Thor, Testicles and Thingvellir

It’s a surprise when you end up on a party with pirates in a country where you would expect Vikings. But this is just what happened.


I had met Vala earlier that day in Reykjavik.


We had a coffee and she showed me some of the sights around town, like a huge indoor market where I had my first try of Hákarl, or rotten shark. The Greenland- shark has to rot and hung out to dry for about four months because fresh it would be poisonous to eat. Yummie!

That wasn’t my only taste of odd Icelandic food that day. Vala had invited me to a celebration of Þorrablót that very evening. This is a midwinter festival originally to honour the Norse god Thor.

I have done way too little Thor-honouring lately so I decided to join the vikings after all.


Originally these celebration include speeches and reciting poems. This version did with the Eurovision song contest preliminaries on tv.

What is special about this festival is the type of food consumed. Feeling a little odd walking into some ones house, straight to the kitchen to grab some food I soon felt comfortable with the help of some nice local brews.

You need a fairly strong stomach to be able to give for example Súrsaðir hrútspungar the testicles of rams pressed in blocks, boiled and cured in lactic acid) And Svið, (singed and boiled sheep heads, sometimes cured in lactic acid) A try.

Here’s me trying 

[vimeo 86233976]

But this wasn’t all the fun to be had!

After this food fest Vala, and her husband Porgnyr, took me to a true Pirate-party party.

After asking around I found out the ‘Pirates‘ is a political party, and so I ended up swinging with members of parliament, and a lot of guys with big beards.

There was even an Icelandic girl who spoke Dutch! What’s the odds?

Well, at least 1 in 320.000. As that is the whole population of the country.

kids on bikes

This can give problems with finding a suitable partner.

There’s always the chance you run into some one you like and he turns out to be your 2nd cousin. Specially for this problem there’s an App for your phone that warns you if a new love interest might be too closely related.

There is no need for last names. So there’s none of that. Everybody is either some ones-dottir, or some ones-son.

It used to be like that in the Netherlands too, a long long time ago.

Actually my own last name still means Wouter ‘s son. About 8 generations back there was a guy named Wolter, and he had a son.

Let me introduce you to Simon Halldorsson.


The only Icelander who’ve cycled halfway around the world 🙂

When he heard I was coming this way he kindly offered me the use of his apartment as he’s away working in Norway two weeks a month.

One evening I looked out the window and couldn’t believe my luck! There bright and clearly the aurora borealis danced through the sky over the town of Hafnarfjörður!

aurora borealis

Simon’s family had invited me over for another typical Icelandic food. But this time a lot tastier. Roast lamb.

Food with the family

He showed me around,


not just the must see sights,


but also the Search & Rescue headquarters. He’s a long time member of the team so an excellent contact to have.

big wheels

Hopefully not necessary.

After showing me around and getting all my bits and pieces together Simon decided to join me on a little test-ride.

With severe weather conditions ravaging the country at times I wanted to make sure my gear is up to the right standard.

Sadly all we got was 5 days of awesome glorious sunshine,


a light breeze, but pretty chilly weather.

Simon packed another one of Iceland’s staple foods; Lifrarpylsa (liver sausage), a pudding made from liver and suet of sheep kneaded with rye flour and oats. I had no problem eating that, except for the fact it froze.

So did the bananas, the cream and everything else that wasn’t dried or canned.

It didn’t take me long to understand very well where this country gets it name from.

Heading out

We rode out-of-town, slightly unstable. That had nothing to do with either amount of gear or icy-roads. More with the fact we stayed up drinking beer with some of Simon’s friends ’till 3am…

Officially this road is closed. But it is more a recommendation then a law.

out the ice road

I was told.

Lucky I got a pair of spike-tyres to keep me upright and although the cycling goes a lot slower it was thoroughly enjoyable.


I didn’t mind the little push up and over the hills and while we were overtaken by snow scooters and big off-road vehicles we happily pushed-pedaled along.


I liked the ‘tubing-Iceland-style’

We also noticed why this road is closed. A friendly man had warned us about some snow on the road. The little snow was enough to make them big 4WD’s turn around. But not us, O no!


Lucky we were together so we only had to climb/push/drag through that pile 3 times before getting all out gear across and speeding down the other side.

The other side happened to have an expensive fancy hotel, the guests were helicoptered in! We spent a little time warming up, feeling totally out of place, before heading back into the night to pitch out tents.

