The North Coast – Fire&Ice – Days 9&10

After the simple breakfast I left the hotel in Laugar that had been my home for two nights. The hotel was ok, its personnel was – let’s say authentic and a bit on the robust side. Most of the guests are from Iceland, so that seems to be just right for this purpose. I set off at nine and had to go south again before I could turn eastwards. On this short distance, I overtook a camper van and realized that it was Martin, the guy that I had missed yesterday! I waved and stopped in the next village. What a coincidence! Did I already say “it’s a small world”?

Martin took out his foldable chairs, made tea and we sat there for 45 min, discussing our past, present and future plans. When Martin is not traveling around the world, he is working as a professional tour guide, like right now, herding some other camper vans in a trip around Iceland.

As I wrote yesterday, we met under funny conditions on a road in the outback in Zambia in 2011 and were sporadically in contact through FB ever since. He told me he sold his old Honda Africa Twin – but plans to buy a “younger” one instead. What a nice encounter!

“You meet the nicest people on a Honda”

Honda (1964)

We parted and on the road that should bring me back to the ring road, I had to do 20 km gravel. No problem, I’m getting the hang of it. The next stop was planned since yesterday, in Stađir I met Karin and her husband who are on a long trip with their van. I know Karin from the GB500/XBR500 scene and the meetings for many years and thinking what is the probability to meet here….did I already happen to mention that “it’s a small world”?

We had a nice chat and exchanged experiences and plans – again, I seem to be the exception, going around the island clockwise, everybody else seems to do it the other way around.

The motto of the car is ‘Hakuna Matata’ – I like that!

I continued my ride and started to discover the northern coast. After all the spectacular views and pictures of the past days, it is difficult for Iceland to keep the level that high – but I it still a nice scenery, but I noticed that I stopped less to take a picture. My plan was to reach Sauđarkrókur around lunch time. The XBR was running happily, humming its tune. It was getting warm now, the predictions of the Icelandic weather service are really spot on! I stopped at a spot called Þristapar where the last execution was carried out in Iceland in 1830. Apparently, the news had not yet travelled to Iceland that chopping off heads and putting them on pikes for display wasn’t really en vogue anymore in other parts of the world. The story seems to be well known as there is also a love story behind it.

I realized that I had done a miscalculation – yesterday, my prepayment at the pump resulted in a not completely full tank – something I had not thought of anymore. But as the XBR’s consumption is reliably low, I reached Sauđarkrókur without any problems. I filled up and weighed the options to have something for lunch. The “Hard Wok Café” (sic) seemed to be the best option. I didn’t want to have a large fusion wok dish for lunch so I ordered some humble fried noodles.

I sat outside in the sun and decided to remove the inner liner of the jacket for the rest of the day – I felt roasted in the sun! Remember what I said in the beginning – if there’s a tropical heat wave in Iceland, I’ll still have the space to store away the surplus clothes. This just was happening! I had temperatures between 19 and 22 degrees Celsius in the afternoon, here’s the proof of it:

I rode along the beautiful Skagafjord and reached the Northernmost tip of the trip: next stop North Pole…

Southbound again!
Our of focus, but you get the picture…

I reached the old “herring capital” of Iceland – Siglufjörđur. I visited the Herring Museum that explains the vibrant history of the town. The town grew up around the herring industry that was very strong in the 1940s and 1950s. The number of inhabitants amounted to 146 in 1901 and to 3.015 in 1950, and back to 1.806 in 1989. Herring fishing declined considerably after 1970, and the herring processing plants were closed. Today Herring fishing is no longer productive in the region. The museum explains the living and working conditions of people involved in the business.

I was considering if I should stay a bit longer or to try to get to Akureyri to visit the Icelandic Motorcycle Museum before it closed. Yes, let’s try that! An hour later, I rolled through the second largest Icelandic town – Akureyri. I still had half an hour to visit the small, but particular museum. Lots of “rare” exhibits, such as the home built bike with a ship engine, an old Henderson rebuilt from a scrapyard-piece-of-iron, a Hercules Wankel, old Triumphs and Hondas…

I checked into the pricey hotel and took care of the dinner reservation – conveniently, it was just over the street (Rub23) and was a recommendation from Viktor, a mate I am playing Floorball with and who gave me a lot of tips for the tour. It’s his hometown, so he should know best.

