donderdag 20 augustus 2015

IS2015 Day 14 & 15: Ísafjörður & Látrabjarg

Waking up in Hólmavik it dawned on me that the westernmost point was now getting closer by the day. The day before, I had spoken to my neighbors, who turned out to be a Dutch couple. The man in question was in fact a mayor and honorary Icelandic consul, and he had traveled Iceland by bike pretty often.

He didn't do that anymore though, because of a bad back. He seemed a bit held-back at first, but the minute I started talking bikes and my map came out, his face lit up and he became a litany of suggestions and anecdotes.

I always find it marvelous to see someone's passion seep through like that... just goes to show that we're all human with each our own heartfelt idiosyncrasies.

The plan was to ride to Ísafjörður today, do Patreksfjörður the day after and then Látrabjarg, bringing a conclusion to  a journey of 4 years.

This morning however, I had other matters to attend to. Apparently, Icelandic camp sites work on a different basis from the ones I was used to. 

Usually, you pull up at the entrance, pay, after which you can just find yourself a spot and leave first thing in the morning.

In Iceland (and the Faroer too, in hindsight) things are noticeably different. Effectively, you can just ride onto the camp site, pitch your tent, and in the evening someone will check whether your tent has got a label on it that you have paid.

If you don't have such a label, you get something like this. However, I had already paid upon arrival, but the receptionist had apparently lacked to give me a tent label.

I walked over to the reception desk to resolve the matter, and the answer was typical for the Icelandic mellowness. "If you have already paid then that's OK".

AAAAAAAAAAAAAllrighty then. Let's go!

Just minutes underway, and the Westfjords just continued where they'd stopped the day before.

Mountain passes...

...going into a fjord...

...going out of a fjord...

That pretty much set the tone for the road to Ísafjörður. Going into the fjords is always amazing, but it's just such a drag to then have ride all the way out of them again.

I really liked the petrol pumps in this neck of the woods though. The tank wasn't even in the ground anymore - it was just a tank of gas and diesel, with one pump and an ATM at the side of it.

The system of filling up is also a bit left-field. You don't just fill up and pay for the amount you've used like on the continent - you stick in your card, enter the amount of money you want to spend, after which the pump is released and you can fill up for the amount you specified.

In turn, this requires for you to know your own mileage, and the petrol prices. With the Beast doing about 1L per 22km and petrol being 220 ISK the liter (there's 147 ISK to the Euro), I always just took the amount of kilometers ridden, multiplied it by 10 and added 100 ISK to be sure. This seemed to do the trick.

After that, more fjords! Ofcourse, I can show you lots of pics like this, but here's a bit of footage:

IS2015 - A Road 61 Fjord
Somewhere in the Westfjords, on the road to Ísafjörður
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Thursday, August 20, 2015

Before long though, I found myself in Ísafjörður - the biggest city in the Westfjords with a population of about 4,000.

I was too early for my room to be ready, so...

...I went into town to learn more about the Icelandic world of milk. Sunshine tends to be quite scarce this far North in winter, and as sunshine is a natural source for your body to make Vitamin D, I wasn't particularly surprised to find this particular kind stocked in the local supermarket.

I still hadn't found any Hákarl yet though. These pills were as close as I could get.

The supermarket parking lot proved to be a source of entertainment once again, by the way.

Just look at that monster. Helmet for scale.

At the start of the evening I got a message from Giuseppe. Apparently he had ridden to Ísafjörður all the way from Akureyri, and he was now enjoying the last sunshine in the nearby port. 

I joined him, and we talked about the coming days; his goal was to make it to the ferry to Stykkishólmur the next day. This meant he was probably going by Látrabjarg tomorrow as well, and we agreed that, with me probably riding to Patreksfjörður tomorrow and going to Látrabjarg the day after, he would inform me on how the condition of the road leading there was.


The next day, Beast was raring to go.

Time for Patreksfjörður!

This particular leg, or so I had spotted on the map, was going to be quite interesting. Let me talk you through it, using the map below:

The road leading up to Þingeyri (pr. thinguhruh - the Þ is pronounced like the 'th' in 'thin') was all tarmac, but right after, it would be gravel all the way to Bildudalur. 

In other words: today was going to be a proper gravel stage. Hellsyeah!

After traversing a tunnel...

I seemed to find myself in paradise.

I mean, just look at it!

Pictures like this don't need commentary.

I'm just going to do something else for a change.

