Faroe Islands Bound: Smyril Lines ferry cruise

When I started planning my Iceland adventure many months ago, I knew that getting my motorcycle to Iceland would be a significant endeavor. Plus, to ship a bike for just two weeks to one island isn’t cost-effective. I wanted to see if I could ship the bike by plane or boat to Europe and have an opportunity to explore Europe as part of a summer 2016 adventure.

It didn’t take long to find an ideal solution for an Icelandic, North Atlantic and Scandinavian adventure. Smyril Lines, a Faroe Islands-based company offers weekly ships on the comfortable Norröna from western Iceland (Seydisfjordur) to Smyril Lines, a Faroe Islands-based company offers weekly ships on the comfortable Norröna from western Iceland (Seydisfjordur) to Denmark (Hirtshals) via the Faroe Islands.

The Smyrill Lines ship, the Norröna, is a modern cruise ferry built in Germany sailed its maiden voyage in 2003. The massive ship is 165 meters (541 feet) long and 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) wide. The first part of the voyage to the Faroe Islands takes just under a day, while the voyage from the Faroe Islands to Denmark takes about two days. The ship has 318 passenger cabins and accommodates about 1500 passengers and 118 crew members. The ship has ferry space for 800 cars and cruises at about 21 knots.

I had booked a modest inner cabin for John and I and so after the great last supper with the film crew, headed to Seydisfjordur the next morning. The hour-long ride winds its way through a mountain pass, meadows and spectacular alpine scenery. We were about the only ones winding through the landscapes as waterfalls tumbled roadside and rivers rushed by.

The road from Egilsstaðir to Seyðisfjörður in rugged eastern Iceland.

The road from Egilsstaðir to Seyðisfjörður in rugged eastern Iceland.

 

The view of Seyðisfjörður as we wind down our way to the lovely Icelandic city where Smyril Ferry brings and takes passengers, vehicles and cargo to and from Denmark and the Faroe Islands.

The view of Seyðisfjörður as we wind down our way to the lovely Icelandic city where Smyril Ferry brings and takes passengers, vehicles and cargo to and from Denmark and the Faroe Islands.

As we descended into the tiny port of Seydisfjordur we were greeted by a large gathering of motorcyclists outside a local café. WE learned that the ferry, scheduled to depart at 10:30am, would be late and depart sometime after 12 noon. Here we met Frank, an aussie in his mid-sixties who has been traveling round Europe for the past two years, on and off between return flights to Australia. Riding a similar bike as Johnny A, Frank called his R1150GS “the pig”. When I asked if he kept a blog or writing on his travels he flatly stated, “No, I don’t get involved in any of that rubbish.” Ok, Frank, tell me how you really feel. Yet he did say he shares a group email among friends. I’d call that a blog-like email journal. Nonetheless, over the next few days sailing on the Norröna, we found Frank to evolve from his crumudgeonly first impression to a man with lots of knowledge, who when pressed would share.

I found all the employees of Smyrill Lines to be friendly and helpful. In the office in Iceland I met Svein, one of management team responsible for seeing that the ship is unloaded and loaded promptly. With no accommodations booked for our two nights on the Faroe Islands, Svein got on the phone and called his wife who manages one of the local hotels near the harbor in Torshavn. She promised we’d have a room and he assured us that it would be easy to find in the tiny town.

My bike is marked, I'm going to Denmark on Smyril, but first a stop in the tiny but legendary Faroe Islands.

My bike is marked, I’m going to Denmark on Smyril Ferry, but first a stop in the tiny but legendary Faroe Islands.

Dozens of bikers patiently await the arrival of Nöronna to take them and their bikes to Europe. The cost of ferrying a bike to or from Iceland to Europe is reasonable and the only way to truly get a sense of Iceland—car or bike.

Dozens of bikers patiently await the arrival of Nöronna to take them and their bikes to Europe. The cost of ferrying a bike to or from Iceland to Europe is reasonable and the only way to truly get a sense of Iceland—car or bike.

 

My new Faroese friend, Svein who manages the loading and unloading of the Nörrona in Iceland and on the Faroe Islands.

My new Faroese friend, Svein who manages the loading and unloading of the Nörrona in Iceland and on the Faroe Islands.

Norröna I’ve never been on a cruise ship. I prefer to ride motorcycles or travel overland. Not that I’m against cruise ships, I just like to have space to move. Yet I was surprised out how much I enjoyed the short cruise to the Faroe Islands and Denmark on Smyrill Lines Norröna. The ship has three restaurants, including a steakhouse, diner and an incredibly impressive buffet. There’s also a duty free shop, two bars and general store. One of the bars is on the upper deck of the ship and just below there’s a deck fired with three hot tubs—or hot pots as they are known in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. What’s more, there is a small movie theater and game room for kids and a few one-armed bandits, slot machines, for those who wish to gamble a bit.

Doc is ready for the cruise to Faroe Islands and Denmark

Doc is ready for the cruise to Faroe Islands and Denmark

With my motorcycle safely tied down in the auto/cargo berth, I had to enjoy a hot pot while cruising the Arctic Ocean. The hot water took the chill out of the arctic air, though isn’t too hot, I would have preferred hotter water. Even so, after a nice toasty soak we enjoyed a couple cold beers, pint drafts from the “Gull” brewery. We later dined in the steakhouse and enjoyed a nice bottle of an Italian Super Tuscan wine before retiring to the bar where live music is played until well after midnight. The cruiseferry ship is very comfortable, the food tasty and with enough options to satisfy any taste and top that with good beer and wine, I would do it again. Keep in mind this is basically a three day cruise. And that’s probably enough for me—especially since the cruise is broken up with two days in the Faroe Islands. Not everyone opts to stay in the Faroe Islands, as the boat departs just a few hours after unloading, the Norröna heads to Denmark.

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While I didn’t get to try the buffet aboard Norröna, I did get to check out the room and the massive spread of fresh and cooked eats. Next time, I’m going to indulge in the buffet.

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Table service is available aboard Norröna in the steakhouse. I was impressed with its wine list.

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What else would you order from a steakhouse? I opted for the Wagyu ribeye and mushroom pepper sauce—other sauces are available. Tasty!

IMG_0570 Live music plays until past midnight in the bar. A happy hour is offered with discounted drinks.

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While there is an elevator that whisks passengers up and down the eight decks of the ship, it’s nice to get exercise wandering the ship and taking the grand staircases on the major three decks.

 

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Nothing like a toasty “hot pot” aboard the Norröna as we cruise the Arctic Ocean to the Faroe Islands and Denmark

I wanted to explore the little known Faroe Islands, so Johnny A and I disembarked the Norröna and spent the next two days trying to understand and discover the Faroe Islands.

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Disclosure: Smyril Lines did sponsor me for the passenger ticket and ferry transport for my motorcycle. All other expenses were my responsibility and this is a completely honest report of my experience with Smyrill Line’s and aboard the Norröna. 

 

The Last Ride & Supper: Iceland

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I knew the last day would be long and in some ways not as interesting. Pan was hoping we could find remote interior areas to explore, ride and shoot more footage. But the eastern part of Iceland, before you get closer to the coast, is wide, expansive, and desert-like. Open spaces, with wide valleys and towering mountains to the south.

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The long ride to Egilsstaðir can be boring—at least from inside a car. I stop to take photographs and in seconds our film crew tries to catch up on long overdue and long lost sleep!

It’s barren and there are no trees. But bright purple and yellow flowers dot the roadside, and often large swaths meander into the hesitance, often in a random and serpentine manner. The farms of the west soon disappear and we see less cars.

As we get closer to Egilsstaðir, where we plan to spend the evening, the landscape becomes greener, the farms return, and we find ourselves riding and twisting around a river with high mountains and seemingly dozens of waterfalls.

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We arrive in Egilsstaðir around 6pm. Every hotel we try is booked. We wander around the small city, the biggest in Eastern Iceland, for an hour to no avail. Only the most expensive hotel in town had any availability. When we have stayed in hotels or guest houses, we typically get two rooms. With the cost way over our budget, we agreed to cram the four of us into a small double room.

The plan is to consolidate gear, back up footage, and organize all of our “kit” for the next journey. Pan and Jaime to Vancouver, Johnny A and I to the Faroe Islands.

