Shot for the Day (28 January 2018)


Shots from the vault: Back in 2009, I had just completed my cycle ride from London to Nordkapp in Norway, some 2.5k miles away. Following completion of this journey, I took a ferry from Honningsvåg to Hammerfest, where I spent these evening before heading on to Tromsø the following morning. I was treated to a spectacular light show that evening as the sun bounced along the horizon. Being north of the Arctic Circle and mid-summer, the sun never dropped below this level.

Shot for the Day (09 September 2016)

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A shot from the archives.  This one was taken in Iceland when I cycle around the island.  I had made my way around the peninsula and had to back track through the mountains.  Ahead of me, the clouds loomed ominously above the range I had to cycle through.  Needless to say, I was soaked in the mother of all storms.

Just over a week later, I was on the other side of the island.  The omnipresent clouds parted momentarily as I passed an abandoned house.  Soon afterwards, the rain fell and the clouds closed in.  If you can overlook the bad weather (these were taken in the height of the Icelandic summer) and the relentless winds, cycling around this rock in the middle of the Atlantic was a fantastic expedition.

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Day 15: Hvolsvollur to Reykjavik

The last day of the trip and the weather was against me straight from the off.  As I sat in the café, preparing myself for the day ahead, I could see the clouds circling above me.  As I cycled out of Hvolsvollur, a wicked cross wind caught me, tossing me into the middle of the road.  Fortunately for me, there was not much traffic on the road so I was not in any jeopardy.

The rest of the morning’s cycle to Selfoss was miserable.  On one occasion, after being pushed into the centre of the road, in the path of on coming traffic, I was forced to dismount and push my cycle up the hill as the cross winds were so fierce and dangerous.  This very much set the tone or the remainder of the day.

The intermittent spots of rain did little to raise my spirits.  However, after turning due west, the wind fell behind me for the final 20km stretch for the morning and ensured that I was able to match the pace of the previous day’s ride.  Before I knew it, I rode into Selfoss.

Reluctant to frequent the same greasy establishments that are peppered all around the ring road of Iceland, I chanced upon a lovely small café.  The place was empty and the young owner welcomed me in with a warm smile.  Lunch was very pleasant but I was warned that there was a mountain range that I had to cycle over before I made it to Reykjavik.

It took me an hour in more vicious side winds to make it 20km to Hveragerði.  There in front of me stood the mother of all inclines.  The route up was perilous for several reasons.  Firstly, the cross winds were extremely hazardous, pushing me out into the road many times.  There was no hard shoulder on my side of the road; instead, the upward route was divided into a dual carriageway.  Large vehicles hurtled past me as they climbed the hill at alarming velocities.  The final problem was the intense, unrelenting incline.  The hill stretched out for an eternity ahead of me.

After crossing the road, I pushed my heavily laden bike up the unyielding ascent.  Cars came far too close for comfort on more than one occasion.  I did however, manage to conquer the hill eventually, crossing back over and pedalling once the camber eased a little.  The battle of gradient and cross wind raged on against my onward progress.  I swore at the wind as the hard shoulder disappeared completely.  I had to choose between the road and the terrifying traffic that adorned it or the sandy, rocked waste that lay just beyond it.

Progress was extremely slow and arduous.  I began to loose my cycling mojo and decided to stop at the next petrol station.  As I sat nursing a bottle of coke, I made a deal with myself that I would load my bike and good self on to a bus should one happen to pass by.  It didn’t and in hindsight, I am eternally grateful.  To have given up so close to the end of my journey would have endured and bugged me forever.

The petrol station owner told me the road got better and he was right.  Soon after leaving, the road began to descent, the cross winds soon subsided to infrequent gusts rather than perpetual gale and the hard shoulder reappeared.  I spotted Reykjavik in the distance.  I know at that point I was going to be fine.  Iceland had not defeated me after all.

A few hours later after becoming lost in the suburbs of capital city, terrified on the tri-carriage ways, bemused by the maze of roads in the docks and perplexed by the general lack of signage, I arrived in the middle of town.  I sensed a slow bubbling of euphoria n my heat as I booked into a pleasant local hotel.  Luck was on my side that evening.  The sunset was stupendous, the hotel extremely comfortable, dinner scrumptious and sleep deep and restful.  I had done it.  I had cycle around Iceland.

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Day 14: Kirkjubaejarklaustur to Hvolsvollur

Today is the first day that I feel tired after a ride. Had a prevailing wind so made the most of it!

Starting off from Kirkjubaejarklaustur. The pizza was rough and was only edible because I was  hungry. Unfortunately I didn’t really get any sleep last night. A couple of hardcore Russian bike nuts rocked up at midnight and decided to shout at each other all night. I always camp near a bench so that I can tie my bike up and camp close by but unfortunately the bikers decided to sit on said bench and chat loudly all night before crashing out and snoring their heads off. Not fun, they revved off at about 5am and I dozed until 7. Went to local supermarket, had a decent breakfast with lovely patisserie. Cloud was grey so thought I had better get going before the rain comes. Today I had planned to go through Vik and stop there for lunch and then stay in Skogar. So I started off cycling through a lava field, the road appears to  cut through where the lava had stopped but so it ends up looking like the moon but with moss on it.

