Things never work out quite how we imagine when we are out cycle touring. I like this, it keeps our touring interesting and our experiences fresh. Take this summer, for example. After a fabulous Workaway experience in the East Fjords (Iceland Part 2) we set off to explore the north east ‘corner’ of Iceland before catching the ferry to the Faroe Islands. Keen to escape from the other foreign tourists circulating on the Ring Road, we headed off on to gravel roads leading to some of the most isolated coastal communities. We rode (? There was quite a bit of walking) over the very steep and switchback filled Hellisheiði mountain pass,
visited a traditional farm steading dating back to the eighteenth century, hiked around the Ásbyrgi Natural Park whose lava flow features have been shaped by huge (and I mean huge) glacial floods caused by erupting volcanoes, and watched humpback whales breeching in the seas off Húsavík. After nearly two weeks of stunning scenery and wildlife (though luckily not bumping into the polar bear that had allegedly arrived from Greenland on an iceberg) we arrived at the fairly centrally situated verdant Mývatn or midge lake.
Here we camped on a dairy farm and took day trips out to see volcanic craters and their lakes, wildfowl (this is the only place where European and North American ducks breed together), and lava columns. Our next challenge was to be the ride back across the 100km wide barren lava field towards the ferry port of Seyðisfjörður.
But at 5.15am on the day of departure, whilst brewing up coffee, we received a text from Jerry’s brother, Duncan, to say that their mum had died overnight. She had been ill for a couple of days previously and luckily, with some assistance from our very kind friend, Michelle, Jerry had been able to speak to his mum during this period.
Now we had to change plans and head west to Reykjavik and the airport to fly home to Glasgow, Scotland.
The wonders of modern technology enabled us to speak to Duncan, and contact various companies and organisations that needed informed of Pat’s death and to arrange our journey home, all from the comfort of our tent.
Getting back to the airport took us three rather stressful days. There are no trains on Iceland so the only way to cover the 350 miles (550km) was by taking two buses and cycle the last 30 miles (50km). The first bus ran only once a day, it could not be booked and bikes are carried at the discretion of the driver. Luckily, he was a can-do kind of a chap and got all the passengers to take their luggage onboard so the four waiting bikes could be fitted into the under coach luggage area.
After an overnight stop at Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest town (20,000 people) we arrived early to the queue for the bus to Reykjavik and were able to put our bikes on the rack hanging on the rear. Seven hours later, after a tour around the western part of the Ring Road, we arrived into Reykjavik and cycled out to the campsite where we were met by our previous Workaway hosts, Alla, Ragnar, Kristrún and Jóhanna, who were just returning to Iceland from a two week Swedish holiday. They scooped us up and whisked off to the nearest DIY shop to buy a large sheet of plastic and lots of gaffer and insulating tape. What stars! They had a six hour drive still to go that evening. We on the other hand could now settle into our tent, cook supper and relax, knowing we only had to cycle thirty miles the next day and pack up our bikes and bags ready for our flight home.
We’ve been back in the UK for about a month now. We said our goodbyes to Pat at her funeral that she planned for herself seventeen years ago. It was lovely to meet so many people who still remember her and listen to their recollections. We followed that up with a stay in Kent with my sister Jocelyn and her family, canoeing, brambling, rambling and swimming in the sea. Back at home in Perth briefly this week, tonight we set off on a mini adventure to Corsica ‘sans velos’ and plan on walking the GR20, a 120 mile long trekking route through the high mountains forming the spine of the island.
In the meantime, here are a few more pictures from our last few weeks on Iceland.