|Posted on July 20, 2009 at 10:41 AM|
July 20, 2009
Akureyri to Egilsstadir
81 days, 6800 km
25 km after leaving Akureyri, just after climbing a long steep pass, Philippe blew his rear tire on a sharp rock. We used the one and only spare tire to replace the broken one. Knowing we would be spending lots of time cycling rough roads in the weeks to come, we decided to ditch the bikes and hitchike back to Akureyri and get a new spare tire. 3 hours, 4 rides and a 5km walk later we were back at our bicycles with 2 spares (we didn´t want to take a chance).
The next day we arrived in the Myvatn area. We visited some pseudocraters, formed by steam explosions when molten lava rushed over wedland. After these, we visited a volcanic crater, Hverfell. This crater is 140m deep and has one of the largest tephra rings on the planet.
We found ourselves a nice campsite between some small trees, we had some eggs as a treat. As we woke up the next day, Leandra had pain in her stomach and didn´t eat much. We went to visit an area with boiling mud, steam vents and solfataras, followed by a visit to the Krafla (volcano) area, where we walked on very fresh lava (1984) that was pitch black, still smoking and sometimes sharp as glass. Unfortunately Leandra started a very bad stomach flew as we were visiting.
Leandra felt a little better the next morning so we decided to go on. We left the ringroad to head into the interior. After 40 km on the rough sandy road, we both felt very sick. As soon as we found a little pond in the sandy desert we set up the tent. We learned that Philippe had a 39.1°c fever. Both sick, we could only rest. We couldn´t eat a thing, must have shared one loaf of bread over 3 days, but didn´t touch our rations. We stayed stranded for 48 hours, laying in the tent, motionless, with no other desires than laying still. Still like this weird desert around, motionless also, no animals, no plants, no colors, nobody. If not for the breeze, we could very well be on Mars or on the Moon.
When we felt a bit better, despite the fact we were not back to normal yet, our curiousity and our fascination pushed us to get us going farther.
The hot days we had now turned into foggy cloudy and rainy weather which was great because it made the sandy roads more compact, thus less pushing the bicycles!
Once arrived in the Askja area, we walked up to the Viti crater through the fog, which created a very special atmosphere. We scrambled down to the geothermally heated milky blue lake in the bottom of the crater and had a swim.
At this point we had both totally recovered from our mysterious sicknesses and were starting to eat like normal again. We decided to cycle deeper into the interior towards a special place where the biggest glacier in Europe and a Volcano meet. A rough and long, narrow track led us to a mountain hut a few kilometers from the hot spot. The tracks first go through another one of those moonscapes, a desolated vastness of volcanic ashes, sands, volcanic bombs and pumice. It is actually in this very same place that NASA tested the landing module and lunar jeep for the Apollo missions.
For a while the track then goes through lava fields, endlessly winding its way through. We find the tracks challenging but very exiting and despite the long hours spent bouncing around on rocks, pushing our bikes through sand and many river crossings, we are really loving it.
Passed the mountain hut, we wade through the most challenging river crossing ever, with icy cold glacial water (the glacier is only a few dozen meters away), holes, and big boulders. There is enough current that, when we cross the river holding the bikes by the handle bar and the saddle, the strong current pushes the bikes nearly horizontal trying to take them away from Phil´s strong hands. Even though the whitewater is coming up to his thighs, Philippe still takes Leandra on top of his shoulders to take her across (isn´t he the sweetest).
After a short walk, we then find the ice cave. The main entrance must be 15 meters in diameter and steam is pouring out of the huge hole. A surprisingly warm river is coming out of the glacier (the warm river made the caves). It is easy to walk inside the first 100 meters under the glacier. This is very special. We see some light and find the roof of the cave had fallen down, from here you could look up to the crevasses towering high above you, this was quite impressive.
We later walk in the surroundings and even on the glacier, looking for the fumeroles and other steam vents hidden somewhere else on the glacier, but because of fog and a bit short of time, we decide to go back to the mountain hut.
We cycled the same 45 km tracks back to the gravel road, where we turned east. The road was very sandy, the desert was gorgeous, lots of sand and some big volcanic boulders (basaltic organs). Deciding to camp there we took a walk to the river to get some water for cooking and realized we had set up the tent close to a mighty canyon! We scrambled down the jaw dropping canyon and once again realized how awesome is it to stumble upon these ´unknown´ (or at least unmarked) natural goodies just by yourself instead of being surrounded by tour busses.
We were happy to reach the pavement again as it meant returning to the known world but we were sad to have left all the oddities of the interior desert.
We are currently in Egilsstadir, we are all cleaned up, tomorrow we will be back on the road towards Hofn.