Monday, August 21, 2017

Iceland's Ring Road in a Kuku

Iceland's Ring Road in a KukuOn our recent trip to Northern Europe, we were able to use hotel points for all the countries except for one: Iceland. A friend had suggested that we try driving around the ring road in a van, and we immediately fell in love with the idea.

We always stay in hotels or AirBNBs. Why not a van for a change?

We started reaching out to rental companies to see if we could score a deal in exchange for writing a review. (Full disclosure: we received a discount on the rental, and some free items for the van, like sleeping bags, pillows, and a GPS.)

Kuku Campers was the first to write back, and they had the added bonus of being a funky, cool company, to boot. See that picture to the above? That's our van. Adventure Time!

We'll run through the review of Kuku first, then end with a bunch of photos from the trip.

Bottom line up front: I'd definitely recommend Kuku if you're at all interested in visiting Iceland and want to drive the ring road, or just see the country at your own pace. They have a good selection of vans, they're all reasonably priced, and the company is weird in a way that I think most FIRE folks would appreciate.

For example, among the maps they sell is one showing all the best places to have sex outdoors in Iceland.

And in addition to our van painted with Finn and Jake from Adventure time, there's one of Chuck Norris surrounded by fire. And one of Mario and Yoshi...apparently tripping on mushrooms. For any other early eighties children out there, might I consider a badass Skeletor?

I figure any time you can drive in a vehicle with a mural painted on the side, you should take that opportunity.

Their intern picked us up from the airport, and was cool enough to wait for over half an hour as the airline figured out how to get our bags from the plane to the baggage area. Our new friend recommended a cheap noodle place to eat in Reykyavik on the way to their shop, where he encouraged us to take what we needed from the shelf of stuff left by prior campers: half used cooking fuel canisters, condiments, maybe a can of beans.

He also hooked us up with a card to get discounted gas, free coffee, and free wifi at Olis gas stations.



After having a small conniption once we realized I'd actually get the Adventure Time van that I'd been emailing about for months, we packed up the van and headed off.

The van's layout is pretty clever, with some bins sliding into a wooden shelving unit, held in place by bungee cords. Everything we needed to cook and clean fit in the middle bins, with our food in one and Mrs. Done by Forty's stuff in the other, and there's a little pull out table/cutting board, as shown below.



We had the option to get to the middle bins from the inside, which was pretty handy during thunderstorms. And the access panel also doubled as a little table to use inside the van.


As for the sleeping arrangements, we had a surprisingly comfy mattress covering the length of the cargo area, and a couple sleeping bags with small-but-just-barely-workable pillows. As you can see below, your feet slide under the wooden box where all your stuff is, and then your upper half is in the open so you can sit up.

I'm 5'10" and this set up was long enough for me. I think you'd be fine if you were around 6', but much taller and you'd probably have to curl up to fit. This is just enough space for two people but it's tight: you're going to be cozy in there.






If you're the sort of person who's fine tent camping, perhaps on a roll pad or inflatable pad, then this set up will seem like the Ritz Carlton. It's water tight (unlike some tents I've slept in), no wind gets in (and the wind blows hard in Iceland), and you're sleeping on an actual mattress. Mrs. Done by Forty and I were comfortable the whole time.

As for getting ourselves clean, it seemed that every day we'd pass a town that had a public pool to shower at, and the cost was roughly $3 or so. It certainly wasn't as convenient as staying in a hotel, but we managed to keep ourselves and the van smelling fresh. Or fresh enough. :)

The van itself is a stick shift, which scores major points in the Done by Forty household. It was amazingly efficient, too, which helped since gas was just under $2 a liter...working out to a shocking $7.50 a gallon. According to our calculations, we averaged just over 34 miles to the gallon over the trip (6.8L to 100 km), which is pretty impressive considering that we were hauling a decent amount of gear.

One of the best things of staying in a van was how efficient everything seemed. We'd wake up, push the sleeping bags to the bottom of the mattress, dress, brush our teeth, and be on the road again in no time. At the end of the day, we'd have the beds set up and our little stove turned on and cooking dinner in just a few minutes. Traveling this way, without a tent to set up and break down, or a hotel to check into and out of, let us maximize our time doing what we wanted: spending time outside in Iceland, seeing as much as we could.

And if we had it to do over again, we'd do it exactly the same way. I kind of already miss the trip. Trying hard not to take my eyes off the road too long while passing sites, since everything in Iceland is so dang pretty. Stopping to say hello to sheep, or horses, or cows at farms along the side of the road. Hunting in every corner of the island for the elusive puffin. Nuzzling up to Mrs. Done by Forty in our sleeping bags at the end of a long day, as the rain drummed on the metal roof. Rolling out of bed in the morning to boil up oatmeal,while staring into preposterously, insultingly beautiful nature in every direction.

