Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 34: July 29, 2011

I awoke to the sounds of a strong wind and looked out of the guesthouse window to see waves lashing the shore. Going outside to investigate the conditions, I thanked the wind god for blowing from the south. In contrast to yesterday, today we would ride with a tailwind.

We cycled 65 km (40 miles) from Brodeyri, a coastal hamlet with around 25 residents, to Broddanes, a small coastal farming village in the west fjords. Sometimes the road was paved, sometimes gravel (see pic). We made steady but slow progress over the rolling terrain, cycling along an inspiring dark expanse of water for much of the day, and looping around our first fjord. We passed cows, horses, and sheep hemmed in behind ubiquitous lines of fences.

Occasionally a few cars passed by, and we began to see more birds. Dozens of long-tailed ducks splashed away in the water when we approached. Black-headed gulls lounged on dark jagged boulders offshore, and arctic terns danced overhead by the dozen. I saw hundreds of these acrobatic birds throughout the day. Sometimes they swerved in tight arcs just a few meters away, and I marveled at their beauty and power. Arctic terns, which can live to be thirty years old, fly from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back each year, covering something like 70,000 km (44,000 miles) annually. No other migratory animal comes close to that distance. I might see the same birds on Long Island, NY later this year. It was a privilege to share their company for awhile and hear their distinct cries dissolving into the air over the vast ocean.

We ate lunch by the road, huddled under jackets against a spitting rain that showed up off and on all day. With about 8 km to go before reaching the hostel where we would sleep in Broddanes, we encountered a monster climb, 12% grade on a gravel road that seemed to stretch into the clouds. A lone cyclist from Finland caught up with us, and we chatted for 45 minutes, as we all slowly trudged up the steep climb. He was on his fifth major long-distance cycling adventure and regaled us with stories of his rides.

He said that many people drawn to long-distance cycling find it much like therapy. I agree. When cycling across an unexplored country for many hours, day after day, your body not only grows stronger; your mind becomes less attached to the demands and distractions of settled living, and almost merges with the passing scenery. The vicissitudes of weather and terrain have a material impact on the distance you can travel, engendering a sense of connection and humility with the natural world. You feel tiny and huge at the same time. And whatever troubles linger from before the trip diminish with each mile you travel.

While I've been lost in cycling-induced reverie, Sho and Saya have been enjoying Eiko and Arisa's company immensely. I've included a few pics of their silliness below.

Sho communing with the cows, who only saw him as a potential source of food, I'm afraid:

Unpaved road:

Our lunch spot:

Cool rock formation by the sea:

Happy to be back together:

Arisa, Sho and Saya:

Sho exploring:

With our traveling companion from Finland:

Arisa and Sho playing pool and acting silly in the hostel in Broddanes:

- An Iceland Bike Adventure post


  1. Hey Sho, give those cows a break! They don't want to play soccer. Glad to see the soccer ball made it. I am looking forward to seing it when you get back.

  2. Your account of cycling this rugged terrain has given me more perspective as I "climb" the relatively wimpy hills of Rockland County, NY. Ride on!