Day 3 started slowly. We woke up late and made porridge with cashews and M&Ms in the sun. I checked over the bikes and found them in very good shape despite the rough riding the day before. Unfortunately, two of my panniers had developed holes because the rack bolts had been mounted backwards and caused friction points on the packs. The river we had struggled across the night before was now much shallower and clear of all silt so we filled our bladders and wished we had camped 10 meters away on the other side. We carried our packs and bikes across a foot bridge over a fast moving river just before the junction with F210. Then turned left and headed past a mountain hut where we stopped and asked about road conditions and the possibility of buying some salt, but they were not helpful with either.
The roads started in great condition compared to the previous day, but they were constantly interrupted by fords. We probably had around 15 for the day. Fortunately, only two or three of them required us to get off our bikes and walk. That was for me at least, I took it as a challenge to see how big of a ford I could cycle across. Probably a terrible idea, but I never fell in so I guess it was all good fun. The first major river crossing was shortly after the first hut and our panniers dipped in the water as we walked our bikes through. We found that the best places to cross were where the river was widest and if possible near the top of rapids. Always walk with the bike upstream so that it breaks the current for your legs and is pushed into you rather than pulled away. I opted to ride in Chacos and socks so that I didn’t have to change my shoes every 10 minutes. Lyndsey only brought one pair of barefoot running shoes so she had no choice but to get them wet. She never mentioned any problems with this approach.
When we were actually able to ride, it was some of the best riding of my life. The roads were good enough we could looks around and really appreciate the amazing scenery around us. Every 5 km was a new vista with breathtaking mountains, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, and lava flows. We lunched on a hilltop that completely filled us up with beauty. Perhaps this was supplemented by the endorphin rush from the massive climb to reach it. Nobody wanted to leave, but we had to keep putting on the kilometers.
We carried on F210 and found a few more tough fords. At one point the river became the road for about 100 meters. We met a group of Belgian cyclists that must have had a support vehicle because they had no packs and they challenged us to ride through a ford that had little chance of success. We all failed and they laughed. The terrain became a jagged lava flow, but the road stayed relatively smooth and sandy.
Soon after we turned north on the 4×4 track through Landmannalaugar National Park. Again, the road was in excellent condition, but the hills were absolutely brutal. Many had to be walked and two were barely walkable they were so steep. Pushing a 40+ kg bike up a steep sandy slope after a long day of cycling is trial of patience and stamina to say the least. The highlands map proved nearly useless this day especially concerning contours. It was only somewhat useful for identifying large landmarks and many small roads and tracks were not mapped. One wrong turn led us to another beautiful waterfall however. Fortunately, Fran had purchased the Landmannalaugar map by the same company (Ferdakort) and it proved much more useful although it sometimes disagreed with the larger map and omitted some important landmarks. I would highly recommend this map or similar if you plan to cycle or hike through the park.
We passed our first thermal field and stopped to poke around in the boiling sulfurous pools. Lyndsey found them incredible having never seen anything like them, but I was not as impressed having been to Yellowstone several times. Still it was fun to see them up close and in a more wild setting than the overly touristed Yellowstone. We came across some remnant snow which had a thermal spring running beneath it creating a natural snow cave. We ventured through and I found it way more exciting than it actually was.
At the peak of the hardest climb of the day (shown as a single nondescript contour on the big map) we paused exhausted to assess our plans for the remainder of the day. We were inside the national park boundary and did not want to camp illegally, but we knew we didn’t have the energy to cycle 15 more km to exit the park. We decided it was best to stay in there in a secluded spot rather than ride down the mountain to camp near the junction with F225 which is a much busier road. Also it just happened to be the most incredible camping spot in the world!
This was the day that I completely fell in love with cycle touring. A bicycle is absolutely the best way to see a place such as Iceland because you are completely engrossed in nature. Comparing it to driving is not even valid so I’ll stop there. It is similar to hiking, except you can see much more and do not have the burden and discomfort of a large pack on your back. For me, waking up and riding my bike all day was the best possible way to spend my day and I relished in every moment of it.
Daily total: 42 km
Trip total: 109 km
Road conditions: Packed sand and gravel. Many many fords and a few really tough climbs. All very much worth it
- We really should have brought more snacks
-Lyndsey wishes she was stronger. Fran and I take on a bit of her load.
-We ate our first Be Well Nutrition dehydrated meals and they were excellent after a long cycle.
-Holes are starting to appear in things from the constant vibration of the road (panniers, maps, etc)
Post Tour Notes:
-This was by far my favorite day of the whole trip. The scenery was mind blowing every second, the weather amazing, and I was feeling fresh and excited for the rest of the tour.
- I will post a route map in the final blog post showing where exactly we went if you can’t tell from my descriptions.
- I don’t have time to touch up any of the photos I’m posting, but will do so eventually and update them here. Or I’ll just create a photo post or two later on.