Iceland was the place we longed most to see on this trip. Already after leaving the airport we knew we were totally right and that our seriously high expectations were going to be fulfilled soon. Iceland is THE MOST mind-blowing country we have ever visited. The amount of beauty surrounding you WHEREVER YOU ARE is overwhelming to the point you start to wonder if your brain can handle all of it.
We arrived at the Keflavik airport completely exhausted after the most stressful flight ever. After waking up before sunrise and a long journey to the Belfast airport carrying cardboard for the tandem, we barely managed to pack the bike on time and literally ran to catch our plane. Surprisingly- we made it without having any of the bike parts broken, and we carried on to Reykjavik- the Icelandic capital.
The first evening was full of attractions. There was no time to eat or take a rest. We went to a free concert with our host! We had a chance to listen to one of the current greatest Icelandic acoustic pop artists (this guy) in an apparently legendary pub called KEX, established in the old biscuit factory. On our way back another surprise was waiting. For the first time in our lives we have seen the northern lights and we loved it! Running around the city we chased the Aurora and just couldn’t get enough!
We have spent in Iceland 21 days and covered the distance of 1500 km. On good days we were basically flying- pushed by strong tail wind. On bad days we were dying- cold, wet and exhausted, doing 70 km in 10 hours instead of planned 170. Wind is a serious issue on the island and can’t be underestimated. When it gets serious, roads are closed and people get stuck in their houses. The strong wind on the worst days can easily flip trucks and break off roofs.
The nature in Iceland is certainly extraordinary and very beautiful but also full of natural resources. Houses all over the island are heated with water coming from underground hot springs. Beware, it is very easy to get burned under the shower! It is also worth to mention that the water contains large amounts of sulphur. It makes showering in Iceland very beneficial for your hair, skin and general health. The disadvantage is, for some unbearable, the odour of rotten eggs which the water exudes.
The population of Iceland doesn’t exceed 340 thousand. Yet almost 10% of all inhabitants are Polish! For that reason Iceland felt almost like home, at least for Marta. Frankly Polish-speaking people literally saved our journey. Because of harsh weather conditions (rain, cold and terrible winds) and very limited couchsurfing opportunities, we really had to struggle to find a night in a warm place. Desperate for help, we posted a short letter on the “Polish People in Iceland” group on Facebook. Explaining our situation we asked for a shelter anywhere on the island and the amount of responses was overwhelming and, to be honest, really touching. We received invitations to almost all places we wished to visit. Marta’s nationals helped us, fed us and showed us around many times. We couldn’t be more grateful, once again THANK YOU very much, guys, you are the best!
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to meet many Icelandic people but those whom we got to know were very kind and helped us a lot during our travel. Like all Scandinavians, Icelanders seemed to be a bit reserved and reluctant in portraying emotions. At the same time they are extremely polite, respectful and well educated. The most surprising thing for us was their trustfulness. People in Iceland never lock their houses, even if they go out! They believe that nobody has any business entering their place (and if they get robbed- the thief will not go far!) and surprisingly it seems to work out for them perfectly.
The Icelandic diet seems to be very healthy and well-balanced. We had a chance to try some delicious Arctic char and lovely salmon. One of the local specialities is dried fish- a very nutritious snack. Iceland offers also shark, whale and seal meet, available in some supermarkets and restaurants. Need to check it out on our next trip! Close to Myvatn Lake we tasted the most amazing bread ever- Rúgbrauð- baked underground in natural ovens for 12 hours. It keeps you full for a very long time! Our protein source was often Skyr- a thick, Greek style yoghurt low on fat and pretty tasty.
The landscape was changing every day. Green fjords were followed by high mountains, mossy lava rocks and a vast tundra. We have seen black beaches, volcanoes (and even climbed one-Leirhnjúkur!). The highlight though was the Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon where you can see ice tongues coming off glaciers. Never in our lives have we had a chance to see so many waterfalls and so many wonderful sunsets. We bathed in a warm spring in the middle of nowhere and passed by places that looked totally like the moon. We petted Icelandic horses and were lucky enough to see a couple of reindeers!
Iceland was surely the greatest challenge and the most outstanding place during our journey so far. It left us breathless because of both- its beauty and harsh conditions we had to face daily. Often we were drained out after long days of cycling but always grateful for the experience. After every curve there was a new adventure waiting for us, a different form of beauty and another test of strength. We are proud to say that we made it and nailed it! Iceland- we will be back!