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Travels around Iceland with an inflatable Björk

The Wrong Way Round Iceland is our fifth adventure spoof of the Long Way Round series.

On this trip we learnt never to buy beer from a campsite vending machine unless your lottery numbers have come in,  or to eat fermented shark from a plastic pot unless you like the taste of a troll’s underpants.

Pass the warning triangle

Unbelievably, the unbelievable happened. A Yamaha Townmate broke down. Properly, terminally broke down. Apparently leaving a moped outside on a trailer for two years and then expecting it to bounce its way round a glacier is a step too far.

Fortunately Björk enjoyed herself, apart from maybe the last one hundred kilometres where she let us, and most importantly herself down.

road to hell


Hell (and back)


1,650 kilometres (1,050 miles)


Yamaha Townmate 80cc

The Road to Hell

Who knew planning a trip to Hell and back would be like a trip to Hell and back?

It all started at our Pub General Meeting. To get our creative minds at full capacity we decided to hold the PGM in Marbella. This was good for many reasons but bad for one unexpected reason. That reason is Gordon. The moral of the story is never buy a crate of foreign beer because it has a comedy name without checking the strength first.

So the next morning we were at a loss to recollect the meeting but evidently at some point we’d joined a What’s App group with the subject matter “Mums go to Iceland – because mums are heroes“. We were the only members so it would seem we also created it.

Whilst it is a well known fact that mums go to Iceland, it’s not as clear how you achieve “hero” status by filling a trolley with frozen prawn rings.

Worth the hangover

In spite of the atomic hangover we forgave Gordon. Based on the available evidence his powers had spawned a plan to visit Iceland (the country not the supermarket) and there might be some cross-dressing involved. In the cold light of day nobody was arguing that this was not an excellent idea so we set about doing some research. 

The clincher came when Google maps turned up a volcanic crater in Iceland’s interior called “Hell”.  Job done. That’s a destination and a theme right there. We now had a fully fledged plan and didn’t even need the usual long list of visas and vaccinations.

All we had to do was get there.

This is Gordon

The lovechild of Tennants Super and weapons grade plutonium

A can of Gordon

Clue: That is not 1.4%

Bloody GS riders

It was proving difficult to find any points of reference. Finally, Google (again) turned up a blog by some BMW GS riders (obviously) who had ridden around Iceland a bit.

Apart from some stern words about the costs of glamping and meticulous details about fuel economy there was not much useful insight except revealing they’d caught a ferry from Scotland.

Unfortunately booking the ferry proved challenging since it had ceased to operate in 2012.

This is turning into a cruise

We hatched a Plan B to go via Denmark. This involved riding to Denmark (yawn), spending two days on a ferry, two nights in the Faroe Islands, and two more days on the ferry.

A quick search of “the Faroe Islands” revealed it would be marginally more interesting than spending two nights in a prison cell.

In summary, we’d have to endure nearly a week of gently rolling from side to side just to set foot in Iceland. In conclusion, that was a big fat NO.

Iceland glacier

We need a bigger alphabet

With plans A and B now in the bin it was time to go back to the pub. We set an  agenda of a plan a pint.

  • Plan C was to fly in and rent local vehicles. The combination of a limited choice of extortionately priced non-comedy vehicles coupled with the fact that off roading was off limits soon ruled that out.
  • Plan D was to air freight our trusty Yamaha Townmates to Iceland. We got a quote. We felt faint.
  • Plan E was to sea freight our trusty Yamaha Townmates to Iceland.  We got quotes. We felt faint.
  • Plan F was to sack off Iceland for a new trip but that would mean having to start at the beginning of the alphabet again.

After a recess for toilet-time and a bonus round with barbeque flavour Hula Hoops, Plan G was floated. Yamaha Townmates are small. If we could squeeze them on to a standard pallet, rather than paying for a container then the cost of freighting would surely plummet?

One out of three ain't bad

Energised by our cunning new plan we left the pub and did nothing for several months.  We were now in danger of missing the narrow weather window for the year. With a renewed sense of desperation we contacted three random shippers.

One didn’t respond. Another did but omitted to answer any of the specific questions we’d raised. The last shipper’s email arrived in our inbox. It was written by someone who looked like they actually shipped stuff for a living. Questions about things we hadn’t even considered. It was helpful.

Iceland’s Directorate of Customs advised that we could drive our own vehicles in Iceland, but not how to go about it. If Iceland didn’t routinely offer all its websites in the English language we’d have given up there and then.

After a succession of digital dead ends, finally, there it was.  The “E9”. A form with an important sounding name.

This was what we’d been looking for.

Pass the lump hammer

A demonstration of a moped not fitting on a pallet.

Actually, pass the angle grinder

ég skil það ekki

The E9 guidance notes advised if we had any questions about completing the form to send an email. We sent an email.  Three days later we got a reply saying “ask the shippers”. FFS.

We asked the shipper. Again a speedy and helpful reply. Things were looking up. We now knew what we needed to declare and who we needed to declare it to. It was only slightly less information than is needed to get a mortgage.


It'll be alright on the night

We assured the shipper that everything was in hand with our packing strategy. This was despite the fact it was blindingly obvious a fully loaded moped would not fit on a standard pallet (see exhibit A above).

The shippers then kindly advised us of the need to only use packing materials which conformed to ISPM15.

We didn’t know what ISPM was let alone there were 15 of them. Some more furious internet research took place.

The road to hell was looking hellish.

Iceland meltwater

Hell awaits

Trip Diary

Four different flights and our mopeds  on a container ship. What were the chances of it all coming together

Can you circumnavigate Iceland with a broken gearbox?

Photo Gallery