Like polishing my boots.

Ah, here we are.  Þingeyri.

I took a turn left, and...

...immediately the show began!

Now where did I leave my boot polish...

...euhm...hold on...

Ack I'll just buy some new boots. Where was I?

Oh yes. At some point, you'll have to climb up the fjord, so before long... find yourself able to make some snowballs.

I thought it would probably be awesome to tape the next bit coming up and well... you be the judge.

IS2015 - A Road 60 mountain pass
In the Westfjords, heading South from Þingeyri
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ofcourse, that was not all.

Because the pretty pictures just kept... on... coming.

Like I said.

Only these guys resurfacing a stretch of road were able to momentarily pause the incessant onslaught of bewildering Icelandic awesomeness.

Because afterwards, things just continued as usual.

The amazing bit about this road is that it leads you on top of the fjords, so instead of riding at the water level like you normally do, you find yourself staring into the fjord's abyss.

Like here, for example.

Almost there now, brother.

Did someone say 'abyss'?

Soon enough I passed Bildudalur, and rode the final stretch of tarmac towards Patreksfjörður.

I had already spotted on my map that that particular town would be the final stop for petrol until Látrabjarg, so I took the opportunity to top up.

I also spotted that my boots were in need of polishing (ha, what a coincidence!).

By this point, Giuseppe had already reached Látrabjarg, and had messaged me on the road's conditions. He said it was rough, and not to be recommended whilst it was raining.

In other words, I was to make hay whilst the sun shone. The weather was good, I wasn't tired, and coupled with Patreksfjörður not being particularly interesting I chose to go to Látrabjarg right away, one day earlier than previously anticipated.

Riding towards the final junction with the single road leading there, it suddenly hit me though: I was about to complete something I had been working on for four years. 

I had traversed 25 countries on a motorcycle by myself, made it to both countries I'd always wanted to see in the process, and now I was finally going to fulfill the promise to an old, long gone friend. It would not just be the end of a chapter, it would be the end of a book... a book I'd started writing when I just got my license in 2011.

Now, I'm not going to lie to you. Even as a grown man in the end of his 20s, I was sobbing my eyes out.

This must be what closure felt like, I reckoned.

At the same junction I also found this brilliant sign, warning people that for the next 46km (or 92 effectively, since you have to take the same road back) there was no petrol station.

It reminded me of the LAST GAS STATION one I'd seen on my way to Tenaron 2 years prior.

On my map the entire road was labeled as 'unsurfaced' (the final 7 km were even dubbed 'path'), so you can imagine my surprise...

...when the tarmac just seemed to continue.

Ofcourse, it stopped after 3 kilometers.

Eventually, seeing the road slowly degrading, I let the camera roll. Here's the last 17 minutes - I wanted to post more, but Facebook restricts video size...

IS2015 - The final miles to Látrabjarg
Riding towards the westernmost point!
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Thursday, August 20, 2015

It felt surreal, just being there. I'd seen Giuseppe's bike upon entering the parking lot, and upon me doing my usual flag posing thing, he came out to greet me. Knowing why I was there, he pointed me to a spot at the other side of the light house, away from the bird cliffs, as that was a place where none of the tourists went.

I put the bike on the parking lot, and went out to find a good spot. Eventually I sat down the edge of the cliff, opened the canister, and scattered the grave's earth.

Enjoy the view, old friend.

Together with Giuseppe I rode the same road back again. Before we left though, I was greeted by a Dutch couple in a campervan, who'd seen our licenseplates and were amazed that people actually rode all the way there on motorbikes.

I guess you have to be a little mental for that, yes. Giuseppe and I left half an hour later, but still, after about 10 km I came tearing past them with a dust cloud in my wake. Dakar baby, whooo!

It had been awesome riding this road. It was a whole different, and yet strangely satisfying piece of manhandling that it required, and I kind of like that sort of thing.

Giuseppe's plan was to camp on a beach close by, whilst I was to continue a bit further on. Once again, we agreed to keep in touch should the South of Iceland have some interesting challenges.

Always a pleasure Giu!

I eventually pulled into a guesthouse near Flokalundur.

What a day this had been.

I still needed to find Hákarl though. After some research, I found out that the peninsula I was to drive to the next day was Hákarl-HQ... so time to do the test of manliness and eat shark!

You'll see how that went tomorrow.

IS2015 Random - Day 14 & 15
Coming full circle!
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Thursday, August 20, 2015