Picking up the pace through the Eastfjords
Trip Start Jun 17, 2011
36Trip End Aug 26, 2011
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We left Skaftafell on a gloomy drizzley day, biking under the figurative shadow of the massive icecap. Our guidebook described this stretch of road as "views of the glittering glaciers and brooding mountains make it difficult to keep your eyes on the road." We had no problem with this as we had nothing to look at but the road, which we learned made for fast progress. The main event of the day was a stop at the famous Jokulsarlon, an iceberg filled lagoon that connects with the sea (photos were accidentally included in the previous entry). With not quite enough time or energy to make it to the next town 80 miles away, we overnighted at a rural and crowded hostel and were glad for the privacy of our tent on the front lawn.
We did make it to Hofn (properly pronounced as "hup" while inhaling, which is quite fun--try it!) relatively early the next day. With clear skies, we were able to see the many spur glaciers coming off the main icecap throughout the day. Another highlight was our first taste of Icelandic icecream, made fresh on the dairy farm that we squealed our brakes not to miss as we passed by the modest sign. Once settled in camp, the rest of the day was spent doing what we deem "travel errands"-- shopping, laundry, blogging, and even showering falls into this category, which we try to combine with a visit to the local swimming pool as often as possible.
The following day sent us heading north to the region known as the Eastfjords. This was our longest day by distance to date at 64 miles, which wouldn't be terribly significant except that the last twenty or so were rollercoastering hills. Somehow the ups were always bigger than the downs though. We stopped for the night at the most southerly town of Djupivopur, pleased with our progress and the stunning view of dramatic mountains rising out of the ocean surrounding us.
To be honest, our time in the Eastfjords blends together with the majority of each day spent on the bike. We realized that what had been previously slowing us down was not our abilities, but rather so many off-bike distractions along the way. We also learned that riding around the fjords requires a laidback attitude and a great deal of patience. The scenery is pretty consistently amazing, and you get to see it twice--once on each side of the fjord. But eighteen miles of hard pedaling later, you also see where you departed from that morning about a mile south of you across the mouth of the fjord. Anyone ever heard of a bridge around here?
The only thing clouding the clear, sunny and oh so crisp weather was Matt's saddle bothering him and the subsequent frustration of dealing with it. Let's just say he was a literal grumpy pants for a couple of days. However, it was his back that demanded a rest day after five straight days of increased mileage, so we spent an unexpected but relaxing day soaking up the sun at a nice free campground in Reydarfjordur.
Our good weather window ended the next day as we biked over a long gradual pass inland to Egilstadir with gloomy cloudcover overhead. We set up camp and decided to take a day trip to the fjord-town of Seydisfjordur, which we had heard had a bohemian artsy vibe amongst Norwegian kit house architecture.
At this point I will pose the question: why do the sidetrips always kick our butts while the daily grind usually isn't so bad? Whether that can be interpreted as a metaphor for life is debatable, but I would argue that the butt-kicking sidetrips are what make the daily grind bearable. Usually. Except for this jaunt over to Seydisfjordur.
It started with the steepest and longest mountain pass we had yet faced on our bikes. The top was hemmed in with thick fog and as we descended on the ocean-facing side the fog turned to bone-chilling foggy rain. Already wet by the time we realized how bad it was going to be, we resisted putting on our reserve of cold weather clothes. To make matters worse, we knew that the road winds around a beautiful series of cascades in a gorgeous valley, which we could see none of while pulling hard on the brakes to prepare for the hairpin turns that would materialize out of the fog on short notice.
Once in town and shivering uncontrollably, we beelined it for the nearest cafe. We chose well since once we were dried off, we finished the rewarming process with coffees and reindeer and blue cheese pizza. We bundled up for a quick cruise around town. Perhaps it was the weather, but it didn't quite meet our expectations for a unique destination meriting what we just went through to see it.
At least the fog had lifted some for the inevitable return trip and we got to see much of the waterfall-filled valley that we were puffing up the side of. A hot shower and a cozy tent were never so appreciated when we made finally made it back to camp.