the back road to Askja, here some photos from the other side of the river from the Sprengisandur route. from the bridge i crossed over and went south again, to Askja. the tail end of this route is called the Vikrafellslied, and it runs around the north of Askja caldera. this path lasted two long days plus half of the next, all technical riding with various windy conditions from total stillness to light breeze to throwing stones, over lava fields, sand dunes, rocky patches and everything in between. awesome, beautiful, unforgettable changing colors and sceneries skirting this huge volcano.
-this fantastic construction i find amazing…the large breast shape is a shifting sand dune, the nipple thing at the top is a 10,000 year old conglomeration of bird shit. yes, the birds always search for the highest place –
and every once in a while, a reminder of the science going on here…wind speed sensors, seismic activity detectors…around every turn i expected to see the opportunity rovers, or even the viking relics…
some real bushwacking here, except there are no bushes really, just moss and snow and ice and stones, little plants hugging the cold ground. the glacier around Snaefell having collapsed, and the trail with it, i took the other way around, to Geldingafell hut. this part was uneventfull, just a nice sunday ride. or was it friday, or tuesday? i forget. i camped at the hut, not having made a reservation…it was, well, nice.
in the morning, massive rainbows broke quickly into seas of ice and rock and snow. there was little riding this day, just following the gps track as best i could. cold, windy, wet, foggy…it was, well, also nice. i snacked on peanut butter sandwiches and had a cup of tea in the shelter of the only big rock i could find.
not much riding this day, i finally made it to Egilsell hut. here i was trapped by wind and rain for 36 hours, basically straying from the tent only for the call of nature, and rushing back into the tent from the howl of nature, and the wet. at this point i discovered, my tent is no longer waterproof. highly recomended : hydrophobic treated down sleeping bag, hydrophobic treated down jacket. i was wet, but warm…
when the weather broke i was on my way. this time i didnt make the mistake to follow a track, i just picked out several landmarks, logged them as ‘waypoints’ on my gps, and found my own route over the terrain. i was riding again!!
reindeer!! see em’? there, those tiny specs… in fact they were pretty close but, i havent got the big lens for my camera.
this after the deepest river ford yet. sometimes there’s nothing left to do but strip down and wade in…
then the fog came, from out of nowhere, and i was blindly heading towards my waypoints. ice rivers, ice, rivers, snowbanks over ice rivers, bogs and marsh, more snowbanks. there was one waymarker more or less where i had calculated, then the fog broke and i had to step back!! pinnacles and sheer drops all around! the ‘normal’ trail had become a raging torrent of snowmelt, completely impassable…i had to backtrack to find the least sketchy way down.
and then rockfall!! i lost hold of the bike, it went crashing down, stones rumbling down around me, i was lucky to get away with just some bruises! the bike tumbled 100m or more, i cringed…made my way down to it, and besides the handlebars askew, no trouble. i got to the bottom, see that look on my face? that’s the look of reaching the limit of what i should be doing alone, without rope…
finally i made it to Leiras hut, this the open kind, where one pays a small fee if one uses the facility. no reservation, that was a welcome respite. i stayed there till noon the next day, dry out my clothes, cook some food, coffee in the morning…rub some chinese medicine into my bruises, all good.
the ride out in the day was splendid, revived, relaxed, following the river, ever ever flowing to the sea. i made it. once at the road, i messaged the rangers at Snaefel, to tell them i had arrived. then i turned my back on that little episode, madness hike-a-bike across the mountains. would i do it again? i am still thinking about that…maybe, but not without a rope, and perhaps, a climbing cycling partner…
24 hours on Pluto. from coming over the summit, climbing from Akureyri into the clouds, what a surprise. i had read that around the hotsprings of Laugafell it’s green meadows, but what greeted me was a landscape of rocks and gravel, ground fine by the wind.
the first night i rode a lot further than i wanted, looking for a place to camp out of the wind. there was little shelter to find, everything having been ground down to these dunes. it’s a desert, and in a fog, there are only two directions, up and down. fortunately only one road so no way to get lost.
9km the next day, i made it to the hotsprings at Laugafell. there i had a long talk with the warden, we called the rangers at the next park over and they called some other rangers, called back. finally we figured out, one way is still possible, to get to Askja volcanoe and the new lava flows…it’s a dotted line on the map, and a thinner dashed line on my gps device. these tracks dont have numbers, they have names.
after a soak in the springs (not really hot enough, but nice) i cooked up a big mashed mass of rehydrated camp food yumm, and drank a buncha coffee…and then off. i think i left at 4 and ‘just wanted to knock off some km from the total…’ and eventually got a second wind, or a second set of legs, and pounded out 45km through the evening.
it was a good ride, coming off the high of 940m, down to about 600 or so..more rocks, gravel, big stones, then i got on the Sprengisandur route. that is, the most part, a highway. problem with having such a badass bike, it makes me search for more of a challenge. i camped at the second river ford, where it was indeed a bit more green, thankful after so much Plutoscape.
tomorrow i cross the bridge, and head off into the lava fields. an Israely couple camping here said that the rangers told them my chosen road wasnt passable..but then again, they are driving a mini family car, and i got, well, the badass bike.
one last rest day in Olafsfjördur, the rain has stopped, i am revived, and ready to ride. ‘listen to your body.” Alice said, and listening closely, i find it’s true: the first eleven days’ riding took their toll, and one more day relaxed will be good for me.
i am in no rush, with more than three weeks time, and two weeks’ riding planned…today, i wander. today, i speak my words into the recorder, and catch the cries of gulls, and capture images, along the beach.
curious things i find here, and there.
day ten had me trekking up the mountains, the first actual mountains i’ve ridden here in Iceland. much of the riding has been on technical rocky up and down which felt like climbing all day long, but day ten really was climbing. the first stretch up out of the river bed i had to push pull the bike, then i could ride up up, until i hit the snow. the top crust was melty-kiss and uphill was impossible to ride, note the tire tracks with accompanying footprints, following a horse trail and litttle heaps of dung.
at the top, the emergency shelter was my home for the evening, so nice nice. next morning gorgeous sunshine, but clouds below crept up the mount, and became fog. descending, i could ride the snow, until i had the first total fall of the trip, laughing, ‘plunk! slooooooosh!’ sliding in the snow!
such a gorgeous place, surrounded by rocky outcrops, glaciers as a backdrop, snowbanks and little streams rushing from under the snow…that’s the sketchiest, snow what covers rivers…skidding, sliding on the bike, down down, until i hit the rocks and dirt, and a fast, technical descent.
from the snows, through the clouds, into green pastures, following roaring, rushing streams, gathering to a fullblown river, down into the valley…and i achieved, something special: i became, more of myself, realizing a dream drawn up looking at satellite images. a life on land born of pictures from outer space.
this place, this space, this bike, this ride…all completely Awesome
next morning coming down out of the clouds