Lost in Iceland
Freya Hoffmeister and Greg Stamer made plans to circumnavigate Iceland in June/July 2007 on short notice after teaching at the inspiring Anglesey Sea Kayak symposium in Wales. They had only 2 days of planning in Germany, then went to Newfoundland to teach at another symposium and to tour the coast for 8 days in cold stormy conditions, a “dry run” for their planned trip. Following Newfoundland the team had another week to prepare at home before departing on the expedition to circumnavigate Iceland.
Hoffmeister and Stamer set out at 10:30 am, June 9th 2007. They started with a 90 km crossing of Faxafloi Bay on the first day, followed by another 100 km day with a 65 km crossing and 22 hrs of overall water time the second day due to some early arriving headwinds. Going from headland to headland directed the trip, with some quiet weather on the West and North coast, but challenging conditions on the East and on the infamous remote black sand South Coast.
1st Internet access in Iceland:
Eventually after 9 paddling days we headed into Siglufjordur at the North coast to resupply with groceries, charging batteries and typing our first update…we were just PADDLING and out in the bushes so far!
Sorry for the communication trouble at the beginning of the trip, but OUR e-mails from the Sat-phone to our e-mail addresses were working! That the messages to Steini and others went into their spam-folder, was not expected. And not all of the text messages to the Sat-phone were arriving in time or at all.
So we started the trip as announced on Saturday with crossing those two big bays, one 90 km, one 100 km, and ended after the second day exactly were we planned…but obviously nobody believed us we are really doing it…
We were still in pretty good shape after hard 8 paddling days in Newfoundland, so not too much of a big deal at the beginning of the trip.
Besides jumping out of the plane at 11.30 pm the previous day, getting driven by Gummi and his friend (THANKS!!!) to the closest beach near Keflavik airport, getting to sleep at 3 am, and started to paddle next day at 10.30 am…the planning days were not too peaceful either :-))
But the calm weather was just so tempting…
We ended the first crossing at 1 am, and the second crossing was planned to be done at about 4 am (the light and bright Icelandic summer nights are just tempting to keep on paddling!), but the predicted force 4 headwinds for Monday came in a bit earlier at about 3 am, and felt a bit stronger than force 4 only. But they calmed down after a while again to force 3 or so, and we just kept on pushing to the destination…no turning around at that point any more…have you ever slept whilst paddling? Or just fallen asleep on paddling? Everything is possible…so the “rest” day on Tuesday after the landing at 8.30 am was just necessary.
We just landed, put up camp and cooked “dinner”/ breakfast, as those rescue team guys showed up with their huge trucks and told us their story. So we checked up with the communication problems, and went to the deserved sleep at about 10 am.
One hour later I could kill those f…… TV guys knocking at our tent: “Are you in there and ok for an interview?” Greg, polite American as usual said “sure” and got up instantly, I cussed a bit more, didn’t talk too much and preferred to leave my sunglasses on my swollen eyes…I am grumpy when I don´t get enough sleep!!!
Done with that chore, the next TV-crew came already down the beach…same procedure, I am grumpy, Greg politely and happily doing the job :-))
Back to sleep again…another hour, and a newspaper guy knocked at the tent together with the farmer…same procedure as above…this was our “REST” day!!!
But anyway, we kept on paddling the next days, 70 km, 60 km, 65 km, two 40 and 30 km half days, ending up in the first soak in an Icelandic hot pool. Another 70 km, 65 km, and we are here now…
And yes, we saw some nice shoreline with 1000000000000 of birds and impressive huge cliffs already, paddled into stunning caves and through beautiful arches. Lots of pics to share later!!!
But to be honest, mainly we are going from headland to headland on open water, we were blessed so far with winds usually moderate to low out of all directions, and with water not too challenging besides the huge distances. This is how to get around FAST.
Sure there might be other ways to paddle around Iceland. But as my time line is short due to my home schedule, that´s the way we chose to do it…
We are going shopping now, and the we´ll see! Probably resupply and post again from Hoefn at the South-East before we are starting the sandy beaches…
2nd Internet access in Iceland
Sure, we are not looking for internet every night, as usually lighthouses on headlands don*t provide much of that luxury, but on Monday night we needed to turn into the small village of Bakkagerdi to spend obviously two or three days weather bound.
It is really stormy here! Force 7 or so blowing heavy rain allover, although from a tempting following North-Easterly direction, but what is too much is too much. We even had to take out tent down after the first night on a “civilized” campsite in town…
Thanks for Karel from Israel to work out the daily weather updates to our Sat-phone, together with Steini.
Steini and Karel did a great job so far in staying in contact with us! Thanks to both!
Anyway, after our “rescue” story we started to contact the coastguard every day about our well-being…and they were obviously interested and happy to hear from us every day.
Twice they seemed to play the “see if you can find those guys!” – game, as after our VHF-call with GPS position we saw a helicopter flying over our heads – they seem to have found a target to practise on!
We were texting messages to Derrick every night, too, to update our blog, but obviously the communication virus is still somehow up 🙁 After the first posts about our “rescue” stuff he didn*t seem to get any daily text anymore! We*ll try to work that out now…
You’ll find some stuff posted on Wendys blog, as she obviously stays in personal phone contact with Steini and other Icelanders like Halldor (sorry we had to pass your place, but I hope we*ll meet after the thing is done!!). Thanks to Wendy for her update work!
So first I try to update our daily positions and progress now, and whoever is capable to put that into a nice little map would be doing the greatest job on earth! Internet time now and my skills are limited, sorry…
Starting the trip at Gardskagi Lighthouse, close to Kaflavik airport, jumping out of the plane the previous night at 11.30 pm…:
Overall distance so far: 935 km
Distance left: ca. 600 km
Paddling days: 14
Days off: 5
Average per day: 66.8 km
So that’s it with statistics so far!
We found internet in the friendly house of Helga and Kari, who also made it possible we could take our soaked tent down from the campsite and stay in a nice loft. Thanks to both!
We hope the weather calms down tomorrow, but latest on Friday. Three days to Hoefn, then the South coast starts…
Our paddling days were mainly blessed so far with calm to moderate weather (well, besides that 2nd night…), just Sunday afternoon we really had to fight strong headwinds at night to reach the destination. But we were rewarded then with a great campsite at the bottom of a lighthouse and a great view of the midnight sun!
Monday was the greatest paddling day ever! Waves 2-3 m, mostly following winds with force 4-5 – it felt like flying! But if you check the GPS speed, you are doing good, but far less than it feels 🙁
We were lucky to have a land stop this time at Gullborg island, as the usual “living” in the kayak all day with eating, drinking and peeing whilst staying in the kayak was not really possible today…
We saw offshore a great sandstorm going on the Heradssandur, and were happy we decided to still cut across rather than going into that bay…we’ll get enough sandurs soon!
Close to Bakkagerdi between Osfles, a small offshore island and the Brimnes lighthouse at the headland before Borgafjordur leading to Bakkagerdi I had the ultimate seasickness test – choppy waters about 2-3 m, not nicely rolling waves anymore, but just reflective up and down, plus the “icing of the cake” 100 dreds of low flying seabirds around your kayak adding to the roller coaster feeling – I was really glad to be through soon and turning into the sheltered bay…
Reaching Bakkagerdi, we were looking for the “official” campsite in town, saw a van packing and assumed the right spot for landing. Checking the campsite fully dressed, we found the hot shower and jumped both under it – still fully geared up! A hot shower never felt that good! And I think the gear appreciated a sweet water rinse, too, as much as we did after that 80 km ride!
Our open palm mitts we are using are doing a great job, but when it comes to frequently bracing into the cold water, they start to get to their protection limits…and your body heat goes down…
Enjoying the cooking facilities on the campsite, we gathered freshly showered, but again a bit overtired in the kitchen at midnight, ready for a late dinner, and jumped into our bags soon.
Sleeping in long, shopping the next day, the stormy weather was getting even worse. At night heavy rain was added to an even more gusty wind, which made us picking the split paddle from the boat at 3 am to support the tent from inside…
We usually both sleep with some “sleeping masks” on the face to get some rest in darkness, how nice a “real” night feels…just what you don*t have you start to yearn for mostly again…
We really appreciated the next morning Helga’s invitation to stay in that loft! The tent was really close to it*s limits in that wind, and the bottom started to be soaked over the night…the whole meadow looked at noon more like a swamp than a campsite! We were still warm and dry over the night in our bags on our pads, but the pads soon started to get afloat coming closer to the morning… :))
We were the last tent put down…just happy *that* storm did not reach us staying at those sandy areas! But we’ll see how the South Coast likes us…
Iceland has sooooo much more to see besides the really impressive coastline! When I was reading the guidebook the last day, I guessed after this trip is done, I’ll need to be back one day to really see the inland! You can*t do everything on one trip…
We even felt sorry we decided to rather go fast around than to stop by all those nice places where paddlers living along the coast – Steini, Halldor, Ari, Ingolfur – we apologize for that decision! We hope to be around soon, and then to spend a few days with you guys! Seems we all need to meet in Anglesey again, where all this madness started…
3rd Internet access in Iceland
Hi, there!We are weatherbond again… :-((
If someone asks me later what was the hardest part of this trip…for me it were those days off due to stormy weather…I felt like a bondaged racing horse…not that we are not paddling over force 5, but when it comes to 7 or more, better stay dry!