As always, my words don't suffice. We'll let the pictures do the talking.


























 


























 























25 comments:

  1. Pretty cool place, is it not? We did not do the ring road, but only explored the area in the SW of the country. Recognize some of the signs!
    But that Van, albeit pretty cool, that's not going to work for us tall Dutchies ;-)

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    1. Yeah, the small cans wouldn't work for very tall folks. But some of their larger vans might.

      Loved all of Iceland, but we appreciated how few people there were once you got away from the Reykjavik area. Would totally recommend the Ring road if you head back.

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  2. This trip looks amazing! Iceland is a place I would love to visit someday and the camper van sounds like a great way to do it!

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    1. You should do it! One of our top 3 places in the world, easily.

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  3. Wow, that looks amazing! Now I just have to figure out how to fold up my 6'4" husband to fit in the back. :)

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    1. Ha! If he could curl up a little, it may work.

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  4. I went to book a A-van for a week in their website and it's crazy expensive...more than 1,000 a week. r u sure it's the cheapest option?

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    1. It is not cheap, but it's really about relative comparisons. Compared to other van companies I found them to be close to the cheapest. And Iceland is not cheap: staying at hotels and AirBNBs, plus a rental car, and eating out, is going to be more expensive than what we did.

      We saved quite a bit just by cooking our own meals. But you could rent a small car, bring a tent and sleeping bags and pads, and save even more. We were traveling to four other countries and didn't want to bring our gears all over Europe.

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  5. How cool! It is really windy in Iceland so I can't imagine staying in a tent. I went in winter which I'd rethink if I had to do it all over again.

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    1. Hi Tonya! I do wish we could have seen the Northern Lights, but otherwise we're really happy to go in July. We still were cold in the rain!

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  6. Man that looks amazing! Iceland is one place we plan to visit in the near future. :D

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    1. I want to hear all about it when you go! And you take beautiful photos, so would love to see those.

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  7. Yes yes yes! We did Iceland last September (followed south shore to Glacier Bay) and did AirBNB, but were jealous of all the people in vans who could drive and sleep whenever. The no pooping signs may have been the best thing ever

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    1. I nearly pooped myself when I saw that sign.

      And while I prefer the van, I can definitely see why people go the AirBNB route, too, Tim.

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  8. This is fantastic. We love Iceland (would live there if we could) but never done the ring road. Something we need to do. What a great trip!

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    1. We've thought about living there as well, Jason. But I'm not sure we could hack the winters! We are wimps when it comes to the cold.

      Let me know if you end up doing the ring road -- can share some places to visit off the path a bit.

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  9. Amazing pics! And yet I suspect they don't do it justice either.

    I love the random sign one, that's the sort of thing I take pics of as well haha.

    I'll get there one day, to see the northern lights... Defo on the bucket list!

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    1. I do wish we could have somehow seen the northern lights, but I don't think I'm cut out for trying to explore that country at that time of year. We're from the American Southwest, and we are wimps when it comes to cold...

      Glad to know I'm not the only one who got a kick out of that sign!

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  10. I legitimately never thought of this as a way to travel/accommodate. Very cool! Iceland looks so gorgeous, and I'm loving the rental company!

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    1. I'd totally recommend seeing Iceland this way, if you get the chance. While I probably couldn't live in a van long term, for a week or two it's kind of incredible.

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  11. Thanks for the great pics! Love the ones with the horsies. Seems quite grey and cold at night yeah?

    Looks like an AWESOME adventure I could do with a... pre-teen maybe? What's the youngest you'd recommend for your kid to go on one of these?

    Sam

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    1. Thanks, Sam! We went in July so we weren't really cold at all: just had a fleece and a base layer on, maybe 2 pairs of socks some nights. But no winter jackets or anything. If you went in the spring, fall, or winter though...

      I think going with the family, especially in a bigger van, would be great. The rub would be having a third seat for the kiddo: the van we took was strictly for 2 people.

      As for the youngest age, I think going with an 8 or 9 year old or older would be best. There's a lot of hiking inherent with a trip like this: I could see a young kid getting tuckered out.

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  12. "For example, among the maps they sell is one showing all the best places to have sex outdoors in Iceland..."

    Sold! How can I say no to that? Plus the fact that it has Adventure Time characters on it and I'll be able to save on accomodations. Win win!

    Some of the iceland pictures remind me of Ireland and Scotland. Did you notice any resemblance there?

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who geeks out on Adventure Time. If they had a Beemo van, I'd probably pass out on the spot.

      And yes, Iceland has some similarities with those places. I like to think of Iceland as what would happen if Scotland had a baby with Hawaii.

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    2. And since we're talking Adventure Time....Mrs. Done by Forty and my favorite scene. Schmutz on my grabbers...

      https://youtu.be/JSXCGDwhZ2A?t=26s

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