Part 6

Day 9

Today I enter Mordor:I follow the red road…I talk to the rock…I can’t get any closer to the ice cave filled with boiling water…and I love the glacier…

I also need to confess something – I can’t relax. For some reason I’ve been racing through all this gorgeous landscape like a horse with mustard stuck up its buttock. Perhaps too much of a mountaineering style trickled down to my cycling – this constant need for movement because otherwise you will be hungry, cold or worse…

So here I am, sitting before the mighty Vatnajökull glacier emerging from beneath the ground. Its grey, curved surface plays funny planet within a planet game and all the highlands of Iceland now seem to be drowning in the sea of dirty ice. I would like to stay here for two days but it’s not possible. I got as far south as possible on a bike and now I need all the days I have left to get out of here…

By the way – I officially rename the color of my bicycle from ‘Puke’ to ‘Icelandic Moss’!Bed time with a nice view and relentless roar of thousand rivers under the ice!Back <> Next

Part 5

Day 8

Mild evening deceived me … how could I think that it won’t be windy here is beyond me ;)

During my morning ukulele session by the road, I meet very friendly German couple in their cute orange VW bus. They run around me in circles asking where is my car and why I’m standing here with nothing but ukulele… I just keep playing and smile, snap a photo, they leave laughing…

I start cycling and immediately I’m stunned by the change of scenery.

It is almost like, while I was sleeping, sneeky Iceland secretly shifted from highly featured ash and lava fields to desolate sandy flatlands…

It is kind of warm but I keep all my clothes on, as if I’m waiting for sth to happen this morning…Soon enough I realize that following yellow posts marking the trail isn’t the quickest way to Askja and since I’m pushing the bike through the sand most of the time I might be just as well pushing it straight to the point.

So I target Askja volcano and start walking…After two hours I don’t seem to get any closer, I constantly look back to check if my line is straight. It takes me about 5 hours of pushing to reach the mountain. I stop by the hut, unload the bike and, feeling weightless, I literally fly 10km uphill to see the volcanic lake on the top.. Main prehistoric caldera is huge at 50km² and the lake that fills most of it – Oskjuvatn is 220m deep. The small caldera – Viti, filled with hot turquoise water was formed more recently in 1875.

First explorers of the lake vanished without a trace in 1907. Later the whole area became proving ground for Apollo lunar mission. They discovered weird red, gargoyle like lava formation you can see below…

I cycle back down to the hut and go to see the warden to ask about conditions in Kverkfjoll which is my next destination. She asks me about my name so I’m introducing myself and than weird thing happens… she looks at the map on the wall and asks – Where is Alan?

I feel confused and surprised, I check my pockets and scan my bike like I could have lost sth in the desert. Then I look at the red pin on the map, there is yellow note hanging of it. Slowly my tired brain is starting to put facts together… Two days ago Alan and myself talked to the warden in Nyidylur hut, we left our names and information about the route we are taking. It looks like wardens communicate and really are tracking our progress here. I explain why we split and that Alan should get here 1 day later. She scribbles on the yellow paper.

I get a bag of chocolate muesli and a fresh orange … wardens here are very nice :)

It’s getting dark and I have some more cycling to do.

Road is very good and goes mostly downhill so I do 25km before pitching a tent somewhere in the far background of the image above.

Back <> Next

Part 3

Day 3

This picture pretty much sums up day three:Cold, wet from the rain and wet from crossing rivers, fell into the water and now even my warm shoes are wet. Crocs have to do for the rest of the day. Pylon Rd is still shaking my bike to pieces, I lost one of the main bolts from my rear rack, I have a replacement but it’s too short and thread isn’t fully engaged, it has to do for the rest of the day. And then the rest of the day comes and brings me this:

Haifoss waterfall. Tall and skinny, far more sublime than Gullfos I’ve seen yesterday. It’s beautiful… I sit in the rain and stare at the colors in the valley below the waterfall…

Near the waterfall I spot this lovely old Unimog. It belongs to spanish family and on a day like this I’m quite jelaous :/ The Pylon Road comes to an end and soon I find myself pedaling slowly up the good asphalt road. While I’m shooting another wet photo someone is catching up with me:

It’s Alan, British cyclist from Lake District. He is doing similar route to mine so we join forces and tackle some burgers in the next village. Alan expected to be able to get some supplies here before entering interior but all you can get is biscuits and some noodles. Being experienced trekker he makes a decision to continue on 2000 sugary calories per day! I give him one of my emergency nuts rations and we set off for some after dinner mileage in search for a nice camping spot. 

Day 4

And nice spot it was:)

We are finally getting to the beginning of our trip – the Sprengisandur Route. I wanted to quote my guide book but found better description of this road online: “I hate the Sprengisandur, I can’t understand, why you want to go there, its corrugated roads throughout, sand, boring landscape and rivers which are chest deep…”  

It’s two of us and we mean it!  (Note the color coding of jackets and luggage) 

And since from now on the landscape does get a bit repetitive I will show you one of my cheesy macro shots from the lunch break: 
We are introduced to two things that day:
  1. Head wind.
  2. People who are smart enough to know which direction one should cross Iceland to avoid headwind.

