vrijdag 28 augustus 2015

IS2015 - Epilogue: Looking back...

So here I am, just over 2 weeks after the trip, writing about it. It's quite amazing that just four years ago I didn't even have my license yet, and now I find myself at the end of over 26000 km of international touring, going through 25 countries and meeting a myriad of cultures.

I have to be honest with you guys, and tell you that prior to going on this particular trip I had mixed feelings about it. This was mainly due to the fact that it was going to be the end of another project. It would mark the end of 4 years of touring Europe to get Peus as far as I could, and in turn, it left me a bit dubious about what would come after.

You see, after I completed the Dekatria Project it left a bit of a hole - for years on end it had been my first and foremost priority to go to Greece, and all of a sudden that was gone. You can imagine that, with this trip coming up, I feared something similar.

But even after the clunky start, this trip once again reminded me why I did all of it. Why I spent so much time with prepping, planning and toiling away at my noble steed. Iceland is a remarkably beautiful country, which just fills you with awe that planet Earth can be filled with such splendour. I never go into a trip with any expectations, but even so, I couldn't have dreamed Iceland was this amazing.

So what's next?

What most people don't know is that going on a huge endeavour like this is costly, in time, energy and money. For example, the past two years I've had to miss the birthday of my niece (the girl at the end of the 2014 compilation, and the one riding pillion on the above pic) because I was touring.

Ofcourse, it served a higher purpose and it's given me so much in return, but it's also reminded me that dreams cannot be made true without sacrifice. Simply put: Iceland was the last country I've always wanted to see, and for 2016, I can't really think of another unexplored country that I find worthy of doing it all for.

Let it be known though that this does not mean I won't do another big trip ever again - I just know myself a bit too well for that. For example, I really want to return to Greece again, taking a different route than in 2013. All things considered though, I just want to use 2016 to give the Beast some thorough and well-deserved TLC... and eat cake with my niece.

Anyways, I've added a special 'Tips' page to the menu on the right if you're interested in going yourself - this may just help you out. Additionally, if you want to know more you can also contact me

It leaves me to say that I hope you enjoyed reading this report as much as I did writing it, and maybe I'll see you on the road some time.

For now, enjoy the compilation!

maandag 24 augustus 2015

IS2015 Day 22 - 24: Neskaupstaður & Seyðisfjörður

During the night in Stöðvarfjörður I was woken up by the sound of raindrops on the outside of my tent, or so I thought at least.

As it turned out, the source of the sound was entirely different.

Apparently, I'd left front of the tent open during the night, and a horde of Icelandic flies had come in to tango and bang their heads against the wall in unison.

The evening before also saw another addition to the camp site. Elke, a German mother, was traveling through Iceland with her 4 children. The station wagon was loaded up with anything one could imagine, including a gas bottle (and stove) for cooking.

The youngest of the kids promptly saw fit to give the project sticker its rightful place onto their car.

I said goodbye to the family...

...and went on my merry way.

Now, I was getting quite near to completing the lap of Iceland by now, and I suddenly realized that I had succeeded without any real drama. Sure, there was the time I was blown off the road at speed which could've ended really nastily, but other than that, it had been pretty smooth sailing throughout.

The brilliant scenery also wasn't letting up, apparently. I had been recommended by an Icelandic person on the ferry to visit the Eastern fjords, so I had set course to the Eastern city of Neskaupstaður. 

I had even gone as far as booking somewhere for 2 nights, since I wanted to sort out some of the Drift's footage and get everything sorted for the ferry back home.

Just outside of the town of Eskifjörður though, the trip's share of drama befell me at long last.

As you can see, there's only one road leading into (and out of) Neskaupstaður, and it goes over a mountain, with a single-lane tunnel at the top. I had put the camera on video stand-by as I knew about this, and that the road in question would probably deliver some spectacular imagery.

Just when I wanted to stop beside the road to activate the camera, it fell out of its mount, and fell on the tarmac at speed. The camera itself survived the drop just fine, but its lens was shattered, the rear hatch was buckled and the Gorilla Glass screen had popped out to disappear among the weeds at the side of the road.

I can tell you now that, specifically since it concerned a borrowed camera, many expletives echoed through the fjords at the bottom of that hill.

Just to twist the knife a bit, this turned out to be the view awaiting me.

This was at the tunnel's entrance, all the way at the top of the hill. How typical for the camera to break with this up ahead.

 I ended up at Skorrahestar; a horse-riding guesthouse where I'd booked for 2 nights in advance. It's a family run establishment, and as a result I was immediately received with open arms and a hot cup of tea to warm myself up a little.

Now normally the best places to stay are usually with locals, since they know a lot more about the surroundings and are able to show you places you would normally miss. For this trip, I always regretted not having planned such a stay, but on the brink of my imminent departure Skorrahestar delivered in spades.

The company is run by the family of Thea and Þórður Júlíusson, who started taking people out by horse and have since expanded into a guesthouse. Thea was more than willing to tell me all kinds of stories regarding the place I was now staying, including some of the local history.

