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Bicycle Tour of Iceland.

 

Words and pictures really struggle to capture the experience of standing barefoot in a hot bubbling mud pool, watching mist slowly reveal a creaking glacier while you’re chewing on copious amounts of liquorice sticks! Iceland is a country of stunning raw beauty,  beautiful contradictions and elves… apparently!

Death by Camper Van

Arriving in t-shirts and shorts ignoring the buses to Reykjavik, we stubournly cycled the 50kms from the airport to Reykjavik.  A cycle we thought would be a casual introductory jaunt. Nothing could have been further from the truth!  Faced with 20km/hr northernly headwinds that shaved at least 12 degrees off the ‘pleasantly balmy’ 15 degrees, as informed to us by our chirpy flight pilot. We hugged the battered hard-shoulder of a dual carriage-way hoping to god we wouldn’t be squished by massive camper vans rattling past, frugally dividing the last of our black pudding sandwich made before we left Ireland!  It was a tough baptism of fire and on reflection was the most difficult day on the bikes!

Which way will the wind blow!?

Route One is the main road that circumnavigates the whole of Iceland and was the road we travelled on for the duration of the trip, apart from the occasional detour.  Because wind is such a factor in Iceland, the direction it blew was important to cyclists like ourselves carrying heavy panniers. So the main decision while travelling Route One was whether to go clockwise or anti-clockwise. Which way will the wind blow?! From our research there seemed to be pros and cons for either directions.  We went anti-clockwise, ie, south from Reykjavik.  We’re not sure if it was the right decision.  You tend to remember the struggles of the head winds more than the ease of the tail winds! The wind was particularly ferocious and unforgiving in the east and north east.  On occasions we had to pedal hard in our granny-gear going down hill to avoid being blown back uphill! We found that winds generally died down at night, usually from 9pm until maybe 3 am.  Also the roads were a lot quieter with less traffic travelling at night.  So with pretty much 24 hours daylight we did most of our cycling at night.

Farting Ground!

The landscape really is a feast for the eyes.  It is an otherworldly land of Arctic desert, volcanos, geysers, glaciers, waterfalls, hot springs and lava fields.  It was first discovered by the Irish monk St. Brendan and a band of his followers in the 6th century.  I can only imagine what was going through the monks’ minds  as they witnessed the black sand beaches, spitting sulphurous hot rocks and gleaming icebergs as they set foot on the island. It was probably something like “holy sh*t Brendan, the ground is farting!” or something to that effect…

Shat on by militant terns

Iceland’s bold and dramatic scenery is complemented by its hardy, sometimes delicate flora.  In a country of ice and fire it’s amazing to see plants survive in the most inhospitable of environments.  For large stretches of road along the Eldhraun lava fields of South Iceland, the largest of it’s kind in the world, the roadside was fenced on either side. Initially I though it was a farmer with a compulsive fencing disorder but it’s actually a preventative measure by the road organisation of Iceland to stop people from standing or driving on the fragile moss that grows on the lava rock. Consequently, Eldhraun is a national park and it’s forbidden to camp on any national park in Iceland.   Wild camping in Iceland is such that you can camp anywhere other than these parks or if in doubt ask the permission of the land owner… if you can find them in such a sparsely populated country! (for tips on wild camping visit here!)  It felt slightly peculiar to be setting up tent in the middle of the night with the sun hovering on the horizon. Even more confused were the birds, I’d imagine!  And on the subject of Icelandic birds, they’re a little… well… unhinged! I was shat on and pecked by militant arctic terns, chased and surely mocked by godwits and deprived of sleep by the noisy squeaking oystercatchers!

1500kms, 25 days, and two weather beaten but happy cycle tourers!  Iceland was amazing!

Next blog post will be about Icelandic food, keeping costs down while on cycle tour in Iceland and general cycle touring advice for enjoying this beautiful country!

Ciaran admiring the Icelandic countryside on top of the Oxi Mountains, Iceland | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Crossing the Oxi Mountain mountains in eastern Iceland.

Cycling by glaciers | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Passing Eyjafjallajokull Glacier in South Iceland.

Stormy clouds over Vatnajokull glacier in Iceland | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Vatnajokull Glacier.

River valley in Iceland.

Black and white horses in Iceland.

They’re horses not ponies!

