01.07.2015 - 11.07.2015
Day 9 July 1, 2015
I woke up this morning feeling I had got my fair share of hiking here at Þórsmörk & that it was time to ride out of this valley. It was a blessing hitchhiking the small part of the road to this camp days before. One thing I've been trying to keep consistent on this trip was not retracing the same routes over. I enjoy keeping this experience raw & new everyday. I rolled down the rough rocky trail slowly leaving the valley. As I came upon the first of many small streams to cross a group of horses fifteen deep was closing in behind me. They were being herded by two women who most likely run tourist horse rides. Nevertheless I rode along side this group of horses with the wind blowing through my helmet. For a while I almost felt like I was in some old country western movie, riding off into the sunset with the credits rolling down behind me.
Anyways, back to real life. After playing a bit of tag with the horses over a few smaller streams the group was herded up a hill into a back valley ranch. I came upon to the first big river crossing. It wasn't more a little below the knee at it's deepest, but I was crossing barefoot to keep my shoes dry. I strapped them to the sides of my pack & zig zagged across the slippery rocks with an audience of Indian guys from Ohio watching me. I caught up them & we chatted for a while as I walked my bike.
Seems this last crossing was to be the worst one which was nice. I repeat the same process for crossing the next ten or so streams along the dirt gravel road. The slight tail wind behind me zipped me across the road & out of the valley with ease. It was a beautiful day out with some clouds & the sun shining. Things are looking up.
I came upon the bridge I had to cross. This bridge crosses one of the biggest rivers in Iceland. A large boulder on each end of the bridge blocked motorized traffic leaving it free & open to just me on my bike.
Next up is a long dirt road that connects to Hwy 261 where I'll stay once again at a cottage camping site. Before I get there though, I pass by a giant rock jutting from the ground. For miles around there is nothing, but flat plains. With only mountains in the far background it's seems strange to see this giant rock risen out of the ground all by it's self.
After a short ride on the pavement, I rolled into the campsite & enjoyed a soothing jacuzzi soak once again.
Day 10 July 2, 2015
Spent the whole day writing the first blog post. I have only one regret so far.
I should have brought more peanut butter.
Day 11 July 3, 2015
The day before I had been taking some time to walk outside in the quietness & gather my thoughts. I noticed strange mountains way in the distance where there should have only been road then ocean to my knowledge. After some research I come to find that in the distance the dark outline is the Westman islands. Compromised of an old volcano it only takes a thirty five minute ferry ride from the coast to reach. The next objective is set. I only have to loop back west & take a quick stop in Hvolsvöllur for grocceries. After an hour ride through the country I roll into town & head into the store.
Up until this point I had been starting to solidify the belief that I could survive on nothing more than multivitamins, peanut butter & whiskey. I still believe this to be true, but as I waltzed into that grocery store it finally hit me how hungry I had been. Drooling at the mouth & with my eyes glazing over I looked upon the selection of breads, meats & cheeses like a pirate that had just opened a chest full of glimmering gold.
Fat kid mode: Engaged
I made out like a bandit with almost enough food that I couldn't fit it in my bike bags. They only had one type of peanut butter & I practically bought out the entire stock. At one point I almost felt like this was too easy, like I was doing something wrong. A full stomach will calm this paranoia & so I stuffed my face before taking off down the road towards the port.
A half hour out & I was seeing more fellow bike-packers on the road then all of the previous days of this trip combined. Next thing I know a guy rides up from behind me asking where I was going. After some chit chat I find out that me & my new French Canadian friend Jeff (He Americanized his name for me) are both taking the ferry to Haimaey island. So, we tag team our way through the wind down to the Landeyjahöfn. Tickets even with bikes are cheap. Coming in at something like $13/1800 ISK one way.
They have a vending store inside so we get some coffee & head up to the outside viewing deck. After some tinkering from my backpack my coffee is now Irish. Jeff doubts my coffee concoction, but I'm inclined to experiment with all things whiskey. As we close in on Haimaey island there are several smaller islands that we pass. They seem to be surrounded completely with cliffs which makes the single small building on each of them that much more mystical looking.
We pull in through a channel to the port & are slowly engulfed by cliffs. Even a sweet looking pirate cave to boot. In case you don't know, one of my favorite movies if all time is Goonies. So, pirates will always be smile inducing.
We are debating on where to go & decide to set up camp where we can ditch all the gear on our bikes. We find our campsite, settled next to a hollowed out volcano that looks like a giant mountain amphitheater. This is where Thor lays down his hammer for some sweet guitar solos.
Bwahhhhooooahhhh (Guitar sound)
We biked down to the base of the mountain & hiked up a thin path to the ridge above. The weather had turned & it was absolutely beautiful outside. Sun shining I could actually feel the warmth on my skin which doesn't seem to be a common thing here in Iceland. We get to the top & snap some pictures before heading up closer to one of the peaks.
Further up the trail is a goat family also hanging out in the sun. These guys seem be wild & are a lot less skittish then the previous goats I had come in contact with.
