An email conversation with Jae Águstine Cameron Jae bicycled throughout Iceland last summer, two of those weeks with her father Jim Cameron, and also ran in the half-marathon (without training) - because she was there and it was happening.
She is a former Icelandic Canadian Club of BC princess, comes from Smithers, BC, and is in her 4th year at Concordia University, Montreal.
She was asked by another student what was an ‘economical’ way to travel around Reykjavík (Rvík) and Iceland and the following is her reply. As of mid-October 2009 100 krónur is approx. $0.86 CAD 1000 krónur is approx. $8.60 CAD $1 CAD is approx. 116 krónur $100 CAD is approx. 11,607 krónur
The cheapest place to stay, by far, is camping. The campsite costs 1000 kr a night at the high season, I think 700 kr later on. Outside of Rvík, it’s often free, especially in the fall season. The international youth hostel was one of the cheapest hostels, and it’s connected to the campsite... it’s right beside the pool, on Sundlaugavegur (vegur means street) – cross street: Laugarásvegur.
It’s about 23-2800 kr a night but it has a kitchen and showers and laundry services and common room. The downtown city hostel is okay and cheap (3000 kr or so a night) but is in a great location, right on Laugavegur – the shopping street. There aren’t kitchens though, so the price starts to rise once you factor that in. If there is more than one person travelling, I’d recommend just getting a suite, either in the hostels or in the hotels, since the price starts to work in your favourthat way and you get some privacy.
Still keeping price as a main thought, food can be really expensive in Rvík and all over the country, with the exception of Pizza. Pizza is the ultimate failsafe for filling up on food. In Rvík, I went to a really interesting vegan cafe and co-op bookstore called Hljómalind which had soups and breads every day for 700 kr – which is great if you want to eat tomatoes or vegetables again, as they are in short supply in the country and ridiculously expensive. The cheapest option, sadly, is a Subway just down at the end of Laugavegur.
Of course, self-catering is the way to go, especially if you are in a hostel with a kitchen. Avoid the 10–11’s (similar to our 7-Eleven’s) if you possibly can; they are so overpriced since they are open 24 hours. The Bonus store on Laugavegur is the way to go. Cheese is super cheap and so are flatbreads.
In terms of bookshops, etc., in Rvík, I feel like the Lonely Planet does a better job than I would ever do, since all of my experience was just consulting it and then rambling around. I have to admit that any place, that serves waffles was the joy of my existence while there.
Something about how Icelanders make waffles is beyond divine. I mean, they have bananas (a luxury item, as one banana can be 100 kr) and Nutella (a staple) and cream...ooooahh! Almost every coffee shop is great, but I loved Mokka the most, despite expensive coffee, because of the atmosphere (let you sit around all day with the newspaper and outdoor area).
One great thing about the international city hostel that I can’t get over is their “free bin” in the kitchen, where tourists place all the items they won’t use. It’s a gold mine of cheeses, pastas, sauces – if one wanted, they would never have to buy food. If I’m on this subject, it is free to camp anywhere in Iceland for one night (as in two nights on the same field, no go, go to the next field and you’re home free) due to something called “the King’s Law” which states that everyone owns the land. It is common courtesy to warn the owner of the land (if there is one) that you will be staying there.
Of course, taking a sleeping bag is a must regardless of camping, since hostel and hotels charge a linen fee of about 400-700 kr per night if you don’t. In terms of places of interest, there’s a sculpture museum just out of town that is beyond scary, especially since it’s so understated – and seeing the main local art gallery (just to the right of the main square at the end of Lagarvegur) is a must.
Also there’s a gay club Barbara, one of the most beautiful bars, placed in an old house, and very friendly. Normally I’d recommend Hotel Edda, which are the schools that have been turned into accommodation (3200 kr or so) but they close on the 22nd of August. If anyone is in Iceland during the students’ summer vacation, it’s a good place to stay.
The breakfast was the best part of Hotel Edda – for 1000 kr it was an ‘all you could eat buffet,’ often including just vats of skyr and breads and cheeses and fruits and ... I could go on and on. One of them had a ‘make your own waffle’ station. Top notch. They also pack a lunch if you’re into it, another 1000 kr deal – two half sandwiches, one traditional (fish and rye), one “modern” (ham and cheese), a smoothie and fruit. Of course, I’m romanticizing it because it saved my life one day biking, when it was nine or ten at night and dad and I were so tired we could barely bike up the road, trying desperately to find some sort of pool.
We decided we ‘might as well’ try this place out and ended up being so happy about it. Dad, being a teacher, was also pretty into the idea of camping in a school.