I had been carrying a bottle of wine, a 1997 Shafer Hillside Select, ever since landing in Iceland. Fortunately, this was kept in the film crew vehicle, so it didn’t truly weigh down my bike. Last summer when I was in China with this crew, I brought the same wine from a different vintage. We shared that wine at the airport before parting ways.

So it is tradition, we share one last meal and a great bottle of wine for our last supper. Jamie and Pan must leave at 4am in order to make it back to the airport on the western side of the island. Johnny A and I must leave around 7am to make it to Seyðisfjörður, about an hour ride, to catch the Smyrill Line ferry to the Faroe Islands.

Jamie peruses the menu and decides on the Arctic Char

Jamie peruses the menu and decides on the Arctic Char

Pan chooses the modest but delicious burger.

Pan chooses the modest but delicious burger.

Johnny A and I double down on reindeer.

Johnny A and I double down on reindeer.

It truly didn’t matter what we ordered, but Johnny A and I chose reindeer, while Pan had a burger and Jamie a delectable salmon dish. The wine was amazing, but the company and the camaraderie legendary. The dynamic will change going forward, but that keeps the adventure fresh.

IMG_0187IMG_0183Stay tuned for more on the Iceland episode of Border to Border—and much more from the North Atlantic and Scandinavia while I ride, for the first time in many years, with Johnny A—as the WorldRider adventure continues.

Get The Shot: Film Crew Busted

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With the modest compact rental car with a hatchback and all of our film gear, Pan often likes to do anything for the shot. So as we’re motoring down one of Iceland’s nicer paved roads he decides to strap himself into the hatchback area and hang out the back with the hatchback door open.

As any good producer / director would, Pan asks me to ride behind sometimes gesturing me to get closer, stay back and even pass. At one point he asked that I pass the car but do it slowly and hang in the opposite lane for a bit. I happily obliged, and then pulled ahead of the car. Just as I did this I noticed an Iceland police car pass in the opposite direction.

IMG_0154About ten minutes later the police car is behind the film crew car, with Pan hanging out the back and Jamie behind the wheel. Seconds later the police lights go on and they’re pulled over. I find a place to do a U-turn and head back. Before I even ask what’s going on, I pull my camera out and my “Allan Cam” point of view camera I use for capturing those intimate moments for the show.

Pan is trying to apologize, be serious, and trying to smooth the situation. I knew that this could be easily diffused, so I approach the officers and asked them to give my crew a ticket for dangerous behavior. They laugh, and Pan’s face turns two shades redder. I explain to the officers, one very redheaded man and another silver haired woman, that this would be a good lesson. I do explain that Pan always uses his seatbelt and having done this many times before in Iceland, and never caught, that though dangerous, we are experienced. I finally pull out my “Allan Cam” and begin interviewing and providing commentary for what we’ve comedically refer to “back of scenes” moments captured.

Everyone left with smiles on their faces and a stern warning not to risk life and limb again—even for the shot.

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Milking Cows & Tasting Iceland History in Myvatn

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In the shadows of many volcanoes, Myvatn is strewn with volcanic rock. Most of the farms, homes and local businesses have gathered the rock and built intense walls—most of these since the 1920’s. Vogafjos we find a family that has weathered the years and conditions and built an incredible and sustainable farm and restaurant.

Shooting episodes for our new travel show is exciting and challenging. Unlike traveling alone, as I’ve noted before, I’ve got a film crew in tow and here in Iceland a tough schedule. I’ve got a ferry to Denmark that is fixed and the film crew have a flight to Vancouver the same day. As such, I have less freedom to take extra days to explore, plus with bad luck weather, it’s important to focus on finding interesting stories.
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Just across the street from our campsite at Vogar, amidst the level fields in Myvatn, a story just dropped in my lap. Instead of resorting to pizza at Vogar’s Daddi’s, we ventured across the street to Vogafjós a guesthouse, restaurant, and cowshed. The cowshed is a fully working dairy farm where each morning cows are milked and led to pasture.

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Milking cows, see below how I connected with local cows at Vogafjós.

Milking cows, see below how I connected with local cows at Vogafjós.

The property consists of a large barn, estate residence, smokehouse, and dozens of acres of land, and even an island on Lake Myvatn. The crew joined me for dinner of organic and local sourced food. I enjoyed tender lamb from sheep raised on steep hillsides at a neighboring property, along with fresh Geyser rye bread and cheese made from fresh cows milk. Pan and Johnny A enjoyed what they described as some of the best burgers—ever. Of course, I couldn’t resist ordering a bottle of red wine from the Rhone region in France. I was so intrigued by the professional service, fresh food and the love I could see throughout the restaurant that I was determined to meet the multigenerational family that runs the property.

Enjoying a morning walk on Vogafjós with Ólôf the owner and manager of Vogafjós Resort.

Enjoying a morning walk on Vogafjós with Ólôf the owner and manager of Vogafjós Resort.

Ólöf Hallgrimsdóttir, an elegant, yet sturdy woman, manages the facility along with her brother. We arranged to meet with Ólöf the following morning after I had an opportunity to help milk a couple of the cows. The taste of fresh cows milk, right from the source, is like no milk I’ve ever tasted. It was sweet, creamy and with a nice viscous texture. The young guy showing me how to milk, Ólöf’s nephew, spent a couple years studying in Reykjavik told me that at school he couldn’t stomach the milk as he’s been spoiled by fresh organic and unpasteurized milk from his farm.

Pan follows cows to pasture after morning milking.

Pan follows cows to pasture after morning milking.

Afterwords, I joined Ólöf for a walk around the farm, to the river’s edge where she shared with me the story of her family’s farm. After a devastating volcano in the early 1900’s thousands of local farmers around this part of Iceland abandoned their properties because the ash made the land inhospitable and not farmable.

Like so many others in this area, her great grandfather made the long pilgrimage to Husavik where he waited for a ship to take him to Italy. Sadly, he fell ill and died before he could leave iceland. The simple twist of fate resulted in Ólöf and her family remaining in Iceland and ultimately taking over the farm years later as the land returned to being arable.

Tempting tastes, organic and truly home made and smoked food at Vogafjós.

Tempting tastes, organic and truly home made and smoked food at Vogafjós.

After our walk we sat down on the outdoor patio of the restaurant where I had a chance to sample smoked arctic char, salmon, and sea trout that Ólöf smoked herself. A sampling of more rye bread, and jams, greens and other goodies made fresh in her kitchen and restaurant. To top off the delicious spread, I enjoyed a shot of Icelandic schnapps, not unlike the infamous Brennivín, except this cocktail was crafted her at Vogafjós and flavored with seeds from a plant that only blossoms a few months and grows on the fertile volcanic soil of the islands in Myvatn.

IMG_0397I know the film crew would’ve rather me have experienced sheeps head soup, fermented shark, or another dose of Iceland hot dogs, but the truth is Iceland food is excellent. Don’t let the internet searches of shock value content dissuade you from exploring Icelandic cuisine. After my experience in Lónkot and now at Vogafjós, and several good meals and tasty bone-warming fish soup, I can say Iceland has turned the corner on its culinary cuisine. Yes, it can be expensive, but you will find good food in Iceland.

Here’s a quick video clip from a Facebook Live post I broadcasted while at Vogafjós

Hanging with 3rd generation Icelandic farmers in north eastern Iceland #bordertoborder #worldrider Panayioti Yannitsos John Angus Jamie Spittal

Posted by Allan Karl on Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Contact Info
Vogafjós Resort
Restaurant—Café—Guesthouse
+354.464.3800

The Yule Lads of Dimmuborgir

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As I circle the largest lake in Iceland, Myvatn, I pull off the main road to gaze upon several volcanoes looming in the distance. In front of me are rocks and wild vegetation all products of many eruptions over the years.

But it’s not the seismic and volcanic activity here that catches my eye, it’s the story of Iceland’s legendary “Yule Lads”. Perhaps some half of the Icelandic people believe these spirited characters to be real, while others believe in fairy tales and the stories passed down through generations, all embellished as the years go by.

But here in Dimmuborgir it is rumored that the Yule Lads live here and they are—all 13 of them— the sons of the vicious Icelandic Trolls, Gryla and Leppaludi. Rarely spotted in the summer time, as they sleep in caves, but in the winter they wake up and begin Christmas preparations. I’m told that if I come here in December, I might have a chance to meet them.

The brothers have funny names that relate to their behavior or culinary preferences, such as Sausage Swiper, Spoon Licker, and Skyr Gobbler. There’s a noisy brother too, Door Slammer, who loves to open and slam doors with force and high decibels.

Thirteen days before Christmas, Icelandic children will leave their shoes out and receive an offering or gift from each of the Yule Lads. I’m told that the best children, who’ve behaved well during the year, will receive a present, but those who haven’t will get a rotten potato.

Chasing Blue Whales In Husavik

Skeleton of a blue whale that washed up on Iceland in 2010-exhibit in Husavik Whaling Museum

Skeleton of a blue whale that washed up on Iceland in 2010-exhibit in Husavik Whaling Museum

It’s the largest animal in the world. Ever. Bigger than any dinosaur. They can be nearly 100 feet long. It’s tongue weights more than an elephant.

It’s also rare. There are less than 200 swimming the North Atlantic.

The chances of sighting a blue whale, even in remote Arctic Ocean around Iceland is rare. There are lots of other whales roaming the waters here. Chances of seeing whales is always high.

 

The small village of Husavik—prime Iceland spot for spotting whales and whale watching

The small village of Husavik—prime Iceland spot for spotting whales and whale watching

There are a number of whale watching tour operators in Husavik, a small community on the western shore of the Skjalfandi Fjord which looks across to the snow covered Víknafjöll and Kinnarfjöll mountains, which I rode by today, amidst bouts with rain and wind. Here in Husavik only one operator is committed to a carbon neutral and sustainable tourist operation.

Led by Heimir Hardarsoii and his partners, North Sailing in Husavik uses only traditional sailing ships, oak schooners or fishing boats for its tours. It is in the process of converting these schooners to electric motors that are charged when under sail and the propeller is set to turn in reverse.The use of electric engines, and oak sailing ships provides a near silent sail which doesn’t disturb the whales and provides for a better experience for passengers.

 

Heir Hardarsoii, owner and co-founder of North Sailing in Husavik, Iceland

Hiemir Hardarsoii, owner and co-founder of North Sailing in Husavik, Iceland

 

The seas were rather rough the days I was in Husavik. Warned that more than half of the previous passengers had experienced sea sickness on their journey, it was suggested that a bit of food in the tummy and even a bit of beer is the best medicine to prevent sea sickness. With time running short, and still about half a beer to finish, I was pushed out of the restaurant to board before it was too late. In Iceland, if you don’t finish your beer, that’s okay. The bar or restaurant will provide you with a plastic cup and “bam” you’ve got a roadie.

I felt weird boarding the ship with a beer in hand, but captain Hiemir smiled and as he welcomed me aboard said, “A good idea for the seas today.”

I was able to join Captain Heimir on Opal, a nearly 100 foot schooner built in the 1930’s. We set sail onto Skjalfandi Bay and amazingly he and his team of 4 woman spotter a blue whale just over an hour into our four hour journey and after cruising by “Puffin Island” where more than 200,000 puffins, the whacky and clumsy bird that has a loose lineage to the penguin. There are no penguins in the arctic, so the web-footed puffins are the closest thing you’ll find.

 

So hard to catch on camera, but here is a blue whale surfacing and spouting at same time.

So hard to catch on camera, but here is a blue whale surfacing and spouting at same time.

The strange puffin, perhaps a better swimmer than flyer!

The strange puffin, perhaps a better swimmer than flyer!

 

For the next few hours Hiemir piloted Opal to follow the massive blue whale, and giving the some 20 passengers on the ship an up front and close show. How he was able to predict where the whale would go and surface is a mystery, and certainly speaks to the experience of he and his crew.

Often whale watching can get tedious if you never spot one of these glorious mammals, but in Husavik the chances of spotting a whale are huge—but a blue? The odds can be against you. There are many other species of whale that cruise the waters here, but Hiemir and crew chose to focus on this rare sighting.

