The land of ice and fire: camping road trip round Iceland Part 8

The blue lagoon geothermal spa in November

Image via Wikipedia

 

I’m not sure if I’m boring you with this series of posts, but I’m going to go on for a while longer yet – sorry. This is part eight in the series about my camping road trip around Iceland, we have just got to day 3. 

Previously I told you all about hubby having woken up the campsite at 2am in the morning by pressing his arm on the horn. 

We had decided that it would be wise to make an early exit and were even cheeky enough to not bother paying. To be honest we couldn’t take the shame of it, we wanted to get off and away as soon as possible.Waiting around till the campsite warden arrived at 9am while we got death threats from the surrounding campers, was not my idea of holiday fun. 

The first mission for the morning was to go to the camp store and buy a new fuel pump for our expedition mission MSR stove, but guess what? They didn’t have it in stock. Apparently it was not stocked anywhere in Iceland. Every other fuel pump and stove was, but not this one! So we had to buy a new cheapo stove and hope that the weather stayed mild – luckily it did.  

We then headed off to the much talked about Lake Myvatyn with its curious geological features and rich bird life, said to be one of Iceland’s biggest tourist areas, cited as number 5 in the list of must see places in the Rough Guide to Iceland. The first paragraph on this place in the Rough Guide passively mentions that flies can get up your nose in the summer. To me this was the under statement of the year! It’s like saying eating arsenic has mild side effects of nausea and light headedness. 

In my opinion, the people of the middle ages got it right, avoiding the ‘devils piss’ (their definition not mine) lake and its steaming surrounds. You may think that this is mildly harsh of me, given that there are some most amazing geologically features including spectacular water falls, lava swapped hamlets, remnants of a lava lake…and so the list goes on. 

Arriving at Myvatyn
We got our first taste of the place, a forced mouthful of black flies that not only jammed themselves into your gob, but also journeyed into every other orifice exposed. Up your nose, into your ears…up your clothes…horrible, horrible, horrible.  

What not to do in a sauna
After food, the first stop was Myvatyn’s equivalent of Reykjavik’s Blue Lagoon but undiscovered. It stank to high heaven of sulphur, but that is unavoidable – sulphur in Iceland equaled heat. 

After overcoming the group naked shower experience, we were free to swim and waddle around in the pools for as long as we wished. It was a quiet and peaceful place with astounding views over lake Myvatyn and no midges – yeah. The calm and tranquility was soon to be broken as we headed into the sauna. No, it’s not what you’re thinking, no mischief of that kind anyway. In the sauna it was all rather cool, in fact there was no steam.  I’d summized that the big red button on the wall by the door was obviously the on/off trigger to start the steam and persuaded hubby to press it. 

‘Are you sure?’ he asked hesitantly before pressing. 

‘Yes, go on’, I replied. 

I doubt you’re surprised, this set off the fire alarm in the whole facility.

‘Oh shit, oh shit’ I muttered as a ran out of the sauna running towards the office, as people looked up startled staring. They were not impressed. I explained that it really should have a sign on it saying that it’s an alarm. From then on, the establishment was even more quiet and tranquil, what ever crowds there had been, were cleared and for a few minutes we had the place to ourselves. 

Some quiet, midge free relaxation at last!

If you are still interested and have only just discussed this series of posts, check out the previous ones…

  • Read part 1
  • Read part 2
  • Read part 3
  • Read part 4
  • Read part 5
  • Read part 6
  • Read part 7
  • Back next week with more stories of Iceland fun.

    The land of ice and fire: camping road trip round Iceland Part 7

    Akureyri is the largest town in Iceland outsid...

    Image via Wikipedia

    More from the series on my camping road trip around Iceland. 

    So we’d done whale watching, experienced our first hot pool and still hadn’t found somewhere to eat on our second day (and it was late). Before we could catch some sleep, this day still had yet more surprises. 

    We were still stuck in the back of beyond, hungry. Where do you find something to eat in a sleepy town at 10pm on Sunday? It turns out there were two eating options on the high street opposite each other. After some lengthy debate, we opted for the Italian which turned out to be OK; surprisingly modern with giant plasma screen and chic modern yet comfortable decor. We decided over diner (pizza) that camping on the school football field was not an option; surely we could do better on the second night of our holiday? (Not sure what I’m going on about, check out the previous post in this series). 

    The conclusion was to drive back down onto Route 1 heading East onto Akureyri to pitch-up in the city campsite. This was no little jaunt; it involved another two hours or so drive. But the committed driver, was determined this was the only option. So off we trotted driving by the light of the midnight sun. 

