Iceland Road Trip Part 1/3 – Puffins and Popped Tyres

Originally posted: 1 August 2017

Day 1 – Reykjavik to Nedri Holl

First day of our road trip! We hired a GPS from the camping store around the corner of our hostel, and were then picked up at our hostel at 9:30am by Lagoon Car Rental.  They drove us to their office, we were shown our car for the next 10 days, a Renault Clio. We checked over the car for chips, scratches etc, there were only a couple, we made note of them on the contract, car had only done 360km – brand new! We signed the papers and then we were off!

I started the driving and for the first part of the day I was chanting to myself keep right keep right keep right. My little chant worked because good news everybody I kept right!  We had decided that we were going to cook majority of our meals to save money so we stopped at one of the budget grocery stores, Bonus (their logo is a bright pink pig).

We had attempted to make a shopping list prior but we weren’t sure what to expect in the store. We ended up walking out with lots of canned foods (tomatoes, chickpeas, corn, peas, carrots etc), rice, some random spice we hoped was Moroccan, eggs, cheese, ham – mostly generic things that we would experiment with the meals later AND 5 avocados for $3!!! The only cheap thing in Iceland apparently. Went next door to the bakery to get some fresh bread and we finally headed off just after 12!

Keep right, keep right, keep right!

About 20 minutes into driving the tyre pressure light came on the car, we decided to be safe and check it out. Went to the petrol station and the pressure was all over the place, front right was 42, front left was 16, both rear tyres were 30. We fixed it up and then headed off again!

Driving in Iceland is pretty easy, drive on the right side (keep right keep right keep right), speed limits are generally 90km/h on sealed roads, 80km/h on gravel roads, and in towns it varied between 30-50km/h. Most roads are single lane and there are lots of round-a-bouts (prior to the trip I had read about people complaining about the round-a-bouts and all I could think was my whole life living in Canberra has led to this moment, BRING ON THE ROUND-A-BOUTS!)

It’s hard to adequately describe the scenery along the way. Every turn and bend there was more amazing scenery, kept wanting to stop for pictures (pictures unfortunately don’t do it justice). Sian and I spent most of the day (and honestly the whole trip) saying WOW! Where are we? Is this the moon? What is this? Wow! Ooh!

We drove through a 6km long tunnel that went 165m under water! First stop was Eldborg Crater for lunch, we couldn’t easily walk up to the crater so instead we had our sandwiches next to the river.  Sian stepped in poo, hehehe and then shortly afterwards bit into one of the apples we bought and was lucky to find some maggots yay! I on the other hand had a delicious ham and cheese sandwich, no maggots and no new decoration for my shoes – winning!

Our car rental for Iceland

Our ride and Eldborg Crater in the background and our lunch stop for the day!

Other stops for the day were Raudfelder Canyon, Pufubjarg, Londrangar, Malarrif, Dritvik, Grimsby Shipwreck (pictures below with descriptions)

We had driven right to the end of Snaefellsness Peninsula and were pretty wrecked so we headed back towards our Airbnb for the night, we stopped at a seal colony on the way. We were there for about an hour watching the seals bobbing up and down in the water, every time it looked like they were close to coming to shore some idiot tourist decided that running towards them was the smart thing to do. Eventually everyone left but Sian and I and as we were leaving we luckily saw one sitting out on the rocks, got a few snaps and then decided to come back in the morning.

Our Airbnb was a couple of km up the road and wow.. what an Airbnb! Farm next to the sea, we pulled up and were greeted by a very excitable dog, walked inside and had 2 gorgeous cats come greet us. Then our host asked if we wanted to see the puppies, YES WE WANT TO SEE THE PUPPIES! There were seven 4 week old puppies!!!! So cute!! After we cooked dinner we went to have a wander around the farm.

Our AirBnb – Nedri Holl Farm

Got chatting with our host, her and her husband were still working. I asked if they worked long hours just in summer because of the daylight and she said no they work those hours all year round, even in middle of winter with no daylight and when the snow is 2-3 feet deep.  They had bought the farm a few years earlier and were in the process of fixing it up which would set them back $1.5 million AUD. It was a dairy farm so bulk cows.  She said that in Iceland there is a government set price for selling milk, so even small farms like hers were able to make a decent wage against the larger companies. They had just finished milking the cows so our host showed us around to the shed where they were feeding, she said the bulls were friendliest. Spent about 20 minutes patting the bulls and just being in animal heaven. There were also 4 lambs that had been abandoned by their mothers but were so friendly! Our night was basically an animal lovers paradise! We reluctantly left the animals behind to go to bed because it was past midnight!

Day 2 – Nedri Holl to Raudsdalur

We had an early start today, went straight to the seals just after 7am.  As we walked closer we were super excited to see about 15-20 of them all sitting out on the rocks!  We were the only ones there so we quietly watched them for about 20 minutes.  We had a ferry to catch at 9am on the other side of the peninsula, so we hopped in the car and zoom zoomed to Stykkisholmur.

I drove the car onto the ferry while Sian walked on, the cars were packed in like sardines! The man who worked there was directing me to inch closer and closer to the other cars which seemed a lot harder when driving a right hand drive car, but on reflection it actually wasn’t that bad at all!

Went upstairs for the 3 hour ferry crossing to the Westfjords with a brief stop at Flatey Island. You can stay there if you want but the island is tiny, no cars allowed, and I think you could walk it in 30 minutes. Much better things to do with our time! As we approached the other side the drivers were told to get in their cars and get ready so we could disembark quickly.  Well apparently that is easier said than done!

I was the second last car on the ferry so I had the pleasure of watching everyone getting off and just being idiots in general. Three times someone was too busy taking photos from the front to realise that they were meant to be driving their car off and as a result no one could move because of them.  The workers were screaming at them to get in their car and move it! Twice there were cars that decided that yes it was their turn to drive off despite the fact they had a car in front of them, suddenly realising their mistake they would slam on brakes – derp!

Finally I got to drive my car off, went up around the corner and picked up some random off the street (lets call the random Sian).  We decided to do a big loop around the area anti-clockwise and end our day at Latrabarg Cliffs before driving back to our hostel which was near the ferry dock.

Westfjords is a lot less travelled than other parts of Iceland, part of this reason being it is less accessible and many of the roads are closed for most of the year because of snow.  Majority of the roads are gravel with the exception of a couple of the main routes, but even the main roads have gravel sections!

We shortly drove onto our first gravel road, we took it reasonably slow as it was quite bumpy. Amazing scenery again! We went past couple of waterfalls and as we got higher drove past lots of snow.  We descended down the mountains windy roads and ended up stopping next to a river for lunch. Ham and cheese sandwich wins again! We continued on after lunch, drove through Patreksfjordur and stopped at a shipwreck on a beach (oldest steel ship in Iceland, built 1912).

We had to turn off the main route to head towards Latrabarg, we had about an hour of weaving up and down very bumpy gravel roads, potholes everywhere, very steep, sheer drops to the side at some stages.  Arrived at Latrabarg cliffs just after 4:30pm. What’s so special about Latrabarg you ask, why did we have to drive all the way there. PUFFINS! THAT’S WHY! We got out of the car walked to the cliff and straight away we saw them! They are the cutest little fake bird ever. I say fake bird because they just don’t seem real, similar to a penguin but they fly and they just look awkward when they fly, but they are just so tiny and cute and not bothered by humans at all! Signs everywhere saying that if you want to get close to the edge you need to lie on your stomach to distribute weight as the cliff has been known to break away, the cliffs are the highest in Iceland and well.. I know I wouldn’t want to go crashing into the ocean!  We spent the next 2 hours walking up and down the cliffs checking out all the puffins, got as close as a metre to them, such a great afternoon! There were a couple of other birds there as well but I couldn’t tell you what they were because my attention was focused on the puffins!

Adorable puffins!

It was just after 7pm when we decided to head off as we had an 1.5 hour drive to the hostel. Reluctantly left the puffins behind and headed off. About 30 minutes in to the drive back we heard a bang (NOOOO), pulled over and yep popped tyre (NOOOO). Now I do know how to change a tyre, it was something dad taught me before I got my license. My issue is that I’m not the strongest person in the world and I know that I’m not strong enough to unscrew the nuts and get the tyre off.  Sian and I decided to wave a car down to help us… and honestly I wish he had just kept driving.

We asked if he knew how to change a tyre and he sort of umm’d and ahh’d said he’d never done it before but he could probably help. I thought he just didn’t want to help but no, he really had no flipping idea!

We weren’t overly confident with his response so when another car slowed down to check if we were ok we quickly asked the couple if they could help us, the wife said yep, they pulled over, and ah what a dream! He knew exactly what he was doing! Sian helped the man who knew what he was doing (lets call him Dreamy McDream Dream, because at that moment he was our saviour), I got stuck with old mate who had no idea what was going on. The spare tyre was secured under the car and could be detached through the boot. Dreamy quickly got to work on that and passed the tool kit to Old Mate, he couldn’t figure out how to get the damn jack out of the casing! I kept trying to explain how to do it but I think he had stuck in his head that we were helpless girls and he was here to save the day. Finally he listened to me and we got it out and he was like oh wow right ok that’s how it’s done then. He wouldn’t let me put it together so I ended up kind of ordering him how to do it, couldn’t figure out how to start jacking up the car and I explained how to do it, but he wouldn’t hand it to me and he could not understand. In between all this Dreamy has the tyre ready and was waiting for Old Mate to do the easiest job ever! Dreamy ended up just taking it off him and doing it himself, at this stage I was pretty keen for Old Mate to leave and I think he wanted to leave but felt awkward doing so. So instead he decided it was time for a chat, I didn’t want to be rude but also Dreamy was there working his butt off and Old Mate didn’t seem phased at all. Even the conversation was painful.

Old Mate: So where in Britain are you from?

Me: I’m from Australia

Old Mate: Oh wow so where in Australia? Sydney?

Me: No from Canberra


Old Mate: Canb… whats that?

Me: That’s the capital of Australia

Old Mate: No.. it’s something else, what about New South Wales?

Me: Nope that’s a state and Canbera is the capital of Australia.

Old Mate: and Victoria? That’s the capital then?

Me: No Victoria is a state as well, Canberra is the capital and it is in the Australian Capital Territory.

Old Mate: I travelled Australia for about 3 months, I went to Ayers Rock and Uluru and Melbourne. But don’t know Cambba.

Me: Ok

Old Mate: Sooo Camb? What is it again?

Me: Canberra

I mean come on! I know that most people around the world haven’t heard of Canberra but you have travelled to Australia for 3 months surely you should know this!

He eventually decided it was time to leave and he headed off, but not before sneaking back to throw the rag in our boot that he used to wipe his hands. Thanks mate.

Meanwhile Dreamy was doing a fabulous job, car was all set to go, we thanked him, he told us that now we knew how to change a tyre we could do it in future, I decided I shouldn’t tell him I know how to I’m just weak and if it happens again in the future I’ll probably flag someone else down to use their muscles.

We very slowed headed off, going about 40km/h on the gravel road and when we hit sealed road got a bit wild and got up to 60km/h. Sian called the hostel ahead to say we wouldn’t be there til 9pm. We asked about the tyre and they said the farm next door had a garage and could help us.

When we got in we were pretty wrecked, so we had dinner and went to bed almost straight away.

Part 2 to come!

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Hey, I'm Shannon!
I've been travelling since I was 6 years old and have been lucky enough to visit 70 countries! From overlanding through Africa and road-tripping in Samoa to Salsa-ing in Cuba and visiting wineries in India. I love new adventures and can't wait to share them with you in this blog!