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Riding in the Fjallabak, Iceland, 2007

Saturday: Let the good times roll

Friday: Destination Iceland

Iceland, home to volcanic springs, the midnight sun, the aurora borealis and no doubt some pretty extreme wilderness biking. Weirdly, during the Spain 2006 trip it became clear that Mark, James, Leslie, Aaron and myself had all considered doing Iceland rather than Spain but had switched to Spain for various reasons, one no doubt being the weather. When we decided then to do another trip together as we clearly had a lot of fun in Spain, Iceland was the obvious choice. I think we were probably all going for the same reasons, the different culture Iceland would have to offer over somewhere like mainland Europe, the chance of seeing the midnight sun and maybe the Aurora Borealis, whale safari's, glacial riding, eating local delicacies such as the infamous rotten shark...we would do none of these things and would still have an amazing trip. Anyway, let's crack on.


Packing for the trip, knocking back beers and enjoying the sun in Mark's garden.

Mark and I packed up on the Thursday at Mark's place in the Lake District, bathed in glorious sunshine and beer, we were well up for this trip with memories of the excellent Spanish trip still causing much discussion (Leslie's crash), hilarity (the "Want some?" restaurant incident), disbelief (the jaw dropping descent from Pradollano to Granada) and whinging (the decision to do the loop up the aquaduct and the lack of a track pump for pumping back up all of the punctured tyres). We headed out for Glasgow airport and were checking in a few hours later. The stunningly beautiful woman who, clearly having the figure of a supermodel and perfect eyesight, smiled and said a sexy hello to me in the check-in queue was clearly a good omen for the trip. Come on Iceland!


We would be unlikely to be getting a tan whilst we unpacked. Welcome to Iceland!

I know we were to expect weather similar to what you would expect in Scotland but when we arrived in cold, damp, gloomy weather, I have to admit I was slightly disappointed. When you're on holiday you don't tend to choose to go somewhere cold, damp and gloomy so I can only put it down to me always going on holiday to sunny hot places in the past. Who cares? This was Iceland and as far as I was concerned this was going to be something a little different from the normal holiday. As we were heading to pick up our baggage I spotted our leggy model friend with the 20:20 vision and good taste in men being questioned by customs. From what I could gather the customs guy was asking her for 'the' letter to which she shook her head, he then shook his head. He stamped something, talked to someone, motioned for her to come through the door and following the customs guy who was clearly the 'bad cop' in this little charade. We never saw her again, but I have no doubt that she enjoyed her stay, had excellent taste in men and also flawless eyesight.


Downtown Reykjavik. Shortly after this picture was taken a ballarina appeared in the upstairs window and put on a dynamic rythym exchange workshop for the benefit of the crowd.

Hello Reykjavik! We dropped the bikes and bags off at our hostel and suddenly James appeared so we headed off downtown to take a look around and have a few beers and a catch up, not having seen each other since the Bontrager TwentyFour/12 mountain bike endurance race we had successfully conquered earlier in the Summer (by successfully conquered, I should probably say we turned up, took part, found out we had bitten off way more than we could chew, but ate a lot of pancakes and drunk a lot of beer....oh and cleaned a lot of mud off of ourselves, our bikes, pretty much everything we had brought to the race).


Mark and James next to one of the volcanic vents which release the pressure under Reykjavik.



Our local for the trip, when we were in Reykjavik anyway. Notice the chalk outlines on the floor and the women dancing on the bar? Another workshop, this time along the lines of uplifted human spirit soars over the bamboo barbeque...or something.



The local brew, Viking, a bit like Stella Artois but without the nasty metal taste...oh and it can be as much as five pounds more than back home.



We had a fair few of these in preparation for the evenings shenanigans.

We found a great little bar where we could get some food and try a few of the local beers. There was an arts festival in Reykjavik this weekend so periodically something very odd would suddenly happen and you'd find yourself watching someone perform a Rhythym-Movement-Exchange workshop right in front of you. It started with a ballerina appearing in the upstairs window of a shop as we walked through town. She piroetted, pointed and posed for five minutes and a large crowd gathered to appreciate her artistic flair, poise and all round general bendyness. Very good. When we walked into the bar, the first thing that struck you (it was around 1 or 2pm) was the INCREDIBLY LOUD MUSIC, WHAT? I SAID THE MUSIC IS REALLY LOUD!, THIS WAS WHERE THEY FOUND THE TURIN SHROUD?, FORGET IT...etc). For some bizarre reason they played the chorus of "Who let the dogs out!" every ten minutes or so, or whenever James had absolutely anything to say, whichever was sooner...which was annoying and hilarious at the same time. There were chalk outlines of people on the floor of the bar, I have no idea what that was about, and there was a women doing some sort of bendy, winding, crouching dance on the bar...hello, can I have three pints please and more absynthe for the dancer, great.


The first bar we went into in the evening was like the wild West, brilliant. Everyone was smashed and at 9pm, by Icelandic standards, that was like everyone being drunk and out of control by 5pm in the UK on a Saturday night.

In the evening we decided to go out and have a night on the town. I took a shower and then realised one of the subtle by products of the local water being heated using the local volvanic vents, all of the water smelt of sulphur!

Having enjoyed my egg shower, being English we went out at 8pm, when most people in Iceland don't go out until around midnight. Big mistake, you can probably tell what's coming. We found most of the bars were either closed or had been hired for private parties until the main bars and clubs opened around 11pm. I have no idea how (I think our accents may have helped) but we ended up going into one of these parties...it was the first bar we got into around 9pm. There was clearly a party going on, this place was heaving and had a busy bar, less than busy dancefloor and a lot of very drunk locals. Whilst we were waiting for our beers at the bar I was watching a guy who was sat on a chair like he was sat on the chair on a ship in a force ten gale in the middle of the Atlantic, at any given moment he looked like he would fall off only to slightly recover at the last minute and start to lean in another random direction. After a good thirty seconds the floor of the pub suddenly rushed up to meet his face with a very painful looking "Hello, remember me?" smack to the chops. I saw the bouncer rushing through the crowded bar...his feet won't even touch the floor when he leaves here I thought. The bouncer quickly grabbed the guy, lifted him up, sat him on his chair, grabbed the guys drink and put it back in front of him on the table and then walked off. If this had been England the guy would have left the bar with his head held high and his feet even higher. Weird, they love binge drinking...oh well, when in Rome.


The next bar we went into was very plush and incredibly expensive. On a group night out the following night James would end up getting a round for six people in here which came to forty eight pounds just for a few pints and some glasses of wine.



There was some pretty cool architecture in the city.



Very trendy bar. We were pretty plastered by this point and made some American friends...watch out for the German guy touching people up at the bar though.



If you keep your underwear on coat hangers then you should go to the toilet through this door.

We went in some pretty cool bars after the private party. Unfortunately we'd had a few ales by then and things were getting a little fuzzy. I remember a girl telling me that there was a German tourist touching people up in one bar, he was stood by the bar with a walking stick and looked absolutely leathered although he wasn't exactly falling all over the place, merely acting like everyone's drunken best mate at a party. We went to a bar with a very large white horse in it, next to the band, which was pretty weird...I think it was wooden...the horse, not the band. There was some more boozing, some dancing with the locals and I think we were pretty much done by then. I think we got in around 3am. Slept like a kid before Christmas, albeit a very drunk one, looking forward to getting out on the bikes. I think the latter part of the night can best be summed up with the following two photo's.


James, very excited.



Beer noise.


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