The day was pretty flat with a very decent wind, I was cruising at 14/15 mph. Only 70 km to lunch so was rocketing along. But then it started raining, heavy, light, heavy. I was soaked to the skin knowing that I would be soaked for the rest of the day. I am literally getting webbed feet as my  feet are wet all day and every day.

Started on my way, passed on old guy on a Recumbent cycle which is a kind of  half seated, half laying down bike. Rode along with its rider, a Danish guy and chatted about his time in the armed forces. Then I got going faster again and was passing other cyclists going straight into the wind knowing exactly what they were going through. Rocked up at Vik at about 1PM so it had taken 3 hours to do 70km/45miles. I would normally expect 12mph so very fast and felt like I was really whipping along. Unfortunately the wet had made me feel  cold, very cold so I needed hot food. Ordered big hot meal and cups of tea. I decided to have a nice leisurely lunch and take my time but it began to rain really hard. Just as I started leaving the guy on the Recumbent  turned up and said that it was a bad day to have a leather saddle. I had learned that it was a bad choice for Iceland as the wet makes it all misshapen and it never dries out fully.

On my way out of Vik I needed to go out on a hill into small mountain range. It was  a 10% ascent, cars struggling, so I cranked it down to 1st gear but on the way down it was a different story and I hit my PB 42 mph (!) One and a half hours later, I rocked up at Skogar, the lady there said that there was a severe weather warning for tonight so all of the rooms were full. She told me where there were other places 3 – 6kms down the road. So I cycled 3kms more but it was full, 6kms full, 20kms full. In the end I thought “stuff it, I am going to head down to the next town” which is Hvolsvollur.

My average speed today was 14mph so I was very tired and decided to treat myself to a hotel.  A local recommended a hotel but it was £110 room so that was too much of a treat for a lone cyclist! I have now found a small place with a tiny room in a lovely B and B . They too were full but kindly cleaned out a storage room for me! It is full of Israelis on a birthday trip and I can hear them singing and celebrating downstairs which is nice. I have just had my shower and am now  going to walk about half a km back to the centre to get some food. I therefore need to put my  dry feet back  into wet shoes. The good news is that there are now only 100km to Reykjavik so it looks like I am going to finish a day early and spend time with Dave doing touristy stuff on Thursday!

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Day 13: Litlahof to Kirkjubaejarklaustur

Julien is currently waiting for a pizza to arrive.

Woke up and had a chat with Dave. He decided that he couldn’t ride anymore. So left him behind in Hofn. Jumped on bike. Perfect conditions. Arrow straight road, glacier on the right hand side. Even saw the sun and although it was  intermittent, it was a welcome change. Julien got excited by the conditions and caned it as he was so excited to see the sun. Not many kilometres left to cover but still a few days left to cover them in so am limited myself each day.

Cycled on for about 65 km and found a  very random hotel in the middle of nowhere. Situated on a flat plateau and is a building that looks like containers from a big ship with windows at each end. Looks bizarre and crazy but is surprisingly smart inside.  I wandered in and they looked me up and down. I asked them if they had any lunch but I was too late.  Too late for lunch and  too early for dinner but they did have their special so I was treated to bowls and bowls of lamb soup with a great waitress running back and forth refilling my bowl.

Headed to Kirkjubaejarklaustur and outside of the town I could see a rain cloud coming like curtains ahead of me. I thought I might get away with it but no, cycled 8kms in the pissing rain. Found service station, ran in absolutely soaked. Ordered a cup of tea. I met two German guys going around the island in a 4×4 so spoke with them for 1 hrs 30. Went to Tourist info to find out where I could camp. In the tourist office there was a great guy who was half Scottish and half Icelandic who recommended a campsite and a great restaurant where I have now ordered pizza. It’s arrival is imminent!

I have two days left  and now I am solo am cycling about 17/18 miles per hour and getting excited about meeting up with Dave in Reykjavik and celebrating the end of the tour 🙂

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Day 12: Jokulsarlon to Litlahof

We woke up to thick cloud but there was no wind or rain. Planned to do 130km. When we got on the bike Dave began to suffer from the illness that had struck him on his way out here.  It struck him quite  early in the day and as it really kicked in he could hardly move.  We attempted to do 35km’s before breakfast but Dave couldn’t make it so  we stopped and set up for a hot drink. Cycled a little bit further. Julien then got his second puncture which was very annoying as he only had two inner tubes but it was caused due to the poor gravel road surfaces.  We now have no inner tubes left, so fingers crossed.

