I c e l a n d  2 0 0 6  -  # 2

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Day 6 >> Biskupsbrekka

To avoid re-riding the Husafell mountain pass, our route instead went South West to the coast, then South East back into the mountains. Barnafoss ("the children's waterfall") made an interesting morning stop. There used to be a natural lava bridge over the falls until 2 children were swept away from it one distant christmas day. The mother then saw that the bridge was destroyed.

Cheese sarnie wrapped in cheese.
Get the calories in!

Water runs underneath the top layer of rock
then emerges here all along the river bank

The Barnafoss waterfall
After that we got rained on, a lot, and stopped for pizza slices at the Reykholt store. Heavy showers slowed progress back into the hills, but we arrived at our intended wild camp spot at Biskupsbrekka just as the sun was setting. This place we had spied on our journey North a few days earlier, and it is the only suitable grassy site for miles, being right on the edge of a rocky volcanic plain. A bishop died and was buried here in 1720 while on a journey, and Jon was convinced we would see ghosts and zombies all night. Instead we had the quietest night of the trip - there wasn't even any wind.

There's always time for Blue Steel

We rode out of the hills on tarmac

Then we rode back into the hills on gravel

The littlest rainbow

Waiting for the rain to retreat (it worked)

Wild camp at sunset. Note lack of zombies.

Travel stats!Camp stats!
Offroad40 km       Paid?No (wild camp)  
Tarmac43 km Showers?No
Walking   - German campers?  No
Day 7 >> Geysir

The 50km of rough track to Gullfoss could have been a nightmare. Instead, the sun soon shone and treated us to a perfect autumn day with little wind and excellent visibility. Despite reading the usual 10°C on the thermometer, surrounded by sun-absorbing black sand we were fine in just shorts and T shirts. The route wound its way through a clearly very young volcanic plateau, with dormant volcanoes on one side and Langjokull glaciers on the other. With clear blue skies and the jet black ground, it was an eerily quiet and strangely beautiful place.

Early morning in the middle of nowhere (tent at the bottom right)

800 calorie cake breakfast (we still lost weight)

Brits abroad: sand castles are mandatory

Beyond primeval

Hello to you!

Odd place to build a house

Smile for the glacier!
After descending into the Hvita valley, the end of the track brought us an orange desert-like landscape, then a double river crossing, before spitting us out at the incredible Gullfoss waterfall. Jon thinks this 2-part waterfall and river gorge is better than Niagra.

Cruising through the black, in black

It's a wet-dry, cold-warm, sunny-cloudy place - it's a weird place

Gullfoss in all its glory

I aint gettin' in no canoe, fool!

The lower falls and river gorge
From there it was all downhill to Geysir, where they had turned the campsite water off for the winter, but cleverly left the toilets unlocked. Eurgh. We stole a shower from the hotel spa area, and grabbed a ridiculously overpriced microwaved burger from the Geysir cafe. The girls running the cafe were a bit of alright though.

Travel stats!Camp stats!
Offroad49 km       Paid?No (no running water)  
Tarmac16 km Showers?Yes (stolen)
Walking   - German campers?  Yes
Day 8 >> Laugaras

It being a Sunday, we got up and went for a walk scramble up the local scree slope, affording fine views of the Hvita river valley. I took some early morning (before the other tourists arrived) photos of the Strokkur geyser too. Strokkur is a bit of a tiddler, but fires regularly every 5 - 10 minutes. The original (big!) geyser now only fires after earthquakes have shaken it up a little.

The Strokkur geyser
I thought it was quite fun

Foz is wearing a Tog 24 fleece
and Mountain Equipment overtrousers

Jon is wearing a RaceFace riding jacket
and Berghaus overtrousers
After more ridiculously overpriced microwaved panini and pizza (from the still-rather-agreeable cafe girls), we then started our route South and before too long rolled into Laugaras. They have proper trees here! The local hotel wasn't serving food on sundays, so noodles in the tent it was. It rained from 5pm until about 10pm. After that a proper storm blew in, and we spent much of the night listening to the wind screeching through the trees and heavy rain clattering against the tent. It didn't clear until 6am.

Fixer upper? It needs a little work...

Looking back to where we came from

The restaurant view

As scenic fishing spots go, that's got to be a pretty good one

Travel stats!Camp stats!
Offroad - Paid?No one there to pay  
Tarmac30 km       Showers?Yes
Walking   2 hrs German campers?  No one else there
Day 9 >> Fljotshlid

We had to get South for the start of our big off-road route, so this day was always going to be a long tarmac slog. Unfortunately, after turning onto route 1 (Iceland's principal road) we once again collected a nasty headwind, reducing us to a crawl on even the flat. We stopped for a baguette just before Hella, and as luck would have it the wind then dropped right off. Soon afterwards it started to rain again, so we tried the same trick and stopped for a burger and chips at Hvolsvollur. But the rain wasn't having any of it, and I was furious to discover I had left my drying washing out, still strapped to the top of my panniers and now soaking wet. Little things like this matter when you're living outdoors with limited clothing.

By far the funniest thing about that road slog

Tent? Check. Volcano? Check. Hot tubs? Check!

That's more like it
Turning up at the deserted Hellisholar holiday camp in the Fljotshlid valley, we were delighted to find camping that included use of their hot tubs. With the rain still falling outside, we sat in the hot tub for an hour and a half before even thinking about food. But tomorrow was going to be a long day on the roughest tracks we had yet attempted.

Travel stats!Camp stats!
Offroad - Paid?Yes
Tarmac70 km       Showers?Yes
Walking   - German campers?  No one else there  
Day 10 >> Hvolsvollur (unfortunately)

The morning brought light rain but, more annoyingly, another strong headwind. As we made our way towards the head of the valley, glaciers emerged, the surrounding hills grew larger, and the wind just grew stronger. By the time we were off the tarmac and onto gravel, the headwind was almost impossible. We rode hard to keep moving at walking pace, and had to stop to avoid being blown backwards by fierce gusts every few minutes.

Icelandic horses. These guys get everywhere.

You're going the wrong way!

Cool glacier. Power down!
But we had expected this route to be tough, and were carrying 3 full days of food for what looked like a 2 day trip. The track carried on into the river's flood plain, the surface turning into large river pebbles that were awkward to ride over with a laden bike. It was then, just as the surface was turning back to fine fast black gravel, that we crested a small rise and halted with a "woah!". The river, from nowhere, appeared in front of us in a flood, with the track washed clean away. A 4x4 jeep that had attempted to cross was on its side in the river, water up to its roof and jammed hard onto rocks under the fast moving brown water. The jeep's driver and passenger stood shivering at the side of the river while a rescue team (who had passed us) had just started to secure their vehicle with a rope. Everyone was ok as it soon turned out, and we offered the stricken tourists (2 Spaniards) a chocolate bar each and words of well meaning but not-very-convicing consolation.

Yeah we're screwed. But check out that view!


Back the way we came (look at Jon's face)

Surely worth an explore

A bit too cold for a dip though
Soon another rescue team arrived, but it eventually took 3 jeeps to pull out the wrecked 4x4. With a choice of dangerous water or cliffs to negotiate, we could not carry on any further, and returned to Hvolsvollur (with an amazing tailwind!) to grab a burger and consider our options.

Travel stats!Camp stats!
Offroad24 km gruelling       Paid?No one there to pay  
Tarmac27 km Showers?No
Walking   - German campers?  No one else there
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