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In July 2009 we spent 5 weeks cycling around Iceland. We did a combination of cycling the paved ringroad and taking the challenging sandy, rocky and rough gravel interior roads. Constant headwinds and ever changing weather were only some of the challenges were facing as we sometimes pushed our bikes through the volcanic ashes in the desolate interior of this alive Island, who's landscapes make you feel in a total different world.
July 6, 2009
Keflavik - Varmahlio, via the Kjolur and other interior higlands roads.
6 days and 500km on this stretch, 6100 km and 65 days since we left from France.
We arrived safely in Reykjavik on June 30. We had quite a surprise though, when our bicycles were brought into the luggage area. The boxes were exploded open! We were not happy at all but thankfully nothing was lost and the bikes seemed ok.
We packed up 7 days of groceries in Reykjavik as we decided to go though the interior roads to reach northern Iceland. That meant going through rough gravel roads in the middle of volcanic sands and rock deserts. Nobody lives in the higlands but a bunch of sheep roaming free. We travelled through the F35 gravel road as well as parallel unbridged monster truck tracks. We had lots of fun doing it and are eager to go on some other tracks again later during our trip.
On our way we have visited Pingvellir, Geysir, Gulfoss and Hveravellir. We have travelled between two large icecapes in the higlands, along lava flows and geothermal areas.
Crossing through a river we discovered that the bob trailer floats! On another track we had to turn around because of a too wild too deep and too strong river. The tracks are only used by local monster trucks and we now understand why!
We should arrive in Akureyri, the second biggest city in Iceland, tomorrow. There we will find a place to upload our pictures!
July 7, 2009
We arrived in Akureyri the beginning of the afternoon.
We will now be heading towards the area of Myvatn lake, spend a couple of days exploring the area around the lake and towards the Krafla volcano. After this, we will go back into the Interior where we hope to make our way over unbridged roads and tracks to the Askja volcano. We will then decide where to go from there. We might take some tracks to visit ice caves dug into the Vatnajokull ice cape by underground steam but this all depends on how the roads and river crossings are. We are planning to be back on the ashfalt road (and civilisation) in about 12 days, and therefore are quite heavily loaded with food!
We have placed our photo´s on the photo gallery!
Greetings to all and thank you for your encouraging emails and messages in our guestbook!!!
July 20, 2009
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.
We are having issues with our photocamera!! we have about a week´s worth of photos on our videocamera for which we do not have the cable (to transfer the pictures to the pc), so we can not show ALL the pictures at this time, but we will publish them when we get back to France in August.
29'er Gary fisher x-caliber mountain bikes with front suspension. Philippe had the 2007 model, Leandra the 2008 model.Our bicycles were equipped with v-brakes and Sram components. During our travels we learned that Sram is hard to find in other parts of the world. The parts that needed replacement, have been replaced by us with Shimano, as this brand is found everywhere.
We equipped each bicycle with luggage racks on the rear, cramponed pedals, 2 bottleholders.
We used the bob trailer for our extra gear. We love this trailer as i is extremely versatile. The one wheel makes it a true 4x4 trailer, the weight doesn't need to be balanced (we heard complaints from people who had one of those bicycle wheel 'one wheel' trailer, that they had to be super careful with the weight balance), also the drybag makes the trailer float when crossing rivers which is very handy. We've used the trailer for 15,000km we've regreased the bearings once, as maintenance, but actually it wasn't necessary. The only 2 downturns on the bob are 1) the weight. it is fairly heavy. 2) As they say on their website, the bob is not made for 29'ers. We had lots of derailleur hanger problems, as when going over obstacles, the bob attachment would push on the derailleur, benting the derailleur hanger (we took about 5 spare derailleur hangers).
We found some amazing tires at Decathlon in France (B'twin pneu vtt 9.90 euros). Rather than buying the superpricy marathon tires, we decided to give these 10 euro tires a try, we added a liner to them and we were stunned by their performance! The rear tires would blow between 4000-6000km, and not because the thread was worn out, but because our rims are made for tubeless tires, therefore the tire would wear out and blow around the rim. I don't remember any blown front tires, so most likely the front tires made 7000km (as we changed them between the two journeys). Also we had barely any flats. Knowing the rear tires would blow up after 4000km, we took 2 spares with us on our journeys.
