1st August – Storutjarnir to Borgarnes

This was another long day. One of the troubles with Iceland is that it’s very difficult to tell what time it is in the morning. 2am, 6am and 9am all look very similar and I’d stopped being sleepy by the time I woke up at 6.30 so I wrote yesterday’s blog, which took two hours. I tried putting the photos on Facebook but the Laptop of Very Little Brain crashed, tried to install updates, failed, and tried to revert while I packed up around it and then, realising this could take hours, unplugged it and sat it in the back seat of my car to fix itself while I drove.

I had vague plans to go to Borganes. Possibly beyond. I dimly remembered it being about 4 hours from Borgarnes to Akureyri from doing it two years ago and Stórutjarnir is another 35 minutes from that. I thought perhaps Borgarnes wasn’t far enough and I’d push further south towards Þingvellir.

Turns out Borgarnes is a long way. I drove straight through Akureyri, which is the Icelandic equivalent of Manchester or Birmingham, only a fraction of the size, with only a few minor issues, of getting in the wrong lane rather than going the wrong way. The Ring Road runs straight through the city, no navigation required. From there I drove on to Varmahlið, where there’s a supermarket. Today is a national holiday in Iceland and everything in Akureyri was shut. Not out in the countryside it isn’t. The little supermarket at Varmahlið was open and I stocked up there and had a picnic on the benches up on the hills above, overlooking the valley with the fjord in the distance to my left.

Next stop was at Blönduós, where there’s an N1 roadhouse and a nice view. I drove down the back streets to see the sea. Blönduós is a little more than a third of the way, which I didn’t realise. Seems that a late night last night and an early start can creep up on you – I spent the next third of the journey trying not to fall asleep. I couldn’t stop, not in the middle of the countryside, there’s nowhere to stay, not even campsites. I have to get to Borgarnes and yet I didn’t think I had anything left in me to get there. I stopped at the next N1 roadhouse, at the bottom of Hrútafjord, wandered around, wondering if an ice cream would make me feel more awake and then remembered I still had half a 2-litre bottle of coke left in the car. That did the trick, more or less. Another hour and a half to Borgarnes, more or less fully awake. A lot of it following a campervan which didn’t know whether it wanted to drive at 65kph or 90. While it’s doing 90, it’s legally impossible to overtake, while it’s doing 65, I’ve lost too much speed to get past it. And Italians might have the stereotype of being impatient drivers who overtake and shove into small spaces but they are nothing compared to Icelanders. I would imagine every other car in the entire country overtook us during the 45 minutes I followed that thing, many of them not leaving enough space to get past me, the car in front of me and the campervan in front of the two of us, shoving in in front of me and forcing me to slam on my brakes. So many times! Many of those who did manage to overtake everything came far too close to cars coming the other way. So many near misses today. It finally turned off ten miles or so out of Borgarnes, which meant I inherited the tailback but they weren’t overtaking in the masses they had been and by the time we got to the outskirts of Borgarnes, there were only two cars left behind me, and they were not in such a hurry.

I stopped at the Borgarnes roadhouse. I’d been debating hotel or camping the entire drive down, when I wasn’t contemplating falling asleep and getting killed, and as I approached, I decided the campsite at Fossatún on the other side of the fjord seemed to be experiencing heavy rain. So at the roadhouse, I borrowed their free wifi to find out where would be a good place to stay. Egil’s Guesthouse seemed to be the answer. It wouldn’t give me Google Maps to find out exactly where it was but I suspected Brákabraut was in the old town, near the Hotel Borgarnes. It was – it’s on the rocks raised up above it, two doors down from the Settlement Museum. They had a room available – not in the guesthouse but in the annexe. That is, in the little house behind the building. There are two rooms, with a shared kitchen and bathroom and the other room, as of me moving in, was vacant, although it was possible someone might walk in off the street and book it as I had just done. But I thought that was unlikely. I moved my stuff in, plugged in my little laptop to see if it had recovered from whatever it had tried to do in the morning and got out a plate and some bread and cheese. I was only just eating that when in walked one of the girls from the guesthouse with a man, who looked at the other room, pronounced it “very nice” and departed. But that was a while ago now and he hasn’t returned so I’m hoping, really hoping, that he’s just having a nose and isn’t actually going to stay there. I’m enjoying having the little house to myself. There’s a table and chairs, a fridge and dishwasher and oven and hob, plates and cups and pots and a toaster, wifi, it’s all very sweet and I was looking forward to having my own little house for the night. In a minute I’m going to see whether the swimming pool regards national holidays as weekends and therefore whether it closes at 6 or 10 and I really hope he’s not here when I get back.

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