Akureyri - Hólmavík 07/16/2011
After spending a couple of days relaxing in Akureyri we packed our gear, and went to Varmahlíð, a small village 101 km to the west. The weather was cold, but sunny, and we had the wind on our tails. We put our tents up at a small campsite that had hot showers and a geothermal pool that we could take a dip in, free of charge. Due to the weather getting worse, and because we wanted to get as soon as possible to the Westfjords, the next day we decided to take the bus over to Staðarskáli, and although we came there early, the wind came straight at us from the north, so we unpacked our tents and camped.
When we got on our way the next day, the wind was still coming at us, but the sun had come out and made the day a bit better. 24 km down Hrútafjörður however, we gave up and found a good place to stay the night. There was so much wind that our tent could barely stand. The night was windy and cold, so the next morning we just ate breakfast, packed, and started biking. The road ahead was tough; gravel roads, steep hills, ice cold headwind, even steeper hills and some more gravel. Our plan was to make it to Hólmavík, but in this weather we just couldn't make it. So again we spent the night on the side of the road. We had gone 60 km, wich meant that the distance to Hólmavík was only 35 km.
The next morning, everything was perfect, and we got to the small town in no time. Hólmavík is a nice town with small cafés and good pizza. We have spent a day off here, enjoying the amazing weather; the sun has been frying us all day.
It´s been two weeks since we joined Eirik, and allthough we are out of shape and not well trained, it´s been a lot better than expected. Sometimes, when the freezing wind hits you in the face, and you´re going as fast as you can, but feel like you´re hardly moving, when your fingers and toes goes numb in the freezing wind, and all you see is an endless uphill, you just want to lay down in fetal position, cry, and hope that it´s all just another nightmare. But all of a sudden the sun comes out from the clouds, the road ahead turns in to a beautiful fjord surrounded by beautiful landscape, you get the wind in your back, pushing you forward, you can feel your fingers again, and right then you know, you know that it is worth the effort.
Monzoon and Sunshine 07/04/2011
The day Karl and Rannveig arrived became a new day off, so we didn't leave Egilsstaðir until june 26. It became a hard start for the newbies with ice cold headwind from north. We were quite tired all of us when we arrived the farm guesthouse, Hótel Svartiskógur after 35 km. We stayed in our tents on the campsite, but the service was unbelieveably good, and they treated us like a royal family. The same evening we bought dinner at the hotel restaurant, and on the menu was locally slaughtered lamb, spiced with hand picked herbs from the surrounding forest. It's not an overstatement that our taste buds went bananas by the taste of that lamb!
The night brought us really heavy rain, and with 4°C and biting wind from north, the wind chill was severe. When we dared to put our heads out of the tent in the morning, the entire field (campground) had turned into a small lake. Luckily our tents were located at the very edge of the field and the water mostly stayed out of our tents. So, our plans for the day - to head further north and over the mountain pass Hellisheiði Eystri (650 masl) - were quickly cancelled, and we decided to take it easy and chill out at Svartiskógur. Soon the hotel owner came and told us he felt sorry for us sleeping out in the bad weather, so he offered us a nice cabin for the next night. But he still didn't charge us for more than half of the camping price, "because of the rain". We didn't know how to thank him!
Next morning we bought breakfast at the hotel, and then the owner came to us again and told us to pack some slices of bread for lunch. And when we were about to leave, he gave us two liters of milk! "You need this!". What a man! So I hereby highly recommend Hótel Svartiskógur in Jökulsárhlíð, 30 kms norht of Egilsstaðir, if you want to be taken care of like a king!
But because of the weather, we decided to skip the north east part of Iceland, that is Vopnafjörður, Langanes og Melrakkaslétta. Instead, we went back to the Ring Road, and bicycled up Jökuldalur to Skjöldólfsstaðir, and took the bus from there to Mývatn. And as soon we had punched down the tent pegs, the wind turned to south, and brought warmer weather. This gave us some really beautiful days at and around Mývatn.
Today is sunday, 3rd of july, and we are sitting at a café in Akureyri and enjoying the day off. We, Karl and Rannveig, have now been bicycling for a week, and yesterday's struggle turned out to be especially hard on our respective rear ends. It was also hard for our tighs, and not least for the psyche. Yesterday gave us two quite steep hills that had ca 250 m. climb each, but none of them can compare with the last 18 kilometers along Eyjafjörður to Akureyri. Here we really got to experience what Iceland has to offer. Here as the strongest headwinds we two have experienced until now!
