maybe you like these photos too... That's shortly before we arrived at Bergen (notice: it's still not raining!)
Okay, and that's Bernhard fixing something on his Enfield. Now even closer to Bergen. (Notice: it rains)
And that's the famous Bryggen in Bergen, an old quater and in former times one of the big centres of the Hansa. No rain! Wow! (I've been three times in Bergen now and had always fine weather - I wonder if the people from Bergen only tell stories to frighten tourists or so...).
This is Statsraad Lehmkuhl, a Norwegian training sailing ship from 1914.
Some food from the fish-market
And that's actually whale! I wouldn't eat it but I'm tired of the discussion either...
Waiting on the pier for the Norröna - she was a bit late, but we had time and talked to some nice guys. One of them, a man from Norway traveling to Iceland too, told us he had had a lot of oldtimer motorcycles, but now collected cars. He had a Ford from 1923 and one from 1930, a Jaguar from 1940something... he named ten different cars. Wow, what is he doing to earn his living? And he was talking to us, two dirty, smelling, oily Austrians? Really: friendly people up there...!
Ship in sight - the Norröna is arriving!
And now: on board! We didn't want the luxury of a cabin and only choose to sleep in the so-called couchettes - these are rooms with 9 beds, three on top of each other. It's okay there because you only spend you time there for sleeping and the rest of the day we were on deck, talking to others or simply having a coffee. The Norröna is quite a big and comfortable ferry - well, it has to be because it takes some time to travel from Norway to Iceland, from Iceland to Denmark or wherever you want to go. The longest that we stayed on this ship where four days I suppose when we went from Iceland via the Faroese Islands to Bergen, then the Shetlands and then to Hanstholm in Denmark - a strange route that took some time... but now the ferry needed only one and a half days until we reached Iceland, so it was a really short trip for now! Motorcycles could go onboard first.
And then - together with some gannets we left the harbour and Norway and were on the way to Iceland.
The sea was quite calm and we arrived at the Faroese Islands for a small stopover. We were there half a day and because the weather wasn't too fine we decided that we only had a walk in Tórshavn, the capital of the islands. Others all those German GS-Adventure drivers... they had long and big "To Do" list and had to check every item on their list before leaving for Iceland on afternoon - so they were really in a hurry and nearly knocked my Enfield over when they loosened their bikes. But my lady was fine. And the thing was: we've been on the Faroese Islands quite often and they aren't that exciting any more for us.... well, unfortunately we had to stop there on our trip home... but I will mention that later in this ride report. So, now a few pics from the Faroese Islands... They look like this in the morning, seen from sea.
Near Tórshavn, still from the ferry
And this is the "city" of Tórshavn, colorful, isn't it? - in front of the picture you see this red, big building... that's the Faroese parliament called Løgting, one of the eldest parliaments of the world! And there's the government too in it.
In Tórshavn there are something around 20.000 inhabitants, and 50.000 live on all of the islands. If you're interested in birding, the Faroese are surely a good place to visit. And of course the Faroese are very beautiful indeed - we had a lot of funny and fine times here... but these are other stories, we now want to go to Iceland - so back onto the ship and up to the north.
So, finally we arrived in Iceland. Maybe I have to say a few words now... Iceland is in geological terms in between Europe and America because it's origin lies in the middleoceanic ridge, a highly active volcanic region. And they are not even in between America and Europe in geological terms but I would say also in terms of their style of living - Icelandic people are Scandinavian people as long as talking about their rich and beautiful literature or language. But in terms of their style of living it's much more American than European: fast food, big cars, look at their tv or some of the music they produce... I don't say it's bad, I only observe. Iceland is different from the rest of Europe - from it's culture and from the landscape. I've been learning the Icelandic language and for me it's the most beautiful language in the world! It's an old language with a lot of old vocabulary, and although the grammar is very hard to learn you have the advantage that you have so many ways to express yourself... great! And it sounds soooo nice!!! I said the landscape is different from the rest of Europe. Yeah, that's not surprising, Iceland is really made of fire and ice and you have volcanoes and glaciers side by side. Then deep fjords and the remote highland of the island where there's a big and dark desert of stones. Then you have a wonderful waterfall just around every corner and bird cliffs that are maybe the most important in whole Europe. In Iceland, we saw wild polar foxes that came to our tent and were attacked by artic terns (wow, that hurts!). The weather can be very hard an you can have storms and snow even in August (I know what I'm talking about....) but you can have the best weather you can imagine too (meaning: 20 degrees celsius and sun). I've been there six times now and I will definitley return there with my XT 500 maybe next year, 2010. So, now let's have a look at the country. After arriving at Seyðisfjörður the only way you can go is to Egilsstaðir. The whole ferry is driving there so there's no need to hurry. Then usually you go to one of the two supermarkets and buy yourself the first Icelandic meal like Skýr or some lamb meat which is delicious there. I really miss the Icelandic food in Austria! Then we went up on street No. 1 to the north - if you want to stay on a street then this is the only way you can go anyway. Going north you pass the northeastern corner of the highland, it's cold there and the wind was blowing. Then we went to the hot mud pots of Námafjall and then to the lake Mývatn. Mý means "midge" in Icelandic... After that, we drove to Akureyri and then headed west to the Western Fjords.
