Iceland – Icebike days 4 + 5

Sometimes when I travel with my bike I can’t help but wonder why more people don’t do this. I mean, when we come blasting down a singletrack past herds of hikers, the envy is so tangible, at least among the youthful and energetic ones. And when we reach our trucks, send some high fives all around, and crack some cold and well-earned beers, its surely a better finale than boarding a stuffy bus for the ride back to Denny’s. This became so commonplace in Switzerland last year. Essentially, we’re exploring the same places, enjoying the same cuisine, and experiencing the same culture as everyone else but it’s all secondary to this rad thing called mountain biking. So, for the people who wonder if this is is as fun as it looks – it’s every bit and more.

photo: Dan Stewart

The deep satisfaction from these rides sometimes transcends words. Its really a very emotional experience that often leaves me with a big old lump in my throat. Maybe its the adrenaline, maybe its the endorphins, but sometimes its almost too much to handle all at once. And those are the moments that are truly imprinted in my mind, moments when I feel like I am truly living, moments that further define who I am and who I want to be. I don’t know if I can really do that feeling justice here because, like I said, it really transcends words.

 
Yesterday I had one of those moments. More than a moment – the euphoria stayed with me all evening until we all retired to our beds and slept deeply. And even then, I’m sure that such a moving experience is something that the mind continues to process and sort through the night. We rode 35kms of amazing high quality singletrack, passed by dozens of huge waterfalls, lunched at an azure hot spring in a cave beneath the 2 tectonic plates, gaped at the most bizarre lava and basalt formations, and swam in water so clear that you feel like youre floating in air, all before enjoying a delicious dinner with great camraderie, and watching an almost surreal golden sunset over Icelandic fjords that seemed to go on forever. And yes, cold and well-earned beers were had by all.

photo: Dan Stewart

photo: Dan Stewart

photo: Dan Stewart

Honestly, I didn’t think the day would be so good. Our first 3 days of riding were good but not great. A little bit rainy, and not as epic as I had hoped. Really they were tempered by the great scenery and the fun of exploring Icelandic culture and all its weird idiosyncrasies. Like finding horse and seal and whale on a menu, or talking to elderly people who actually believe that trolls live in the hills. Like I said, these are things that make travel fun and worthwhile and the riding is just icing on the cake. But I guess you could say that the icing was a bit thin. So going into day 4 I expected more of the same, and yet we got slathered with icing so thick that we almost drowned in it. Icing so thick that it left a lump in my throat.

photo: Dan Stewart

photo: Dan Stewart

Today is the end of day 5 and yet I’m still rambling on about day 4 – it was just that good. Nothing we did in Switzerland comes close to day 4. And today, as we took a rest/travel day, I couldn’t help but relive those intense experiences and ponder what affect these things have on my life. I can tell you that it makes so many other aspects of life seem to trivial, so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. And of course, we ate fantastic food, visited more raging waterfalls, hiked through areas when the ground is alive with steaming soil and random pots of boiling mud, and visited the original Geysir after which all other geysers are named. I tell you, this country is fucking crazy!

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I feel a little bad about suggesting that Icelanders ‘overconsumed’  in my last email. I can just imagine how ashamed I’d feel if that comment ever got back to them somehow after they’ve shown us such hospitality. So I asked them: are you guys really so destitute after the crash of 2008 or did you just have too much shit to begin with? After all theres often no better way to tackle a tricky subject than taking the bull by the horns. And the truth is… complex. Icelanders themselves are still trying to figure out why their banks borrowed and lent so much money, and where all that money went. Essentially, their 3 banks borrowed a ton of money from other European nations and reloaned it to other companies. And when everything fell apart and those other Euro nations wanted their money back, the companies had already folded and Iceland was left holding the bag. The debt amounts to roughly $20k per icelander, children and retirees included. Its a complex problem that I’m not going to try to delve into anymore right now. But suffice to say that people work hard here and the luxuries that they enjoy are hard earned.

 
As usual, the rest of the crew is already asleep and I’m up typing away trying to capture a little bit of the experience while its still so fresh in my mind. Tomorrow promises to be another awesome day and, although I’m trying not to hold any expectations, I have a feeling that Magne is saving the best for last.

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