Bit of a mad dash

Not a great deal to report on the cycling front. We suffered a bit of a set back when Angelique’s luggage did not turn up. The airline were fairly helpful and able to give us a budget to replace the vital cycling kit.

We thought that this would be a simple task but luck was not with us as shopping for cycling gear in Iceland is a bit of a struggle. After dashing around Reykjavik Angelique was happy to settle for some waterproof bags which we were ingeniously able to fashion in to panniers for her bike. That evening was spent putting the bikes together and consulting the maps with our kind host lady Bára ( www.270mos) who advised us to head north towards a spectacular glacier. We got our heads down for the night desperate to get cycling tomorrow.

Please support Kids First Trust by sponsoring Julien on his Just Giving Page

Events Team
Kids First Trust

020 7841 8955

Meet the Iceland 2010 team: Julien

Finally, the last member of the team is me.

I have been an ardent cyclist for years, braving the London commute on two wheels for over a decade. I have several war wounds to prove this as London motorists and pedestrians are a careless bunch sometimes.

From an expedition perspective, I have had a few adventures in my time. Last year I cycled 4200km to Nordkapp, the most northern point in Norway and indeed, Europe. The year before, I cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats. Other outdoor pursuits include rock climbing, mountaineering, trekking, sailing and so forth in lots of interesting place around the world.

I am fortunate enough to have a good excuse in that being a photographer, it is all part of my day job. I am not sure if anyone believes this but what the heck, it works for me.

When I am not in the wilderness, I am an online specialist and have been privileged to have worked at many of London’s finest agencies, including The Team, Blsat Radius, Head London, Endemol and Imagination to name but a few.

In recent weeks, I have been cycling around 120 miles a week in preparation for this ride. However, there is no experience like being out on the open road and Iceland has long been a dream of mine. I just hope that Angelique and Dave do not want to kill me for dragging them to the Island of Ice and Fire (or is that Tierra del Fuego?).

My other preparations for this trip include trying to part you generous people from your cash by way of sponsorship and fund raising. In fact, rather than dismantling my bike for the flight next Saturday today, I have been writing to lots of newspapers, magazines and companies to see if I can rustle up any interest to back the expedition and the Kids First Trust. So, if you have a fiver in your pocket burning a hole, please do donate to a most worthwhile cause at my Just Giving page.

Welcome to Team Iceland 2010.

Meet the Iceland 2010 team: Angelique

My other riding partner this year is Angelique.

She is Canadian, living in California and has also done big bike rides of a different sort. Washington DC to Costa Rica on a BMW 750 for starters (no pedals). No motorbikes on this one though!

Angelique has always been into road and mountain biking and flirting with the idea of touring but like Dave, has never done it, so she’s ‘way psyched’ as they say in the San Fran vernacular. She’s on an endless prep schedule, antagonising bike shops all over the Bay Area, to help her convert her mountain bike’s to a touring bike. Good luck!

Angelique has several other great outdoor passions. Earlier this year, she went climbing in Thailand and kitting in the Philippines.  She’s a big fan of remote, exercised filled adventures like canoeing down the Zambezi.  I feel like a lightweight in comparison as I did the Zambezi in an eight man dingy back in 1994.

We’ll both be hauling Canon 5DII’s as she’s also a very keen photographer. She’ll be bringing along her 17-40 for the ride.  I’ll post some of her images as well, if she lets me.

Finally, Angelique just took ownership of her first dog, Ziggy, an 8 week old German Shepherd, who she will be abandoning to come on this trip.  That’s how great it’s going to be 🙂

Meet the Iceland 2010 team: Dave

As I will be spending sometime in the saddle with Dave and Angelique, I thought I would dedicate a blog entries to each of my teammates.

Dave has been fond of travelling distance and the outdoors for most of his life. He completed his first 1km swim at the age of 8.  He also walked halfway across Hong Kong Island the same year after forgetting his school bus money.  He completed his first ultra walk of 160km at the age of 14.

Dave has since done more than 30 multi-day organised ultra-distance walks and runs.  This includes over 10 finishes of the annual Nijmegen 4-Day Marches in the Netherlands where he is a Gold Cross Holder and member of the KNBLO (Royal Dutch League for Health and Fitness). He has the IML Silver Medal and is also an enthusiastic hiker.

Having proven himself in supported walking events, Dave has made the decision to return to his roots, by giving cycle touring a go.  Indeed, prior to training for this trip, the only bikes Dave has used in the past 5 years were bolted to a gym floor.

Ultimately, Dave is hoping to gain experience of a new mode of long distance travel, bike touring and maintenance, with some tips on photography thrown in for good measure.  Most importantly Dave is hoping to raise a good amount of money for a worthy cause while adventuring round the marvellous Icelandic landscape.  You never know, he may just see his first erupting volcano.

