Cycling around Iceland – Part 9

I woke up, got out of bed and went to the showers. It turn out to be a queue for both showers and toilets.

Day 9 – Akureyri – Myvatn

After a long wait and almost bursting I went back to the room, packed all the panniers, changed in the cycling clothes and went to the kitchen to make my favourite oats and fruit breakfast. The hostel was clean and very well maintained. The kitchen had a big group of Italians in their (I assume) mid 40s having a rich breakfast and… being Italians – finger gestures, loud, smiling, hugging, the whole package.

I found a little cozy table next to the window, made my oats and coffee and sat down to enjoy them for a good start of the day. As always I was also charging all the electronics as you never know when you will get the chance next.

The simple breakfast that never fails – lots of energy without being heavy on the stomach!

After breakfast I took the electronics, gave the keys back, packed the bike and was on my way. Quite excited in fact to keep going again on the road after a good night’s sleep and rest.

Leaving Akureyri

I didn’t know what time Elad was planning to leave and we didn’t make any arrangements to meet as we both silently had agreed that each of us will still do their own trip, in their own pace and time.

The hostel was at the beginning of the city so my first task was to ride through the main road to the other side, then on the exit following road #1 I had to cross the bay on a bridge and get to the opposite side which was formed by a very steep mountainside running along the bay. Because of the steep angle it was impossible to make a road directly up through it (my map was showing a hiking trail though). Probably because of that the road made sort of a U turn following the side of the hill and slowly climbing up.

The day was cold and drizzly so I had my rain jacket on, but with the hills I quickly took it off. It always takes me about an hour to adjust and get into a rhythm. That first hour normally involves taking clothes off, putting lighter layers on, drinking water, breathing heavily, warming up the legs and calming the mind which is rushing with thoughts about the long day ahead. That day wasn’t any different, but I decided to take my time and get into a slow pace until I warm up, so that I don’t burn out on the first hill and lack energy throughout the day (slowly, very slowly I was learning the “tricks of the trade”).

The road moved into rolling hills and I could start seeing further into the distance toward the end of the bay in the distance.

Looking North toward the end of the bay and the road starting to turn East into the mountain.

Looking at the opposite side of the bay (West), the mountains where I came from the day before.

Such beauty, I was easing into the flow of the rolling hills and taking in the scenery. This is why I was here, absolutely breathtaking. I was falling in love with the place by the minute.

All was nice and dandy until the road made a slow turn and started to go into the mountain on my right. The gradient suddenly increased and the climb began.

I don’t know what % the gradient of that road was but I am sure the name for it is The Quad Burster or The Lung Burner.

Looking back on one of the many breaks up The Quad Burster.

I wasn’t going to quit on a hill, I pushed hard, trying to not stop as much as I can, but as someone once told me “Tell God about your plans to make him laugh”. At around 1km after the start of the climb the road turned even more to the right and the steepness increasted (seemingly to me by 50%).

One thing that many cyclists have realised I think is that photographs don’t give justice to road steepness!

Looking back

I am not ashamed to say – I pushed the bike up that hill on and off, on and off. You can tell by the number of photos taken.

Finally the end of The Quad Burster!

Goðafoss

Part of my plan for the day was to stop at the infamous Goðafoss waterfall. Not long after the climb and I found myself looking over the horizon seeing an incredible amounts of what looked like upward rain behind the hills. That was the water coming up from the waterfall clashing down. I picked up the pace eagerly looking forward to see it.

The Goðafoss (Icelandic: “waterfall of the gods” or “waterfall of the goði”) is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. It is located in the Bárðardalur district of North-Central Iceland at the beginning of the Sprengisandur highland road. The water of the river Skjálfandafljót falls from a height of 12 meters over a width of 30 meters. The river has its origin deep in the Icelandic highland and runs from the highland through the Bárðardalur valley, all the way from Sprengisandur in the Highlands. The rock formations in and around the waterfall make it one of the greatest natural wonders in Iceland.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go%C3%B0afoss

Probably about 15 minutes after I arrived and was taking photos and videos of the spectacular waterfall Elad arrived. With his usual positivity and smile he came over and took some photos himself.

How the waterfall really looks like, surrounded by tourists. It almost looks like they have lost something and are looking for it as a group. The reality is, the rocks are very sharp, the ground uneven with a lot of small water pockets and very slippery.

Rest

I was starting to freeze, the temperatures were low, probably around 6 degrees with wind. I was wearing all my jackets but sitting on one place made me very cold nevertheless. Being near the water also sucked the temperature out. Near the road there was a small coffee shop place and a store so we decided to go for a treat together with Elad. I got a nice warm cream soup that warmed my heart up.

