This June I found myself with three empty weeks in my diary; the fear hit me. I needed to brew up a plan. I had little money in my bank, and no work to fund another trip, but adventure doesn't have to be for the rich! I’ve funded all of my own expeditions personally. I know that the only real ingredients for a fine adventure is motivation, imagination and inspiration. You just have to dream up an idea, and want to make it happen. It’s down to you, to be the driving force behind it.
From here I began a search for the cheapest flights to different locations I’d love to explore. Before I could stop myself, I’d booked a flight to Iceland for £100 return; including my bike. The logic behind this, is that cycling is free. I could eat rice and wild camp, two very key ingredients to cheap travel. This trip may well be my ultimate spontaneous budget adventure yet.
As soon as a seed is planted in my head, it often grows rapidly. My goal had suddenly become to cycle 1340km around Iceland, on the number one ring road that makes the full circumference of the country. Now I’m not a cyclist, but I do enjoy jumping an a road bike for fun and fitness when time allows. Here I am heading to Iceland, a tough land of dramatic landscapes, unpredictable weather, and a national football team to boot. I might be mad, I don’t even own a touring bike. In fact for the past two weeks I hadn't even used my legs, I’d been sitting in a kayak circumnavigating Minorca. On occasions I definitely just seem to dream up impossible challenges, but maybe that is what I relish the most, providing an opportunity to prove myself wrong and pushing my limits.
Iceland is a contrasting world of fire and ice. Home to active volcano’s, immense glaciers and vast ice caps. The thought of these two extremes existing together intrigued me, fuelling my imagination and driving my curious travel plans. I figured, if I wanted to see Iceland properly, then I needed to cycle its entire circumference. Doing things by halves, is not really my style. This also made the plan simple. Arrive in the airport, pack up, head either North or South, and hopefully arrive back in the airport three weeks later. I had my own transport, I had my own accommodation, and food would be easy to source.
It really is that simple. Cycle touring is beautifully simple. You get to wake up in the morning, and over a cup of tea you plan your route for the day. Goals can be measured in either distance or time, depending on how your bum fares in the saddle. You move through the landscape slowly enough to take it all in, and you have the freedom to decide where you want to explore rather than a set bus service.
For the first week, I struggled. Strong head winds slowed me down, heavy rain damped my spirits, but like all adventures, it’s the little things that enhance your experience. Nesting birds in the roadside would flutter noisily, in an attempt to distract you from their nest. White lines in the distant hills, would turn out to be raging waterfalls, and flat lava fields would baffle me with their bizarre formations, and just the fact that it was once flowing molten rock.
I like the mental challenge involved in adventure. The need to keep on going even when your body is tired and achey. Making the final 10km of your route even though your soaked wet through, or doing an extra 10km because you can’t find a spot to pitch your tent. I soon fell into a routine of getting those 80km under my wheels, chipping away at the end goal of cycling around Iceland.
I reached the east coast having passed through the beautiful Eastern Fjords, and faced my fear of cycling through really long dark tunnels all alone. Here I would be joined by a new adventure companion. Jonnie flew in to join me for the north coast. It was refreshing to have someone to chat to and share the distracting birds, and funky lava shapes. I soon realised I was enjoying myself more, laughing more, and taking pictures. I allowed myself time to stop and enjoy the views. Each day wasn’t about reaching a set point on the map, but instead it became about how we felt, or what we wanted to stop and see.
We climbed volcanoes and swam in hot springs. We eat lunch sat atop lava formations, and drank hot chocolate at the base of majestic waterfalls. We weren’t covering any less distance, but it had become lass about my goal, and more about the experience. At an amazing lake called Myvaten, Jonnie asked if id ever seen a whale. Even after years of sea kayak guiding, I had yet to actually seen one. This prompted our first detour from the Number 1 road. The Number 1 is the primary road which runs around the whole of Iceland, and I had stuck to if for over 600km. We began to stray from the path, take on gravel roads which rolled continuously up and down, increasing the difficulty of our cycling challenge (it turns out road bikes are not good on gravel) and we headed for Husavick, Iceland’s whale capital.
. A blue whale suddenly surfaced ahead of our boat, it was an unbelievable sight. The captain suddenly whacked up the pace and before I could digest what was actually happening, the whale was surfacing just metres away! My first ever whale sighting, was to be the king of the ocean. An actual blue whale! The beast dived, heading deep to feed, he would be hard to follow, and a long wait until he returned to the surface. We headed further across the bay to find a fleet of feeding mammals. Humpbacks, Pilot whales, Minke whales and dolphins were all participating in a feeding frenzy. It was an unbelievable experience, one of those sights you'd never forget. The 50km detour and the hefty price was long forgotten as I watched these gentle giants and their beautiful display.
Our 50km detour soon turned into 100 as we started our journey back towards the beaten track. I wasn't yet ready to return to the number 1. I enjoyed the remoteness of the small roads and the Northern Fjords would just be brushed past by the Number 1. What was the point in coming to Iceland if I wasn’t prepared to really see it? A second detour was decided. Follow the coast road around the mountainous headland north of Dalvik. Incredible weather, steep fjords and amazing scenery was what met us.
For the first time
Outdoor Girl and Adventurer. Enjoy stories from her coaching, talking and exploring.