This is directed to biking travellers
I was in Iceland for a month, but the bike trip was in two sections, one around the Golden Circle that took three days or so (but full days – remember the sun doesn’t go down – you start to bike and forget that it’s eight or nine at night) and another trip around the north for the rest of it.
In terms of mountains ... it’s more like rolling hills that just keep on climbing and climbing. One ‘mountain’ in particular sticks out, just outside of Akureyri (I still don’t really know how to pronounce Akureyri... like Mývatn... which I was given several different pronunciations by locals until I just uttered a gutteral Mmmmva) towards Húsavík… I think it took us two hours, no joke, of steady uphill.
I thought we would just die. There were at least three false summits, each time prompting me to swear wildly and scream, alerting dad to the fact that we weren’t out of it yet. Luckily, the wind was at our backs, otherwise I would have had to walk it, I’m sure. Going down that hill back into town was also a crazy ride.
I had the brakes on the whole time (and no longer have brakes, thanks to it) and was still going at a high speed. Cars would slow down and drivers would give us little honks or thumbs up as we tried to get up the hill, which was really nice and kept me going, at least.
There was another hill outside of – well, I guess about an hour’s drive southeast of Rvík, I’m not sure of the town. That took about an hour of steady climbing, with multiple false summits as well. About ten metres from the top of that one I got my first flat, so the timing is a bit off. To be honest, I was pretty happy to get the flat, in a weird way, because I could take a break from the uphill.
Something I didn’t mention but I think is important, in terms of mountains or things that make it hard to bike, are the rudders (for lack of a better word) for 75k outside of Rvik.
It makes it incredibly dangerous and almost impossible to bike – small lanes and no shoulder here plus these bumps (to keep drivers from falling off the road) make it impossible to bike anywhere but in the small lanes or on the treacherous gravel slopes.
Needless to say, we biked at 5k an hour, slow as possible, trying to stay within the two inches allowed and avoiding the trucks that nearly hit us over and over again. This is coming into town from the south-east. I know that leaving town from the north isn’t as bad (no bumpers).
In terms of towns, if travel-ling outside of Rvík, Akureyri is amazing. It’s all on a hill, very quaint but very happening at the same time. It’s a good northern capital for some exploration to Hofsós or Húsavík.
Email from Jae Águstine Cameron to her parents on completion of the Reykjavík Half-Marathon, August 22, 2009
I’ve just finished the Reykjavík marathon and man, am I tired. In true Rvík fashion it rained occasionally, was sunny every once in a while, and was super windy both with us and against us. We followed the water mostly and at one point ran through a fish rendering plant, which smelt terrible. After the fish plant we ran through a shipping yard for about a kilometre, which was kind of spooky and strange because of all the cargo.
Then, straight uphill, which is where I shine due to my quads of steel. At the 18k mark I considered walking for a bit, but then saw an Icelander holding up the sign “Jack Bauer wouldn’t walk this close to the finish,” which pretty much put me in my place.
My goal was to run the whole thing without stopping and I was able to do that, even if it meant spilling Gatorade all over my face a couple of times and a piece of banana in my hair.
I almost missed the whole thing though – I had rented out an alarm clock which, surprise, didn’t go off. I rolled over to check the time roughly 40 minutes before the race began. As I learned during the run, it’s about 4k into town – so I biked that 4k as fast as humanly possible after drinking one litre of chocolate soy milk and eating some cold pönnukökur. Incidentally, we ended up running the same route, which was a bit demoralizing since I biked it pretty fast and when I got to it running I was beyond tired. I ran the half marathon in two hours, fourteen minutes, and thirty-eight seconds.
I have no idea if that’s a good or bad time, but I’m just stoked that I never stopped running. I think I ran the 10k mark in one hour and three minutes, or so, so my goal at that point was not to deviate from that 10k pace too much. I also found a strong looking Canadian and told myself to keep pace with her.
I’m not sure how anyone runs the full marathon – I know I would have had to start walking if I had to go any further. I’m pretty impressed that you two (mom and dad) did marathons – I’m starting to understand how hard it would be and how great times y’all ran.
Now I’m going back into town (not looking forward to the biking – sore, sore legs and stomach) to eat as much as possible. I’ve got a free pass to the pools for the next day and a half, so I’ll be using those, falling asleep in the hot tubs. Not sure what I’ll be doing for the next few days – the culture fest is on here, so there’s some interesting concerts and art shows.
Mostly, I just want to sleep right now, so I’ll probably take a day of serious recovery and snoozing before I make any major plans. I’m thinking of seeing the glacier, especially as I read that Laxness book (People of the Glacier).
Maybe I’ll catch a bus and do a bit of glacier hiking, though physical activity seems ridiculous right now. Loved Iceland.