By the afternoon Julien  was getting really cold. Dave was very ill. Dave wanted to thumb a ride as he could go no further. Julien decided to go on to find a hostel. There was nothing, so he cycled on and on and on. 40 clicks down the road found a  town called Litlahof.

A landlady said she had a house with rooms. Julien took the room at about 4pm and waited for Dave. He was in a bad way so arrived at 8 PM. When he got to the hostel we had a chat and decided that Dave should rest up and either meet up with Julien at the end of each day or head to Reykjavik. Four days to go. About 110km solo planned per day.

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Day 11: Hofn to Jokulsarlon

Hoped for the rain to stop at the hostel so waited and waited but it didn’t so we set off at 11. Cycled north inland first and at about 10kms out of town the weather improved but it was still wet and gloomy. Julien feels the cold a lot more than Dave so went ahead a bit quicker. He found a lovely place for lunch and wrote Dave’s name on the road hoping he would see it and stop as he caught up. Unfortunately he didn’t see it and called from several miles down the road to find out where Julien was! Luckily Dave found another great place for a hot lunch so the boys dined in separate towns.

Now cycling towards Jokulsarlon which is renowned for it’s glacial lake. There were loads of icebergs floating around. Dave a bit behind so Julien snapped away. A Swiss couple made us a hot drink in their caravan which was lovely. We looked on the map for a campsite, the nearest of which was 35kms.  So, we decided to stop where we were for the night and set up on top of a hill that lay next  to the stunning lake. With the permanent light, we were afforded the most beautiful of views until the sky finally clouded over after supper.

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Day 10: Berufjordor to Hofn

Today we were heading for Hofn which was 130km away.  It was a long days ride especially after the previous one. We clung to the coastline. We cycled around beautiful fjords. It was still miserable weather and rained the whole day again. Body temperatures plummeted. But very stunning scenery. We couldn’t see in front of you. Passed shingle banks along the cliffs above and below all the time knowing that if it slips, the road would go from beneath you. Lovely seascapes but lots of gravel so hardcore cycling.

Stopped for lunch and whipped up a warm drink which made a big difference.  No drama throughout the rest of today’s ride  but spectacular scenery.

Arrived at Hofn 9pm. Went to the supermarket and bought high carb food. Crossed road to campsite and we were soaked to the skin. They had one cabin left so we took it and dried out. Could hear the rain hard on the roof the whole night. Went to bed trying to remember how it felt to cycle in the sunshine.

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Day 9: Moorudalur to Berufjordor

Woke up the next morning to the sound of rain. Had to pack away a soaking tent which was a bad start. The wind was phenomenal. I was due to meet Dave so had to cycle 8km back up the gravel track. It was very hard so I waved a coach down and loaded the bike on to travel to Egilsstadir. As I left, I heard that there were Country wide warnings about the wind. It was so bad that Campervans and cars with caravans were being warned not to drive. A couple of cars were blown over very close to our route, this made the whole day very intense and the weather was still horrific with terrible rain.

Once we had left the bus we had lunch and aimed to set off again. It was getting really cold and unfortunately I had given Angelique my fleece to take back to UK during the warm sunny spells last week. Fortunately I found a shop to by one and got on the bike to follow route 1 south. Cycled through the valleys but after 25kms it turned into a gravel road. It was very hardcore and still incredibly wet. We had to climb in the rain, going uphill in progressively worse winds. There was a shortcut recommended by locals down a track. She had said it was downhill and easier that way. But it wasn’t. It was uphill and only wide enough for one car – we felt very vulnerable in the teaming rain through thick fog. Rivers were bursting their banks and it was really cold. Everything was wet, it was as miserable as hell. Then we had the issue of descending down a 17% extreme ‘slope’.  It was incredibly steep. Fierce wind, pissing with rain, water and gravel everywhere. We both needed to use brakes all the way down. Dave’s brakes started to fail first and then Julien’s.  We had to stop and tighten both bikes brakes in the torrential rain. As well  as the Hollywood like conditions around us, we also experienced a real movie scene moment. A car stopped with two passengers within it.  One opened the window and just handed Dave a big bar of Cadbury chocolate and then drove off (!). We just stopped and crammed half each. At this point,  Julien was suffering from mild hypothermia. It was very difficult to hold on to the brakes. Dave’s were so bad  that in the end he ended up running down the hill with his bike. It was horrendous. Like a bad horror movie.

We eventually got down to sea level in the East. Looked at map and found a safe place to stay called Berufjordor.  We had to climb 2kms back up the hill to find it but it was dry and warm, we were not in the mood for damp tents and found a lovely hostel. It was very cosy.8 other tourists had passed us on the way up ( 6 Israelis and 2 Dutch) and they had said that they would have the soup on ready for us. The landlady was lovely and offered to wash and dry our clothes. We had a lovely evening, we were both exhausted but enjoyed chatting to our new friends. Got to bed at 2am. Found out at the end of the day that it was the worse rain that the country had experienced all year.

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

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