Categories
Iceland 2016

Day 4 . Destination  north east.

It was a really long day… mostly disappointing due to a bad weather. Imagine winter in Donegal, then  multiply by 5. That’s your average Icelandic late August summer day. Oh well…

We got up fairly early hoping to complete one of the hiking trails around the glacier, but it was really raining bad… Forecast had it to keep like that until midday and with min 5h driving ahead of us we simply could not afford waiting. That’s the real downtime on trying to complete the ring road in under a week. Reality is that any of the places we spent a night at deserves deeper, at least couple nights exploration.

We headed east then towards the iceberg lagoon knowing that we are really leaving behind great place. We did briefly stopped few km down the road and followed a dirt road for 2km, then jump over some hills to the edge of the glacier to see it up close, but it was nothing comparing to a proper hike.

The rain followed us but it didn’t stop us from jumping out of the car one more time at the place walk where the ice cap meets the water. 

As with everything here picture can’t do justice to the sights… Just got your see it for yourself. 

We kept driving east and the the  road would start taking us north by the magnificent east fjords. I’ve swapped driving with Monika and took a uncontrolled powernap on the back seat.

It was still raining,  which actually added to the views. Huge rock formations, countless waterfalls. The girls got all the photos, but again no photos can show the beauty of the scenery.

 We got off route 1 and picked the coastal road, in search for some puffins (funny looking birds with big orange beaks). There are colonies in few areas were passing by, but no luck… We did stop in some villages (and by one lighthouse) and found an old french cemetery. A burial place of the original french seaman founders of this patrticular village with yet another unpronounceable name (although all official street names at this place  were written both in French and Iclenadic.

It was definetly one of those places where tourist don’t go. And it makes it so much more special.

By that point we are so far away from Reykjavik that say tour buses dont come here anyway. And its a good thing.

We can also definetly see it by the count of campers in the local campsite. The place we are staying at tonight, Fellabær hosta 1 other tent and 1 campervan, while yesterdays site was a home to couple hundred. 

Its a really nice place as well, clean facilities, good view. Last minute find actually  (the original site was in the midle of town, this has much more natural vibe).

Tomorrow direction will be west, but the exact  route is being debated right now by the bottle of captain Morgan we picked up at duty free at Dublin airport. 🙂

Categories
Iceland 2016 my travels

Day 3 continued. Crashed plane, green canyon, old farmhouse and another glacier.

First of all thanks  to all my followers for actually reading these words. It’s the only thing that motivates me to keep going with the updates. 

After we were ‘done’ with the glacier (in reality one is simply not “done” with these magnificent wonders of nature ;)) we  frove few km east on route 1 in search for old  crashed abandoned plane resting on the black beach. The place is not difficult to find. Just drive for few km and park by the side of the road where other 40 cars stop… 

the place is absolutely overrun  you tourists. now u can’t just drive to the beach (it’s on private land really) but the 4km walk doesn’t scare anyone away (at least not when it’s  not raining).

It’s a nice and easy stroll in straight-line.  Can’t really get lost.

you are rewarded with a sight of an US navy plane wreck that run out of fuel and land crashed there in 1973. Apparently the crew survived… 

It’s impossible to take a photo without tourists in the frame… oh well. It’s the price of modern sight seeing. People everywhere.

Our next stop was the Green Canyon some 70 km further east. It’s a bit off the main road (2km) and having invested in 4wd finally pays off as the road is just a narrow gravel path. 

The canyon starts pretty much by the car park and the walk is short but totally worth it, even in rain. 

The path is well secured with some clear view points along the way.

Next stop was supposed to be the camp site for the night some further 70km east. It was difficult not to stop along the way though for some random wow moments.

One of these random places definitely worth mentioning was an old farm we stopped by and actually explored.

The complex is situated of the main road at the Base of some nice rocks and a waterfall. it consists of some older turf houses, including what looks like a chapel, some sheds and more modern (but still pretty old main building). The picture in the window presents 2 of the last farmers who lived there (looks like 2 brothers, the older  passed away in 2010). 

While most of the buildings weren’t locked  we respected privacy of this private land and didn’t open any doors – I looked inside through the cracks (between the door and the roof) into one of these sheds and it looks like it had a secret treasure:

I wonder what  kind of machine is that but by the look of the sticker it is at least 30 years old. I’ll definitely will do some research on the history of this place on our return home.

