Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 6: July 1, 2011

We cycled today from Hvolsvollur to Landeyjarhofn on the southern coast of Iceland, the terminal for a ferry to the Vestmann Islands. It was a 30km (18 mile) flat route - easy, right? As we started to ride, it was raining and around 60F degrees. Not ideal cycling weather, but no problem when you're wearing gloves, a rain jacket and rain pants. Saya was well protected in her trailer.

We left two hours before the ferry was scheduled to depart, and I thought that we would have no problem averaging 9 miles per hour. But a few minutes into the ride, powerful wind gusts from the nearby mountains slammed us from the front and left side. In a replay of our ride earlier in the week, Sho and I struggled to maintain a crawl and to keep from being blown off the road. The rain added to the challenge, slapping our faces with stinging pellets. Sho exhibited his usual bravado, yelling out to Nature, "Is that all you've got?"

Having suffered too many times from my own hubris, I warned him, "Hey, don't go looking for trouble."

I took solace in the knowledge that half-way through the ride, we would take a 90 degree turn to the right to head down to the southern coast. The head and cross winds we were struggling through would then turn to a wonderful tail wind and take us home. Hopefully in time to make the ferry.

As we approached the right turn, a remarkable mountain rose ahead of us with several waterfalls streaming over steep cliffs. I wanted to take a picture, but decided not to stop. The rain was coming down hard, and we needed to push it to make the ferry, which left in 30 minutes. A sign announced that the terminal was 12 km (7 miles) away. With the tail wind, I thought we just might make it. My optimism was immediately confirmed. With just that turn, we went from pushing hard to maintain 8 MPH to cruising easily at 15 MPH.

"Yes!" Sho shouted, triumphantly.

And about a minute later, the mountain winds at our back were suddenly crushed to nothing by a much fiercer opponent: the ocean winds. They rushed across empty lava fields and whipped at us from the front and left side. A repeat of what had experienced in the first half of the ride, only much more vicious. We were back to pushing the pedals with all our strength and zig zagging to maintain forward momentum. I glanced down to see that our speed had dropped to about 4 MPH. Sho finally decided to hop off his bike and jog alongside, asking me to try to keep up. He took breaks by laying back into the wind while standing (see pic). As we neared the ferry terminal, an hour and a half later than planned, we were hit by swirls of tiny black volcanic dust that stung our eyes and sifted into any clothing or luggage that wasn't sealed up.

The next ferry left at 4pm, and we took our time cleaning the small black particles from our belongings and eating in the terminal. Then we learned that the 4 p.m. ferry had been canceled because of the strong winds. The next ferry after that would leave at 7pm. I worried that no ferries would run the rest of the day and asked if we could set up our tent next to the terminal, if necessary. The worker I asked gave me a pitying look and replied, "Uh, sure, if you really want to...". I wondered if our tent would survive the winds.

Happily, the 7 p.m. ferry ran, and we made it to the Vestmann Islands. The cliffs we passed as we came into the island harbor were magnificent. This time, I made sure to get a few pics. We'll spend tomorrow exploring the island.

Here are some pics:

Sho "resting" on the wind:

Saya's stuffed animal Lamby covered with volcanic dust:

applied some "make up" during the ride:

Sho ripped up his rain booties running on the volcanic rocks:

Waiting to board the ferry:

Our bikes secured in the ferry's hold:

Vestmann Islands pics:

- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

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