Vik to Skaftefell – a short change in fortune

The wind I had listened to whistle around the hostel, for a fair part of the night, was with me for the morning at least and progress suddenly became a little more rapid.

I was struck again by how vast Iceland feels; it may be a small country but it doesn't feel that way by bike. You can ride for hours on Route 1 in a straight line with the scenery virtually unchanging, aside from Vatnajökull (Europe’s largest glacier) ever so gradually looming larger on the horizon.

The first 30K took less than an hour, after which a slight change in direction reduced the advantage a little, but the 75K to Kirkjubaejarklaustur (mercifully also known as ‘Cloisters’) still took less then three hours.

Cloisters was were I had hoped to be starting from today and it was nice to feel I was catching myself up. However, just after Cloisters, the road and the wind changed direction and the next 60K was spent fighting a cross wind intent on blowing the bike off the road!

The main feature for the second half of the day was Skeiđarársandur (Sandur) which Lonely Planet described as a “broad desert expanse that sprawls along Iceland’s south eastern coast”, it further warns that anyone using Route 1 in high winds risks a sand blasting.

Firstly sand it may be but it looks and feels more like iron filings, secondly I would describe the experience as more akin to soaking than blasting. I would guess that this soaking is inevitable, regardless of the weather, as the oncoming traffic will always throw up a cloud of the stuff for you to ride through even if the wind isn’t blowing.

Away from the road the sand settles to form smooth black lakes bordered by colourful flowers with a mountainous backdrop which demands frequent photo stops.

However, coaxing the camera into operation gradually became a challenge as the fine sand started jamming the lens cover. Thankfully, it eventually jammed open and I was able to use the camera until I could clean the sand out of it at the end of the day.

Whilst the scenery throughout the Sandur is fantastic, try to keep at least one eye on the road as there are numerous sand traps that will whip your front wheel from under you if you aren’t careful.

Just off Route 1 toward the end of the Sandur is the Skaftafell National Park camp site, which seemed like a good place to stop for the night. Skaftafell is one of Iceland's top ten attractions, as it houses a fair portion of Vatnajökull and is the best way to see it.

I met a couple of German cyclists who had also come from Vik that day and we shared our experiences. My comment that I was finding Iceland a bit expensive seemed to reassure them “we thought it was but we were not sure, but if somebody used to English prices says it is expensive then it really must be!”

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Day:3 of 9
Date:11 July 2004
From:Vik
To:Skaftefell
Distance:142 KM
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