Well 11 days for me, and not quite from start to finish! It
was a long haul to get to Reykjavic, we left Albany in the
morning on the 5th June and arrived in Reykjavic at one thirty
in the early morning on the 7th.
The first sight of Iceland from the aircraft was enough to jolt
us from our travel-weary frame of mind... it was one o’clock in
the morning and through the window we could see a
spectacular sunset, and that was the darkest it was to get!
We had three days to acclimatize before we left on the bike
tour, which we used to sight-see around the city and visit Blue
Day one was meet ‘n greet for dinner at a waterfront
restaurant, then the following afternoon we were to meet to
attend to the motor bike hire paperwork and have a
familiarization ride. The familiarization ride was postponed due
to the torrential downpour.
The next morning we were up and early, bags packed in the hotel foyer, and awaiting transport to the bikes, which were at the aptly named Viking Biking Motorbike shop.
The first day of the bike trip saw a group of 17 bikes and 23
people riding on the right hand side of the road, leaving
Reykjavic on BMW motor bikes: GS 650, GS 800 and GS
1200’s. A red van was the back-up and tail-end Charlie.
The first stop was a geo-thermal power station, quite amazing and explained why there were steam outlets throughout Reykjavic on the pavements! Iceland is powered by thermal power, no other heating necessary.
Then we rode on to the first waterfall, Skogafoss, which was
suitably impressive. People were behind the fall of the water
and standing on top of the cliff from which it fell. We
continued along the coast to our hotel for the night, and the
mantra for turning corners was “right is right”, as a few had
drifted to the left of the road.
The next morning we were up early, breakfasted and had the
first of many pre-ride meetings around the bikes to discuss the
days riding itinerary. After gearing up we left the hotel and
continued along the coast, riding across new lava fields (from
Eyjafjallajkull erupting in 2010), past black glaciers, and
catching glimpses of sun shining off Europe’s largest glacier,
The temperature dropped to 5 degrees as we rode across the bridge to a glacier lagoon filled with floating icebergs which had broken from the main glacier. Lunch was a very welcome bowl of warming mushroom soup, we didn’t realize at the time, but this was to become something we looked forward to on those wet and chilly days.
On to Hofn, through more lava fields, breathtaking scenery and
single lane bridges which had a substantial span, where you
judged the distance you and the oncoming car were from the
bridge, he or she who arrived first had right of way! We spent
the night at Hofn, which is a picturesque fishing village, with
a restaurant which served lobster pizzas!
The next day saw us coast-hopping, the fjord glassy and the
clarity of the air startling. We headed inland, going through
mountain tunnels, when we popped out the first tunnel, a herd of
reindeer were on the slope of the mountain (tick from the bucket
list), we went through 2 more tunnels the longest being 7
kilometres, they were one way, and when you saw headlights
appearing you pulled off to the side, after the second tunnel we
past another reindeer herd (tick again).
We continued to a fishing village for refueling and a coffee
break, one of the fastest riders amongst us had a police car
following him into town and as he said... it was one of the few
times he actually rode within the speed limit! We were witness
to the event!
At the morning briefing we were told there was going to be some
dirt riding, not only was there dirt riding to come, but a
narrow, winding muddy road which took us across a snowy
pass with visibility only metres in front due to the mist. When
we reached the summit we stopped and made the most of the photo
opportunity in the first snow we had seen on the trip!
It was very eerie in the mist and mud, and the most demanding riding we had done. It was time to ride on (the red van had caught up to us) and all too soon emerged from the misty gloom into what seemed like another world, a snowy pass with a blue sky and bright sunshine. We gradually descended from the mountain, the muddy road morphed into bitumen and few of us could resist scooting around the gentle curves with blue artic lupins in flower on the verge, past green farmland dotted with groups of white farm buildings with red or blue roofs, plus the accompanying church.
After lunch (Subway, Icelandic of course!) we continued north.
We had been warned by people we met in Reykjavic, that the
mountain passes channel the winds, and we needed to be cautious.
As we are from the Great Southern we are used to winds, we
reassured ourselves. We rode through scenic mountain passes, on
roads again with sweeping curves, our bikes at an angle and
riding into a constant and relentless wind from the passes on
our left! When will the wind cease?
Finally we were through the passes and found ourselves “on top of the world”, what a view! Blue skies, white glacial ice, rivers passing under ice tunnels tumbling downhill, all my dreams and ideas of Iceland in one scene.
We followed the road and came to a T junction with one of our party sitting on his bike pondering which way to turn, we consulted the map and off we went to Vopnafjordur, a fishing village with a great little café which had table and chairs in the sun, served tea and scones and the coldest beer we had on the trip. A bonding session with those riders who ventured forth was underway.