The Opal, a 33 meter schooner and once fishing vessel, now converted to carbon neutral —electric for quiet whale watching by North Sailing in Husavik, Iceland

The Opal, a 33 meter schooner and once fishing vessel, now converted to carbon neutral —electric for quiet whale watching by North Sailing in Husavik, Iceland

North Sailing started in the mid-nineties with a single ship and now has eight classic yet restored wooden ships—all of which were once working fishing boats in Iceland. The film crew and I stumbled upon North Sailing as we made our way across Iceland. I had to take the time to join Hiemir and make one of his trips. WE also had a chance to dine at restaurant Gamli Bauker, which sits on the harbor just steps away from where the ships are docked.

During the tour, our capable and immensely talented producer/director and for this shoot, director of photographer convinced all of us that he doesn’t get sea sick, insisting that his time living in a village in Greece and fishing in the mediterranean had given him the stamina and experience to weather the storm.

“This is not the meditereaan,” I warned Panayioti. By the time Hiemir navigated out of the bay and onto the Arctic Ocean, Pan was feeling quest. Dressed in the foul weather gear provide by North Sailing he clung to his camera, often closing his eyes, only to open them when the excitement level rose. “Did I miss it?” he would ask worried. He might’ve missed once, but he didn’t let the seasickness keep him from getting the shot.

Panayioti Yannitsos agrees, this is not the Mediterranean Sea — battles sea sickness in Husavik for "Border to Border" the new travel show featuring unique locals and travel by motorcycle

Panayioti Yannitsos agrees, this is not the Mediterranean Sea — battles sea sickness in Husavik for “Border to Border” the new travel show featuring unique locals and travel by motorcycle

 

There’s so much more to North Sailing’s story and to the charm of Husavik, it’s whaling museum and the friendly people that work and support the fishing and tourism industry.

As I was hanging with Hiemir at the helm of “Opal” I learned he owned a 2001 R1150GS and though he doesn’t get much chance to ride it, he was hoping to make more time this summer. However, in servicing the bike to bring it out of the deep winter sleep it endured in Iceland this past year, a vital part broke when the bike dropped. “There are only two of these bikes on Iceland,” he said, shaking his head. Getting parts for such a rare bike will take time—he thinks that the part will likely arrive just as the riding season, perhaps one of the shortest on exert, comes to a close. With my sights set on Europe, I offered to see if I could find him one and send it on the SMyrill shipping line.

“That’s an idea,” he said.

Contact Information:

North Sailing
Hafnarstétt 9
640 Husavik
Iceland
+354-464-7272
info@northsailing.is
www.northsailing.is

Iceland Landscapes: Lakes & Waterfalls

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The shores of Lake Myvatn tell a story of a turbulent volcanic past.

 

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I’m counting down my last days here in Iceland. This is sad for several reasons, yet brings joy in other ways.

I’ve barely touched the tip of what Iceland has to offer. From culture, cuisine, and connecting with local people—there’s no question I’ve had amazing experiences and developed new friendships that will last my lifetime. While the weather has challenged me and prevented me from exploring deeper into the interior of Iceland, I’ve enjoyed rich fjords, arctic experiences, the burgeoning culinary cuisine and spectacular nature.

The shores of Myvatn dare tell a story of a rich and turbulent volcanic past.

The shores of Myvatn dare tell a story of a rich and turbulent volcanic past.

I’ve just started. I will be back.

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A unique take on a group selfie, my hand and the boom microphone with Jamie, Johnny A, and Pan.

I’m also about ready to say goodbye to our film crew—Pan and Jamie. While I’m traveling the world alone—I’m never alone. Not only is it always possible to connect with people anywhere, I’ve got this very minimal crew in my shadow. I like it. Sure, I can shake them sometimes, when I need space. But I love these guys. There is no other more passionate group of filmmakers that can deal with my nomadic lifestyle and approach to travel. Sure, somethings have to be organized in advance, but the show and the filming is truly happenstance and ad-hoc.

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Johnny A reaches for the skies to grab the drone after a late afternoon droning session!

The film crew heads to Vancouver and Johnny A and I will continue our Nordic adventure when we capture the Smyrill Ferry Line to the Faroe Islands and Denmark in a few days.

Our last run across the barren and desolate western Iceland will be fast. There is a very low population in this part of Iceland. The crew will wind around the southern part of the island—an area Johnny A and I were unable to explore. So they’ll have a new experience while we’ll sail onward across the Arctic Ocean.

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The Spectacular Ride to Husavik

Sure, I could complain. This is summer, after all. Shouldn’t I be experiencing warm weather? I remember Alaska many years ago. Then Patagonia. I may feel frustrated, and wince about the cold and wet weather, but that’s in a brief moment. As I ride this wonderful island, I feel I’m overdosing on scenery and raw rugged beauty. At least when the rain lets up, I feel comfortable enough to stop, grab a moment and my camera to take in the scene around me.

Husavik is my next destination and a couple fjords down the road. I like that, a couple fjords. Yet it’s true. And as I wind around these fjords I could commit cliché, something about my breath. But I’ll just post a few pictures and let the photos tell the story for this post.

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The Case of Dropped Keys In Siglufjörður

We wind our way north in wet conditions, passing through a series of tunnels, we are faced with even colder temperatures and more pounding rain. In Siglufjörður I stop for reprieve form weather and nourishment. It never gets dark this time of year in Iceland, so a short stop here is with it.

Before we get on the road, Johnny A drops his keys through a small opening on one of the docks. Luckily there are rocks below and he can see the key. Pan braves the water and climbs under the dock and barely is able to squeeze his arm far enough to retrieve the key. Another tragedy averted!

The video below is priceless and shows how tragedy was averted:

Lónkot Rural Resort Iceland—Farm & Ocean To Table

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When I first stumbled upon Lónkot Rural Resort in the months before embarking on my Icelandic adventure, I knew I wanted to visit. Somewhere along the logistical challenges and pace of life, it had dropped off my radar by the time I landed in Reykjavik. Then by some stroke of fate, I was reminded.

Lónkot is a tiny settlement on the western edge of Skagafjörður on the shores of Tröllaskagi peninsula and the Arctic Ocean. The resort sits in a true bucolic setting, with sheep, vegetable and herb gardens, flower fields and where the ocean laps up on thousands of rocks, polished over the ages, smooth and shiny when wet.

Given it’s the high season in Iceland, I thought the odds of getting the attention of the second generation owners were high. I couldn’t hold back my excitement when explaining to Pan, our producer and director, what a great opportunity this would be, not only for a segment on “Border to Border” but also a once in a lifetime experience for our film crew.
We offered to camp on the farm, but the manager, Birgir, explained that there was a family room available that could accommodate all four of us. We would shoot our segment in the afternoon and then join them for dinner in the evening.

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Perfect.

The ride to Lónkot, though cold and a bit wet, is wonderful. Snowcapped mountains appear ahead of us and as I head north, they flank me to the east. The tallest mountains I’ve seen so far. I start counting sheep again—and horses. The road is in decent condition. I’m fully layered and my electric vest and grips working.

There are no billboards in Iceland, nor big traffic signs. Everything is understated, yet well marked and easy to follow. I’m amazed that for now nearly a week after leaving Reykjavik, I’ve not seen a traffic light.

After passing the village of Hofsos, I ride some ten miles, and almost miss the sign to Lónkot. I pass through a gate and down a long gravel road toward the water. There are a handful of buildings and just a few cars. The wind is blowing, and while I know I need to introduce myself, I’m drawn to grassland stretching to a rocky berm and the ocean. I hike in my motorcycle books through the tall grass, over the stones and then gaze onto the Arctic Ocean. It’s been since I rode through British Columbia, the Yukon and up the Dalton Highway since I last set eyes on the Arctic Ocean. Now in Iceland, many years later, I’m here again.

