I’m chillin in the ‘burbs of Reykjavik tonight at the home of Magne Kvam and his partner Maria. It’s been a pretty long day but I guess I say that every day. Today was a little different though, partly cuz I did the first real mountain biking of the trip and partly because I met up with the rest of the group that I’ll be travelling and riding with for the rest of the week.
Guided biking is really a lot different from the way we normally do bike trips. I’m used to researching and planning my own rides, figuring out transportation, finding food and accommodation, and basically figuring out every other detail. With a guided trip, all of that is covered by the guides. It certainly is a different way to roll. In addition, between the guides and the other 7 guests, I’m not going to have much time to myself over the next week. That will take a little getting used to.
Magne picked me up at my guesthouse this morning at about 9:30 with the rest of the posse in tow, mostly Canadians and a pair of Brits. Amazingly, the 3 from Ottawa were fresh off the plane and didn’t seem nearly as jetlagged as I would’ve been in their shoes. Then again, I guess I did go riding around the Reykjanes peninsula on my first day here. It turns out that the couple from Revelstoke were on my flight on Monday and they recognized me… because of my purple jacket and shoes probably. It also turns out that I probably rode with them last summer in Revy.
At Magne’s place, bikes were assembled, some more easily than others. 2 of the bikes had been ‘inspected’ by US customs, who don’t seem to understand when you take something apart and don’t put it back together properly, it doesn’t work. It’s crazy what people have to go through to travel in or through the US these days. Al Qaeda must be laughing their jihad asses off over this stuff.
Magne and Maria’s place is in quite an idyllic setting, in a shady groves of trees, surrounded by meadows, with a brook bubbling through. And with some chickens and ducks and a couple of labs romping around, it’s really more like farm life, even though a 2 minute walk will take you back into subdivisions.
But make no mistake, these 2 aren’t farmers or even mountain-loving hippies – they are both very stylish and sophisticated people, much like the rest of Reykjavik. To my surprise, this touring gig is just something that Magne does in his vacation time in the summer, and for the rest of the year he serves as art director for an animation studio. Naturally, his home (which he built himself) is modern and well-appointed and tasteful decorated. And I am lucky enough to be staying here with them while the rest of the group is staying in a big apartment downtown. They are wonderful hosts and they love to make each guest feel right at home. This something I will have to capture for the article.
So… the riding. It almost seems secondary at this point. We cobbled together solutions for the bikes (something I was glad to be able to offer expertise with) and got rolling in their 2 badass 4bys. The weather wasn’t great but what can you do. We pedaled about 18k through mossy lava fields and eventually reached the pinnacle of the ride – a 6000 year old crater. The age is not remarkable for being old, but rather for being so young. Iceland is just so primeval – it’s a place where you can still catch glimpses of the origins of the earth, revealing what this planet must’ve looked like when it was still in its fiery infancy. In some places, the ground still steams like it’s fresh out of the oven of Surtur, the fire god. In fact, the island of Surtsey just off the coast of Heimaey emerged from the ocean in the 60’s, making it the newest land on earth and a fascinating view into how land is colonized by plants and animals.
I’ll skip the detailed ride description because it was actually blustery and rainy – the kind of conditions that would probably keep me off my bike back home. But if you could steel yourself to the cold and damp, the scenery was amazing, especially riding down the lava river. Besides, it would be entirely unIcelandic to not suffer at least a bit.
Where we did not suffer was in the public hot pools that we soaked in after the ride. These pools really are a fantastic part of Iceland and they are truly ingrained in Iceland’s modern culture. We arrived there near closing time, just as a small rush of locals popped in for their quick daily dip on their way home from work. We only had 20 minutes unfortunately and I am looking forward to going back for a longer soak. I’m even getting used to the public showers.
I could tell you’ll about dinner but will save that for tomorrow since it’s almost 1am and Maria’s food is so amazing that a quick blurb wouldn’t do it justice.