Next day we continued north, along the coast and through
farmlands, expecting some dirt riding through along the way. We
were wary of the sheep grazing along the road verge, taking care
to miss those who made the decision to dash across, one didn’t
make it unscathed.
The road then became bitumen with sweeping bends and fantastic
coastline scenery, of course we had to stop at the end of the
section and marvel at the perfect riding road. We continued
north with some of the group travelling gravel roads to the most
northern point of Iceland, others were worried about their fuel
level so continued on to the next roadhouse for coffee and fuel.
Unfortunately one couple had a bit of a wait (an hour) by the
side of the road until they could be refueled.
Leaving the roadhouse after a break saw us detouring to a
grotto with an amazing amount of bird life, then on to Husavik,
where we could have lunch, go whale watching if we wished or
travel onto Lake Myvatn, where we were staying overnight.
We chose to join the group that went whale watching, motoring
deep into the harbor we saw dolphins, Minke whales and a
Humpback whale put on a show breaching. The tidal flow made the
demarcation of the ocean and the harbor waters vary, and a large
number of sea birds feeding were noisily with dolphins and Minke
whales popping up amongst them.
It was quite late, though still light (of course) when we
returned to shore and we still had a distance to travel so we
made our way to Lake Myvatn. We arrived in a cloud of midges,
for which the lake is named, they got everywhere!
Next morning we were quite eager to leave and escape the intrusive midges, we headed out of town, stopping to see boiling sulphurous mud pools on the way to see what is considered the most powerful waterfall in Europe: Dettifoss. To get to Dettifoss we navigated a gravel road which one pillion passenger thought was too much of a challenge for her, and she opted to take the “red van” until we were again on bitumen. Dettifoss is a magnificent waterfall; however what amazed us was the lack of safety railing, so we could walk to the edge of the waterfall, fantastic for great photographs.
Then it was back to Lake Myvatn for lunch and refueling, some
of us gave our bikes a token wash, so the brake lights could be
seen. Then it was back onto the highway taking the picturesque
route zigzagging along, around and over fjords to Akureyri.
You had to slow down to take in the magnificent view, those who
had a pillion passenger were able to take photos on the move.
The traffic had increased the closer we got to Akureyri, which
is a sizeable town where we were to spend our rest day, once we
found our elusive hotel that is. The locals watched as bikes
circled the roads, until the target was found. At the hotel the
next challenge was to park 17 bikes in an area in the front of
the hotel which was a tight fit to say the least!
It was discovered the entertainment that night was cars
“drifting” at the top of the hill in town, some made the walk
up, others wandered into town to find the ice cream shop and
comment on the cars doing the loop around the town square – a
variation on doing Yorkies.
The next day we visited the Motorbike Museum in Akureyri, a collection of motorbikes representing the history of motorbikes in Iceland; it held the collection of a well known Icelandic motorbike enthusiast who had died in an accident 2 years prior to the opening of the museum and had Benelli, Moto Guzzi, Honda, Norton and more. Well worth the visit.
To the disbelief of our Icelandic tour guide Grant and I had
organized to swap our motorized mounts for the four legged kind
and go on a horse ride in the afternoon. I was keen on riding an
Iceland horse as they are known for their fifth gait, called a
tolt. We were picked up from our hotel and taken to the farm,
there were horses everywhere. The ride was along a path beside
the fjord, and looping back to the farmhouse, with the
opportunity to canter and then experience the tolt.
It was the summer school holidays so our guides were the
farmers two daughters, very informative young ladies sharing
stories of life on a farm in Iceland. The next morning we turn
westward and travel through rolling green hills, dotted with
herds of horses, scooting along at a good speed, stopping at a
road house for lunch and to refuel, before going further west to
stay the night at an isolated, but still very comfortable hotel
at the entrance to the Westfjords.
We enter the Westfjords, and travel along the coastline of the
fjords. We stop to investigate fishermen’s sheds, built into the
hill with sod covering the roof. At one well-kept shed the door
is open, with fillets strung across the opening, drying. Lying
in the grass is the ugliest fish head ever seen. I won’t include
the photo ugh!
Continuing on towards Holmavik we cross high mountain passes
where water is pouring out of the grassy and mossy mountain side
to the large drains by the side of the road. We skirt the
fjords, many decide to continue on to the farm stay where we
stay the night, others, well 3 of us, decide to venture further
and take the longer route. It was a decision well made, what
We stopped just past a farmhouse with a yappy dog, sat on the
sweet smelling hay bales, picked up discarded sheep wool with
clumps of lanolin in it, (good to clean our dusty boots) then
wended our way to Heydalur, the farm stay, past flocks of geese
and derelict boats by the water. As we were riding into Heydalur
arms were waving from a steaming outdoor hot water tub, the
others had settled in well, and it was a great way to chase out
The farmers had a tiny dark grey arctic fox in a box by their back door, very cute, if a little smelly. The mother was no longer around. Six weeks later a photo was posted on face book and the little fox was quite a big fox, still dark grey and cute!