That night an awesome aurora borealis danced through the sky again,


It is just spectacular to see the green light moving through the night sky and the full moon right behind us lighting up the hills.

It was only the next morning I discovered the hot-river flowing about 100 meters away!

hot river

So I jumped in. It was difficult to get out as the wind was so cold!

Hot bath!!

But riding along the shores of lake Pingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest lake, the cold was soon forgotten with this stunning scenery all around.



We entered the Thingvellir (Parliament Field”) national park.


This is the most historic site in Iceland as it was here the Vikings established Alpen, the worlds first democratic parliament, in 930.

It’s also where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet.

little old church

We pitched the tents at the frozen lakes shore and tried out the ice.

Simon getting water

It is so beautifully smooth and clear! You could look straight to the bottom of the lake, and in the morning Simon pointed out we had no shadows on the ice, they were on the bottom too.

It’s not very thick either, about 5cm. So I was a little wary going on it. Simon not, he happily jumped and slid around.

Luck would have it that this night again the wonderful Northern Lights appeared,

frozen lake reflection

so we both struggled out of our tents again to make the most of it and come away with some nice pictures.

My tent!

This is one of the main reasons I came to Iceland. And I have been too lucky to see so much in the first couple of weeks.

night sky

In the tent at night it amazed me how very loud ice can be! The cracking on the lake sounded like thunder with an echo. Really amazing sound.

With these very long nights it’s easy to stay in your sleeping bag ’till 10am.



And when you do finally crawl out and find everything frozen inside the tent, it takes quiet a bit more time and effort to get coffee, breakfast, and pack up…

everything frozen

So it’s not unusual to get on the bikes after midday… And cycle slowly.

Riding on ice didn’t bother Simon one bit.

Simon on thin ice

I nearly shit myself though. It’s just like riding on glass.


So after playing around we set off towards the south coast.


Icelandic horses

Cruising with a tailwind and sunshine,

nice roads

made it down to a well deserved pizza.


Now the wind is blowing a gale. But now I’m inside for a few more days before heading out there for real.

Here a little compilation of our winter ride;

[vimeo 87122553]

happy days!

Looking forward to whats to come 🙂

Thanks Simon for showing me around.

And special thanks to Kerry for sending me a wonderfully warm sleeping bag!

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22 thoughts on “Thor, Testicles and Thingvellir

  1. Amazing trp! Great storiesand photos. I wish you lots of blue skies for the rest of your iceland adventure. it is a pleaseure to read your blog whil I am sitting here in my office! I can’t wait to hit the road again.

  2. Great pictures as always, and nice little videoclips. Interesting to see soooo much ice when one lives in a tropical country.

  3. Wow.. It is so cool. I mean it looks too cold. What was the temperature at the night?? How did you survive in the night? I will cycle up to north on Sep, Oct in the northern Europe to see Aurora. But I don’t have such a winter camping gear that I must buy new one to go up there. Just so impressing. Ice is thicker? I had lived in the northern Canada that I went out on frozen lake often. But it was not transparent. Just amazing and so beautiful of the place you cycle!!!!

  4. Hoi Mirjam, Wat een prachtig avontuur en wat een schitterende foto’s en film. Ik heb er van genoten en reis weer een beetje met je mee. Het Noorderlicht is echt fantastisch. Een hele ervaring om dat mee te maken.
    Geniet ervan en pas op dat je niet bevriest. Veel plezier toe gewenst door Heleen.

  5. Hoi Mirjam, wat een geweldig blog weer! Schitterende foto’s en wat een fantastisch landschap. En dan zo’n warme rivier, luxe hoor!
    Geniet er van! Liefs uit Apeldoorn.

  6. Leuk om te lezen. Beetje jaloers op het noorderlicht maar ook een beetje niet jaloers op de kou.
    Mooie foto’s en stoer dat je dit doet!

  7. Nice post. Iceland looks brrr… cold, but beautiful I’ve only tried camping once during winter and I was miserable. Maybe I need to have the right mental state. Your post makes me want to try the outdoors again during winter’s season.

  8. We were impressed by the cycling on sheer lake ice. In Calgary, Alberta our winters annually do drop to -35 to -40 degrees C. on some days. So we appreciate what you tried to do.

    Stay safe and enjoy every day.

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