Floating ice on a lake in Iceland | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Laura at Vatnajokull glacier, Iceland. | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Jökulsárlón Lagoon.

Sitting on a bench in Iceland | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Vatnajokull Glacier.

Sheep in Iceland | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

A pile of sheared Icelandic wool | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

“Where’s me jumper?!”

Wild geese flying over a still Icelandic lake | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Flying geese

Rain clouds over the horizon | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.Country cottage amongst the hills of Iceland | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Misty fjord | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.Grass roof sheds in Iceland | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Laura on Route one | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Laura leading the charge.

Fixing a puncture in Iceland | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Fixing a puncture

Midnight snack in Iceland! | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Midnight snack! We had 24 hours daylight while in Iceland.

Fish heads hanging from a wooden frame to dry | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Fish heads drying in the sun.

Icelandic stream at the foot of a mountain | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Icelandic river and mountain | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

The water quality in Iceland was pretty great, and there was lots of it!

Wild arctic thyme | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Wild Arctic Thyme.

Mountain avens | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Mountain Avens, Iceland’s national flower.

Fields of lupine | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Fields of Lupine.

Route One | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Ciaran | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Thrilled…

Black sand beach in Vic, Iceland | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Black sand beech, Vik, iceland.

Icelandic church | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Church in Vik.

Icelandic lava field | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Icelandic lava field | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Eldhraun lava fields.

Ciaran by the fjords | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

South Eastern Fjords.

taking a break on the eastern Iceland fjords | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Taking a break on the eastern fjords of Iceland.

Sunset in Iceland | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.Camping in Iceland | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.Camping by a stream in Iceland.

Camping amongst the rocks of Iceland | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Typical campsites while wild camping.

Icelandic cairns | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Stone cairns.  Often used in the past as directional guides or warnings of dangerous terrain.

Preparing lunch in front of a waterfall | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Seljalandsfoss. A nice spot for lunch… peanut butter with something else!

Stem vents | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Natural hot mud baths in Iceland | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Natural hot springs, vents and volcanic mud pools.

Hot chocolate | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

It’s the simple things in life!

Icelandic music store | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Icelandic cars! | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Typical Icelandic family car!!

Surly Long Haul Trucker | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Unpronounceable Icelandic place names | Crank and Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Laura cycling the Oxi mountain pass in eastern Iceland | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

Laura conquering another hill.

Cooking breakfast in the wild | Crank & Cog cycle tour of Iceland.

What a view for breakfast! We were caught the night before with really thick fog crossing a mountain pass in eastern Iceland. It was too dangerous to continue, so we set up camp for the night and woke up to this stunning view!

12 Comments

  1. Linda Monks

    How can I sponsor your travels around the world? When is your book coming out? Your photography and videos are stunning. Your descriptions are informative, humourous and entertaining. I need you to travel for me, I am in awe of your adventurous fearless spirit. Reading your blog is visceral, immersive and exciting. I’m off to read some more!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Utterly mind-blowing! The way you take photos, the choice of motives, and not much text, so it leaves space for your own thoughts and imagination. Iceland comes alive in this report!!

    Am a cycle-enthusiast myself, and dream of one day wake up in a tent like that, open the door and see the vast grasslands and scarce mountains of Iceland, too …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, thanks so much! It really is a truly beautiful country. I’d love to go back again and cycle the other way…hopefully with the wind this time!

      Like

  3. Gerod Byrd

    Thanks for sharing. I was military and spent 4 wonderful years there. So inviting , warm and friendly people. Camping and biking was outstanding! So was the food and fishing.
    Miss it alot.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Donal Caddye

    What a spin Ciaran ! What im at is only Mickey Mouse ! Pics are fab ! Ahh well back to the irate taxi drivers, light jumping headphone wearing numpys and self righeous tits whos first sighting of a cyclist is when you pass the windscreen of thier PCP financed Hyundai Tuscon – or going up by Salthill and getting doored by some little old dear whose prize poodle is just about to indescriminately defficate on the prom leaving several children with blindness – yes a far cry from Iceland ! Well done you two ! What a trip !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gillian McMorrow

    Your photos show the “other-world” beauty of Iceland. They have a mysterious, evocative quality. Just a question – what do they do with the fish heads when they are dried?

    Liked by 1 person

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