Our final destination for the day was getting closer, but the weather totally broke. We were driving through barren vcanic like landscape and if it was not for the GPS I’d think we are on the moon…

The single lane bridges added to intensity of the journey. Normally you are supposed to see the other side before embarking on one, but in these poor conditions it want always the case.

So there we were. it was  early 8pm and we pulled over at the Skaftafell campsite by the Base of the biggest Icelandic glacier with another unpronounceable name.  

I’m pretty tired now and ready to go to bed. Tomorrow we’ll go for a quick area exploration and will push through another couple hundred km.

Categories
Iceland 2016

Day 3. At the glacier and going further east.

Woke up early in the morning. Earlier than we planned. Loud Spanish speaking folk in the tent next to ours made sure nobody overslept…

I can’t stress enough how awesome the sight of 62m waterfall is. The power that comes with it is just breathtaking.

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We were very fast to cook breakfast pack up and move on to explore the area. There is a neat path on the east side of the fall. Easy steps lead to the top of the waterfall, and the entire trails is long enough for a 2 day trek (for those who have time to explore deeper). 

We only spent an hour or so and moved on eastward towards the glacier. There is no way I could pronounce or spell it’s name,  so here is a handy name plate with some details of this amazing place.

The road leading to the parking is all nice and paved. The hiking path itself goes for some 700 or so meters. 

Obviously we don’t have our own  gear to continue on, but there are tour operators (even on site) that’d be more than happy to lead you deeper into ice. It’s rather expensive (13k isk/ 100euro per person for 3h walk) but I see the appeal for people who never experienced ice adventure.

Right now we are still the base of the glacier enjoying coffee, the views and free wifi. 

Moving on now…

Categories
Iceland 2016

First 2 days in Iceland. Reykjavik.  Golden circle and moving east.

I finally got some time to write couple of words about our little trip to even further north than what my friend Kieran considers too far north.

This free time is mainly due to break in the weather. It’s raining cat and dogs… Irish style. I’m currently in a tent under a waterfall in amazing place called Skaftafell … well look for yourself. 

Anyway, the 4 of us, Monika, Patka, Marzena and I arrived yesterday. 

I arranged the car rental through Ace Guesthouse, place  we’ll be staying at on our last night (it’s a family run business, B&B and car rental located close to the airport.  super handy if u leave very early  – just like us 6.15am on the 31st of August).

All the normal paperwork went fine and we ended up with a very roomy 4×4 Honda CRV. it’s important to get a 4 wheel drive if u think you’ll be getting off the beaten track. 2wd are often not allowed on gravel roads and insurance won’t cover any damages. Anyway extra cost is usefully if 4 people are going anyway camping for a week… extra room is needed. 

We spent the first night at the campsite in Reykjavik . and oh my oh my. it’s the biggest campaign palce I’ve ever been to. you could only compare it to a permanent festival site. hundreds of tents everywhere. some seems to be permanently fixed.

We quickly pitched and went about exploring the town. it’s a good 30 mins walk. I recommend hiring bikes. it would make for  better experience in a good weather. The city itself… well it’s a city. Building, statues, harbour.. and tourists everywhere.  I’ll upload some pics when I’ll be on my laptop. on return we cooked some quick food and went to tents. 

The next day (today) we had snorkeling booked at silfra. one of this must do things while u are here. initially I was contemplating between scuba and snorkeling and I’m glad we picked latter. visibility was amazing (you could see for 30+m) and the hassle of staying neutrally buoyant (I never done drysuit) in 2C fresh water (as well as cost of some 300euro for 40min dive)  made snorkeling experience actually pleasant.  

The whole thing took just under 2h and I I think it’s a good thing to do but only if you are into underwater stuff. 

From there we moved a bit more east towards Geysir (a group of geysers) and Gullfos (pretty cool 30m waterfall). both atractions are close to each other and can make a nice day trip even if you are based in the capital.  be aware thought tons of tourists everywhere. 

 

We are moving counter clock wise through the ring road so to make it back on track we had to travel south now.

it took around 2h to get to the place I’m writing from now (mentioned at the beginning of the post). 

By the way the mobile coverage is amazing I  this country. we r in the middle of nowhere and I get good signal with nice data connection  (I bought local.simcard with 1gb allowance. highly recommended- it’s only around 15euro).

Tomorrow we’ll explore this area and move more east. I’ll update probably every 2 days. 

Categories
climbing

Fair Head and other Northern Adventures.

    It finally happened. I managed to convince people (well, it took zero convincing this time, the team was more motivated than I) and climb in Fair Head. It was my (and Tereza’s) first ever trip there – while for Jirka it was a return after 8 years of absence.

So there we were, yet again on epic adventure trail.  We left on Friday and for a change spent a night at a with a roof over our head(rather than camping) in Ballymena’s Slemish Barn. It’s actually a really nice place at very reasonable price point (15GBP for a bed in a dorm room).
They have very good facilities, with basic breakfast provided (which is a nice touch – we didn’t expected it). The owner (Michael) is a very nice guy, and will accept Euro if you ask nicely.
The place is situated strategically close to Fair Head (40min drive via the coast road, I think it’d be faster via the other route), and allows for nice & early start in the morning. Obviously camping at the farm on Fri was also an option, but sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself to a warm bed.

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And that’s what we’ve done. Got up ‘early’ on Sat &  we were at Sean’s farm before 9, where we also bumped into Ambrose and his magic van.

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We quickly moved towards the crag (it’s a 15 min walk through the farm, in fantastic setting) – as the forecast predicted rain at 1pm.

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By 10am we were racked up at the bottom of our first victim, 2 pitch classic on Ballycastle Descent Gully East-  Girona *** VS 5a (although the book we have says 4c, 4c) – I lead the first (apparently harder one), Jirka flew the second one.

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Below – Jirka on Pitch 2
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Jirka & I below.

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Few drops of rain didn’t discourage us at all and we made our way to The Prow to find our next targets.

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Not being over-enthusiastic about our ability to lead these long ‘hard for the grades’ routes we’ve settled on another classic, The Black Thief VS 4b .

 

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It was such  a nice route to lead. Nearly 30m of fantastic bridging and jamming. Gear everywhere, fantastic views – Fair Head at it’s finest!
I lead it, and then Tereza (who’s relatively new to the sport) – lead it on my pre-placed gear. She actually flew it, without looking back. I’d say – teach the girl how to place gear and she’d be leading HVS on her own  in no time!

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Jirka collected the gear after us, we abseiled and sent him for what turned out to be the last route of the day – The Fence, VS 4c.

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He enjoyed every single move of this 24m high route. Tereza cleaned the gear 2nd and  I went last to meet their smiling faces at the top of the wall.


We cleaned up and headed back to the farm to make some food and relax.
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Once we pitch the tents and setup my precious Kelly Kettle, we got a nice surprise from Sean, the landowner who brought fresh supply of fire wood – for a nice pit-fire.

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It was very nice of him. We had a friendly chat about the history of his land (he owns over 400 acres) and climbing in general in the area. He doesn’t climb himself but is very friendly and welcoming to all climbers – big (like his most recent famous guest – Alex Honnold) – and small – like us.

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We sat by the fire and enjoyed the bottle of 12 year old anCnoc, talking about future plans, climbing, big bulls, small rabbits and other less important things.

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The morning welcomed us with windy weather, sore hands and loud children (well these, from the tent nearby, were crying all night, so there wasn’t much sleep)…
Since it was Jirka’s last days in the country, we’ve decided to give up climbing for the day,  and explore local touristy spots.20160807_083151


We stopped by in Ballycastle, to look at Fair Head from distance.

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And the move further west. The hanging bridge and Giant’s Causeway are ok, but it’s nothing special after day like we had the day before. Although the massive waves made quite the impression.


Bushmills Distillery at the other hand it’s a different story.

Both of us being admirers of good whiskey couldn’t miss the chance to visit that place (it’s been there since 1608!).

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We completed very interesting 40min tour around the factory (it’s operational 24/7, so there are strict no-photography rules). You get to walk (with a guide) around the production line, as he explains how this fine drink is made. At the end you get to exchange your ticket for a taster of their produce. Jirka actually ended up with 5 shots (since some of our visiting group didn’t drink whiskey, others were driving), while I picked up a bottle of their 12year old single malt reserve (available only at their factory shop, nowhere else!).

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That concluded our short outing to The North. Drive back to Dublin was uneventful. It’s actually quite straight forward – motorway all the way down…

I hope we’ll be able to squeeze in one more trip before Jirka returns home…

Entire album with some more descriptions is available here.