Iceland & the Faroe Islands

According to our five-year plan, we were about to go to Scotland in the summer of 2011. But plans are made to be changed. So we chose to reschedule everything and went to Iceland with a short stopover at the Faroe Islands.

It’s beginning to look like a tendency that we always travels the countrys with bad weather forecasts – it is absolutely not our intention, but we are for sure pleased with our long woolens…

We started and ended our journey separated. I took off before the rest of the family and got the Land Rover and the trailer on the ferry from  Smyril-line. The award for that was a short stopover in the Faroe Islands – a place the rest of the “crew” absolutely deserves to visit some time.

Our big kids took off in the second rush and went to a scouts camp at Pingvallavatn. And at last Rose and Lene flew to Reykjavík where I met them.  By that simple arrangement Rose, Lene and I spent a week alone in the southern part of Iceland before we started the big overlanding trip the way we do it best – all together as a family!

Onboard bike building

Thirty hours is a long time being captured on a ferry on the North Atlantic Ocean. Luckily I was prepared and had brought a good book- in fact it was so good that I almost missed to see the Shetland islands when we passed right through them.

Thirty hours also means that you have to sleep – in order to save a dime- I chose a four person cabin, and then it’s a little exiting with whom you have to share the bunk beds. I was lucky to share the cabin with Henrik, a jutlandish immigrant from the Faroe Islands and his son with the cool first name; “Boas” – the same as our last name.

Henrik and Boas had bought a bike in Denmark and since we had plenty of time, we decided it was a splendid idea to sample it in the small cabin, which already was a bit crowded before we fitted the bike in it. But we had great fun, it was a perfect way to spend a few hours and a great way to meet new people. We borrowed tools from the ships electrician and the whole thing reminded me of my old schoolteacher who build a boat in his basement and had to tear down a wall to get it launched.

The Faroe Islands offeret me amazing scenery. The ferry arrived late sunday evening, so it was around 00:30 before I hit the sack in the rooftent in 6 degrees Celsius in Torshavn.

After a good nights sleep and a quick breakfast I headed out to explore the islands. First stop was Saksun, where I wanted to hike in the beautiful landscape. Well, I didn’t go directly to Saksun, but only because our gps didn’t have any knowledge about the existence of the Faroe Islands and I was way to stingy to buy a roadmap of a country that only possess 450 km roads. I mean, just how hard could it be to get an overall picture of that?  And not to mention a great part of the roads are even roofed by all the fine tunnels that has been build over the years.

Instead I accidentally ended in the tiny village Tjørnvik. Those who have local knowledge or has spend the money and bought a roadmap can easily see exactly where I missed the left turn, since there are only one way to do it. By the way I already had Tjørnvik on my bucket list  – I just didn’t know I had time to see it all…

Luckily the days are long so far north, so I managed to fit both Tjørnvik and Saksun into the plan and both places was exactly as beautiful as one would expect.

The night was spend on the quay in Selatrad, at Jacobs place. Jacob was a really nice elderly guy, with whom you could sit for hours talking about the local clincherbuild boats and EU fishing quotes.

Again it was a late night before I came to hit the sack – but because of the long days and short nights I still had just enough light to read a chapter in the book about the Icelandic economic expansionwikings who nearly ruined Iceland. I got the book from Henrik and Boas on the ferry. The copy is signed by the writer; Einer Mar Gudmonsson, so I’m very happy with it.

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Second day I spent sightseeing the islands Streymoy and Eysturoy ending in Vestmanna, taking a boat to the bird cliffs that rises straight out of the ocean- an absolutely amazing sight. The weather was calm and the boat could sail between the eroded cliffs, so close we could reach them with our hands.

The last day I packed the car, checked it in the ferry terminal and parked it on the harbor. With the car securely parked I went sightseeing in the “bustling” capital, Torshavn. I guess Torshavn is the worlds smallest capital with it’s 19.000 inhabitants, but it’s really the perfect size for my temperament. It’s small and cozy but still it has some of the international atmosphere like any other capital. Just my kind of a city.

A Saga blot (a thing of the past)

Even before I left Torshavn, Iceland reveled itself and made it clear that driving there was going to be great fun. When I checked in on the ferry I was told that the main road (1) around Iceland was closed due to a bridge that was washed away by enormous masses of water released by vulcanic activities under the Myrdalsjökul glacier.

Because of that, the drive down to meet Lukas, Linnea  and the rest of the scouts offered me the most incredible driving trough terrain ever imaginable.

I believe I came through all possible sorts of terrain; dessert, mountains, deep rivers – and I know for sure that I had to use all possible gears, to get through it.