A GS-rider on street No. 1.
A farm along the way.
Street No.1, also called "Hringurinn" - the ring because it goes just round the whole country.
Two Enfields on the Ring.
Another car wreck.
Okay, time for more pictures I guess! The last pics ended up in the very east of the "Hringurinn". It was a bit cold and a bit wet but sometimes even the sun was shinging and it was September so what had we expected? Then street No. 1 winds up to the branches of the eastern highland, and there the climate is rough - more than on the coast. And my fingers are damp and cold (havn't found the right gloves yet). But I manage to take some photos, and here they are:
Still some tough grass growing in this unfriendly, cold nature:
One of the treasures of Iceland is it's healthy and good tasting water. An Icelandic friend of mine you lived in Vienna for a couple of years said that this was one of the things that he really missed when he was living in Austria.
There are rainbows almost daily, sometimes almost every hour. Unreal.
The landscape becomes a desert. (We now have good weather, but I know, some years ago, we had a big sandstorm here.)
If the light is right, the sand looks really colorful.
Bernhard's Enfield looking to the west. In former times, only outlaws lived in this dark region and men from the east on their way to Reyjkavík the desert on the back of their horses.
Many travelers say, this landscape reminds them on the moon. I havn't been on the moon yet so I can't say.
Sometimes there are green spots in between.
Námaskarð - well, for the both of us, THAT'S Iceland! It's a region with a lot of such hot mud pots bubbling all the time. And the smell, the smell! Pure sulfure! Hell should smell like this.
The whole region around this stunning place is an highly active volcanic area and the mud pots are not the only thing one can visit, there is even an caldera and a region where you can walk on "nearly" fresh black and yet warm lava. Unfortunately we came to the mud pots at 9 p.m. and it was too late to visit both, Námaskarð and Krafla - Krafla is this area with most of the fresh lava. (mind that in this case you spell the 'f' from Krafla as 'b'). We decided to have a visit at the mud pots.
The bad thing was that the weather on the next day wasn't brilliant so we decided not to ride to Krafla and so I have no recent pics for you, I'm sorry - if I had known this report would be on the ERRI I would have made it there But now I hope you can enjoy the pics from the mud...
I don't know what they're called in English, but as you see there comes pure hot steam out of them. Edited: Thanks to Klay I now know the English word for them... (okay, they are called similar in German...) and thanks to vidd I even know the Portugese and Spanish word for it too: fumaroles / fumarolas. That's it!
The light was great and the ground colorful
Blue and orange mud everywhere. What do you think that black motorcycle booths look like after having a walk in here?
A volcanic crater.
Different kinds of yellow, red and orange...
And now a pic from Bernhard - that's how we spent the night. With a view to the smelling mud pots.
One more story: the summer we were up there was the summer where there were some polar bears "invading" Iceland. Due to the climate change they have to leave the mainland of Greenland to go hunting on the sheets of ice, often far away from land. And sometimes they drift away with the ice and get stranded on Iceland. There were three bears I guess that they found here that summer but all of them were shot (although they made attempts to catch them and bring them back to Greenland). However, when we arrived up there there was one still unfound and Bernhard was very, very terrified whether this bear will catch and eat us or not. So much for the "stronger sex".