     Onwards and eastwards
    The drive to Akuryri was relatively uneventful, and after some poor navigation by me, we found the city campsite. Stealth like, the driver (hubby) rolled the car into the middle of the campsite and relatively quickly we spotted our plot. Before leaping to our action stations, in whispered voices we planned our super fast camp set-up strategy. 

    This was until hubby blew our cover. Reaching over to the back seat to reach his coat he accidentally leant his arm on the middle of the steering wheel, which turned out to be the horn. Oh shit! That was everyone on the entire darn site woken up around us. We saw tents rustle; lights turn on, and if we were not in the confines of the car at the time, would no doubt have heard a whole lot of curses. 

    There was nothing we could do, we just had to get out, get sorted and get to sleep asap and hope that there were some forgiving residents in-house that night. 

    The next morning, well later on the same day – around 8am we got up, showered and got out of there before we got overcome by the paranoia that someone might lynch us at anytime for our rather noisey arrival.

    Day 3 at last, and we had already driven around one-quarter of the perimeter of Iceland. Come back next week to find out about our arrival at the fetid Myvatyn. 

  • Read part 1
  • Read part 2
  • Read part 3
  • Read part 4
  • Read part 5
  • Read part 6
  • The land of ice and fire: camping road trip round Iceland Part 6

    It was still only the second day of our two-week camping road trip round Iceland, and we still had no satisfactory place to sleep. But hell, we brushed the sleep issue to the side, the main reason we had come to this delightfully drab hub of the North West was to find the much talked about hot pool in the middle of know-where backing out onto the ocean. 

    Finding the hot pool
    So we set off to find it, following the scant instructions in the ‘Rough Guide’. After driving up and down various roads about five times, we discovered that we had to drive through the port area (building site), over lots of rubble (thanks for the 4WD) and up this faint track. 

    The track was said to have followed the shore round for about 25k, so we figured this was the only thing that could be it. We drove through field after field, opening and closing gates, ushering sheep and horses out-of-the-way. 

    Locals peered out of their windows, wondering why the hell some random couple was driving up this way at 9pm on Sunday night.  After what seemed like ever, because we had to drive so slowly and were so starving, we eventually got to the hot pool and it was breath-taking. There on the side of this pinnacle just a couple of feet from the rocky shore was a shallow steaming hot pool, which was about as rustic as it gets. 

    The only things in the vicinity were a few derelict old farm buildings, which no doubt in a couple of years time will become another outlet to rip off the unsuspecting tourist in the form of deluxe changing facilities, with entry gates charging a bomb to take a dip. 

    Braving the cold
    So we’d driven all this way, now it was time to brace the elements, change into the swim kit and leg-it to the warmth of the pool. This involved stripping stark bollock naked (well not for me because I’m a lady but you know what I mean) in the howling wind while standing on gravel – not the most comfortable changing experience. Once in the pool it was awesome, we looked over the sea northwards and saw the island that some famous folk law character was supposed to have swum from and nearly carked it, were it not for the thawing therapy of the hot pool. 

    Anyhow, time was getting on. We’d spent 30 minutes “chilling”, or  more accurately warming, in the pool and had succeeded in turning ourselves into prunes. So we concluded it was time to get on. 

    Getting out the pool, we realised that all this time, we had been sloshing around in the make shift hot pool, the real old one was set just behind. It turned out to be considerably smaller and slimy too. Sitting on the ledge was a hazardous experience, as you could easily slip arse over tit on the green gooie stuff, but it made for great pictures. 

    The slimey hot pool at 9.45pm on Sunday evening

     

    By this time, it had reached 10pm on Sunday and we still hadn’t eaten and we still had nowhere to sleep for the night…come back next time for the next installment. 

    p.s. double promise to tell you about hubby waking everyone one up in the middle of the night by leaning on the car horn.

    The land of ice and fire: camping road trip round Iceland Part 5

    This is another post in the series about my 13 day camping road trip around Iceland, and I’m afraid we’re still only on day two. We had done the hair-raising, simply petrifying whale watching trip and it was time to drive on to our next destination.

    It was midday by this point and we decided NOT to go back to stay at Stykissholnmer again, as outlined in plan A. Instead we were going to press onto the next destination in the North West. So the driver headed back to the lovely (not) Borganes, to join Route 1, and we continued our clockwise adventure round the island. We drove on through more bleak scenery; I can’t remember it being more memorable than that to be honest.  It was just a really long and odious drive and as usual, took longer than we thought. Plus there were very little facilities on the way. We were pretty much out of food, so had to rely on the fizzy water, a couple of bananas and a tiny bag of overpriced peanut M&M’s. By this time, hubby was tired and hungry which all equalled, grumpy. Oh joy, a nice long journey with a moody man.

    Alas, we got to our destination, Saudikrokur on the jutting out bit of the North West – not the fjords, the bit over from that. We’d heard that this was a great place to hang out and drink with the locals and was the hub of the area. Hmmm, hub my ass. Perhaps it was, but I guess not up to my usual standards. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a city slicker, I was brought up in a working class environment in the country – but to be honest, I expected more.

    The campsite was located between the school and the swimming pool on the school football field on the main road through the middle of the town. The toilets stank, like an old Icelandic woman may have died in there. The only upside was, that it was free. The bigger downside was, it was late and tomorrow was Monday morning, when all the town’s kids would be out playing on the football field in full force. Not the kind of wake-up call I had in mind.

    We concluded that this was not an option, but first we need to check out the famous wild hot pool that the Rough Guide raved about. Now that was another story, involved driving 25km along a rough track to the middle of no-where, but wow, was it worth it. I’m not going to get into that now, its longer than I think you have the patience to stand today, so next time…

  • Read part 1
  • Read part 2
  • Read part 3
  • Read part 4
  • p.s I’ve just realised I promised you in the last post, a story about hubby waking the whole campsite up by pressing his elbow on the car horn – that I promise, will come next time around. It’s taking me longer to tease this story out than I thought.

    The land of ice and fire – camping road trip round Iceland Part 4

    Day two at last…

    The next day we were up bright and early after our first night under canvass (or more accurately nylon – but I liked that phrase). Sadly there was no coffee for breakfast, because of the big boo boo with the stove…argh don’t remind me.

    So we went back to that dreadful fizzy water with some muesli and yoghurt like milk for breakie. Unfortunately yogurt comes in pretty much the same looking carton as milk – turns out, if I had managed to make the coffee it would have had to have been black anyway – yuk! I can’t say I much enjoyed my muesli mashed up with yogurt in a tin mug, hardly the high life, but it was food.
     
    We then packed up camp, squeezed it all in the car and headed onto our whale watching trip at Olafsvik. When we got there, about an hour later it was raining hard. 
     
    Again , the town was much smaller and more parochial than we had expected. This was a common theme throughout the holiday. A town to an Icelandic is more like a small village to anyone else in the Western world. So really the whole country in my mind was made up of lots of tiny hamlets, villages, perhaps a couple of towns and one city.
     

    A rather random picture taken at Olasfvik - outside the fire station.

    Whale Watching Gets Scary
    Just as the captain of the whale watching trip was about to warn us about wearing suitable clothing, he stopped himself. We both looked like the abominable snowman, nothing more needed to be said. We were more than prepared for the high seas, all clad up in thermals, our puffa jackets and water proofs. I was determined to wear the expensive waterproof trousers that hubby had insisted on me purchasing a year back, for our walking trips – which I’d hardly worn. 
     
     We alighted with the other six tourists on board this 200+ person vessel and headed off for the high seas to marvel at the marine life. We tagged onto a school (it’s not a school but called something else) of Orca whales, or better known as killer whales. It was truly, awesome. Even I, miss chatter box, was somewhat dumbfounded by the experience.

    The weather started getting real bad; it was time to turn back. The whole turning back experience was quite horrific. At the front of the boat stood hubby and I, a couple from Scotland and a few other people ogling at the sites. The boat then turned round amidst the thirty to forty foot high waves and we clung on for our dear lives on at the nose of the boat, ducking and diving. Stomach churning, feet slipping, eyes watering, and pretty much petrified. The Icelandic’s are not big on safety precautions and didn’t feel the need to warn us that they were going to turn. After that, we scrabbled back to the seats to sit out the journey while trying to hold back the instinct to chuck up our guts. By the time we returned to the harbour, riddled with a deep sense of nausea infused with fear, we were glad to be getting back to our faithful Suzuki.

    Next time find out about our next night of campsite nightmares as hubby wakes everyone up at 2am in the morning by pressing his elbow on the car horn – oops!

    The land of ice and fire – camping road trip round Iceland Part 3

     This is the third in a series of posts about my two-week camping road trip around Iceland, still on day 1. After discovering that a school had been built over the campsite we had planned to pitch up at, we drove onto Skykkisholmur to discover another problem….

    Reach our destination at last
    Eventually we rolled into the small fishing town of Skykkissholmur and quickly identified the campsite, which was pleasant enough. It had the basic facilities and it and it was back dropped by some wonderful mountain views. Rather then pitch up the tent straight away, we chose to head into town to get us some grub. This was set to be one of the best feeds of all the holiday, wonderful fresh local fish (scallops and black cod to be exact), washed down with some water. The booze was very expensive, so we gave that a miss. Before the meal, we had a good old adventure round the harbour, clambered up to the local light house and gazed out of the ocean. Now this was more like it! 