So how did we spend the last of the three weatherbond days in Bakkagerdi? Karel texted me another patience day will pay off…I didn’t want to believe him, as I saw the wind and seas going down Thursday afternoon already, but he was right!
It turned out that the loft Helga put us in was owned by the father in law of Ari’s brother Palmi, who is a sea kayaker, too, and who just spent some holidays in Bakkagerdi with his wife.
He came over Sunday night after we just moved in, and we had (actually the first…) good Icelandic kayaker’s talk…he was the first kayaker on this trip we’ve met to talk to so far, and as he took many pictures, he could prove we are not “phantoms” only going around! :-))
Next day Palmi took us in his big 4-wheel drive truck on an trip through the backcountry on bumpy dirt roads, and proved he was a pretty good off road driver! I really enjoyed sitting upfront besides him, although I must admit I would have even more enjoyed driving by myself! We had to pass plenty of rivers, too, and we didn’t have to push and swim at all! This time it was *us* who took plenty of pictures…
His father in law Olaf joined us a as a local guide, and as he didn’t speak any English Palmi did a great job in translating all his interesting stories…
For example that one about the remote village graveyard located too close to a cliff, which got washed off by the sea over the years, and every spring after the winter storm you could see from the seaside the newly open graves with the bony legs of the skeletons sticking out to the sea…
He owned some fjords away a remote farm, too, where the Eider ducks were attracted to nest in a farm area, and then he could collect the Eider downs to sell later what fills our sleeping bags! That was a really interesting trip, topped by a short ride by me on one of those 4-wheel ATB´s we saw already in Newfoundland everywhere. Thanks to Palmi and Olaf!
The lasagne later at his house with locally grown minced lamb meat brought back some of the energy we’ve probably lost on those last paddling days.
The fist paddling day after 3 days off felt really good, but the water was still pretty rough with following winds, and I had to fight a bit of seasickness again 🙁
The landing on the sandy beach of Sandvik was a good pretaste for the long sandy stretch on the south coast, dumping surf all night long sticked to our ears at the tent site on the cliff. Walking up to the comfortable rescue shelter seemed too much of a hard work that night, and our bright orange tent was just similar looking 🙂
When the landing was just wet, the launching next day proved to be a bit more tricky.
I had the luck to launch first this time and to get pushed in, but Greg got a big wave right into his face and lost both contacts…his second start was successful then.
If that wasn’t enough already, the last night´s predicted forecast of following winds turned 180 degrees to solid headwinds, which Karel actually corrected in another forecast that morning already, but we couldn´t read it at that time…
Ok, sticking the head around the corner out of that bay blew the hardest katabatic wind in my face I ever had experienced. It felt like paddling in a wind tunnel! I estimated force 7 or 8… The waves were moderate, so after about an hour’s hardest fight to the next open fjord area where the catabatic effect was not that strong any more, we kept on going in force 4-5 headwinds “only” for the rest of the day, and had to stop already after about 50 km. Wow, the body was sore after that day!
But we had to make it to Hoefn next day, or the forecast of maybe another 2-3 windbound days would get us stuck in the bushes somewhere. And I must admit it is more nice to stay in a town with hot shower, pool and internet for a few days!
So after this day of fighting hard headwinds, we had to go another 90 km, luckily with first no winds, then following winds and even a nice current into the right direction, reaching temporarily about 6 knots!
But it was too early to call it a nice easy pushing, just long, long day…
Reaching Stokksnes lighthouse about 20 km before Hoefn, that point proved already to be a real current trap. They came from both sides together at that point, and created the hell of a water through this little maze of islands. The view of the futuristic huge ball of the radio station added to the science fiction scenery of the huge sandy mountain area, with already the view of the glacier tongues sticking out in the background.
We felt like damn good paddlers surviving that water…and kept on going with about 2 knots only in still heavy waves, the current against us now.