As these tires are a little different size than the 29'ers, we used talk powder to ease putting the tires on the rim.
Panniers: We used the ortlieb bags, totally waterproof and light. Philippe had a cannondale front bag, it was made from fabric and not waterproof, this was annoying at times of rain. Leandra had a no brand front bag that was totally waterproof.
Clothing: On our first journey, we both had 1 pair of fast drying outdoor pants from Mountain Equipment coop, and 2 t-shirts each. We are respectful towards the dresscodes, therefore in the Middle eastern countries, we were always wearing pants and a t-shirt with short sleeves.
Our second journey, as we were travelling through western Europe, we decided to wear fast drying zip off pants and still 2 t-shirts. We chose to take only one pair of pants (besides our Goretex rain gear) to be light. Philippe was wearing Mountain hardwear Mesa zip off pants, Leandra had North Face paramount peak zip off pants. Great choice to have taken these. as it does save weight and space to take one pair of pants that can make shorts as well... Also we had one goretex soft shell each, and thick fleece sweater and we took buffs.
One lesson we learned is to ALWAYS have thermal underwear with you! We decided for a change not to take any thermal underwear on our journey to Northcape and around Iceland, and boy did we miss our thermals on those colder or windy days!
Shoes, For shoes, we just wear our regular hiking boots. Philippe has a pair of Han Wag Lima hiking boots, with which he is very content. after 15,000km they are still waterproof and still in excellent condition. Leandra had a pair of Merrel hiking boots. They are still incredibly comfortable, but they have never been waterproof, are too rubbery therefore make sweaty feet, the sole has split, and so has she sewing. Currently Leandra is awaiting her new Scarpa pro Nepal GTX hiking boots that are to replace the Merrells.
Raingear, Philippe has a Millet Goretex shell that we bought at an outrageous price. We were fairly dissapointed by this supposedly amazing goretex piece of equipment that after not many uses was starting to let water through (though I must admit that that's during days of full hard rainy weather). Leandra had a Schoffel Goretex shell, that was also letting water through after hours in pouring rain. For rain pants, we had TAKU shell pants from REI, we've been happy with them. Leandra had a pair of B'twin gaiters to protect her non'waterproof shoes. The gaiters were good to protect the top, but water would come in anyway from the bottom.
Sleeping, We used the same gear as usual.
Our good old 'Mammoth', The wonderful mountain 25, from The North Face, once again did an excellent job on keeping us dry and providing us a home.
For sleeping bags we both had a down sleeping bag from the brand Pyrenex. The brand Pyrenex is from the Spanish Pyrenees and is made with local high quality duck down. These sleeping bags are over 10 years old, and they are still amazingly good.
Inside our sleeping bags, we use silk liners from Mountain equipment coop.
We sleep on orange Thermarest prolight four season, the 3/4 length version of this matress. They do their job.
Cooking, drinking, Washing, We used our MSR whisperlite for our cycle journeys, this stove can use any kind of gas and is therefore very versatile (we've had this stove for over 10 years so it's noisy compared to the new whisperlite)also this stove is very reliable. We used a smaller 3l pan that actually came in a fondue set that we never used and therefore gave a use by taking it on our journeys!. our kettle was a small GSA hae tea kettle, that worked great and was light and fitted inside the cooking pot, to save space.
For drinking, we had our water purifying pills with us that we used to purify water from sources we did not trust. In Eastern europe and the middle east we were often buying water in the stores as there were few drinkable sources. In western and northern Europe, and in iceland we found lots of drinkable water along the way.
On our journey from France to Northcape and around Iceland, we gave ourselves a budget of 10 dollars a day including everything. Therefore we camped wild all the time. We washed in creeks and rivers... And if we couldn't find any we'd stop during the day at a campground (if we came across one), shower, and go again.
Electronics, We use a Brunton solaris 12 watt solar panel and a pixo c2 universal charger to charge all our batteries. We used rechargable batteries for our headlights and had a spare battery for both our Olympus stylus photo camera and our Canon hv10 HD video camera.
Hygiene, Since we were on a short budget the on our way to Northcape, we were washing in creeks and rivers. Whenever we felt we needed a wash, we would stop at the first river or creek we saw. Another method we used if there were no rivers in the area was to stop at a campground and ask to use their showers, we did this twice and were not told no. On our way to Egypt, we stayed in campgrounds once in a while and took our showers there.