We spent last night at Laxnes Farm, where Sho and Saya rode horses earlier in the day. The owner, Pori Jonasson, was curious about our plans to cycle around Iceland, and commented dryly, "I'm trying to figure out if you're crazy." He concluded that we were harmless, at least, and let us hang out in his home, eating soup, talking with some local cowboys and setting up our tent in his massive barn (see pic). There had been a wedding the night before, and we put our tent on a raised stage at the end of a hall filled with tables and lined with saddles hanging on the wall. Sho and Saya thought it was the coolest place they'd ever slept.
I awoke this morning to the sound of a powerful wind whistling through the eves of the barn and roaring across the treeless fields. I found Pori at work and mentioned casually, "Some wind, huh?" He shook his head and gave me a pitying look, "This is Iceland. You have no idea what you're getting into."
I heard variations on this theme when Sho and I rode 2,500 miles across Japan two years ago. "That's too hard for an eight-year old"; "Japan's roads are dangerously narrow, and the mountains are very difficult to cycle over", etc. I learned to listen to the local advice about weather and route, and ignore the anxiety. I politely thanked Pori for his kind generosity and promised to be careful. "Send me an e-mail to let me know you arrived ok," he replied with a serious look.
After breaking down the tent, loading our bikes and eating a simple breakfast of bread and butter, Sho, Saya and I thanked our hosts and set off for Thingvellir National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Thingvellir was the site of an annual meeting of Iceland's first government assembly, starting around 930 AD. It is now a dramatic park beside Iceland's largest natural lake. The land is filled with fissures created from volcanic activity in a rift valley, whose sides have moved apart approximately 70 meters in the past 10,000 years. Only 30 kilometers (18 1/2 miles) away from Pori's farm, I expected an easy ride and to arrive with plenty of time to explore the park.
But in my mind I could see Pori shaking his head, as we left his farm and struggled to cycle into the powerful wind. It came in gusts, threatening to blow us off the road. A series of intimidating mountains loomed in the distance off to our left, and I could practically see the wind rushing down the mountain side and barreling toward us, unimpeded across the rocky fields. I had to step off the pedals many times to keep from being shoved over into the rocks. And on one long hill, I had to dismount and push the bikes. In our first hour of riding, we traveled about 6 kilometers (3 1/2 miles). Sho thought we might do better just walking to Thingvellir. Saya, protected from the gale in her reinforced trailer, excitedly pointed out the grazing horses and sheep we passed. The animals gave us curious looks, and I realized that ALL the locals here probably thought we were nuts.
Our luck changed as the road swung to the right, giving us a suddenly helpful tailwind. We made faster progress in the second hour, but frequently returned to barely crawling whenever the winding road brought the wind back into our faces. We finally reached Thingvellir in the mid afternoon, escaping into a comfortable cafe, the first source of food we had encountered all day.
We set up our tent in a campsite a few hundred meters from the cafe. It took all three of us to keep the wind from blowing away our things. Saya helpfully laid down on the tarp, giggling as the wind tried to rip it out from beneath her, as Sho and I quickly assembled the tent poles. Once finished, we snuggled inside in sleeping bags. I read to the kids and had to raise my voice over the ferocious wind blasts that sent undulating shivers up the canvas. Exhausted from the day's effort, we were all asleep by 9:30.
Our tent in Pori's barn:
Our cowboy friends riding off:
The family at Laxnes Farm:
Sho and Saya with Pori:
On the road to Thingvellir:
Pushing the bikes up hill into the wind:
A field of cairns on the outskirts of Thingvellir:
Arriving at Thingvellir:
Sho with flowers he thought his grandmother Nona would like:
- An Iceland Bike Adventure post