Except from that, july has given us a lot of sunshine and good cycling conditions (we have actually had tailwind!), and we are proud to say we have managed to get sunburned, all of us!
Now that we are in a real city we decided to take some days off. Here we can build up energy, do our laundry and try to find stores that sell something useful, that is everything from spare tires to a good book.
Bus and laziness 07/03/2011
Taking time to update the blog takes more time than I thought, and therefore I haven't written anything lately, but now..
Much has happened since last post. Then I didn't know how I was going to solve the problem of lacking some days. However, when I saw Ragnheiður Gröndal was having a concert at Egilsstaðir, it was an easy choise to take the bus all the way. And it was totally worth it. If you haven't heard her, google or YouTube her. What an amazing voice!
Taking the bus was easy. It seems like bikers often take bus, and the bus company and the driver had good experience in carrying bikes and baggage. I had told them in advance that I was bringing a bike and trailer, so when the bus arrived he had a hanger for all my stuff!
So, suddenly I was several days ahead of the "schedule", and I felt for bicycling again. Between Egilsstaðir and Seyðisfjörður there is a mountain pass called Fjarðarheiði. I went up the hills, a 550 meter climb. It was steep, but the last weeks of bicycling had certainly showed result, and it became a beautiful trip.
But finally the saturday came that I had waited for, and Rannveig and Karl came flying in to Egilsstaðir and made my everyday brighter. The arrival was celebrated with taco, which btw is perfect for outdoor cooking!
Ash, rain, wind and gall 06/21/2011
Now I've mentioned the negative parts of the last days.
Since last post, I have passed what are probably the most boring part of the whole circle, that is Mýrdalssandur and Skeiðarársandur. This is about 140 km of desert and steppes, and the last 70 km went through the most affected areas after the eruption last month. At distance, the fields looked green and fine, but at a closer look I could see the thick layer of ash. Luckily for me most of the ash was wet, but at some places it had dryed in the wind and started blowing around. I had no problems with breathing, but the ash got stuck in the oil in my chain and made it a disgusting jam of ash and oil.
The worst thing about these plains, however, was that I didn't take it as easy as I should. Because of the freezing headwind I wanted to get as fast as I could to my destination, and so I skipped taking brakes. A little too many hours in a row for a butt that had a little too few hours of practice resulted in a little too painful wound. And voilà, I
got what I tried to avoid.
The plan for yesterday was to camp near by Jökulsárlón, but the dream of hot dinner made me continue for another 13 kms, and I certainly got my reward for that. By a coincidence I stumbled upon Gerði Guesthouse where I could camp outside and use all the facilities of the guesthouse - a nice bathroom, living room, wifi and last but not least, the dinner, wich was amazingly good!
At the dinner, I was invited to sit with a very friendly and cozy couple from Boston. What a privilige to get to travel and meet such fine people. They even partly paid my dinner! If you read this - Thank you so much!
So today, june 21. Because of the above mentioned rear-problems (in spite of vaseline and baby powder) I decided to have another day off. This means I cannot reach Egilsstaðir before the others come without taking bus parts of the way. So I already today got on a bus to Höfn, and I'm probably going to stay here one more day before bicycling or taking the bus further east. Time will show how I solve it! Anyway, I have come to the conclusion that it's better to take bus past the boring parts and have better time for the exciting parts of the route.
A day off 06/17/2011
Yesterday I went from Seljalandsfoss to Vík í Mýrdal. The beginning of the day was smooth, for ca 10 km I had a gentle tailwind. I enjoyed my life, and then suddenly - boom, a wall hit me. A wall of air, rushing in a hurry at the direct opposite direction as I was cycling.. Well, nice. The day became a test in mental strength, and I believe I passed the test. Counting white stripes on the road and telling myself stories makes the kilometers fly away! After 60 km of strong headwinds, I only had one obstacle left, a small climb just before I'd reach Vík. It's only 119 meters high, but the hill was 12%, that's 50% steeper than most of the undersea tunnels in Norway. So I was more than happy when I reached the top and could roll effortless the last 3 kms down to Vík!