Okay, the following photos were taken on our way from this mud pots to the Western Fjords. We had a small stop-over in a town called Akureyri which is the biggest town in northern Iceland with about 17.000 inhabitants. Yes, you read right. It even has its own University. It's a nice town, sorry, "city", but again I took no pics of it. (Again: if I had know you liked the report so much....) But we're here to visit the beautiful nature! So let's proceed to it.
That's just before Akureyri. I like these fjords!
And there's a famous waterfall around, called Góðafoss. It is said that one of the mighty Viking chiefs, Þorgeir, threw in the year 1000 some of his pagan statues into the water to attest that Iceland is no longer a pagan but a christian nation. Well, the Icelandic people are open-minded as it can be and although it was from now on an officially christian country, the pagan religion was still present for centuries and one could even say still is, there's now a little bit of an "revival" of this ancient religion.
If you know the band Sigur-Rós (if you don't know it: shame on you ) : they're even making music together with the pagan chief. If I don't forget I tell you something about the "magical Iceland" when I post the pictures from the Western Fjords, such stories just suit better there.
That's Góðafoss (the waterfall of the gods)
Now some more pics from the north: Just out of Akureyri.
How small this house is in front of the mountain.
And that's in Blönduós where we put up our tent at the local campingground. In this region some of the best Icelandic horses come from - maybe you know these quite little horses, but don't say "pony" to them - they (the horses and their owners) don't like that. It is said that they are somehow linked to the Mongolian horses which are a special breed too. (I search for a pic meanwhile...).
So, this night at the campingground in Blönduós was really special. We had a clear night sky with a view to the stars. I took some pictures of our Enfields and of the surroundings when I noticed that my batteries where empty. So I have to charge them I thought and observed the area for something like a socket.
What I found was a HUGE and empty but fully heated (meaning: 25°C or so) barrack where there was even a kitchen in it and tables and chairs for maybe 100 persons.
And they had a socket. I pluged in the battery charger and went out of this very hot barrack (it was actually too hot for me, I wasn't used to that any more after riding at something around 5°C the whole days).
I once again looked to the stars and suddenly I realized that there was a green band of light on the sky. Northern Lights! Great. And no battery. So I let the batteries charge for a while, hoping that the northern lights will last for some more time. They did, even when they seemed to disappear more and more. Finally I managed to take some photos.
So, the pics you're going to see are not very good and the northern light... well, I hope you can recognize them... I saw better ones some years ago but I was photographing on slides at that time... When the night comes..
And suddenly: northern lights! (Some of you might laugh because they're so little, but I was happy to see even these little ones).
And now our ride from the north of Iceland to the Snæfellsnes-peninsula.
A lot of people just pass by and don't recognize and appreciate this region. And I have to admit that we did so ourselves in former times. But this part of the country don't deserves that. For hours (on an Enfield) you drive through nothing but big, big landscapes. Through gentle valleys and over some passes. There aren't a lot of people living here and even the gas stations and the cafés are rare. Fortunately we have a cooker with us.
That's still on streen No.1 and what you see on the photo is a very typical Icelandic farmhouse. Only 1% of the fertile land of Iceland is used for growing crops, 20% are used for stock farming, mostly horses and sheep. Most of the sheep are free meaning: free. They can go wherever they want during summer and are rounded up in September then. The good thing is: Icelandic sheep and lamb-meat tastes extremely good because they feed a lot of good herbs. The bad thing: sheep are everywhere and mostly on the streets. One of them even reckoned one of our tent pegs to be a big fat blade of grass. We found it 20 metres away from our tent then. Another one once jumped out of the fog just in front of me, but as my Enfield brakes are sooo good I managed to stay on the street.
An Icelandic horse, allone on its own range. They are so tough that they can eve be let out in winter. And they never seem to freeze, even in bad weather.
Some kilometres further on up the road we decided to have a small break for lunch on this river bench.
Almost nothing there.
Going over a mountain pass.
Finally we were looking for a good place to put up our tent and found this beautiful valley in the near of Búðardalur. At 11 p.m. we went to sleep but were awaken by a big white humvee coming along the track. It were two guys from Switzerland who had rented the river for a week for fishing and they wanted to have a look at it. Yes, fishing is a great sport in Iceland...
The light was changing from minute to minute...
My Enfield and the last beams of the sun of today.
Now some pics from one of my favourite regions in Iceland, from a small peninsula with a glacier on its tip and with some wonderfuls beaches and a few bird cliffs. In between some "cities" but mostly pure nature. And the streets are better. I've now found a map on wikimedia (hopefully it's not forbidden to post it here) of this Icelandic region:
That's a picture that Bernhard took. It's me, reading a cool sign saying "Malbik endar" which means "end of tarmac". Most of the streets in Iceland have no tarmac.
We came from the north.
There are a lot of islands in the Breiðafjörður, a fjord north of the peninsula. In former times, people lived out there, but nowadays only the biggest of the islands is inhabited - and only in summer. It's called Flatey, the "flat island", and not without reason. I really don't know how many people live there, 60 maybe? But they have their own library! And it is Flatey where one of the most famous and most important Icelandic saga manuscripts , the Flateyarbók from the 14. century, comes from.
Again, wonderful landscape.
Land something between the ocean and the sky.
Different layers of clouds.
One more from the dirt road - seeing Iceland from my point of view.
Some more pictures from this bright day in the north of the peninsula. Meanwhile we had a bath in Stykkishólmur, the biggest town in the area. It has about 1000 inhabitants and is hence one of the biggest towns in Iceland outside the area around Reykjavík.
And bathing - that's a special thing in Iceland... it just belongs to Iceland. In every town or even sometimes just near the road, in the "great nothing" there's a hot pot where you can jump in and relax. In big cities such as Stykksihólmur is, there is an open air swimming bath with a big swimming pool for swimming and there are always some hot pots, often pots with different degrees each. So you can start with a "cold" pool that has 38°C, then you head for the one with 41°C and maybe you end up sitting in the one with 43°C or even 45°C. I tried the 45°C pot once and will never do that again. That's too hot for me, I'm not a lobster.
Fresh and clean we rode to the west of the peninsula and finally put up our tent in the near of Ólafsvík and enjoyed the sunset.
Farmhouse near Stykkishólmur.
Behind the many clouds is the "magical" Snæfellsnesjökull. If you want to see the glacier you have to be quick because due to our climate change it may soon disappear - as so many other glaciers.
My Enfield on our campsite ready for the night.
That's the view from our tent!
We had an evening stroll around the area.
Seemed to be farmed.
Near the waterfall you see on the picture above, there were those rocks. It's basalt.
Bernhard took the chance for a rest while I was taking photos.
Once more some photos from the small peninsula.
During our evening walk the weather was changing and storm and rain were on their way. Beside the fact that we got wet once more, the light and the mood was great. And I have to say that I even like the raindrops on the plane of the tent. As long as I'm in it.
That's something that is typical for Iceland: never trust the weather and although the sun may be shining, there can be a storm a few minutes afterwards. But at last you can hope that the sun will return soon. And sometimes she really does.
And then, next day. We rode some kilometres just around the corner to the city of Ólafsvík with its 1000 inhabitants and saw, that the clouds and rain only stayed over our camping site and in the north but now, in the south, the sun was shining.
We came from the clouds.
Just around Hellisandur you have this view to the glacier behind.
As already mentioned, this is a somehow "magical" place and most of the people that are interested in elves and trolls come here. I don't know if it's only a good story or real, but it is said that the president of Iceland himself had been ask whether he believes in elves or not. ... Remember: it's the president of Iceland. ... And what did he answer? He said: no... I'm from the western fjords. We have trolls out there.
There is even an "delegate for elves", named Erla Stefánsdóttir. Whenever there is a big project for building new streets or buildings, she is asked if there were any elves living in the stones. Then sometimes the streets are built round the stones or so. I'm not joking, you even can see such stones in between Reykjavík and Kópavógur or in Grundafjörður. The street had to be narrowed there because of such rocks.
Now some pictures of a beautiful beach at Búðir.
The small, black church in the middle of red sand and green grass.
And then we made our way down to Reykjavík for some shopping and things like that. They have good music stores there!
And a final documentary picture of the tarmac. Once more: this is TARMAC! Well, the grip is very good actually but I don't want to have an accident here - I think even leather wouldn't help you then...
To part 2 of the ride report, follow this link:
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