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.
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!
Simon’s family had invited me over for another typical Icelandic food. But this time a lot tastier. Roast lamb.
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.
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.
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.
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!
So I jumped in. It was difficult to get out as the wind was so cold!
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.
We pitched the tents at the frozen lakes shore and tried out the ice.
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,
so we both struggled out of our tents again to make the most of it and come away with some nice pictures.
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.
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…
So it’s not unusual to get on the bikes after midday… And cycle slowly.
Riding on ice didn’t bother Simon one bit.
I nearly shit myself though. It’s just like riding on glass.
So after playing around we set off towards the south coast.
Cruising with a tailwind and sunshine,
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]
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!