Because of yesterday's struggle, I decided to take a day off today. And as the weather has turned out to be, I think it was a wise decision. I also have to be in shape for next leg - Mýrdalssandur, a 70 km long sand-plain with nothing at all. Authorities recommend you don´t camp there, in case Katla should have an eruption. In that case, Mýrdalssandur is where the flood probably will come. I don't wanna get trapped in that flood! So I want to get past that. And I also want to get past the areas that got covered with ash at the last eruption in Grímsvötn. Maybe baby.
So, yes. A day off. It's also the national day on Iceland today, june 17. So I celebrated with marinated lamb meat and potatoes, cooked on my Trangia gas stove in my tent's vestibule. And apropos my tent. Today I took a shower, and afterwards I hung up my towel in the tent. Although it has rained all day long, the towel still dryed in just a few hours! Same story about my rain jacket some days ago. Amazing tent! Eureka!
The rest of the day I just hung around, had a chat with other guests on the campsite, and took a walk on the beautiful and huge beaches that lie just a few hundred meters from the village center.
Finally on my way! 06/16/2011
The tour finally started the evening of june 13. My plan for this day was to start early, but for various reasons I did not start before the clock had turned 9 pm. Obviously I could not reach as far as I planned, so I camped in the wild at the mountain pass of Þrengsli.
Next day, I got a flying start down the hills from Þrengsli down to the lowlands below. After some 13 kms or so, I reached the first village, Eyrarbakki. This is a cosy place right at the Atlantic shoreline with magnificent view over the ocean. An info sign told me that straight south from Eyrarbakki you will not meet any land until the continent of Antarctica. In older times, Eyrarbakki was way bigger than Reykjavík (at that time), and many thought Eyrarbakki would become the capital of Iceland.
Just a few kms further east I entered Stokkseyri, a village looking quite similar to Eyrarbakki, and lies also at the very shoreline. Stokkseyri houses about 500 inhabitants. Both Stokkseyri and Eyrarbakki were important fishing and trading villages all since 900 A.D., but in the later parts of the 19th century, fishing has decreased, and tourism has become more important.
After passing Stokkseyri, the road turned away from the shore, and soon I turned off the paved road to make a short cut up to the Ring Road where it crosses over Þjórsá. This gave me ca 20 kms on gravel, but the only part of the day with tailwind!
Most of the day was dry, but the last hour it started raining (in addition to the wind in my face), so I appreciated the free hot shower at Árhús Camping at Hella.
Today, june 15., I decided to go shorter to let my rear get some rest. 36 kms doesn't sound much, and especially not at the totally flat south of Iceland. But with a strong breeze right in my face, 36 kms were enough! So I ended up at Hamragarðar camping site, 1 km from Seljalandsfoss at the roots of Eyjafjallajökull. A very lovely place with a beautiful waterfall right behind, good facilities and good service!
Frost and snow! 06/09/2011
Reading icelandic is exciting these days for people who is heading for a bicycle tour on Iceland. Mr W. Inter has once again made the east succumb to its graceless powers, and after relatively severe snowfall, many of the main roads are covered with snow. The photo on your left is stolen from icelandic newspaper Mbl.is, and was shot at 6 pm today (june 9). According to the schedule, I am passing this spot in just two weeks (riding my bicycle of course). Two weeks should be enough time for the weather to change and snow to melt, but the weather forecast looks rather scary. Between 1 and 3 degrees Celcius for the whole next week, and as far into the future as the forecast goes. As we've already said - Icelandic weather can be, and is deceitful, and I ought to be grateful as long as temperatures are above freezing.
Last preparations 06/03/2011
Just a few days ago there were two months left until the tour. Now, there are only ten days remaining. It's frightening - and thrilling at the same time.
I've got most of my gear, and everything seems to be ready, except from one little thing. Since I'm starting off alone the first couple of weeks, I need more space on my bike since I can't share the tent with anyone else.. To solve this, I ordered a rack for my trailer, and a pair of Ortlieb Front Roller Classic, some exellent front panniers (I hope). But when the packet arrived I discovered that the rack was missing. What a kick in the teeth! Less than two weeks remaining.. Luckily, Bike Trailer Shop offered excellent service and shipped it away as quick as they could, but the last shipment took 12 days from Arizona to Stavanger. The rack was delivered at the post office in AZ at june 1st, which means it will arrive june 13th according to last time.. That's one day too late! I'll have to pray and hope that I get the rack before I leave Norway!
The photo above (which I have stolen from the Bike Trailer Blog) shows ca. how it's gonna look like (my panniers are of course yellow - matching the BOB Dry Sak!).