Before we leave Heydalur the next morning, our Iceland guide is
cleaning our visors; of course we thought nothing of it. We are
heading to Isafjordur (Isa we were told means Icy),
unfortunately my heated grips do not heat anymore and nothing
will coax any activity from them! We climb the mountains we are
to pass over, it gets colder the mist is getting thicker, and
there is mud again.
Grant's visor fogs up, and when he cracks it open so do his
glasses, he stops as he can’t see, and takes his glasses off. We
continue up, up and up with the droplets of misty water stinging
our faces. At the very top of the pass we see an enormous
glacier looming out of the mist, hanging to the very edge of the
In its “shadow” some of our party have stopped for photographs…
we continue on and are descending down at last. It is an
anti-climax and we are still on a “high” when we get to the
bottom of the mountain and wipe our glasses and visor dry, then
continue on to a few more waterfalls, and the village where we
will have lunch.
After a welcome bowl of mushroom soup we refuel and travel
along what starts off as a gravel road, beside a fjord, the road
continues along and we find ourselves passing a remote museum
with aircraft outside (minus their wings) and fishing boats…
Grant can’t resist stopping and investigating. There is a
memorial for members of the village lost at sea whilst fishing.
After a short stop we continue on, I find myself wishing we had
come to the end of the days journey, there is a sharp corner
left, I am tired and need to have a second go at it. The gravel
has once again turned to mud and the concentration is ramped up,
it has been a long cold wet day. Finally we see our destination,
Grant registers at reception, before we enter our room we find a
hose and wash the caked mud from our pant legs and boots.
That evening we all sat around as a group of 23 and discussed the day, what a large circle. At dinner that night we shared the dining room with a group of German tourists who very politely asked us to keep the noise down! We all had our version of the adventure to share.
Early to bed and early up the next morning to ride to the westernmost point of Iceland, therefore Europe, to Latrabjarg to see puffins! As I turn onto the road I groan inwardly... more of the mud! We ride to the cliffs, see puffin birds, and get some great photographs.
The journey back to the main road is slow as the mist has come
in to join the mud! A welcome and warming coffee is had at the
service station before once again washing the mud off the bikes,
so as to see indicator and brake lights! Then we are on the road
again, we are on very good gravel roads, travelling south, to
Stikkisholmur. We travel along roads which are in the process of
being constructed, in Iceland this seems to mean you shift the
mountain passes to where you want them!
ride on excellent roads today, both gravel and bitumen, along
fjords and through farmland. I see my first tree, albeit dead,
and take a photograph of proof! My mind is wandering a bit now
and I start thinking of things to do which would make good
photographs, like hanging off roadside guard rails.
Lunch again is warming soup, but leek and potato this time. And
it is time to turn off the highway and head to the coast and
Stikkisholmur. We scoot along the excellent gravel road, the red
van; “tail-end Charlie” is scooting faster and overtakes us. The
scenery is stunning along the fjord, we have to stop to take a
panorama shot, and it is a photo opportunity in which I pretend
I had fallen off a cliff!
We arrive at our hotel and clean up and go for a wander. A
priority for me is to find a chemist and something which would
stop me coughing at night! That done, we find the town is set on
the edge of a beautiful natural harbor, and the harbor is filled
with fishing boats. We find a table and chair in the sun and
soak up the ambience.
The next morning we set off for Borgarnes, travelling alongside fjords, and through villages (it is more populated as we are getting closer to Reykjavic) until we stop in the drizzle at the Ice Caves. We are told Journey to the End of the Earth was filmed here; however the film crew investigated the cave for the possibility of using it for the movie.
We waited for the tour; the bikes filling the small car park,
some cars arrived, looked around and left, with 23 of us we were
a big group.
Little did I realize it but my ride around Iceland was coming to an end! We left the caves and travelled further down the road, 2 enormous volcanic rocks were to our right, I looked over my shoulder too long, and when I focused ahead I was caught in loose black gravel on the shoulder of the road. After fighting the gravel for about 400 meters I decided to ride down the embankment of the road, unfortunately the ground was soft, my front wheel dug in and Grant witnessed my somersault and triple pike over the bike. This meant my GS 650 was loaded into the van and was taken back to Reykjavic, never to be ridden again, but I’m sure it was good for spare parts.
I travelled from Borgarnes to Reykjavic through the “Golden
Circle” visiting the geysers and the impressive Gullfoss
waterfall with crutches at hand in the red van as a tail-end
Then off to Ireland a day later, but that is another story.