Saturday, August 16, 2008

Part 2: Vik to Eglistaðir

Moments after completing our last blog entry we were punished by 60-80km/h head-on winds on route to our next destination, forcing us to ride slower than we could walk. After a couple of kilometres we declared defeat and rode back to Vik and caught the bus to the next town, Skaftafell. We camped at the base of the biggest glacier in Europe where icy cold glacial winds sweeping over the campsite made for an unbearably freezing night. Miles has had a number of extremely frustrating camping "incidents" the worst being when he had to derobe 3 times, running around in the freezing cold collecting change for the shower machine (it takes 4 x 50K pieces), as the bloody machine ate his money. We have also had a little difficulty with our trangia stove for the first week. The first fuel Miles bought wasn't flammable at all, and the second was hugely flammable, blackening our brand new equipment with a giant fire ball! Until now we had been grateful to borrow other people's gas burners.

Glacial walk

Entry to underground ice river

Demonstrating his fury on the icy slopes

The view energized us

Glacial tongue

Svartifoss hexagonal basalt columns

Benedict staring death in the face

Skaftafell National Park entertained us with a surreal 5 hour glacial walk followed by a strenuous 6 hour hike through the mountains above campsite in the national park where we had spectacular views and collected wild blueberries to be added to a delicious porridge breakfast. As always, Benedict was the guinea pig to see if they were poisonous -- the only side-effect being deliciousness!

Gathering wild blueberries

The following day we were faced with more extruciating head-on winds, but our efforts were rewarded with a visit to the gorgeous Jökusarlson glacial lagoon, resembling an Antartic landscape. Some fellow Spanish bikers, conivingly drafted behind us the whole way and were annoyingly composed at the next campsite but offered us free Spanish nougats for our assistance.
Jökusarlson was frosty

Cocobolo ponders with his head above the clouds

Dancing with Cocobolo

The previous days continual exertion against headwinds had begun to weaken Benedict´s fragile knees, which only allowed the meagre 60km journey to Höfn, the next major port of call. After eying up the deliciously healthy livestock alongside our route, we couldn´t resist to indulge in a massive marinated pork feast for dinner.

Happily insulated and succulent

Clouds meeting the mountains

An early 6am start the following day took us 106km to Djupivogur. The day was glorious as we entered the spectacular eastern fjords... until we encountered our first gravel road. Our withered muscles struggled to cycle up the steep inclines as massive semi-travels showered us in rocks as they charged past. By the end of the day we atrophied our bodies and brains by melting awaying in the 42 degree hot tub of the local swimming pool. nice.

Welcome to gravel country
Excessive deep heat application
Curbing alcoholism by creating ridiculously short opening hours

Our next day involved covering a massive distance hugging the coastal route around the epic fjords, completing a record day of 112km. Struggling our way through steep gravel sections was rewarded by visiting the dazzling collection of stones in Granny Petra's geological wonderland (the most visited place in Eastern Iceland). Our camping experience at Faskruðsfjorður was one of the best yet, as we were one of only 3 people at the site, looking over the panaromic fjord - plus it was free!

A sample of Petra's amazing lifetime collection
Heart attack after inflating thermarest mattress

Yesterday's we cycled 50km around the head of another fjord, only to discover a tunnel shortcut which would have saved us much pain, luckily the view was worth it! After lunch we had to cross our first significant mountain pass, cycling uphill to 600m above sea leavel, soon after to be rewarded by 40 minutes of pure downhill bliss in Eglistaðir for the night.

The pocket llama finds its centre of gravity before tackling the mountain pass
Help us reach our target!

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