Thursday, July 2, 2015

Quirky Patró

At Stúkkuhúsið - life is good
I used the rainy day yesterday to pack up my gear and today I hop the 8:45 the new bus connection to Patreksfjörður with my mountain bike in tow. I plan on staying in Patró (as it’s lovingly nicknamed) for 3 nights in a guesthouse and then move on to Breiðavík for another 3 nights of camping. There are only two other people on the bus, Belgian hikers. It stops at Dynjandi for about 30 minutes, where the wind is so wicked, and there’s no time to really get up close, so I snap a few pictures from afar and go on the other side down by the fjord looking for seals. There’s an old jeep track out that way along Urðahlíð that I’ve always wanted to explore on bike, but I’ll save that for another day. The bus is scheduled to stop at Brjánslækur when the ferry arrives and we’re early so the driver stops at Flokalundur to wash the bus. They’re renovating there too, and I have a quick look inside the shop and the hotel. The breakfast room has paintings all along the wall and they’re for sale. Some are really nice and I’d love to have a closer look, but there’s no time for that.
Concrete supermarket

At Brjánslækur the ferry is late so we wait in the little café and I have some coffee and chat with the Belgians. The weather is cloudy and cold but the next days are supposed to warm up and be mostly sunny. I specifically picked a bad-weather day for travel. It’s fun watching the ferry come in and when it arrives, the bus drives right down by it and we pick up 8 new passengers, while the Belgians leave with the ferry. My bike has to go on the bike rack now, so far it’s been riding comfortably inside the back of the bus. 

"I support single moms"
Rusty spacecraft
In Patró it’s cloudy but much warmer and the weather holds, no rain. I check into Stekkaból guesthouse, which has a cozy breakfast room with a fantastic view over the fjord and I can even park my bike in the garage. This guesthouse used to offer sleeping bag accommodation, but in line with the current trend, they no longer do. I think it’s a shame that this traditional form of cheap accommodation is all but dying out. After all, if the owners can rent a regular room for the full price, why rent cheaper to people on a budget who bring their own sleeping bag and towel? My room (single, 9700 kr/€65 per night incl. breakfast) is very nice and clean, I like it. It’s bright with a big bay window facing the fjord and another one on the side. The whole house is nicely decorated inside, makes a guest feel welcome and at home. It seems like there should be a little old Icelandic lady around running things, giving tips and advice to her travelers, and chatting with them. But reality is that no one is ever around from the guesthouse, just a young girl doing the cleaning and breakfast, so the guests are left to fend for themselves. The impersonal contact with any kind of staff is a strong contrast to the overall cozy, homey feel of the place. I’m sure that most people just travelling through really don’t mind but I do appreciate a pleasant host who I can chat with, ask questions about the area, and tell my plans to when I’m out hiking and biking alone. 
The paint store - note the red sewer

First I have a late lunch at the local café Stúkkuhúsið. This place is very cozy and it will be my hangout in the coming days. It offers a fantastic view over the fjord, whether you sit inside or outside on the spacious deck. The staff is incredibly nice and friendly and make you feel at home.
Odd town square
Next I take a bike ride around town to get acquainted. All in all, the locals are very friendly and great. I explore the harbor, get some groceries and head back to the guesthouse to warm up with some hot chocolate and take a nap. Then it’s off to the pool. Patreksfjörður has a very nice outdoor pool (650 kr/ €4.50 for adults) with two hotpots and of course, the ever-present great view over the fjord. Dinner is a hotdog at the gas station and afterwards I take a short walk to find the trailhead for my planned hike tomorrow. Then I take another spin on my bike through town for a walk along the harbor.

Red sewers
The pool
I’ve been to Patró a couple times in the past, just driving through and having a look from the car. These impressions were never that great. It always seemed like a depressing little place. But in Iceland, it pays to take a closer look and I’ve always wanted to do that here. In general, it’s a quirky town but not half as bad as I expected. In the next few days, I’ll even grow quite fond of it. The quirky things are, for example, the strange fountains in some yards, one with a huge gaudy plastic swan. And a strange town square which is concrete and empty, but surrounded by floodlights. Or the rusty contraption among the lupines out in the middle of nowhere and the way all the sewers are painted red.

What I realized though, due to the construction of the town, is that every single house has fantastic views out all their windows. And all the local people I meet are really nice. By the end of my stay, I even start thinking that I could live here.