Sunday, July 26, 2015

Óshlíðarvegur to Bolungarvík

At least once a year I bike all the way to Bolungarvík along the old road, Óshlíðarvegur. This old road hugging the coastline along steep cliffs has been closed to traffic since the tunnel through the mountain was completed. This road is extremely dangerous due to falling rocks, as well as mudslides and avalanches. It has claimed several lives, with the most disastrous year being 1951 when a rockslide hit a bus full of young athletes travelling to a soccer match. 

Although now closed for cars, this old road is now used for recreation. It’s a great place to ride a bike, and I have also seen joggers and inline skaters here as well. The road is still dangerous and it’s a wise idea to watch your head when travelling down it. Falling boulders are chopping away at the road bit by bit, as the road disintegrates into the sea. One day it will no longer be passable. Vegetation has claimed the road with lupines prevailing. The sheer cliffs are multi colored and thousands of squawking birds nest there. 


I bike down this road often, but not usually not all the way to the next village. Today I’m going all the way. Just before town, the arctic terns are nesting by the hundreds and I’m grateful I have a helmet on as they swoop down to attack. I turn off towards the golf course and deep into the valley Syðridalur. I’ve never been down this way and want to have a look at the lake. There’s a lot of hustle and bustle, people in their summer houses enjoying the sun, a man out on his very loud quad. I go as far as the road conditions allow me on my bike, then find a spot in the grass for a nap.   

Afterwards I head into town. I explore the area around the avalanche walls. You can climb on top of them for a nice view over the town. Then I stop at Einarshúsið for coffee and cake. I chat with two Icelandic ladies from Ísafjörður who seem very keen on hearing my life story, seeing as I am a neighbor. The trip back is uneventful, it’s a beautiful ride and I’ve had sun all the way. A perfect day!




Friday, July 24, 2015

Flateyri


Today I take the bus to the village of Flateyri for a short hike into Klofningsdalur. Two years ago, I approached the pass at Klofningsheiði from the other side from Suðureyri and today I just want to have a look at things from this side, and see if there’s a lot of snow. I don’t plan to actually go up to the pass. 

Flateyri
It’s a pleasant walk and well-worn trail. I pass a family that is coming down but other than that, I am all alone up here. The route offers a fantastic view over Flateyri. The purple lupines are in full bloom and the grass is lush and green. It’s mostly cloudy and quite chilly, but occasionally a blue patch will open up in the sky. 

Flateyri
Entering the valley, it’s all uphill to the base of the cirque (“hvilft”). Supposedly the trail goes straight up here but I see no real possible way to scale the steep stone walls. I clamber across the rocks spread across the base to continue on a trail along the other side, which only goes to the peak overlooking the ocean, and ends at Kolviðarhlíð. There I sit bundled up against wind and weather and enjoy the view.

Önundarfjörður
But soon it gets too cold and I head back the way I came. I stop to look at a small dam and waterfall, with a connected power station. I still have time to kill, but it’s cold, so I have some coffee at the local café. However a bus of cruise ship passengers is expected soon so I can’t hang out there too long. I walk around the harbor, and then have a look at the church to warm up. It’s a simple construction in typical Icelandic style, but it has a special tea light holder that’s quite pretty. 

Flateyri church
I nearly miss the return bus because it has a taxi sign on the top. It’s not unusual for cruise ship passengers to drive around by taxi so I didn’t pay much attention when it stopped. I see two young kids jump on and realize it’s the regular public bus – wait for me! Please don’t leave me stuck here in this sleepy little town! :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hnífsdalur

Angela and I take a walk to the neighboring village of Hnífsdalur. It’s nice to sit in the mountains above the village and take in the view. Then we explore around town a bit.
 
There’s a small park and we spend a good amount of time playing like little kids.There are pretty flowers to look at, wild rhubarb, friendly cats (one with cute black pads on his feet) and many interesting yards and houses in various states of disrepair. 
 


On one house it’s interesting to see the layers of construction – wood underneath, covered by corrugated iron and then with cement (see photo). That’s the way to withstand a good storm!

Aldan Booknook

Later, back at home, our little booknook is finished. The people from Snerpa donated a small bookcase so Matta, the downstairs neighbor, could finally put her plan into action – a small book exchange on the fence in our backyard. Come and stop for a visit! Take or leave a book! And if you bring your dog, please don’t fertilize our lawn!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Meðaldalur

Sleep is restless tonight, everything hurts and I have a bit of a headache. My eyes are puffy again, like some kind of allergy has attacked in the night. After a leisurely breakfast, I check out of the guesthouse and leave my bags in the washroom. The bus doesn’t leave until this evening and I still have a full day. I’m on the road at 10:30 and pedal into Meðaldalur valley. There’s a sign pointing this way that reads “náma” and I read about this old spar mine on one of my maps. I’m not feeling up to a big adventure today, but I’d just like to take a peek into the valley and see what conditions are like here for the next time.  
 
But on the road near the airport before I hit the valley I run into the solo hiker chick from yesterday (see pic). And today she’s up for a conversation. She’s travelling with her husband and he hurt his knee so he’s waiting for her in town while she burns off some steam. Sounds like a great arrangement! 

