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Old 06-30-2017, 05:17 PM   #1
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Default Under the Volcano -- Views from the Other Side

DW and I just returned from a 2 week trip to Iceland, which included a 10 day trip around the Ring Road in a rented class-C camper. Aside from Iceland being dangerously awesome, this was an interesting trip for several reasons:

—First of all, we are confirmed long-time B-vanners, and this was our very first experience with any other kind of RV.

—Secondly, Iceland is part of Europe, and RVing there is very much in the European mode—both in the design and construction of vehicles and in the way campgrounds work.

—Thirdly, Iceland is a totally unique place—different in many ways from anywhere else we have visited.

I thought I would start this thread as a place to report back to my tribe our impressions on all of these things—especially the first two. I don’t mean it primarily as a travelog, but I will try to inject some local color here and there. There is a lot to report—I will chip away at it a little at a time. So, stay tuned for some views from the other side—the other side of the Atlantic; the other side of the B/C divide; and the other side of RV market.
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Old 06-30-2017, 05:27 PM   #2
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Default The Rig

The vehicle we rented was a 2013 Sunlight T64, built on a Fiat Ducato diesel chassis. Manual transmission. Sunlight is a European Hymer brand. It has no obvious relationship with the USA B-van branded “Sunlight”. Seems bizarre that Hymer marketing would foment such confusion, but, whatever.

Fiat Sunlight T64.jpg

Floorplan.png

IMG_8151.jpg

Sunlights are a very popular rental van in Iceland—you see them everywhere. It proved to be a very practical vehicle for our purposes. It is somewhat spartan—mostly hard surfaces, no TV, no Microwave, fabric instead of pleather uphulstury. But it is very well though-out and extremely well-built. Everything was properly designed, engineered, and assembled out of proper components. No sign of ad hoc carpentry anywhere. Excellent hardware, very good window and shade mechanisms. Crucially in the land of the midnight sun, there were very effective black-out shades. Very nice dry-bath, with a tiny but effective shower. Cassette toilet, of course, and a separate gray tank. More on these later.

We rented the unit from a small family-owned rental company that we found on AirBnB. Highly recommended. By all accounts, the large commercial RV rental places in Iceland are nightmare to deal with. Our experience couldn’t have been better.

https://www.campersiniceland.com/our...light-2013/770

I will address our impressions of B vs C travel later, but suffice it to say here that this was a very comfortable rig, and of course quite roomy compared to what we are used to.
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Old 06-30-2017, 06:18 PM   #3
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I am looking forward to see more about your trip. Sunlight’s large factory can effort an engineering staff paying attention to detail from CAD through Computer Aided Manufacturing. I was always impressed with Sunlight quality, less shine with better fit and finish. Good observation – no carpet nor vinyl/foam/ply patches.
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Old 07-01-2017, 02:45 PM   #4
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Default The Ring Road

The island of Iceland is basically a large, active volcano located on the boundary at which the North America and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart from each other. The center region of the island is mountainous, rugged, and mostly glacial. Nobody lives there. The entire population resides around the perimeter, mostly in coastal communities. It is geologically very young and very active, so there are waterfalls and lava fields galore. There are no forests and very few trees (apparently the Vikings chopped them all down 1000 years ago).

The “E ticket” attraction in Iceland is a circumnavigation of the island on Route 1, better known as the “Ring Road”. This is an 828 mile 2-lane loop around the island. Unless you are a truly rabid bicyclist (and apparently there are quite a few of these), there are basically three practical ways to do this: (a) drive and stay in hotels; (b) rent a little camper-van (basically a mini-van with a bed); and (c) rent a real RV (or if you are from Europe, bring your own—but there is no ferry service from North America). Here is the poop on each:

(a) Drive/hotels — This is easy enough, and a decent choice if your standards aren’t too high. The population of Iceland is 334,000, of which 217,000 live in greater Reykjavík. Most of the rest are in a few small coastal cities. This doesn’t leave a lot of people spread out over 800 miles. There are tiny little villages at intervals (often just a gas station/convenience store and a few houses). Accommodations range from hostels and little guest houses up to small local hotels (no chains). They are not luxurious, and neither are the restaurants.

(b) Camper-vans — These are SUVs or minivans painted in garish graphics and configured with beds and sometimes primitive kitchens. No plumbing. This is the most cost-effective option, popular with young people. They are practical because most campgrounds have showers and cooking facilities (more on this later) and every little town has a public swimming pool with shower facilities.

(c) RVs — This is also a very popular option, comprising mostly class C rigs, and some B vans. They are a lot more expensive than the camper vans, but they are popular—you see them everywhere. The parking lot of every attraction will almost always have a few.

The Ring Road is an almost completely paved, good-quality road. It is 2-lanes in most places. The exceptions are (a) near Reykjavík, where there are short stretches of 4-lane highway; and (b) the bridges, which are mostly single-lane. There is no traffic control. People just take turns:

bridge - 1.jpg

bridge - 2.jpg

bridge - 3.jpg

The driving is mostly pretty easy, although the roads and bridges are often pretty narrow—especially in the mountains. The biggest challenge is that the roads, in addition to being narrow, are generally raised above the surrounding volcanic terrain and there are almost no guard rails. As a result, a moment of inattention or a sudden gust of coastal wind can produce a camper lying on its side. Also, there are free-range sheep everywhere and few fences. They are mostly well-disciplined, but it is not unusual for them to wander onto the road:

sheep - 1.jpg

The roads off the ring leading to attractions are usually dirt and often pretty rough, but people take their rigs there anyway. The speed limit is mostly 90kph, reducing to 70 in tunnels and other tricky places and 30 in towns. Enforcement is strict but sparse. Except around the capital, police are few and far between. There are lots of automated radar signs, with a touch of whimsey:

happy face.jpg

They are very serious about DUI. The legal blood alcohol level is very low. I was stopped one morning pulling out of a campground (near the capital) for a random breathalyzer test. They were checking for all-night partiers.

We took 11 days/10 nights to drive the Ring Road. It was about right. We were able to see most of what we were interested in. Much shorter would have started to seem like a forced march.
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Old 07-01-2017, 02:58 PM   #5
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Thanks for the report.

Now you got me interested in going.

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Old 07-01-2017, 04:46 PM   #6
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What a wonderful write-up! The pictures are really descriptive and you covered all the important stuff! Looks like it was a wonderful trip - thanks for sharing!
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Old 07-01-2017, 05:36 PM   #7
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Thank you for the write-up. Did you see any residual signs from the 08-financial crisis, it hit Iceland more than many other countries?
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Old 07-01-2017, 10:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeRa View Post
Thank you for the write-up. Did you see any residual signs from the 08-financial crisis, it hit Iceland more than many other countries?
Nothing overt. Iceland has become kind of trendy, and there has been a huge spike in tourism, so they are feeling pretty prosperous right now. However, references to the crisis did come up several times in casual conversation: Things like "construction on that building was delayed by the financial crisis" and such. Much like Americans would speak about 9/11. Happened often enough for me to notice, so it is definitely still on people's minds.
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Old 07-01-2017, 10:43 PM   #9
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Cheap flights to Iceland


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Old 07-01-2017, 11:02 PM   #10
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Another place in EU with vastly uninhabited places is Norway. We drove from Oslo to Bergen and about 1/3 of the way to Trondheim along the west coast fiords, absolutely gorgeous scenery. Narrow roads, often single lane with long tunnels like 7.5 km long. Still planning to go to Trondheim but we will fly.
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Old 07-02-2017, 01:11 AM   #11
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When I was in the Navy we were give three choices for our first duty. I put in Reykjavik, Iceland, Adak, Alaska and a ship. I got the ship.

Ever since I wonder about going there but I have too many places to go before. This January we will go on a package tour to Australia and New Zealand and then stay over after the tour in New Zealand visiting friends.

I had an obsession with Wales and I got there. I have an obsession with Finland as well.
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Old 07-29-2017, 05:31 PM   #12
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Default Campgrounds

Past time for another installment...

Campgrounds in Iceland are plentiful. You can find them most anywhere along the ring road and elsewhere. Every town of any size has at least one, typically within easy walking distance to the town center.

The style of the campgrounds is quite different from what I am used to in the US. [Note, however, that we almost always camp at state parks, BLM lands, and other public facilities. The Iceland facilities might seem less unusual to those who frequent commercial campgrounds.] I've never camped elsewhere in Europe, but I gather that the Icelandic campgrounds are similar to those found on the continent.

The campgrounds are typically simply large, open fields. Some have demarcated parking places, others do not. You pull up to the office, hand them your credit card [cash is all but unnecessary anywhere in Iceland]. They give you a receipt that you place on your dash. You then drive in and park anywhere you like. It might be possible to make a reservation in advance, but I don't think anybody ever bothers. There are almost always plenty of slots, especially out in the boonies.

Here are some campgrounds in which we stayed:









Most but not all of them have dump stations, which are free to use. Everyone uses cassette toilets (more on that anon), so the blackwater dumps are designed for them. Greywater is handled via a storm-drain-like grid that you pull over. The drain pipes on the rigs don't have hoses. Here is a typical dump station showing us dumping our grey tank:



Most campgrounds have optional electric hookups for a minority of the sites. You pay a small additional fee for the right to hookup.

Power is 220VAC, so thinner cords can be used. The same 3-prong plugs and sockets are used on the vehicle and on the power stations. Instead of separate power stands at each campsite, they have clusters of outlets. Consequently, everybody has very long cords, which is OK because they are so thin:









The campgrounds generally have public restrooms. Most but not all have showers. This is often included in the campground fees, but sometimes cost extra. We used the shower in our rig, but they looked mostly pretty nice. They are segregated by gender, but are otherwise more communal than most Americans are used to. (I didn't take pics ). Many campgrounds have facilities for cooking and laundry, and often a communal area where folks gather. They are sometimes quite nice:





These facilities are popular among the many folks who travel in SUV-sized campers, rather than full-sized RVs like ours.


As a final note: you will find many claims on the Internet that in Iceland it is OK to just pull over on the side of the road or up a farm lane to boondock. This apparently was once common practice, but we saw no evidence that this is still the norm around the Ring Road (and the law apparently changed a few years ago). Things may be different in the interior.
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