We followed the trail up & around the backside of this awsome old volcano. Not even feeling the need to follow up the trail higher we plop down on some natural dirt lazyboys & crack open the beers we had bought earlier for this summit. With no wind, clear skies & warm sun we discussed how this was probably the best place ever to drink a beer. I didn't want to ever leave. Few things in life ever feel that perfect.
Fun fact: Beer cans make decent camera lens cap holders.
I told Jeff about my grocery shopping story earlier that day & he suggested that we have a feast while camping on the island later that night.
So it was foretold.
So it would be.
Of course we still had more beers left.
Day 12 July 4, 2015
I was in need of a laundry day for quite a while now so Jeff & I took advantage of the facilities at the campsite. I spent the morning doing as such. It felt refreshing to have clean clothes again. So as mid day rolled around we headed down to the local cafe to get some coffee & wifi. We had some coffee & lamb meat soup. Seriously some of the best soup I have ever had in my life. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth it. While hanging out on the tables outside we started eyeballing what looked like trails on the other mountain face. I saw some people up on top & it looked like a good spot to punch some clouds.
Commence backpack adventures.
The first section is steep loose gravel followed by a stairs that seems to be a work in progress. After that, a couple ladders & were swerving our way up the thin trail to great views.
At one point a group of goats start getting closer & closer to us. Any other time I ran into goats they would always run the other way so this was weird. There was a bigger one with horns so I was ready to wrastle me a goat if he got all alpha goat. It turns out thy weren't being territorial, but wanted whatever food Jeff had bee carrying in a plastic bag he had bought at the grocery store before the hike. Someone had been feeding these goats. There is grass everywhere which is what I see them eating all the time, but these guys had a sweet tooth for human food. I didn't see the harm in it since it's not like there going to become dependent on human food then forget to eat grass so I gave them a couple bits of an energy waffe & we continued our hike. More goats ran down to us & before long we had a goat entourage following us on our hike. Me & my goat crew kick it old school.
We got to the top & enjoyed the views for a while then skiddadeled down the mountain to our campsite for dinner.
Day 13 July 5, 2015
I awakened early morning to cloudy skies & rain. Tearing down camp in the rain is the worst. So, we waited for the rain to thin & took the ferry about mid day. Also, what is quite common with campsites in Iceland is that no one comes to collect payment for a nights camping till later in the day at certain times. Jeff & I had tried to find someone to pay both nights, but no one seemed around. Free camping is good camping. I would love to just camp in the middle of nature where there's no designated areas, but so much of southern Iceland is private property right up to the road. So, this is usually not an option. Besides, it averages only about $10/1300 ISK a night & most have facilities with bathroom, shower, etc. I had planned on camping in the middle of wild lands most of this trip, but these kind of campgrounds are everywhere along the south so I had been taking advantage of them.
Back on the ferry, the ocean is much rougher this ride back. I perched myself on the high balcony outside enjoying the views of the ocean & Haimaey islands cliffs. It was also funny watching people with no sea legs stumble around as the ferry was rocking about. When Jeff & I disembark from the ferry we ride back up the same road with plans to camp at Seljalandsfoss, one of Iceland's bigger waterfalls that is just down the road.
We set up camp & which is a five minute walk down from the waterfall. Seljalandsfoss is a huge beautiful waterfall, but what makes it really cool is that there is a trail that runs behind it so you can walk completely around this stunning falls. I couldn't fall asleep till late, about 2am. So, shortly after midnight I grabbed my camera & took some night shots of the falls from a hill perched on the side. It was muddy getting up it, but gave a much nicer view of the falls & the surrounding area.
Day 14 July 6, 2015
Jeff & I said our goodbyes as he was on more of a time crunch for his trip. He took my advice & booked a ride into Þórsmörk for some hiking. I packed up mid day & planned on riding to Vik, but halfway there I saw Skógafoss from the road. Back to back waterfalls sounded like a solid plan so I turned down the road & set up on a campground right next to this behemoth of a falls.
There was a restaurant/bar right next to the campground. I treated myself to a couple beers & some Icelandic meat soup which hit the spot.
Side note: Iceland is not really into the whole happy Disney ending.
There was also a shop there so I bought myself an Icelandic wool hat.
Most comfortable beanie I've ever worn. Everything in Iceland is very pricey, but makes up for it in quality.
Day 15 July 7, 2015
Time to get a move on to Vik. A short ride with little wind & some great views has me arriving into Vik in under two hours. After going through this section of mountains in the picture above the road has a fun downhill section right into town. Halfway down there's a speed limit sign of 50kmph & one of those electronic signs that tells you to slow down. This song starts playing through my headphones as I zip down the road into town clocking in at 55kmph. Wheeeeeeeee!
With a smile on my face I roll into town at a rest stop & buy some much needed sun glasses. Not so much for the sun, but for the constant wind in my eyes while I'm riding. I find the campground & get my bearings in this small town of Vik.
First I ride down to the black sand beach Vik has to offer & taking in the sights of the salt pillars just off the coast.
Next there seems to be a steep winding road up the mountain cliff that overlooks the town. I push my bike up this rough rock road & arrive at a beautiful outlook of the area.
Of course, it was a blast bombing back down this road which I find out later is one of Iceland's steepest roads.