Kaldbakkur
The first 500m are a bit rough, real rocky and sandy, then it turns into a real grassy, mostly flat trail with nice ups and downs, easy to bike, until the large river is reached. Up to this point, it would probably be a bit boring to hike – endless grass and not much of a view, and not even any old farms to explore. It’s all on foot from here though so I park Roadrunner and head up the trail on foot. The trail follows the river but after 1km it turns into a grassy road again. It’s much prettier here too, offering a nice view of Kaldbakkur, the highest peak in the Westfjords. 

I didn’t mention the sun yet. Today is sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and I’m heading straight into the sun in this wide valley. The valley is open wide and there are no large rocks to offer a brief respite. The sun is burning down on my head and I don’t have a hat – I tie my scarf around my head, dipping it in cold river water every few minutes for some relief. It’s hot and I feel like I’m in the desert. At least there is plenty of water and no danger of dehydrating.     

Musical instrument museum
The mine is supposedly 5km into the valley. I hike roughly 4-5 km and keep scouting with my binoculars, but see nothing. Strangely, I’m not too interested in finding it. I’m just whetting my appetite for the next time. I always like to have something new to look forward to, something left undone, and I will often just start down a trail and poke my nose into it and decide to leave it for the next time. This is also due to my need for familiarity. When out exploring, I like to have one small element of the familiar to make me feel comfortable. 

I head back to where my bike is parked at the river, create some makeshift shade by stacking up my bike bag and backpack, and take a nap. Later I have coffee and waffles at the café again and get into a conversation with an Icelandic man who has been to the mine. I was really close, and he said you can’t see it from the trail until you are right on top of it because it’s in a gorge. Afterwards I take a walk on the beach, and the gypsum that was mined there can be found all over the shore. Suddenly a drone descends on me, damn thing! I’m out enjoying a peaceful walk on the beach and it swoops right down in my face.

I still have time to kill so I check out the museum of musical instruments. It’s small and authentic and many of the items on display were made by the owner, Jón Sigurðsson. I especially like the flutes made from sheep bones. Then it’s off to the pool for another swim and dinner of lamb stew at Simbahöllin. Later the bus picks me up and the bus driver is an old acquaintance from my trip to Patreksfjörður. We have a nice chat and he takes me and Roadrunner right to my doorstep. 








Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bike to Svalvogarviti lighthouse



I don’t open my eyes this morning until 8:30 – much later than I expected. The morning is cloudy, cold and windy as I make oatmeal for breakfast and enjoy my coffee from the comfort of the guesthouse. I’m on the road at 10am, bundled up against the elements. The sun soon comes out but it remains on the chilly side all day. My first stop is to respond to a distress signal near Haukadalur. 
 
There’s a lamb bleating incessantly and it’s heart-wrenching. Somehow it got caught behind a fence and its mamma is happily grazing on the other side. As I pedal by the fence, the lamb follows me, running alongside my bike with these watery eyes and I’m trying to think of a way to help. I dismount and lift the bottom of the fence just enough for the lamb to scoot underneath. I thought it would bolt immediately but it stops and stares at me for the longest time, and allows me to scratch its head, almost like it’s saying thank you. Then it turns and runs to mamma, happily ever after.

My next stop is the farm ruins at Sveinseyri. I’ve always wanted to have a closer look here. It doesn’t seem like it’s maintained as a summer house as everything is really run-down. It’s a nice place for a photo session. A group of mountain bikers passes me and I let them get way ahead before I start up again. They look like they’re out for a serious quick trip, with absolutely no gear, racing at top speed. There’s also a very large group tent set up on a grassy plan just after Sveinseyri before the road starts to climb uphill. I wonder what kind of excursions are offered here.

I stop for a quick snack at Keldudalur valley, and then examine the church and cemetery at Hraunskirkja. Last time I was on this route, I didn’t take the time for all these little side trips. Actually I’m quite tired already and time is flying with all these little excursions and photo sessions. I consider not going all the way to the lighthouse. After all, this part right here near the church is the prettiest anyway. Well, I decide to go all the way anyway, and it’s a battle against the wind. The group of serious mountain bikers passes me again, heading back to Þingeyri already. Some of the girls in the group lag behind and don’t look too thrilled. That’s not my idea of fun either. I’m certainly much more content travelling at a slower pace with fun gear like binoculars and tasty snacks and photo equipment and other goodies. 

I’m exhausted when I reach the lighthouse and luckily there’s a small spot where I can get out of the wind and have some lunch. It’s nice to peek into the next fjord, Arnarfjörður. It’s way too cold to hang out long though, and just as I’m leaving a couple from Switzerland stop for a chat – they’re also looking for a picnic spot. The lady sounds like she knows a bit about mountain biking, at least she’s got the terminology right. She calls me a “tough girl” and they go on their way, in search of a less windy lunch spot, and I follow them a bit on my bike. 

I pass two motorcyclists who are camping near the lighthouse. They picked a flat, grassy peak that juts out towards the sea, and while it’s a beautiful spot with an incredible view, like most such peaks it’s terribly windy. As I pass, they struggle to pack up their tent and gear. I stop at Keldudalur for a 30-minute nap in the grass. I’m out solid and when I awake, I’m refreshed and ready for the journey back. I love this grassy little valley though, and next time I will just go this far and explore it a bit more. 

I pass a girl out there alone with full gear, hiking. She’s going pretty fast and has headphones on and no time for a conversation. It would have been nice to chat a bit. As I pass Haukadalur again, I wave to some locals out working in their gardens. I really like this little settlement here. I’m back at the guesthouse at 4pm. I’m really tired – it was 45km today.