Shot for the Day (27 September 2016)

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I have visited Iceland a few times.  This was from my most recent trip there, when I cycled round the island.  This was one of the rare days when it did not rain.  I was around 300km east of Reykjavik when I took this shot.  The wind was with me that day and I covered over 100 miles.

This next shot was a couple of days out of Egilsstaðir, close to Hoffell if I recall correctly.  Just a mile or two away from the road where I was cycling, was this the view I was treated to, of a glacier positioned on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park.

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Day 7: Akureyri to Reykjahlio

Blogging from a beautiful spot just ten metres from the waters edge. It has been very sunny in Iceland today but a big black cloud is approaching over the lake so tomorrow I may not be so lucky.

Started this morning in Akureyri, waved goodbye to Angelique and cycled on. Akureyri  is at the bottom of a watery inlet with lots of up hills and down downs all around the water, very hard and into the headwinds again. After leaving this area I cycled up another climbing road for a grueling 4km. The road was covered in very loose gravel which was tough to pedal through and hurt when it flicked up and hit my legs, there were also an awful  lot of lorries which added to the pressure. It was very hard and you would normally work up quite a bit of body heat but it felt cold. Cycling at a fairly slow speed and into the wind chill meant that the air temperature felt about 9 degrees.

Crossed into the next valley fighting headwinds and again felt demoralised.  Got to a spot at the bottom of a great big hill and decided to stop for a break to gather my thoughts before the next climb. The area just happened to be a local beauty spot and sported a stunning waterfall so it was a lovely place to rest and take in the scenery. The next enormous climb took an hour but when I reached the top I had a reward! The wind direction had finally changed and for the first time on this trip I had the wind behind me AND I was going downhill. It was lovely, a real bonus but I had to step on the brakes for safety reasons as it was easy to get carried away!

After lunch the winds were still being kind and for 25 miles I enjoyed the tail wind. I soon arrived at Myvatn. Lake Myvatn is supposed to be one of the places locals go for their holidays. It is an absolutely beautiful lake with mountains set back topped with snow. The ground is full of installations of lava and some would say it looks ‘other wordly’. I cycled through the lava fields to Reykjahlio and have now settled just 10 metres from the lake’s edge. The sun is laying  low over the water and I have even met three other Brits who are also cycling for charity.  We have had a good chat and shared our experiences so far but I am guessing that they are here for a good time as they have now headed off to the shop for some booze 🙂

Dave is flying in very  late tonight, he will head first to Akureyri and then on to Egilsstadir where I hope to meet up with him some time on Thursday. Keen followers will be pleased to hear that as Angelique left Iceland she was reunited with her cycling gear which had in fact been there since about two hours after we had reported it missing upon landing (!)

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Day 6: Kinnafjall to Akureyri

Woke up to another beautiful day, Julien treated himself to a bit of a lie in. It was still cold but bright always helps.  Broke the tent down.   Set off and headed 55km down the hill towards Angelique’s location.  The head winds were at it again and even though the cycling was downhill it was only possible to reach 8mph, cycling into the winds is heartbreaking and always a challenge .  It was an unrelenting 4 hours. When we met up with Angelique she deduced that Julien needed to lose some kit to make the head winds easier so we had a bit of a turn out and Angelique will be taking 10 kilo’s of stuff and leaving it at the airport on her way out tomorrow.

Currently Julien’s leg muscles look like I imagine Popeye’s would.  Now having a nice meal and preparing to wave Angelique off in the morning. Dave is on his way and is flying out tomorrow although Julien will be heading to Akureyri in the middle of nowhere so it will take a few days to meet up.

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Day 5: Blonduos to Kinnafjall

This morning was a beautiful one to wake up to. Sunny and bright, not words we would have associated with Iceland so far.  The road out of Blonduos was calm and tranquil and we covered about 35-40kms without seeing any traffic. However, this was clearly too good to be true. As we turned a corner we could see a rising valley ahead of us.  Shit! came to mind. It is difficult to put this into words but we could see tiny cars up ahead of us climbing very very slowly. This did not bode well for us lowly cyclists.

We climbed 500 metres higher and higher up the hill. It was grueling and exceptionally tough. As we reached a plateau at the top of the mountain it was still fairly sunny and warm and the scenery was awesome.

As we began to head down towards Varmahlio (a small town housing 120 residents) we could see the massive drop ahead of us and it was a long long long  ride down. The weather was  beautiful and  really warm. We safely reached the bottom and after an amazing lunch  thought ‘life is great’.