The lighthouses of the harbour entrance of Hoefn always in sight, the current changed to a wide tidal race to the left, which we could still avoid somehow. But the harbour entrance was blocked by a massive standing wave, as the outflowing water of the inlet was incredibly strong at that time of the day (no, actually “night” already, it was 11.30 pm!).
We ferry glided to the other side, but just to find the left eddy side too dangerous, blocked with rocks to sneak up safely. I ferry glided again in heavy waters to the right harbour entrance wall, and luckily made it, scratching alongside the big rocks near the harbour wall up in the narrow eddy.
Greg obviously didn’t see me being already successful on the right side, and was sitting in the middle of the race for a while paddling like hell, trying to get around the blocking rocks to the left side again. I already climbed up my wall side to look out for him, hoping he was doing well! I saw him paddling, paddling…eventually he made it up on the left side, and saw me later waving on the rocks of the other side!
After a short radio communication he ferry glided again paddling hard up to my side, and eventually we were both able to sneak up the eddy to the actual harbour.
It was 1 am, we were pretty exhausted from the long, tough and eventful day.
But as it is Iceland, no problem to camp on a meadow just close to the harbour, and falling asleep instantly until 10 am next day, really appreciating that predicted day off due to strong winds!
A pool session, internet and shopping filled today, Monday.
We’ll see how long we have to stay this time weatherbond…the tough, challenging stretch of the long, sandy beach is waiting!
We are done! 33 days, 25 paddling days, 8 weather days, 1620 km, 65 km average…
Those are the numbers which just don’t say much about the experience and impression we’ve got…but I’ll take my time soon to update the rest of the trip and edit and upload some pictures! A slide show will be ready soon and available to present, too.
Just so far, we are sitting dry and warm now at Stein’s house and are recovering a bit…the South Coast was a bit more entertaining! Great adventures and experiences on the edge, but no serious incidents, thanks goodness.
Thanks to Karel Vissel fo the reliable weather messages on the Sat-phone every day!
Thanks to Steini for hosting us and driving us around!
Thanks to all our sponsors, I’ll update soon how their great gear was holding up :-))
We will be in Germany this weekend, and do the office jobs then…
Day 01 Saturday 09.06.07 to Malarif lighthouse, x-ing Faxafloi Bay – 90 km
Day 02 Sunday 10.06.07 to Melanes, x-ing Breidafjordur – 100 km
Day 03 Monday 11.06.07 no paddling, as we arrived at 8.30 am…
Day 04 Tuesday 12.06.07 to Kopaflaga headland lighthouse/hut – 70 km
Day 05 Wednesday 13.06.07 to a hut at Bolungarvik headland – 60 km
Day 06 Thursday 14.07.06 to the Horn close to the Arctic circle – 65 km
Day 07 Friday 15.06.07 to Geirolfsnupur hut – 40 km
Day 08 Saturday 16.06.07 to the hot pool at Krossness beach!!! – 30 km
Day 09 Sunday 17.06.07 to Skagata lighthouse x-ing Hunafloi bay – 70 km
Day 10 Monday 18.06.07 to Siglufjordur town – 65 km
Day 11 Tuesday 19.06.07 no paddling, relax, sleep, shopping, internet, pool….
Day 12 Wednesday 20.06.07 to Flatey island – 55 km
Day 13 Thursday 21.07.06 to Raudinupur lighthouse – 65 km
Day 14 Friday 22.06.07 to Heidi on Laganes peninsula – 75 km
Day 15 Saturday 23.06.07 no paddling on a bad weather day, hiking
Day 16 Sunday 24.06.07 to Svartanes lighthouse, – 70 km
Day 17 Monday 25.06.07 to Bakkagerdi village – 80 km
Day 18 Tuesday 26.06.07 no paddling on a bad weather day
Day 19 Wednesday 27.06.07 no paddling on a bad weather day
Day 20 Thursday 28.06.07 no paddling on a bad weather day
Day 21 Friday 29.06.07 to Sandvik Bay 65 km
Day 22 Saturday 30.06.07 to Streitishvarf lighthouse 50 km
Day 23 Sunday 01.07.07 to Hoefn 90 km
Day 24 Monday 02.07.07 no paddling on a bad weather day
Day 25 Tuesday 03.07.07
Day 26 Wednesday 04.07.07
Day 27 Thursday 05.07.07
Day 28 Friday 06.07.07
Day 29 Saturday 07.07.07
Day 30 Sunday 08.07.07
Day 31 Monday 09.07.07
Day 32 Tuesday 10.07.07
Day 33 Wednesday 11.07.07