What is the point of a vacation if it doesn’t, upon your return, make you appreciate how relaxing your regular routine can be?
Brief recap. As I start this post, I’m heading into week two of my Iceland trip. It’s cold, it’s windy, it’s rainy, and I haven’t seen the aurora yet. But I’m having a great time. After reaching Husafell, I’m headed up into the Storisandur to the north of the Langjokull glacier.
I spent two weeks alone in the highlands of Iceland on my bike between September 16 and October 1 of this year. It was an amazingly rewarding, but undeniably challenging adventure that was worth every rain-soaked, windblasted second. I covered a little over 700km over the two weeks, riding 13 days straight out of the Keflavik Airport. I didn’t use automotive transportation and camped every night. With my new handheld bank of solar panels, I also did not need to use any outlets. It was certainly a way, if not the way to do Iceland on the cheap. Except for some unexpected costs incurred along the way…
On September 16, I leave for Iceland. There, I’ll be spending two weeks crashing through the Icelandic highlands on my fatbike. The dates of this trip, September 16-October 1, fall at the extreme tail end of the tourist season, and I’m not sure what to expect, weather-wise. Nevertheless, I am no stranger to doing a trip like this out of season, and it hasn’t really gone terribly wrong yet. I’m anticipating similar conditions to Patagonia, with rain, possible hail, unlikely snow, and a certainty of incredible wind.
It is common to go to Iceland and cycle the ring road during summer. Then, you can expect 18-24 hours of daylight, allowing you to cycle for pretty much as long you want every day. The towns are nice, the country is safe, and the ring road is paved. A high standard of living ensures that you’ll have plenty of places to restock with food. It all sounds remarkably pleasant.
The highlands are not that. With little tree cover, the Icelandic interior is a moonlike, windswept wasteland full of unpaved 4×4 tracks, geothermic activity and monstrous glaciers. Human presence is limited to a few small outposts at popular tourist spots and emergency shelters. By late September, the heavy tourist season has largely concluded in the highlands due to deteriorating road conditions and bad weather. Mountainbiking paradise
My route takes me first on the Nesjavallaleið road out of Reykjavik to Þingvellir. Next, to the the Kaldidalur road through Storisandur, up and over the Langjökull glacier to the northeast. Then southeast through the valley and singletrack trail of Hveravellir and Þjófadalir to Gullfoss. Next, southwest through Landmannalaugar National Park on the Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri road to Kirkjubæjarklaustur along the ocean. Finally, down to the black sand beaches of southern Iceland, passing through Vik and Landeyjahöfn, under the volcano Eyjafjallajökull and through the town of Selfoss before returning to Reykjavik. I don’t know how to properly say any of these names.
The bike I have chosen for this trip is my Surly Pugsley, with 3.8in diameter tires which can float over just about any terrain thrown at it. I will be packing significantly lighter than my previous tours. My full gear space is comprised of two large rear Ortlieb panniers, a large Carradice handlebar bag, and a Revelate Designs frame bag. Plenty of space for a trip of this length.
I have a GPS this time, with maps of Iceland loaded. And a new windproof stove. Also, new solar panels, just in case I can manage to get some sunlight and need to recharge phone/camera batteries. My hub-mounted generator is on my other bike. I probably realistically could do with less, but I’ve packed 14 days of dried food because Iceland is expensive and shops are almost nonexistent in the interior. A mix of instant oatmeal, dehydrated fruit, powdered milk, and protein powder for breakfast, nuts, Clif bars, and candy for lunch (cheap calories) and Mountain House dehydrated meals for dinner. Not much variety, but it’s light and that’s a priority on this trip.
So that’s the plan, subject to changes due to wind direction or progress. One blog I read specifically told its readers not to go touring in Iceland after September 15, and I arrive September 16. Depending on the weather conditions, this trip could be a cakewalk, but it also could be absolutely brutal. I’m hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.