Over lunch we looked at the map and saw that we could get 45 km towards our next destination.  Unfortunately our luck was out and the stand on Julien’s bike broke. No stand on a touring bike fully loaded is frankly a pain in the arse as you can’t just stop for a drink. You have to find something to lean it on. This put Julien in a grumpy mood. Then the weather clouded over and it got cold. Our non-stop uphill climbing of only  15km took us a whole  4 hours! We were so high up that we got to the point where there was snow all around us. We were yet again battling strong head winds  and we were freezing cold. Finally we reached the path at the top. We had drunk a lot of water and were very thirsty. The wind chill made it below zero. Julien had full weather gear but Angelique’s full weather kit had one missing in transit so we hailed her a lift down the mountain. Julien camped alone at the top of the mountain and experienced -2 degrees in the tent.  That said it was a beautiful evening with clear skies and the now familiar light nights.

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Day 4: Stykkisholmur to Blonduos

We awoke on Saturday morning having slept well in Stykkisholmur.  After breakfast we had a good review of the map and thought “bloody hell it is gong to be a long way from here to get anywhere useful” so reluctantly we cycled back to Borgarnes. It was another hard ride back and a bit of a detour but was definitely the right decision. The ‘return’ journey seemed harder partly  due to  Julien’s very heavily laden bike and the fact that Angelique’s make-shift  panniers shifted with every notch on the road resulting in us having to stop to re-adjust them after each minor bang. We covered almost 100k back to Borgarnes.

Although this may upset the more adventurous of our followers we elected to take the local bus to Blonduos which is a small seaside town in the northwestern part of Iceland.  Our leg muscles were bulging and the logistics of our kit were getting us down. Approximately 1000 people live in the town and the distance from Reykjavik is about 245 km. The word that sums up our first view of the town was ‘weird’ but we mean that in an eerily endearing way. There is an unusual building that looks a little bit like a pudding bowl with the top lopped off.  There were few people around and the only thing missing from this ‘Omen’ style scene was the tumbleweed. We found a little camp area and stuck the tent up.

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Day 3: Budir to Stykkisholmur

Tonight we blog from Stykkisholmur after a tough but rewarding day.

We have made it around the end of the island having cycled through a massive volcanic region. The weather has frankly been miserable for most of the day but the sun broke though late afternoon and actually turned out to be absolutely gorgeous.  We have been cycling mostly along the coast which is a tough terrain to deal with but very rewarding.

Fish is on the menu again tonight as we are now sitting in the beautiful fishing town  of Stykkisholmur  awaiting our supper. More detail to follow tomorrow!

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

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Day 2: Borgarnes to Budir

At 4am we were woken up by the unmistakable  sound of torrential rain pelting down on the canvas. Because of Iceland’s location, so close to the North Pole, you will have heard that the daylight hardly ever subsides so eye-guards are vital. Waking up to the sound of the battering rain wearing eye-guards is quite disorienting and we had no idea of the time. Tentatively we pulled up our masks hoping that it was not 9am and were relieved to learn that it was only 4 in the morning. So, eye masks back down and we were able to snooze away until 7am.

When we awoke for the second time this morning we got up and dried out the tents before heading out to look for breakfast. This is where we happened upon a unique Icelandic character who is a puppeteer by trade and now also runs a great cafe with his wife.  We had a fantastic breakfast and reviewed our maps taking on local advice from the puppeteer.

We cycled North West to the Snaefellsnes peninsula which had also been highly recommended by our first host. To get there took us 4 hours and battling the continuing headwinds meant we covered just 40km. In the afternoon Angelique had to pull up as she was concerned that she had injured her leg. We flagged down a passing truck and she managed to blag a lift to our destination for the day. I waved her off and cycled on, completing another 75km alone.

Tonight we reside in Budir close to Snaefellsjokull. Our prettiest location so far. We are in a small hotel which Angelique managed to get a great deal at and have a view of the glacier we had been heading for. Angelique is fine and should be back on the road first thing. Off to relax now!

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

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Day 1: Reykjavik to Borgarnes

We awoke to a beautiful day and set off north around the harbour towards Borgarnes which provided us with our first real experience of cycling in Iceland and along a 69km stretch. We had heard the Iceland was renound for it’s head-winds. The rumours were not wrong. The temperature was a very pleasant 25 degrees but the wind was incredible. The last part of the days trip had us heading along a dead straight road where we could see the last 10 miles ahead of us. Cycling in a straight line into the winds was almost debilitating so we were relieved to reach our destination.

We found a campsite and having set up our tents, headed off in to the local town to search for dinner. The food in Iceland can be challenging, fish is ‘popular’ but by now we were craving the green stuff. We were thrilled to find an awesome restaurant which served up the most fulfilling salads. Not something we thought we would ever appreciate quite so much but we went to bed full of fresh vegetables and utterly exhausted.

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Back on the road again


(Image by Paul van Roekel: http://www.paulvanroekel.nl/)

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: