vrijdag 21 augustus 2015

IS2015 Day 16 & 17: Grundarfjörður & Þingvellir

With the first mission now done and dusted having made it to Látrabjarg, it was now time to think about the others.

I'd been on the look-out to taste and/or buy Hákarl up until now, but I had always failed to find anything anywhere.

Today, with me heading to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, I sought to change that. Apparently, that particular place is home to the Hákarl-HQ of Iceland.

First though, I needed to fill up for fuel.

There we go.

I had quite the drive ahead of me though - there was the option of taking a ferry across (in blue), but instead thereof I took the option of riding to Grundarfjörður (grey).

After doing about 12 kilometers I realized something horrible though. As I activated my GPS beacon, the penny dropped on an item missing from my motorcycle coat.

Namely: my wallet.

Because the pump is released the moment you have taken out your card, I always put my card back in my wallet, put the thing down somewhere to immediately start filling up.

I had put my wallet on top of the gas pump, where it still was, rightly available for anyone to pick it up. If you take a really close look, you can just make out its brown shape, just right from the post.

Having retrieved it, I realized that this had been a severely close call. My wallet contains all my means of payment... without it, I'm pretty much stranded.

I marveled at how intensely lucky I had been. For the second time this trip, mind you - first with the keys still in the ignition back in Hirtshals, now with my wallet.

The added horror this time was that if I hadn't stopped to activate my GPS beacon, I probably wouldn't have noticed.

I vowed to just put my wallet on my seat or dahsboard next time round. I mean, you WILL notice your wallet then before setting off.

Alright, time to get cracking with the riding.

Today's leg would include the final bits of gravel, and some nice fjord action.

Stopping here to take a picture of the beautiful surroundings, I thought to check the amount of profile left on the rear tire.

It was 7mm, while it had started at 11mm. I had brand new tires coming to Iceland, but now I was halfway, it became apparent the rubber was going way faster than anticipated. 

I strongly suspected this cheesegrater tarmac to be the main culprit. As you can see it has the appearance of a loose gravel road, but all the stones you see are in fact cemented into place. This extremely rough texture was just eating away the rubber like a crazy dysfunctional prostitute.

Noticing how quick the rubber was going, I sort of agreed with myself that today was to be pretty much the final gravel day. You can imagine that with less rubber to go by, there's an increased risk of punctures on rough roads - something I seriously wanted to prevent.

Iceland, meanwhile, just kept the stunningness rolling in.

I had quite a few fjords to go through today, so these sights pretty much kept on coming.

Sometimes with some extra meaty texture thrown in. Aww yeah!

The dust on this particular road was incredible. I didn't really mind all too much, right up until an Icelandic native came tearing past leaving me both blind and asthmatic.

A 15% drop this was. On a gravel road. Extra caution, yes.

It was a recurring theme; you would go down into a fjord...

...ride through it...

..after which you would climb onto the next hill overlooking the next fjord.

Not that you hear me complaining ofcourse.

Because well, look at this!

Absolutely staggering.

After a while though, I came from the fjords onto flatter terrirtory...

...so after a mapcheck...

...I was able to look ahead for miles all of a sudden.

Some of the stretches were, truth be told, a bit of a drag to ride through as they were just an endless straight, but every once in a while I'd be rewarded with another piece of amazing Windows desktopness.

Is that even a word?

In the small town of Búðardalur I pulled in for a fuel stop, and have a bit of a walk around to get the blood back in all the limbs.

The town, like most Icelandic villages with a bit of tourism going through, had a store in which they sold genuine Icelandic handcraft, made from the wool of all the countless sheep that dotted the landscape.

The owner was this old lady who knitted everything herself, and sold her goods in this little establishment. She didn't speak any English, but still offered me coffee and gave me a few sweets.

I bought something for the misses, and went back on my way.

By this point I was pretty much entering the Snæfellsnes peninsula, and with it... 

...it was also the start of the final stretch of gravel. Whooo!

As you can see, the dust made for a pretty nice Dakar experience again.

Rally special stage, whoooo! By now I had my 'motocross-turn' also down, letting the back step out a bit when I felt like it.

Sorry, I lost my train of thought for a minute.

After the dust came the mud. 

Apparently, they had just sprayed the road with water as they were resurfacing it, and big lorries were going back and forth bringing new gravel to the fresh stretch of road. The water simply prevented them kicking up so much dust it would blind the people using the roads, but as a side-effect...

...the Beast looked even more awesome than usual.

I eventually made it to the farm at Bjarnarhöfn, which, as my research of the day before had told me, was the epicentre of the production of Hákarl.

"But Greg," I hear you ask, "what in the name of Beast's mud-splattered gruesomeness is this 'Hákarl' you keep talking about?"

