Iceland by bicycle days nine and ten – rest and the slow road south east

Gulfoss IcelandI liked the Hotel Gulfoss… most of all because they let me stay.

The guy on reception, who reminded me of Teutonic über domestique Jens Voigt, had initially boosted my confidence. However, his curious glance at my damp attire suggested he was no weekend rouleur.

I was offered a functional yet comfortable room and I quickly emptied my gear for an airing. A luxurious shower followed ahead of a superb dinner of homemade soup and well-cooked salmon. Looking out the Gulfoss’s huge picture window, rain continued to hammer against the glass. I’d made the right decision.

I pedalled out into an initially gloomy yet mercifully dry morning. The road was dotted with deep puddles as I pedalled back to the falls at Gulfoss for a proper look after last night’s wash out.

As I reached the car park, already busy with day- tripper monster trucks bound for the mountains. I parked Tango next to a pair of Surly Long Haul Truckers and headed along the boardwalk to a huge cloud of spray.

The falls at Gulfoss are one of three tourist honey pots of the so-called Golden Circle. I’d already visited one, the excellent Pingvellir, so the falls had much to live up to. The final destination was Geysir, a few kilometres down the road, where I planned to spend the rest of the day.

The falls were indeed impressive, but a fellow tourist gave them short shrift, claiming there were better in other parts of the country. I presumed he meant Dettifoss, far off my itinerary sadly.

I pottered around, trying to capture the grandeur of the cataracts on camera with limited success. I returned to my bike and found one of the 4×4 excursion drivers staring intently at Tango fully laden with luggage. I hung back for a while and watched him examine the bike while sipping a coffee. I think he was trying to establish where the petrol went. After some minutes, he slowly shook his head and wandered off.

Leaving Gulfoss, I pedalled into warm sunshine. My descent to Geysir was rapid, following the edge of lovely Hvita river valley briefly before it opened up into wide plains crossed by tributaries stretching off to the south.

I arrived at a distinctly American feeling resort: shops, restaurants and hotels surrounded a substantial parking lot.

While the scale was smaller than similar sights I’d visited over the pond, the US influence was palpable. I pitched at Geysir campsite, finding a comfortable grassy pitch next to steaming geothermal vents and in earshot of the ever-faithful Strokkur geyser.

Before joining the oohing and ahhing crowds, I had work to do. The Kjolur Gerjiiga had dislodged a few spokes on my rear wheel and a plinking and plonking soundtrack now accompanied every pedal stroke. The wheel was still pretty much true though, and half and hour with a spoke key soon silenced the noisy nipples.

The sun was now gloriously warm and any kit not dry after my night in the hotel soon would be. But my optimism was soon dented… I wandered to the loo only to emerge into a short lived but eager hailstorm.

I enjoyed some optimistically priced lunch at a restaurant and wandered to main attraction.

While an earthquake of 2008 reinvigorated the silent Geyser, visitors generally have to be satisfied with the regular Strokkur, impressive in its own right.

As I approached, I felt a cloud of cynicism descend. Crowds of American and Japanese tourists jostled for positions pointing expensive photographic hardware at Strokkur’s  spout. But my cloud lifted when the geyser did its thing and a huge pall of steam shot into the air. The crowd whooped with pleasure.

I muscled my way to a decent spot and snapped away.

The following morning I’d had enough. There were far too many people at Geysir, everyone wanted pictures of the daft touring cyclist, and I wanted to be off the beaten track again… anonymous. I rose early and hit the road before the tour buses.

It was a glorious Sunday morning. The roads were quiet and I enjoyed exquisite cycling following the Hvita. Given my rapid progress on the Kjolur, I still had a day to play with on my itinerary.

I stayed on highway 35 before truing off on 31 to Skalholt, seat of a bishopric since 1056AD and the location for an impressive wooden cathedral. It’s a modest, underplayed affair compared to the relative pizzazz of the Golden Circle, but I liked it. The cathedral is raised from the surrounding river plain and it provided a wonderfully relaxing stop off point. Excavations surrounding the church have revealed the original bishop’s residence and a small museum provided a welcome diversion for half an hour.

I rermained on 31 heading south and the road passed verdant hills, a stark contrast to the interior. I was pootling, enjoying the surroundings, now slowly pedalling to the end of my tour in the southwest.

I headed towards Selfoss, a supposedly dreary crossroads according to the guidebook but a much needed opportunity to replenish my food stocks.

The distance on the map may have been minor, 30km or so, but these were hard yards into the wind. Progress became even more unpleasant when hitting highway 1 again. A scratty shoulder provided little sanctuary from the lines of weekender traffic heading home.

I put my head down and ground out the distance, the looming bulk of Ingolfsfjall, a long-range marker for Selfoss, mocking my paltry progress. At last, I reached the outskirts of the town and followed cycle paths to the campsite, in fact a substantial holiday park with wifi and other mod cons.

An Amercian classic car show was drawing to a close and I tentatively pointed Tango through ranks of gleaming Corvettes and Mustangs.

I pitched, restocked and sat back enjoying a brew and a long Skype chat with the other half (the wifi better than my service at home). Buoyed by the success of this call, I burned my phone battery further listening to England lose the Champions Trophy final.


4 thoughts on “Iceland by bicycle days nine and ten – rest and the slow road south east

  1. Really enjoying your blog! Iceland looks like an incredible place to tour, perhaps I’ll make a visit one day. I’ve got a French trip planned for next year, from the English Channel to the Med, so that’ll keep me satisfied in the meantime!

    1. many thanks for the feedback! Iceland is a fine place to tour as long as you are philosophical about the weather. The interior is fantastic and I’d love to explore further. Your French trip sounds grand. I’ve never toured there… another place on the list 🙂

  2. Fascinated by geothermal stuff, seen a bit in California but Iceland is another world. Great photos and story as always, looking forward to the conclusion 🙂

  3. Hi Andy. it is fascinating… I went back to the geysers later in the day when it was a little quieter. These features are the headline acts, of course. Towards the coast I pedalled through huge lava beds (similar to Bifrost). It gave me a real sense of scale and the power of these tectonic events.

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