I had an aperitif on the hotel’s terrace, planning the next day when I discovered something that freaked me out for a second. My right elbow felt strange…and it looked funny! A massive bulge was hanging on my elbow! I had immediately an idea and a quick check on the internet confirmed my suspicion – this was a bursitis! I never had one in my life, at least not in the elbow. I went through the options – I did not have an accident or a wound there – so it must be from overstraining. But what could be the cause? Well, there is one obvious one that gave me problems in Russia – the aftermarket carburetor spring is very strong and requires a lot of force – I could feel some strain in the lower arm, but nothing compared to Russia. At least I’m carrying the tool again (cramp buster), that should help a lot. The good news is that there no strong inflammation and no pain.

I directed my attention away from it – the restaurant was waiting. I ordered the full monty, a six-course menu with the “freshest products” they had, accompanied by selected wines. Sushi is very prominent on the menu – no wonder, after all super fresh fish is just at the doorstep. The food was quite good, but not at the same level as the restaurant in Reykjavik. But I enjoyed it. The sommelière was apparently in an apprenticeship, so I corrected her gently that one wine was actually from Spain, not Italy ☺️.

Before entering the hotel, I climbed up the stairs and had a look over Akureyri by night.

In the morning, I had an early breakfast and spent two hours typing yesterday’s report. I was not in a hurry, I had booked a whale watching for the afternoon and because of the bursitis, I decided to cut my route short, today’s program was interesting enough. It was again a fantastic day, plain sunshine and warm temperatures. I stared at my thermometer….21 degrees at 11 a.m….the tropical heat wave was indeed here!

A very typical Islandic summer day…..NOT!

I made a stopover at the Gođafoss, whe water of the river Skjálfandafljót falls from a height of 12 metres over a width of 30 metres. A lot of water, but the height difference is not spectacular.

I rode north and was happy that had put the throttle rocker/cramp buster, this should avoid too much strain on the arm. I could feel that my theory was correct. The annoying thing is that I thought about changing the setting of the carburetor at home, but considered that “it would be ok”. This is definitely the last time this happens now. I’ll take care of it.

Soon I arrived at today’s highlight: the town of Húsavík. Famous for its whales and a recent film….but more about this later.

In the little town, I picked up my tickets, but had to conclude that every restaurant table was taken. So I went to the petrol station and bought me two sandwiches, this should do. At 13:20, the whale watching left right in time. I had managed to sit right in front – best views, but highest seesaw. A marine biologist from Barcelona gave good background information. We went for about half an hour before we spotted the first Minke whales. This was only the preparation for what was about to come.

We discovered two humpback whales that kept us entertained for a long time. Apart from the usual blowing and diving, suddenly the whales started breaching! The biologist told us that this rarely happens here. I tried to catch it as good as possible:

I truly remarkable experience! After three hours, we were back in the harbour where my thermometer showed a whopping 25 degrees Celsius! I visited also the whale museum, an impressive exhibition about the world’s largest mammals.

A Blue Whale that was washed up a beach
In perspective
You don’t want to mess with an Orca

The next stop was not far, overlooking the bay…..I give you a hint:

Someone was clever enough to set up a bar in the town that makes people believe it’s the one from the film (it isn’t), but the little “Ja Ja Ding Dong Bar” contains some memorabilia from the film and the film shooting that happened in town (NOT the bar scenes). FIRE SAGA!!!

And here of course is the one and only….

I filled up the bike and started the last ride for today, about 45 min to lake Myvatn that I circumnavigated. There are some places that I will discover tomorrow.

I arrived at my hotel and despite the cozy room, I was a bit annoyed by several things: despite the hefty price, no breakfast was included, at 7 p.m. I was told the restaurant was fully booked for the day, the nearby alternative was fully packed and I had to queue for 20 min only to sit outside on a windy and freezing terrace, receiving the dessert at the time of payment, standing in line for 15 min to be able to pay….all of this can be optimised. I made now my peace with the hotel in the bar, writing the report and tasting several Icelandic spirits such as Flóki Whisky with and without sheep dung smoked barley and Reyka, a Vodka. For the first time in Iceland I’m surprised by a LOW price of something.

Tomorrow is the last riding day in Iceland. Few kilometers, but many stops, I guess my arm likes this plan.

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