Birgir is tall, welcoming and introduces me to Júlía (pronounced you-lee-uh) who is the second generation, along with her brother, have taken over management and marketing of Lónkot Rural Resort. Júlía is slender, confident and with bright blue eyes and warm smile. “My brother and my father have renovated this property over the past 5 years.” Júlía explains that the guest house was first, built in 1991 and the restaurant soon after in 1995. The family has worked hard to keep the property and the land as it has been for many decades, rural, peaceful and natural.
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The family renovated the property some ten years ago. Now the restaurant is in the old cowshed and the family suite, where I stay with the film crew is above. Júlía jokes that we will dine in the cowshed and the lounge where we visit to discuss the shoot, is where all the cow shit used to be. Sitting in the warm building with large windows overlooking the vast farm and mountains to the east, one would never know. Yet it’s the history of the property that makes Lónkot Rural Resort so endearing. The artwork in the lounge and dining room are from local artists. The dining room features an artist from the late 1800’s and prints using large and small detailed geometric shapes. In the lounge, a local contemporary artist is featured.
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Everything about Lónkot reeks local talent and history. Júlía is the chef, and as we walk around the property, picking wild flowers from the fields and herbs and leafy veggies from a maintained vegetable garden. All the ingredients for the restaurant are either grown on the property or sourced by local farmers. The fish served here is caught daily by Júlía’s husband.

Her father, who’s photograph from some 50 years prior is hanging in the lounge is funny, cheerful and camera shy. He avoids the cameras from our film crew, but I manage to convince him to join me in a quick photo.
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I join Júlía in the kitchen, and then at the table in the resort’s dining room for dinner. We start with a fresh Lónkot garden salad—local veggies and the wild flowers and leafy greens from the garden.

I’m surprised and pleased at how the flowers, like herbs, give unique flavors, even spice to the fresh salad.

IMG_9789Next is an incredible starter of lumpfish roe, served with a herb dressing on bread. Growing in the kitchen are several strawberry plants. Julie takes a leaf from the strawberry plant and sets it on the bread before placing the roe with a dollop of crème fraîche. To me, the dish looks creative and clever like a strawberry. It’s almost like caviar, tastes of the sea and rich full of flavor.

She prepares a beurre blanc style sauce with butter and vinegar and seasons fresh filets of cod, caught by her husband, with herbs, salt and pepper. She elegantly plates the dish along with fresh barley and greens topped with toasted sunflower seeds—and like all the dishes Júlía prepares in her home kitchen, with fresh wildflowers.

IMG_9813The wait staff serves my first two dishes with pure Icelandic water and and nice white wine from Loire in France.
Next, she prepares the third course, lamb tenderloin, seared and baked and then served with a rich, juicy and flavorful blueberry based sauce and potato grilled and roasted. The fresh organic lamb is sourced from farmers who herd the sheep along the hills across the street from the resort.
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Every detail is covered at Lónkot, fresh Icelandic butter is served with flair and a flower on one of the polished stones from the beach just a few feet away.

IMG_0298Of course, Júlía makes all the deserts from scratch and all organic ingredients and its a tough decision to choose from a panna cotta with berry compote, fresh viola wildflower ice cream, or rhubarb pie. So I must try all three.

IMG_9852I feel I’m home with family and friends at Lónkot, with Júlía, her father, and soon her husband and young son show up. In this way, and with the truly local food—and not the weird or offensive stuff you’ll find when searching Icelandic food. Truth is, the culinary scene in Iceland continues to get better, and like the forward-thinking energy and sustainable policies that seem to drive policy in Iceland, so does the attitude of local chefs, the focus is on the environment and foods sourced from the local environment.

Before setting off the next morning, and after a healthy country breakfast, I walk the beach and through fields of wildflowers. But soon I’m being swooped and buzzed by dozens of blackbirds. I’ve stumbled onto a nesting area. The birds are vocal and unafraid of me. One jabs my head, another my shoulder. It’s quite scary.

Next, I see Pan and Jamie running after me with cameras and sound equipment. “Stay right there,” Pan yells. “I’ve got to capture this.” I’m feeling like Melanie in Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, and Pan wants to capture the shot. The birds continue to swoop, buzz, and jab me as Pan runs around with his camera and Jamie capturing the sounds. I pull away and then I see Pan encouraging the birds, lying on his back in the field as they buzz him and his camera.

Anything for the shot.

 

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We finally bid farewell to our hosts and wave a sad goodbye to Lónkot Rural Resort, promising to return sometime again.

Before I ride north to Siglufjörður, the very northern tip of the fjord, I realize my side stand is loose—the extender I installed from Jesse Luggage Systems needs tightening, but the set screw is missing, so I secure the bottom part to the main shaft with duct tape.