Monday, 28 May 2007

Torfæra Rocks!

Another reason why Iceland is great... Torfæra (or Formula Offroad outside Iceland). The rules are simple. Get a car, fit a big engine and special tyres, add a lunatic driver, then sent him up the steep part of a hill. Great fun to watch, and it's no co-incidence that the biggest cheers happen when a car fails to climb to the top and rolls to the bottom...

Thursday, 24 May 2007

On the Rúntur!

Ever wonder why you keep seeing the same car drive past your window slowly 10, 20, maybe 50 times in one evening? Well maybe you've discovered a Rúntur!

For those not in the know (So that's everyone outside Iceland, along with the inhabitants of Reykjavik then), the Rúntur is a pasttime found in pretty much every town around Iceland. It literally translates as "Round Tour" and is just that. It's a chance to go out for a drive with (or without) your mates, around town. BUT there are many rules that need to be followed. (And as a foreigner I know I have no chance picking them all up so please correct me if i'm wrong). By the way in my opinion the best Rúntur is in Stykkishólmur, but i'm only a beginner so am willing to accept if there is a better one.

The Rúntur Rules:

1. You must drive the correct Rúntur route (although you will never find these in the Lonely Planet)
2. You must drive the Rúntur route in the correct direction (obviously! duh!)
3. Any car is acceptable on the Rúntur, although non 4x4 and older "used" cars are more appropriate.
4. You must drive around town at just a few km/hr below the speed limit. Afterall where are you actually going? And have you seen the price of fuel here??!
5. Speeding/skidding/handbrake turns have no place on the Rúntur. You're confusing the pastime with "Cruising" which is very different.
6. The Rúntur route will pass through (not past) a nominated petrol station, and you are expected to drop in regularly to buy diet coke (and petrol as you'll need plenty of that for a long "Rúnt")
7. It is customary to have a good look at all other Rúnter's as they drive past, particularly non-regulars. This is actually a sign of acceptance on the Rúntur and should be followed up by a stare back. Note: driver and all passengers must join in with this.
8. If you want to stop for a chat with fellow Rúnters, there will be a nominated carpark on route in addition to the petrol station, although some towns merge the two together. Here you can park up, BUT it is important to park ACROSS the parking spaces diagonally. There will be lots and lots of spaces available so it's not a problem, and then everyone knows you're up for a chat.
9. Loud music is frowned upon. So long as it stays within the car it's ok, but any bass pollution around the town will get the crime starved police on your back, so it's not recommended.
10. Rúntur driving may take place at any time, but is generally frequented from mid to late evening as a way to kill time before the bars get active. It's also a useful tactic to stay away from the bar as long as possible to avoid the Kr600+ drinks. Some prefer not to enter the bars at all to get the full Rúntur experience.

Note: DON'T try to start up a Rúntur in Reykjavik. They'll just think you're from the countryside.

Iceland's secret?

Good old OPAL! Iceland's secret. The photo on the left is the green "lightweight" version so you should try the red label version :) They're made of gum Arabic, menthol, liquorice and eucalyptus oil, and as far as i can tell are designed to get children drunk!*

Maybe I should explain?

Ok! As a local sweet, children are encouraged to eat them over imported sweets from the likes of Cadbury's and Nestle. They're a bit of an acquired taste, but soon you'll like them. Now here's the best part. There's an alcoholic drink called......OPAL! (With the same branding) And lucky for the company that makes them, all the children grow up and have already acquired the taste for the drink. Clever eh?!

*Ok children when they grow up, but that's not so interesting to say :)