Thea filled me in, informing me that at first the nearby city of Neskaupstaður was named after the fjord it was in (Norðfjörður), but the strong socialist community within the town changed the name into Neskaupstaður. 

This name can be dissected in the following manner:

A 'Nes' is the very tip of the fjord', 'kaup' relates to 'buying' and 'staður' is place. So in other words, the name simply states it's a place at the tip of the fjord where you can buy stuff, probably referring to the city once only being accessible by boat, and being a stop-over for ships arriving at the western Icelandic coast.

In any case, this new nomenclature divided the people living in the fjord into two camps - the ones in the city want keep the current name, but the ones living outside the city would rather have it changed into the name of the fjord (much like  most of the other fjord-cities in Iceland), because they don't live in the city and thus don't feel any connection with it.

To my complete surprise Þórður even took out his guitar and sang a few songs. This immediately activated the linguistic nerd inside me, since Icelandic sounds remarkably similar to Dutch in terms of melody and yet I couldn't understand a thing.

By this point I had already figured out the main difference between the Þ and ð - two of the characters that do not appear in other western languages. I showed the family the difference between the two by doing a little experiment:

Now, both the Þ and ð are transcribed as 'th', but I had figured out that the difference was in their pronunciation. The  Þ is the 'th' in 'thin' - just use your index finger and thumb to softly pinch your adam's apple, and you will notice that when pronouncing 'thin', your adam's apple does not vibrate when you pronounce the 'th'.

This is different for the ð, which is the 'th' in 'these'. If you now pronounce 'these', you will notice that your voice vibrates. This is what linguistics calls the difference between 'un-voiced' (or fortis) and 'voiced' (lenis) letters. Examples of pairs like that in English are p-b, s-z and f-v.

Thea helped me get to grips with some of the other Icelandic sounds. My inner nerd was running completely amok at this point.

To my complete amazement there were even oliebollen at the table - something that is considered typically Dutch but of which some people believe they have their roots in Pagan or Germanic times, which would explain why I now found myself eating them in Iceland. Thea said that most people make them with raisins, but she didn't as some people don't like them then.

Also, exactly like in the Netherlands.

The camera looked worse for wear, but was still functioning perfectly. With the upcoming rain though, I kept it in a plastic bag, only to be taken out when there was no rain.

There was only one leg left, in Iceland - the final 90 kilometers back to Seyðisfjörður. This may not seem like that big of a deal for someone who can ride over 300 kilometers a day for 4 weeks straight, but ofcourse, this time matters were a bit more complicated.

Now, you might remember those awesome photographs I showed you earlier, of that gorgeous view right before the entrance of the tunnel that leads towards the fjord of Neskaupstaður. Thea told me that if winds were 30 kph or stronger, this mountain pass became so dangerous even trucks could be blown off the road, being sent into the abyss below.

The day before I left, the winds were exactly that speed, 30 kph... and that road is the only one out of the fjord. In other words: if the wind speed wouldn't drop, I could not make it to Seyðisfjörður the next day.

Reluctantly, I checked the weather forecast the next day.

You say that turqouise area to the bottom right? That's where I was. Great.

Thankfully though, the weather would dissipate as the day progressed. After conferring with Thea and  Þórður (who had also shown their concern) I decided to wait for the afternoon.

Then, it was time to bite the bullet.

(even though some of the sheep rather had me stay)

The stay at Skorrahestar had been truly amazing, and an end befitting of the wondrous two weeks I had had in Iceland. If you're ever in the area, make sure to pay them a visit.

The drive to Seyðisfjörður was quite uneventful, really. There was a ton of rain, drizzle and fog, so even though I could've used the Drift, I probably wouldn't have been able to show you much anyway.

Before long, I found myself on all too familiar territory, with also the fourth and final mission of the trip completed. 

The best thing about coming back in that same place after two weeks is that most of the bikers do exactly like you do - they spend the final night in the camp site closest to the ferry.

There's only one camp site in Seyðisfjörður, so immediately I ran into quite a few familiar faces.

(forgive the bad photo quality coming up - as it was still pouring down, I used my Sonim's awesome 2MP camera to shoot these)

Like Giuseppe, who arrived shortly after me alongside Valentina and Luca, an Italian couple he'd met on the way. As it turned out, his license plate had vibrated off somewhere and he hadn't been able to find it back, so he had apparently arranged for a hasty replacement at (or should I say, from) the side of the road.

Other familiar faces were the three Germans on the 250 cc bikes. Awesome.

Niels, Dave, Reto and Andy were also there, amazingly. Niels took the cake when it came to war stories though - somewhere in the Highlands his Cagiva's frame had broken in 5 (!) places, and he had to then ride 80 km's of F roads to get back to civilization and get his frame welded. 

In the evening, all stories were exchanged in the local bar. From left to right: Valentina, me, Niels, Reto, Andy (on opposing side with glasses), Dave, Giuseppe and Luca.

Time to sail back home. Takk fyri Ísland, it was a truly bewilderingly beautiful experience, to be remembered and savored forever.

Tomorrow, I will post the epilogue, along with a few tips and pointers for those who are thinking about going to Iceland themselves. And ofcourse, the trip compilation!

