We’re coming Iceland! (eventually…)

Helsinki Airport Finnair Lounge

Just a few days before we set off on a five-week cycle tour around Iceland – but first we have just one more leg of this oh-so-long-haul flight.

Let’s just say it’s been a long day. Or two days. Or however much time has passed since we left Sydney on Thursday and arrived in Helsinki (via Singapore) a little while a go. Air travel will do that to you. My ability to measure time has been reduced to episodes of US sitcoms and e-book chapters. 

Paul and I have now spread out and settled in for an eight hour wait at the Finnair lounge at Helsinki Airport. The luxury of hanging out in comfy chairs with reserved business people cost us almost 100 euros, but already that has been worth it for the shower alone, let alone the bottomless coffee cups, food and the reliable wi-fi – thank you very much. It’s apparently early in the morning here, and we board our flight to Reykjavik at about 3 pm this afternoon.

It was only last year that we made a pact to return to Iceland one day, during a stopover at the airport, and apparently we meant it.  After arriving in Reykjavik this afternoon, we will have a few days decompressing and exploring Iceland’s only city – before spending  38 days cycle touring and camping around the so-called ‘land of fire and ice’.

Of course we like to think we’re being original in our little adventurous stopover en-route to the UK, however one blogger we contacted for advice in preparation for the trip commented on how many other such emails he’d received recently. He called it the ‘Walter Mitty effect’ (something Icelandic tourism businesses have also noticed and of which they are taking full advantage). We’re not sure quite how big a role Ben Stiller played in our decision to cycle around Iceland, but I couldn’t discount it entirely for at least helping to spark our imaginations.

Saying that, however, inspiration also came from our wonderful friend (and talented photographer’s) own experience in the country, and even the novel Burial Rites by Australian author Hannah Kent; a fictionalised account of Iceland’s last execution.

You could also say we’ve been hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd’, so to speak (or in this case, of course, the ‘right crowd’, but I guess that depends on who you ask). For example, when you befriend a professional adventurer as inspiring yet disarmingly affable as Chris Bray – who, among other things, once walked across Victoria Island with a mate unassisted, and who is currently sailing through the Northwest Passage with his equally adventurous and amazing wife Jess – then suddenly something as relatively tame as cycling around little ol’ Iceland (which is roughly the size of Tasmania but definitely not mostly flat, as I have since learned – thanks Chris) seems suddenly achievable.

And so now here we are, almost – almost – there.

Our itinerary can be summed up as “in a clockwise direction”; our preparations as “all the gear and no idea” (there’s also, “learning on the job” and “Google”); and our physical training as “we both know how to ride bikes” and the all-important double-negative – “we aren’t not fit!”.

Iceland’s 1332 km Route 1 loop can be completed in as little as two weeks by fit, experienced cyclists in a rush – or so we’ve heard. However, we’ve allowed ourselves considerably more time than that, not just because we’ll probably need it, but also to explore the ‘side streets’, including the West Fjords and parts of the uninhabited interior, also known as the highlands.

We will pick up a couple of hired tour bikes in Reykjavik on 8 July and then hit the road with loaded panniers and hopefully diminished jetlag. Around five weeks later we fly out of Reykjavik to the UK where Paul will embark on a year-long furniture-making course in Devon, and where I will be working as a freelance journalist (but that’s a-whole-nother story, for another time). As for who we meet and what we find and experience during our time on the road in Iceland, your guess is as good as ours – which is how we like it.

I’ll be sharing our photos, thoughts and experiences from Iceland on this blog as regularly as possible along the way (internet access pending). You can receive email updates by entering your email address in the Follow field in the left-hand column on this page – we promise it will be less ruminations on long-haul travel, and more awesome photos like this (the only difference being our presence in padded lycra pants  – what more could you want?!)

Until then, takk for reading!

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