The cloudy road ahead

In the next month or so, I and two friends will be attempting to cycle around Iceland.  Usually, there would be the standard helping of trepidation by friends and colleagues at the idea of cycling over a thousand miles, around a desolate and sparsely inhabited island.  This year is more ambitious than I had originally intended due to the continued eruption of Eyjafjallajökull.

Indeed, the repeated action of the volcano and the broad level of information I am receiving from various sources (some more trusted than others) means that I am none the wiser as to whether we will be able to fly to Iceland and then circumnavigate it without being either blocked by the volcanic activity or halted by falling clouds of ash.  Conundrums and tribulations aside, this is all adding up to be quite the adventure.  Usually, if I were only concerned about my own travel, this would not be an issue as one can more easily roll with the punches when you are solo.  However, with the much appreciated company on this trip, along with the variety of start points for the journey, I need to make sure that I am not going to waste anyone’s precious vacation time.

I must admit to being more than a little seduced by the adventure ahead.  Each year, I like to have something new, something that sets each challenge apart from the previous ones.  Last year, it was covering thousands of miles alone.  This year, Eyjafjallajökull is throwing all sorts of variables in my path.

I have read various reports from other cyclist and newscasters reporting back on the eruptions as they happen.  The official word was that they would be over within the next couple of weeks and that the prevailing winds would prevent any falling ash from inconveniencing us as we make our way clockwise around the island.

In addition to the complexities of Eyjafjallajökull erupting, its three previous eruptions on record have each been associated with a subsequent eruption of Katla.  So far, there have been no signs of turbulence beneath Katla’s surface.  However, having last erupted almost a century ago in 1918, vulcanologists say that a new blast is overdue.

“So far there have been no signs of the re-awakening of the Katla volcano but a lot of things can still happen, so we are monitoring it quite closely,” Dr Einarsson said.

Here is an image that caught my eye.  My cycling companion Dave summed it up best when he said something along the lines that we needed to make sure we had all a decent breathing mask in our bags.

So, after all the procrastination, this is what it is all about:  The angry gods of the underworld spewing out its ash and magma.  In a strange turn of events, after thinking that Iceland would be bereft of tourists, I have been reading about how the volcanic eruption has heightened tourist figures as people come from far and wide to see the angry mountain humbling our Western way of travel and life in general.

Please note: None of these images are mine.  They have been sourced from fellow photographers on the net.  If you would like me to credit your image or remove it, please email me or comment below

Back on the road again

(Image by Paul van Roekel:

It has been a long time since I last wrote an entry.  In fact, it has been almost a year.

This year will be slightly different to 2009.  I will be joined by potentially two other cyclists. Dave, depending on whether he makes it back from New Zealand, is a cert to join me for the whole trip.  In addition, Angelique, a new work colleague at Blast Radius, has shown interest in joining me for part of the journey as well.  However, she is based in San Francisco, which means that this trip posses some interesting logistical issues for my cycle partners.

The route for this year’s journey will be a full lap of Iceland.  In addition, if we have sufficient time and weather permitting, I hope to cross the uninhabited centre of the country.  Here we will get to see first-hand the island’s interior, the Highlands of Iceland, which are meant to be a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains and glaciers.

Iceland is the world’s 18th largest island and Europe’s second largest island after Great Britain.  To put this into context, it is about the same size as Cuba (the main island) and 25% larger than Ireland.  Reykjavík, the capital city, is home to two-thirds of the national population, which means that a lot of the ride will be very remote.  We will be cycling close to the Arctic Circle, which Iceland is situated just south of, which means inclement and potentially cold weather but hopefully almost uninterrupted daylight.

Iceland was made famous in 2008 for the economic meltdown of its financial and banking sector.  Being an island with few if any agricultural output, almost all of the daily necessities have to be imported, making it a punishingly expensive place to visit.  This year (2010), on 21st March, the volcano Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted, forcing 600 people to flee their homes.  Our route will takes us within close proximity of the volcano, so hopefully, I should be able to take some great shots.

Iceland has 2,869 miles of paved roads.  Route 1, or the Ring Road (Icelandic: Þjóðvegur 1 or Hringvegur), completed in 1974, is Iceland’s main road and circumnavigates the island, connecting the majority of inhabited parts of the island.  This paved road is 831 miles long, which is well below the anticipated 1500 miles I hope to cover in this outing.  Alas, we will not be able to complete the full lap on this road, as bicycles are not allowed through the Hvalfjörður Tunnel.  Instead, we will need to follow a 62 mile detour.

The main question to me at this stage is whether to cycle the island clockwise or anticlockwise.  I am aware of strong prevailing winds along a large part of the southern route and many other blogs I have read about their cycling endeavours in Iceland would tend to suggest the smart money would be on a clockwise approach.  The benefit of this is that the most impressive scenery is along the south coast.

Here are some links to other Iceland cyclist´s blogs.  If you know of any other good blogs, please post URLs and comments:

Just before I scoot

Finally, the night before I leave for foreign shores and my mind is awash with so many small details.  I think I am missing the virtue of the bigger picture here.  Just spoken to my good friend Leslie on Skype.  She is currently at home is the US after an operation.  Apparently, they are not quite so well equipped in Rwanda.  Anyway, I digress.  It was great to her from her and it got me to thinking just what an adventure I have stretching out ahead of me.  My cycling buddies from last year’s trip, Pete and Mary, were also on the phone tonight, wishing me luck with the tour.  I really wish they were joining me.

This weekend was my dear friends Caroline and Duncan’s wedding, in wet and windy Devon.  It was the best wedding I have been to in ages.  So many friendly faces and a lot of gossip to catch up on.  I think Caroline’s mother thinks I am nuts and there I cannot fault her.  However, comfort zones are there to be lived both inside and outside of.

Now, time to go to be as I have a very long first day of cycling ahead of me tomorrow.  I reckon about 90 miles through central London down to Dover.  Apparently, the rain will fall hard so I envisage a tough day in the saddle.  Something interesting to sink one’s teeth into.

So far, people have been pretty generous on the old charity donations.  I have raised almost  £750 on my Just Giving site.  Child’s I Foundation, the charity I am raising money for posted a story about me on their blog today.

Thank you to Innovation Norway!

Today, I was extremely fortunate to speak with some of the extremely lovely people at Innovation Norway.  A friend and former colleague of mine from Head London, John Parnell, put me in touch with Heidi and Christine at Innovation Norway, who are part of the team responsible for amongst other things, the excellent Norwegian tourism website, and also a WordPress blog for Visit Norway.

After discussing my trip, Christine placed me in touch with Knut, who runs the Tourism office in Tromso.  Together, they have been able to shed more light and help me more in one day than a week of internet trawling and book reading.  Christine has been sending me lots of useful advice about where to go and what to see.  I hope to visit Sámi Adventures, which is hope to spend some time with some indigenous Sámi people and envelop myself in the Sámi culture.  Christine also recommended that I stop in Kautokeino and visit Juhls’ Silver Gallery.

My aim is to meet as many locals as possible and gather a better understanding of the Norwegian and Sámi culture.  I only hope my photographs due justice to them.

The icing on the cake was Christine’s very kind offer on behalf on Innovation Norway, to help me on the return leg of my charity cycle ride, by sponsoring my flight home.  So, here’s to you all at the Innovation Norway, thank you so much for all your help and generosity.

Here are some useful Norwegian websites for the northern region of the country:
– Innovation Norway’s comprehensive website –Finnmark Tourist Information website
– Visit Tromsø’s website
– Wikipedia information

One week and counting…

Time is ticking away as the ensuing departure date is now less than a week away.  Even though I have been preparing for this trip for ages, I am stick racked with anticipation.  Concerns of the overall requirements of the ride interlaced with daily issues such as shopping, whilst not having my kit stolen or finding somewhere to camp.  All in all, there are many issues to contend with.

In the grander scheme of things, I hope that this ride is a success.  By this, not only do I mean achieving the loft target of cycling 2800 miles to a vary sparsely populated are of the world but I also mean raise finds for the charity I have dedicated this ride to, Child’s I Foundation.  So far, I have raised just under £350 on my Just Giving page, which is a good start.  I hope that as I continue, people read about the various adventures I am likely to have en route as my blog will be maintained by Tom from Child’s I, in my absence.  I would love to hit my target amount of £2,500, so please keep reading this blog and make a donation if possible.  All of the money is destined to help kids in Uganda.  I am paying for all of my own expenses on this trip!

I have been testing all of my kit prior to my departure and so far, so good.  I have to make sure I can maintain my MSR stove as I know occasionally they can gunk up.  The biggest challenge will be to decide how much stuff to take along with me.  In the first couple of weeks, the temperature will hopefully remain in the warm twenties.  However, the further I travel up the spin of Sweden, the cool the weather will become.  Indeed, the figures I have seen for night time temperatures for Nordkapp and the north coast of Norway, even in mid summer, are around 4 degrees Celsius.  The weather is also likely to me inclement but that should only add to the drama of the journey.

It would be great to hear from any one if they have experience of travelling in this part of the world as so little has been written about it.  That said, hopefully my blog will be a useful place for other people considering this journey as a portal of information in due course.