IS2015 Random - Day 22 - 24
Oh dear...
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Thursday, August 27, 2015

zondag 23 augustus 2015

IS2015 Day 20 & 21: Höfn & Stöðvarfjörður

Waking up in Klaustur I had reached my limit with the camping in Iceland. The main problem was that no matter how warm it was during the day, temperatures would severely drop during the night. 

Waking up around 2-3am because of the cold had become an affair a bit too regular for my taste - apparently the -2.5 degree certification on my sleeping bag did not apply to Iceland.

Time to set sail to Höfn!

The roads were quite similar like this all the way through. Long straights, with ever-changing scenery at the sides of it.

At one point though, I reached the edge of the Vatnajökull National Park. Vatnajökull is one of the largest glaciers of Europe, and has several smaller glaciers surrounding it.

One of those exits at a lake, creating the Jökulsárlón ice lagoon, which is filled with icebergs.

Awesome, isn't it?


I was amazed though that, once again, the weather seemed to be on my side.

I mean, for a country I was told it would have highly volatile weather, I was already having over a week of sunny days. Ofcourse, there was the odd rain cloud in the distance, but it never really amounted to more than just that.

It must've been one of the reasons why generally, just like today, the riding went really smoothly. It wasn't long until I reached the little harbor town of Höfn.

And Höfn starts with a..... ?

Yes, with a drink.

The shark dish Hákarl is traditionally washed down with Brennivin, which is the Icelandic firewater with a taste akin to that of vodka. It proved to be quite hard to find the stuff though - it started with the fact that all alcohol beverages are sold in specific liquor stores (which bear the name 'Vínbúðin'), and those stores are only open for a few hours a day. In winter, that can drop to only one hour a day.

This is because the chain of liquor stores in Iceland is government run, aiming to restrict the consumption of alcohol amongst the Icelandic population. 

I thought back to the ferry to the Faroe Islands, where Johannes (one of the Faroese men I shared the cabin with) had bought himself a bottle of whiskey on board and instead of just taking a swig every now and then just gulped the stuff down like it was mouthwash. 

As you can imagine, that left quite the impression on a guy whose esophagus already burns to a crisp by just smelling strong liquor.

Leaving the liquor store, I got an idea why the government had taken these measures. I swerved a bit too deeply, and the right pannier hit a curb, making a sound like a gun went off.

When I came back from eating at a nearby restaurant, I saw an arriving visitor inspecting the Beast and the panniers. I'd left them on, as I didn't need anything from the cases and couldn't be bothered lugging them inside my crummy room in the guesthouse.

"Nice bike, right?" I said, as I approached him. 
"It's yours?" the guy said with a heavy American accent.
"Yes it is."

"Awesome. I was just saying to my friend here, 'I would love to meet the guy riding this thing' "

Well, it seems like your wish is granted.

His name was Ryan, and he had flown from Seattle to visit Iceland with a few friends of his. Back at home, he rode a Ducati, but he'd never seen a Transalp in the US. To my knowledge, that was simply because after the initial white models from the 80s not many were imported, if any.

Doing some research, I came to noticve that apparently, the specific guesthouse I was staying at was reviewed as the worst (#20 out of 20) on Tripadvisor.

The breakfastroom was right outside my own, the bathroom was shared with 9 other rooms, so yeah, I could guess why this specific establishment got less favourible reviews.

But at least the weather was good!

But not so much on the next day, though.

The plan for this day was just to head East, and see where I'd arrive next. I had 4 days left to arrive back at the ferry port in Seyðisfjörður, so I could take my time.

Once again, the sun was in my wake.

The coastal roads were amazing. Roads were carved out of the hillside, giving you a splendid view of the sea.

Mind you, the mountains were spectacular too. Just look at those lines and colours...!

There was still a tiny bit of gravel left though. Nothing too bad, and quite smooth compared to the stuff I'd had in the Westfjords.

Looking for a camp site, I spotted this lot at a farm...

...but after I taking a few pictures, trying to find a reception or toilet house (and consequently finding out that they didn't exist)

...I decided to try my luck elsewhere. I don't like it when camp sites ask money for just a patch of land, especially in a country where you can camp in the wild.

Like in this place, for example.

Riding was too pleasurable though in this weather, so I kept on the throttle for a while longer.

In Breiðdalsvík I filled up, and decided I'd stop for the day at the next good spot.

But not after taking a few good pictures.

Hmmm yes.

Quite quite.

In the next town of Stöðvarfjörður I pulled in, to find this little camp site.

Just a sink and two toilets, but that'll do me.

(especially since it had this view)

I was joined at the camp site by a French family. Everywhere I'd stopped today I'd heard French being spoken, and ending the day here, it was obvious that this part of Iceland was highly popular by the French.

A productive couple of days it had been. In the coming days though, I found out that not only was the best still to come, I also found out about the one ubiquitous law applying to all bikers traveling to Iceland for the first time...

IS2015 Random - Day 20 & 21
With a French connection...
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Monday, August 24, 2015