    Hubby and I sat down in quiet contemplation and ridiculed the crazy people who had said to us ‘why did you choose to go to Iceland’ – this was exactly why. Rough, harsh, unspoilt natural beauty. With our bellies and minds full to the brim, we were happy to go back to the campsite, pitch up tent, have a coffee and get some sleep. We were soon to find out that this was not going to be all that straight forward.

    Stove nightmare
    Tasks where first split; hubby was putting up the tent while I did the coffee. I got out our new Primus Firefly stove, the kind of camping stove that you could take up Mount Everest and still be able to make your brew. So I was really excited, we’d only used it once on an overnight wild camping trip on Dartmoor National Park to test and unsure that it was up to the job.

    Anyway, I’d been and washed out the tin mugs, filled my pan with water, got the milk at the ready, and put the fuel in the fuel bottle. So I was all set, steaming hot coffee here we come! But as I assembled all the pieces together, I broke out into a cold sweat, where was the fuel pump? Then I recalled about a month before after the Dartmoor trip, saying to hubby “we mustn’t forget to take the fuel pump out of the small fuel bottle and put it in the large fuel bottle we are taking to Iceland”. Sadly that thought had only come back to me then. Our £125 stove bought specially for Iceland was reduced to a useful pile of metal, no good to no one. So I relented and gave up, we were going to have to find a camping store tomorrow and see if they stocked our fuel pump.

    24 hour day light
    It had been an exhausting day, so off we went to bed at about 10.30pm and it was still light as day. Woke up again for the toilet run at about 3.30pm and it was still light (no chance to duck down and pee behind a bush). The sky was streaked within an amazing sun rise, hanging low in the sky over the other side of the abstract nordic white-painted church. The mass camp of partying kids were still wide awake smoking spliffs and larking around, and we just looked on remembering when we were their age. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not old, but we’ve gone past the ever lasting nights of binge drinking and experimental drug taking.

    Next time, I’ll at last I’ll be able to tell you about day 2 and our hair-raising whale watching trip.

    The land of ice and fire – camping road trip round Iceland Part 2

    This is the second installment about my two-week camping road trip around Iceland. Where was the campsite the Rough Guide promised us?!

    Leaving Reykjavik
    From Route 1 we set off through some mountainous type countryside, drove through a deep dark tunnel for a good few kilometres and came out the other end heading towards what was intended to be our first night of camping in Iceland in a township type place called Borganes. Before locating the campsite was decided to go and discover the local swimming pool which was reported to have good facilities, and the reports turned out to be correct; some good out-door pools and couple of flooms for the kids (including the big kids – hubby and I) and three hot pools of varying temperatures. It was all a bit strange bathing in hot pools in the pouring rain, but the Icelanders seemed totally unperturbed. After an hour or so, we’d pretty much had our fill for the day of hot pooling, so went off to shower in the communal nakedness and depart to seek out the Borganes camp site.

    Picture taken from Nordic Adventure Travel website

    Where is the campsite?
    While the Driver caught some Zzz, I headed off on foot to ask the petrol station people were to find the campsite. After asking half of the town, it was later reveled that there was no campsite, they’d built a school over it. But we could camp on a bit of grass by the road. Hum, nice site – not. Stuff the kids of the ice, where were our toilets and shower block? What about running water?

    Then add to this, as I went to stock up on food and drink from the shop I found out that you couldn’t even buy normal bottled water in the supermarket. It was plain bubbles or bubbles with lemon – guarenteed to make us burp like troopers for the next 13 days. I tentatively paced back to the car, and woke the grumpy driver, then broke the bad news. Driver was already tierd and grumpy, this was not going to help matters at all! Neither of us dared say it at the time, but we were both thinking it – was this set to be the tone of our annual holiday that we been planning months for?

    Time for plan B
    “Darn it we said, we’re not staying here” and set off to drive onwards up Route 1 (you will always hear me refering to Route 1, as that is the main road that circles the island). Onto the quickly drawn up plan B, head straight on to Stykkisholmur, which we had originally intended to stay the next night. The drive from Borganes to Skykkisholmur through the mountains of the western peninsula was truly awesome. The landscape was Icelandic harshness at some of its most beautiful. The land was dominated by blacks, reds and oranges of aged volcanoes and mountains – now this was more like it!

    Day 1’s adventures do not stop here, find out about the evening at Stykkisholmur, next time in the series of posts about the land of ice and fire.