Here is a bit of the latter. We meet two Polish cyclists on a month long tour. Guy in the green jacket lost 13kg in 3 weeks :)

Panoramic break:And more smart people. We meet two French hikers. By the way we look totally badass in this picture, extra points go to Alan for holding one of his five a day! 
And one more smart German cyclist (heavy smoker who run out of cigarettes – very chatty) on a bike which most people in London wouldn’t consider robust enough for a 5 mile commute …Me and Alan waste a lot of time talking about bikes on every occasion. He rides Thorn Nomad with Rohloff hub and a funky set of DIY bags. In this company my Salsa looks almost like a road bike :) Good news – Alan has perfect bolt for my rear rack!
More cycling or pushing if I’m seeing corectly! 

Part 2

Day 2
Perhaps you’ve noticed weird object attached to my rear rack, it’s my ukulele wich I brought with me to serve travel guitar duties. Didn’t realize that tuning on those things is quite different to the guitar and none of your usual guitar chords and patterns work :) It was fun if a little challenging time trying to sort out some basic chords and play around them. Here is my first attempt on second day’s mild morning:

After short morning ride I got to a very active hot springs area with its crown jewel –  Geysir which is the second largest geyser in the world and actually all geysers are named after this one. As much as I would love to sit and wait for it to erupt I didn’t have several years to spare so I focused on the smaller one called Strokkur. You can see it here:

Weather is great so I leave the stench of sulphur behind and set off towards even bigger touristic attraction… …Gulfoss the biggest the baddest and most crowded waterfall in IcelandThere is so many people that some of them bored with waterfall actuallly start photographing my bicycle. I’m not too extatic, box ticked, time to leave…

I need to traverse to Sprengisadur route whitch involves cycling 60km of vague track which on my map is marked with a faint dashed line. It appears to be a wide gravel road along the line of pylons. Abundance of loose rock, steep uphills and river crossings make for one of the most tiresome section of the whole trip. Meet the Pylon Road:

After what felt like hours of grinding the low gears and a fair bit of pushing I arrive at a peculiar place:

It’s an empty hut, open and warm inside. Plenty of gas and pots to comfortably cook, beds and toilet … don’t care what kind of magic is this, I’m staying for a night. I will share three magical words with you as well: Pasta, Pesto, Pancetta :)  Back<>Next

Part 1

Day 1

After 3 hour flight I’m landing at Keflavik International Airport 50 kilometers west from Reykjavik. It’s 1am and I’m pulling my huge bicycle bag (full of bike & food) out of the arrivals hall. Weirdly, Keflavik Airport is a ‘bicycle free zone’ so I will have to unpack and assemble bike outdoors, not a good start this. It’s about 5 degrees so a bit chilly to fiddle with bits and bolts.

Anyway, cat is out of the bag and ready to play. It took about 2 hours to assemble the bike and sort out all the bungee cording and since it’s 4am already and sun is rising, I’m dropping dull idea of sleep and just start pedaling…. Hard to believe that shot below was taken 5 minutes down the road from the international airport… now try that in Gatwick!

one hour down the road :)

Had this mantra in my head – ‘blast through the civilized bit of Iceland and get to the wild interior as soon as possible’. Well it is soon dawning on me that it won’t be necessary because after quick 50 kilometers I get to the very centre of capital Reykjavik and see this:

not a bad place this civilization :)

I stock up on food in big supermarket and absolutely lovely bakery and leave capital slowly moving east.

My guidebook tells me that Icelanders quite seriously believe in all kinds of ‘hidden people’ like trolls, gnomes, dwarfs etc. They say that at night for one reason or another those creatures build little stone pyramids all over Iceland. Well they must have had some kind of Troll Glastonbury Festival here:

I never was a history person but early history of Iceland really caught my attention. So here comes lesson number one (there will be only two so listen closely)… long time ago a bunch of Viking lads got fed up with the oppression of nordic monarchy and decided to find a better place to live. They set off and while sailing to Faroes Islands accidentally discovered Iceland. Instantly in love with the fragile beauty of the landscape, they slaughtered bunch of Irish monks who at this unfortunate moment (unfortunate for the monks) were meditating somewhere along the west coast and took Iceland for themselves. It was 9th or 10th century and as a civilized folk Vikings already knew that monarchy doesn’t make any sense unless you are a king or a queen (the truth some nations will take forever to discover)  so in 930 they founded a democratic parliament in Þingvellir.  After this noble act the usual politics or killing brothers and getting married with your own children resumed so I will finish my lesson here.

Enough history, here is the parliament plateau … behold the panoramic view of the Þingvellir National Park which came my way just in time for a lunch.

Should you ever get grumpy with your life on the ground, clouds in Iceland will always do something funny to cheer you up…

Very, very long first day has come to an end. Nine hours saddle time and almost 150km on good asphalt roads. Warm.    I camp on the abandoned farm, surrounded by horses.