The drive was mainly on the F210, witch is just characterized as a trail on the roadmap, and literally was invisible on several stretches. Both car and trailer had a thorough wash when wading through the streaming rivers, where I had all 6 wheels initially covered by water at the same time. Pretty lucky I had most of the doors and lockers closed watertight, or should I say; as watertight as possible in a Land Rover. Good thing about the design is it’s so leaky, that what comes in it also comes out again. That even counts for small animals…

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My left wiper arm went for a journey of its own – suddenly it disappeared from the windshield and tried to sneak off. A little annoying while driving on a muddy dirt road with a 17% slope, in dense fog with only 50 meters sight. But one of Land Rovers many strengths is its capability to keep on going, and I simply replaced the right arm to the left side, and ones again I had the mighty 50 meter sight.

Despite my rough driving route I arrived as the first to the scout camp and had time to make myself lampchops and get a power nap in the rooftent before everybodyelse got there. While I had the nap the entire campsite was blown apart in a storm. It only lasted for a few minutes but it did make a lot of damage- glad our equipment again and again shows to be so strong and reliable.

Later in the evening when Lukas and Linnea arrived we lighted the car from all the tents, scoutsgear and other supplies needed for 25 people in a week I had carried for them.

Sunday I picked up Rose and Lene at the airport in Keflavik. Before that I had pitched the tent in Grindavik, so they didn’t have to think about that after there journey with the European version of CongoAirlines – IcelandExpress. They couldn’t complain about the service because there weren’t any. And to top it all, the train in Denmark was delayed, so even though it was just a short flight it all ended pretty stressful.

Monday, we spend the entire day in the blue lagoon. It’s kind of a must see place, but the price is close to robbery at bright daylight – or bright night light for that matter, since it doesn’t ever get really dark at night this far north. The blue lagoon is a cool place and it’s totally understandable that there are so many tourists.

The plan was to go to Geysier to spend the night, and then pay the Strokkur-geyser, the Gullfoss waterfall and Pingvellir a visit the day after, but then the all-alone-wiper-arm also decided to leave us. It seems like every journey needs to have its own car issue.

Expect the unexpected, and make your plans out of it! Vi vent back to Reykjavík for a short stopover- and went for the ever traditional Land Rover Garage hunt. Land Rover should consider to have a sign saying; “please, can you tell me where to find a garage?” It should be in all known languages, and be a part of the owners manual. Its; “Hvar finn ég verkstæði? in Icelandic and ”Donde esta una repuesto de Land Rover, por favor”? In Spanish, just in case anyone needs it!

The lesson learned from all this is, that we don’t define the stories, it’s the stories that defines us. And eventually we’ll all just be a thing of the past, but the stories will always remain.

Reunion

We only got one new arm for the wiper, so we decided to do the rock/scissor/paper-thing to pick which side to put it. Pretty lucky it ended in the driver side, but that is not to know when you base such important decisions on simple statistics. Actually we didn’t even use the wipers ones on the rest of the tour since we had brilliant weather. I bet it would have rained if we were without the wipers- not that I’m superstitious…

The golden circle got marked on the bucket list. We was hiking at Pingvellir, carrying Rose in our backpack, we admired Gullfoss, Sellfoss and a third foss. We slept right beside the geysers at Geysier. The golden circle is a great experience, but somehow the true Iceland doesn’t start for real before you get out of the circle.

Our tour took us via the scenic F208 and Landmannlauger, from Geysier to Kirkjubæraklostur, from where we headed east to Jökullsarlon, where Vatnajökull calved icebergs into the lagoon to have a break and melt a little before they continued their journey out in the Atlantic Ocean. Our journey continued to Skaftafell, where we went hiking.

Canned outdoor living

At last the entire family was united, and we could head out seeking adventures in the  phenomenal Icelandic highland. But first we started very low key at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Selfoss. We have only been at KFC once before- in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia 19 years ago. Couldn’t really say had I missed it, and it was absolutely not a big culinary experience, neither time.

We traversed Iceland via the Sprengisandur-route (F26). That’s what Iceland is really about. Enormous plateaus with barren landscape, stonedesserts and gigantic lavafields. Sometimes we passed small  oases around a lake, but al living was limited to moss, grass and tiny flowers with a strong urge to survive. After approximately 300 km with a lot of river crossings we arrived at Myvatn happy and pretty warn out.

Myvatn is a lake that, like rest of Iceland, grows. It lays right between the North American and the European tectonic plate, and grows approximately 2cm a year. The (w)hole area is characterized by the geothermal activity.  There are lava pillars and pseudocraters, boiling mudholes and a thermal bath that easily measures the blue lagoon, but only cost a bargain to visit.

The drive from Myvatn to Husavik was on tarmac around the Tjörnes-peninsula and through an area created by a major earthquake in 1976. Must say you step on young ground, when it’s younger than yourself.

Husavik is a smash hit. A super cozy little village, with an extraordinary good view over a line of mountains covered with snow all year round. We ate at a fishrestaurant before we sailed out on the fjord to watch minky-whales. After that we went to visit the whale museum. We left the decision to the kids  – they could choose between whales or the local penis museum. Wasn’t a hard pick though.

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Next stop Akureiri, the largest city on northern Iceland. Very nice city with a wonderful botanical garden. City life equals café life, so we went for coffee and cake and enjoyed living. And after a lot of cake eating we took a very needed walk to the botanical garden.

We were really happy about seeing the minky whales in Husavik, but to be honest the minkies is kind of a boring animal with a very bad breath.

It does sound pretty spoiled, but we have seen sperm whales in New Zealand and an incredible variety of marine animals in Patagonia. And the whaling tours in Husavik has become a big business and therefore a little to crowded. So we decided to go to Dalvik. Dalvik is a tiny village in the neighboring fjord. From there we sailed out on the most fantastic experience. There were only 12 persons on the boat. The humpback whales was just lying there waiting for us, splashing with their fins and tails. On the way back to harbor we did some fishing, catching coalfish, cod, haddock, catfish and some different flatfish. We made the cath ready to eat before we docked, while having the seagulls flying around hoping to get there share. Everything- except the seagulls- was grilled right on the dock and tasted absolutely great.

The un-art of making a camp

There are good erections and there are bad erections. The one we made at the campsite in Varmahlid  is by far the worst erecting of a tent we ever made. We had to move the trailer half way through it, simply because we were conflicting with one of Icelands seldom trees. The tree was even standing pretty alone with plenty of space around it. And of course we had the nicest little audience to witness our missing skills. Dammit..!

All those times we just swoop in and pitch the tent faster than anyone can say “wonder how many kids they have, since they need such a big camp?”.

well, nothing ruined – besides my honor…

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Except the bad camppitching we had a wonderful visit in the area around Skagafjördur. Lene, Lukas and Linnea went horseback riding into the Icelandic outback. Rose went horseback riding to, but only around the farm. Normally the Icelandic horses does the tölt –  sort of their  fith gear or something similar and it’s supposed to be rather comfortable for the riders – but the one horse Lukas rode didn’t have that feature, so he was pretty much wasted when he got off again. With Lukas’ sore bum and miles after miles on gravel roads he wasn’t to pleased. And next time he wants to deal with a horse, it has to be in the combination with a barbecue.

Last night in the valley we spend in the hot springs at Grettislaug, with the beautiful view over the Drangey-island. An island so inhospitable, that it was only partly blessed by Bishop Gudmundur – “the evil needs a place to stay to”, as he said!

Return to start

The bad thing about short journeys is that they are to short. The long journeys also turns to be to short, but only that happens later. Our planning, or lack of planning, again had to deal with all the things and places we didn’t get to see. By experience we know that we are not able to see everything, and we therefore have to make priorities all the time. Actually it tends to be a good feeling, because we always have a lot of places to revisit to see all the things we missed the first time.

We agreed that the parts of Iceland we didn’t get to see basically had to be the northeastern and the northwestern corners. The northeastern corner is easy accessible from where Smyrilline arrives in Seyðisfjørður. The northwestern corner is accessible by car from Reykjavík. So we focused on the not so accessible highland and traversed it ones more. This time we did the Kjölur-route, which compared to Sprengisandur nearly felt like a highway – a gravel one though. But it happens to be more scenic and very windy!

Now we could add a leaking main clutch-cylinder to the logbook of the car. That meant I had to double clutch in every gearshift. Pretty annoying on bad roads and when driving in mountainous terrain.

Our second last camp was, ones more, in Geysier. That way we closed the ring and returned to start, and it was right on the way to Snæfjellnæs and Reykjavik.

Lene, Lukas, Linnea and Rose checked in to a nice little hotel in Reykjavik, made their credit cards ready for action, and enjoyed themselves with shopping, sightseeing and puffin/whale watching in and around the charming capital before they flew back to Denmark.

I took the 700 km drive to Seydisfjördur and sailed back to Denmark – in a shared 6 persons cabin on “third class” down in the bottom of the ship. The cheapest place possible on board and where you are to be rescued the latest – and only if there still are capacity in the remaining lifeboats…