Day 16 July 8, 2015
Around mid day I got into a conversation with italian bike packer just outside the camp. He seemed to be in his 50s, but had more enthusiasm in him then most people half his age. Apparently he had been biking for the last two months. Starting from southern Italy he rode up through Germany then to Denmark. From there he took the ferry to the Faroe Islands & then here on Iceland. He admitted, smiling slightly that he possibly carries too much stuff on his bike. Through this whole trip I had thought I packed too heavy, but this funny little Italian man had his small road bike loaded up like a circus bike sideshow. Loosely strapped down with bungee cords it made me chuckle a bit, but apparently this was working just fine for him.
I played with the idea of staying another night, but at about 5pm I saddled up on my ride & headed east. There seemed to be a tail wind & I wanted to take advantage of that. Just outside of Vik the mountains stop & a vast flat nothingness surrounds the highway. Only filled volcanic rock & a sea of purple flowers. It left later this day than all the other times I pedaled off for a new destination. My decision to leave later though rewarded me with beautiful views as the sun shined through the clouds lighting up the landscape to my side.
Soon the road was surrounded by rocky areas that were completely covered in this light green moss. It is such a weird sight as everything around you is smooth & fluffy. Small fuzzy crevasses & little caves are scattered amongst the terrain to my sides. This must be where the gnomes live I chuckled to myself. Legends of gnomes, trolls & elves are rooted in Icelandic folklore. Some more pedaling & I come to a junction. Kirkjubæjarklaustur was where I was headed, but to the left there was winding road up into the mountains that looked was drawing me in. The sign read 37km/23mi to a campsite in the highlands. Just the word highlands sparked some epic images in my head so I made my decision. Right after the highway there is a green bridge that blends perfectly with the surrounding green landscape. I stopped for a picture of the river I was crossing.
The road I took went up & down with the hilly terrain. It felt like a roller coaster flowing down the road. The next couple hours I got to experience something new for this trip. I was riding through the night so I got to enjoy the colors of the sun setting then coming right back up. It became more & more dream like the farther I rode into the highlands. There was absolutely no wind & it was completely silent. This was a first. I was hitting some of the calmest weather I had this entire trip.
The road turned into a car wide off-road trail which made it all the more fun to cruise on. There were a lot of ups & downs on this road. So, at times I had to push my bike, but it wasn't bothering me the slightest. This place felt mystical, serene & I was all alone out here for miles. I wasn't sure if a lot of the horses back here were wild or not, because they were not contained in fenced areas.
At times I was riding right next to them. I saw a figure in the road up ahead, but couldn't tell what it was. When I got closer I realized it was a lone horse standing in the middle of the road looking right at me & it peacefully moved to the side once I got closer. This place was completely surreal. It took me nearly 6 hours to get to the camp from the highway, but none of it felt like a struggle. I settled into the small empty camp sometime around 2am.
Day 17 July 9, 2015
I woke up, paid for the night before & asked the warden a couple questions about the area. The path to Landmannalaugar was still closed up ahead. I didn't really plan on going up that far anyways as I would be heading back the way towards Þórsmörk. The wardens dog was playing around & was very friendly. This is such a great place to have a dog. Not locked up in a suburban prison, but free to roam around. I was feeling fairly tired & wanted to be fully rested for when I left so I cooked up a big breakfast then slept for 24 hours. Apparently I needed some rest.
Day 18 July 10, 2015
While sleeping I had heard strange ripping sounds & goat noises everywhere. I dreamt neither as there seemed to be goats hanging around the fringe of the camp at all times. The ripping sound was the dog ripping open a package of hot dogs I had left under the rain fly part of my tent. He was too cool a dog to stay mad at though. I set off to leave the same way I came in & get back to the highway.
I had more energy & the terrain worked better for me this direction. So, I made it to the highway in three & a half hours. Stopping to make coffee I looked up how far it was to Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Not too far at all, so I cruised & made it there in no time.
Day 19 July 11, 2015
I wanted to catch up on the blog, but my mind was too erratic for clear sentences & punctuation. I have run out of the whiskey stash I brought with me on this trip. Instead I grabbed my bottle of Brennivin, my helmet & ventured down the nearby valley from the campsite.
There was a trail leading from the town roundabout farther down the valley so I followed it till it came to stairs over the fence. I lifted my bike over the small stairs & from therein hiked my bike up this steep trail. Not long later I was on top of the plateau that over shadows the town providing a great view.
The hiking trail up top looked like single track to me. It was hilly green fun & eventually led to a water basin that was peeved up on this plateau. Kind if a strange thing to see, but Iceland is always throwing geographical curveballs. The basin was slowly draining into a small waterflow (the water wasn't falling so I made a new word) below in town.
I told you Iceland doesn't believe in Disney endings.
After bouncing around on the plateau I finished the day by finding a smaller waterfall further into the valley. Another perfect place for a beer. It was fantastic atmosphere.
Day 20 July 12, 2015
Today I stayed in town catching up on the blog & rewarding myself with some apple pie & good coffee. I chatted with a bike packing couple from Spain & tomorrow I will continue my trek east, pedaling off into the horizon once again.