Hákarl, simply put, is simply rotten (the colloquial term is 'fermented') meat of the Greenland shark, which is one of the largest flesh-eating sharks there are. A couple of hundred years ago the Greenland shark used to be hunted quite extensively for its liver oil which was used as a source for lighting, but with the arrival of electricity, the hunt was slowly phased out. Currently they don't hunt the sharks at all anymore, but buy them off trawler boats that catch the sharks by accident.

Now, the Greenland shark swims in sub-zero temperatures, and to battle the cold, the shark has a natural antifreeze in its body to cope with the freezing water. This natural antifreeze is also toxic to us humans, so if we were to eat the meat raw, it could possibly be fatal. To cope with this, all the meat is first put into a big wooden crate outside, where it stays for 6 weeks. The rotting process that follows makes sure that the natural antifreeze degrades, making the flesh eadible.

After that, the slabs of shark meat are hung out to dry for 4 to 6 months (!) after which it's cut, packed and sold.

Why would anyone ever start eating something like that?

Even the Icelandics themselves didn't seem to know. The theory from the museum is that a group of men were marooned somewhere, caught a shark, and the guys eating from the meat died. The rest of the group threw the rest of the meat away, but after a few weeks they were starving that badly they ate from the rotting meat, which by then turned out to be safe.

As it is, most Icelandics tend to regard it more of a tourist lark rather than something favorable in their diet. 

I wanted to buy some myself, and lo and behold, in Stykkisholmur I quickly found what I was looking for. It's considered to be a test of your manliness to eat it, so I just HAD to try it myself.. Time to see what was what!

(the video starts with the tasting in the museum, which I deemed not bad-ass enough because there was rye-bread with it)

IS2015 - Eating Hákarl
Not once, not twice, but four times!
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Friday, August 21, 2015
Just imagine the smell of ammonia (you know, that incredibly pungently smelling stuff your mom used to clean the kitchen with), but then as a taste. That is how Hákarl tastes.

It had been another lovely day.

The next morning pretty much started where the day before had left off. The sun was omnipresent.

All the mud on the Beast had by now dried up, leaving the entire front sprayed in the same color.

One of the holes in the sump guard had even been blocked by all the mud build up. Awesome!

The day before I'd met the acquaintance of Lucas, a New Zealander who was on a hitchhiking trip down the West of Iceland. I'd shown him how my beer can stove worked, and he immediately took out his phone to shoot some pictures of it. 

On a future walking trip through New Zealand, he surely was to put the simple design to the test himself.

He inquired about what to see in the Westfjords, and then offered to take a picture of me sitting on the bike. Alright then.

Today's plan was to complete a lap of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, after which I would head South towards Reykjavik, to possibly end at Þingvellir (pr. thinfetlir - as said before, the Þ is pronounced like the 'th' in 'thin'. The 'll' in Icelandic is, much like in Welsh, pronounced like 'tl').

Then, time to move on! 

Now, I had actually taken the time to clean my visor the day before, because with all the bugs so far, the thing had become pretty much impossible to look through.

So guess what happened next?

I rode past some stagnant, fly infested waters about 5 minutes underway.


The following stretch of road illustrated quite well how the fickle the weather in Iceland could also be.

You are on one side of a mountain and everything's beautifully sunny...

...you go around the mountain...

...and there's rain in the distance.

Damn and blast.

Coming closer to Bogarnes though, the sun returned.

Pulling in for fuel, I couldn't help but notice...

...that the little bit of rain on the way had left an interesting cut into the mud buildup atop the tooltube. I guess this put an end to the debate on the Beast's gender...

Yes that was very juvenile, I apologize.

The weather had left me quite cold, so I took out the rain coat again.

I had ridden pretty much constantly with the thing just to shield myself from the icy winds, but starting in the heat of Grundarfjörður in the morning, I had not put it on yet.

Good decision as it turned out. Riding towards the tunnel North of Reykjavik, a heavy rain storm unleashed itself.

And ofcourse, that coincides with me having to pay toll too.

Oh well.

At the other side, the skies quickly cleared, and in the distance Iceland's capital revealed itself.


Now, I normally tend to stay away from cities like these. They're handy to score a country sticker, but other than that, the traffic usually makes a tour through the town a matter of unparalleled abject misery. Stop-start traffic, tons of traffic lights, stressed drivers everywhere... meh.

Time to make like a shepherd...

...and get the flock out of here.

The ddestination for the day was Þingvellir National Park. Uniquely heralded for its stunning beauty.

mind you, I had already seen a thing or two when it came to beautiful scenery.

Still, it passed for the Hekla Project Seal of Approval (TM)!

Quite nice, indeed.

The sticker I'd purchased in Reykjavik also found its rightful place. Four years of touring in 1 picture!

It had been a marvelous couple of days. Tomorrow, it was time to complete another mission, and see whether I could make it to the volcanic majesty that is Mount Hekla. I would also get a stark reminder how vulnerable I was, traveling by motorbike...

More on that tomorrow!

IS2015 Random - Day 16 & 17
Camp site malarkey!
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Friday, August 21, 2015