Sept 20 Akureyri
My day in Akureyri was very easy. It is not a large city. I had a leisurly breakfast at the Backpackers during which time I posted my diary. I then went up to the HI hostel and checked in for my second night in town. There seemed to be no one there and yet when I tried to get in the previous night it was full. Quite a change from the teeming Backpacker in the middle of town.
A prime effort on each of my days is to try to figure out the weather for the next day. When I stop like this I am always worried that I am losing a good travel day. This day seemed to be pretty nice, cool but quite a bit of sun and not too much wind in town. I rode my bike down to the old town; basically a block of old house dating around 1800. A walk through the Botanical Gardens, which must be pretty nice in summer. Now it was quiet but still there were a few flowers here and there.
I went back to the Backpackers for lunch because I had a beer chit left over from checking in yesterday. I was carrying my laptop in a rucksack and so I uploaded my photos and sent a few of them off to my blog.
Back at the hotel I a few others had joined me in my dorm. One was a very nice girl from Montreal and three others from Calgary who did not get in until well after I was asleep. As is often the case, I meet many Canadians travelling. I have seen quite a few Americans on this trip which is unusual.
Sept 21 Myvatn, 106 km
I had a quick breakfast and was on the road about 8:30. I headed through town and then had a lovely few kms along Eyjafjordur, the longest in Iceland. It is quite pastoral and the morning was so quiet. But all too soon the climb started to take me up away from the sea over the longest continuous climb so far; probably about 10 km. I think I then stayed fairly high, with a few up and downs for about 40 kms when I saw the mist rising from my first major waterfall. Goafoss is right beside the ring road and I had my lunch sitting at a picnic table just out of reach of the mist. It was very sunny and warm so my visit was pleasant. I will miss many of the significant waterfalls as they are off of the main route.
Some more significant climbing got me onto yet one more high alpine region. Often there is little growth, I guess because of the recent volcanic activity and harsh climate. Dropping down I hit a small valley (dalur) and watched a man in a tractor cutting his hay. I am not seeing much of this. At a pond with a good variety of ducks I stopped and was hit by midges, a good indication I am coming close to Myvatn which is famous for its midges. They don’t bite, but are very annoying as they head for all the moist areas on your face. They were particularly bad climbing if my speed was below 11 kph.
Dropping down to the Myvatn area I was surprised to not see a large lake. At the south end, where I came in it is more like a marshy area. I was pretty tired by this time and so I didn’t stop much, and every time I did the midges dove in. Soon I saw a bigger lake and there were lots of ducks of a variety of species. They were along the shore but as soon as I approached they headed off. I tried a couple of times to get close enough to take pictures but they always saw me. Still, it was a nice ride for about 15 km along the lake.
The main town is Reykyahilo, sitting on the NE corner of the main lake. Myvatn was a major site for me and I planned to spend two nights. I was hoping to get some good birding here. That proved to be fruitless, even though I saw many birds it was not very satisfying because I couldn’t get close enough to see or photograph many species. But it is a very attractive area, my day’s bike ride was lovely, in large part because I had no wind at all. Probably a first for Iceland cyclists. I wanted to spend a full day here.
I checked into the campground hoping I could find a “sleeping bag” accommodation. I am reading about these but have not found one yet. The owner talked me into camping and so I did. I worry about the rain, wind and cold. But I did bring a tent, so I put it up, had a shower and went looking for a good restaurant. I had a choice of one restaurant, Gamli Bistro, at this time of year and it is pretty good. I had three meals there. The first night I had what they called char, but I think is trout, and the best dark beer I have had here.
The camp kitchen is not that nice. It is enclosed but drafty and does not have lights. When the sun drops it is cold and so I crawled into my bag, a downside of camping at this time of year.
Sept 22 Myvatn 30 km
I had a good night in my tent, but the condensation would take half the morning to dry off. It is not sunny but if I stay the wind should dry it off. I did ask at a few places but decided to camp again. It was ok and the cooler day kept some of the midges away. I rode around looking for birding spots but the best is the campground. I took it easy as I have a knee that is begging for the day off.
A prime attraction here is the Myvatn Nature Bath, about 5 km out of town. It cost $29, but it will mean I don’t have to go to the Blue Lagoon. This is a very active geothermal area; there are no end fissures sending out steam. The nature bath has four or five large wading pools of different temperatures and I spent about an hour trying them all. By the time I left there were probably 100 people in the pool, and that would likely build as the day goes on. I was the first one in line at 12:00 when it opened. Back in town I had a slow lunch at Gamli because two tour buses hit the nature bath restaurant as I came out.
The next jump, on my ride, is the biggest with little or no service. The Information Centre made a connection for me at a place about 100 km down the road. I worry about hills, rain, wind and all sorts of things. A big issue is that things are beginning to close at this time of year.
I bought a few more groceries including an extra water bottle as there will be no places to buy things until the end of the day.
I went back to Gamli for supper and to charge my devices, and spent quite some time there. It was dark when I came out and the rain was settled in. I had cleaned up my camp pretty good, but now I had more worries. Will it be raining in the morning, what should I do?
I scurried about getting into my tent in the rain. My bike was left out in the rain. Not very happy about that. I slept reasonable well and after my last time struggling out to have a pee it quit raining.
Sept 23 Skjoldolfstadir 117 km
At about 7:00 I crawled out of the tent and there was lots of blue sky. I packed up, had a light breakfast and headed off. My tent was soaked, but that was not a big issue. My ride out past the nature baths took me onto a climb where I had to push the bike for about 200 m. The first time on this trip. Over the ridge I dropped down to the most active geothermal area I have seen. There were a few paths out among the steaming fumaroles with lots of warning not to fall into the boiling caldrons.
For the next 30 km, I had my fasted flat ride so far. There was no wind and I must have been feeling the benefits of my day off. I was also a bit hyped because I was worried about the forecast that predicted east winds. For the rest of the day I was in the bleakest region I have seen. No livestock, almost no vegetation, just rocks. Still the day was ok. The wind gradually grew but I ground on down the road. I had my cheese sandwich at about 65 km and after that I was considerably slower. One annoyance is the periodic rough grid pavement sections. These are sharp walnut sized rocks imbedded in the road. And when they are new it knocks a few kph off of my progress. One on of these sections I heard a load snap from my bike. I stopped and looked a bit but had no idea where it might have come from. On I went.
The Information Centre woman told me yesterday that I would come to my nights stop after dropping down off the plateau, and so I was looking for that for at least an hour before it occurred. But when it came it really came. It was about 8 km down one of these rough sections and very steep. I pulled into the guest house at about 3:45. There was a sign on the door “Stoppat 12:00 – 16:00”. I was very tired again. I had no idea whether I would be camping, or what. I walked around, dried out my tent, lay down on a picnic table, did some yoga stretches, walked some more, tried phoning a couple of times. Finally 2 hours after I arrived a couple of ladies pulled up in a car. They were coming to cook for me and they were able to get into the hotel and phone the owner. I was almost shaking with cold by then.
Once in the woman started immediately and made me some stew. The old owner turned up and fussed around and then gave me a key. Thankfully I am not camping. He is the first Icelander who speaks no English at all. I started to move my bags in and then noticed that I had a broken spoke and that the rear wheel was frozen. That was the snap that I heard about 20 km back. The amazing thing is that I got here at all. With a big load on the bike the wheel gets out of align almost immediately. I am now in trouble. Foolishly I do not have any spare spokes and the wheel is a bit special. It could also be that I have ruined the rim.
The woman who cooked talked to the owner for me. The bus comes tomorrow at 5:00 but I have indicated I will be willing to pay someone to take me into Egilsstadir, only 30 minutes away. The cook is now gone and so I am depending upon the old guy to help me. I have no idea about anything here, but I could be running up a big bill, and I am hopeful I don’t have to spend another full day here without working on my bike situation.
Sept 24, Egilsstadir
I was the only one in the hotel overnight and in the morning the old guy made breakfast. It was the usual sandwich board but included hot porridge. The whole bill, for room, dinner, breakfast and a beer was 9600 Kr, less than $100, so I am happy about that. The room cost was lowered a bit because I used my own sleeping bag; this is called a sleeping bag room here. The old guy talked to me in Icelandic and indicated that he was off, again leaving me wondering what was going on.
I sat around drinking coffee and wandered a bit, always with an eye on the front door, until 12:30, when another old guy turned up with a truck and drove me the 50 km into Eglisstaddir. This is the largest town in East Iceland and so I had some hopes I could get my wheel fixed. In town I was dropped off at a Sports shop and my driver would accept no money. I left my bike and went for lunch and to arrange accommodation. The accommodation was almost 800 Kr.
Back at the bike shop, they confirmed that could not replace the spoke and so had put on another wheel. I am worried, like in Norway 4 years ago, I am replacing a high end wheel with one of lesser quality. This time it cost me $300. I am very angry that I didn’t cover that base by bringing spare spokes which I most often do, and I am not back to Reykjavik yet. In Europe, 2011, I ended up buying three wheels before I got one where the spokes wouldn’t keep breaking. Mind you that was a longer trip.
I did get a chance to finish Hrafnel’s Saga which is set in this area. It is a short saga showing again that might is right. Hrafnel kills a boy for riding his horse, which is dedicated to Freyja, loses his property and position over it, but then through might gets it back and lives happily ever after, but now as a Christian. I’m not sure the for morale in this tale. What a rich collection of stories, it is no wonder the Icelanders are so literate. My saga seems pretty tame compared to those of a thousand years ago, but they also suffered the extremes of weather.
At any rate, I think I am ready to roll on in the morning. I am half a day behind and a few hundred dollars poorer than I would have been if the broken spoke hadn’t occurred. But tomorrow should get me down to the eastern fjords where I hope to go a little slower, still stopping for the odd day.