The more we stayed in, the less I wanted to go out. The weather turned out for the worst, dark, cold, drizzly and with wind. Not to mention that we were just at the base of another long climb (2 more to go).

We probably stayed in for about half an hour, but was time to move!

Calling it close

Reluctantly we started going up the climb. Elad is a very good cyclist and he went at the front to set the pace, which I was grateful for as the only thing left for me was to stare at his rear wheel and concentrate on pedaling.

In no time we were already quite high and as it is typical in Icelandic mountains the top is covered in fog. In the span of 100 meters the visibility dropped suddenly and I couldn’t even see more than 7-10 meters in front. Elad stopped to the side and we turned our lights on. However, he noticed that my rear light was very weak and I was all dressed in black… He went behind me and with his reflective jacket and 2/3 lights improved our group visibility massively.

Because we were still climbing and the road was turning it was very, very dangerous. Cars could barely see us or at least we prayed they could, there was a fall on one side and a hill on the other (no where to stop) and extremely low visibility. Elad urged and motivated me to keep going as fast as we can. This really helped me mentally and I pushed through the climb with all my power. Several cars passed very near us on a few occasions, which is not unnusual, but in the fog I was constantly wondering if they even see me.

I am 100% convinced that I survived that section only because Elad was there. How we met and found each other at the waterfall, how he had the gear needed to make us more visible (he even gave me one of his lights) I have no words. I am very thankful and have learned my lesson now for future trips.

Myvatn

The road continued down from the mountain into a valley and then led us to climb another mountain pass, which was challenging still, but the visibility was good.

We didn’t stop, just cycling as we wanted to get to the lake. The weather was turning for the worst.

Just before the lake there was a sign on the side of the road and we stopped to read a bit about the area.

I felt mentally as if we were almost there, but in fact we still needed to go around the whole (quite a big one) lake to the opposite side. The other problem with that was that we were about to start cycling against the wind.

Mývatn (Icelandic pronunciation: ​[ˈmiːˌvaʰtn̥]) is a shallow eutrophic lake situated in an area of active volcanism in the north of Iceland, not far from Krafla volcano. The lake and its surrounding wetlands have an exceptionally rich fauna of waterbirds, especially ducks. The lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago, and the surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms, including lava pillars and rootless vents (pseudocraters). The effluent river Laxá is known for its rich fishing for brown trout and Atlantic salmon. The name of the lake (Icelandic mý (“midge”) and vatn (“lake”); the lake of midges) comes from the huge numbers of midges to be found there in the summer.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BDvatn

We set off from our last break. It started with a nice downhill and then the road split at a T junction. We did a 90 degrees turn to the left and head to go around the lake. Both roads actually go around the lake, we just decided to take the one on the North West of it as it was shorter distance.

The landscape changed a bit, even subtly but it did. More black dunes and hills surrounded the volcanic area. The mixture of water and rock had created some unique shapes and a new set of species.

Almost looks like we are on a different planet, if it wasn’t for the road.

It was freezing! Constant, relentless headwind with rain and low temperatures.

An ex-mini active volcano maybe?

So very beautiful, but harsh and unforgiving at the same time.

Elad pushed on, but I just couldn’t keep with him. My energy was the lowest I’ve had in days. I stopped to take a few photos of this boat on the beach at the edge of the lake. Forced by the wind and the cold I got back on and pushed forward, counting every meter on my speedometer.

After another gruelling half an hour I finally reached the small town at the edge of the lake. I saw Elad there at the supermarket and we went in together to get some supplies for dinner. I got some sugar-heavy snacks to give me some oomph for setting up camp and preparing dinner.

We paid for the campsite and found a spot not too far from the main buildings, but with a view of the lake. Even though the name of the place suggested that we should be in a cloud of midges trying to eat the meat off the bones, there was nothing of the sort. I think the wind that we cycled against was blowing the little creatures away so we had peace.

After setting up the tents it was time to make dinner and rest. We went into the kitchen. It was packed with people and very warm. My face started to burn after the day against the wind and cold. We found a table that was just being vacated and prepared some pasta with pesto and cheese (a la touring special). The people seating nearby gave us some of their leftover meat that they couldn’t finish, and we GLADLY jumped on the opportunity. They didn’t think we could eat the whole pack of pasta with a whole jar of pesto and cheese, but we showed them!

No matter to how many places I’ve been to eat, there are a few meals more delicious than the one you have earned by paying with all your energy, mental and physical efforts during a hard day.

Subscribe to receive the next post in your mailbox

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *