Our book
Vagamonde: Chasing Euphoria and Getting Hit by Reality
is now available on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr,
Amazon.de, Amazon.it, and Amazon.es
In Montreal: at bookstores Bertrand and Paragraphe

Monday, December 30, 2013

Read our book and ride with us!


Our book Vagamonde: Chasing Euphoria and Getting Hit by Reality is now available in English on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de, Amazon.it, and Amazon.es.

Update as of January 7, 2014: our book is now available on Amazon.ca.

Update February 2, 2014: in Montreal, our book is available at Bertrand Bookstore and
Paragraphe Books.

In May 2010, we left Montreal, Canada to pedal our way to what would end up being a two-year journey through sixteen countries. Most bicycle travellers leave for a year or two, renting out their house and putting their belongings in storage. We left our jobs, sold our stuff and gave up our apartment. Except for some sentimental objects kept by family, all that we owned was with us on our bicycles.

Having hoped for a more relaxed and carefree lifestyle, we quickly learned the hardships of long-term travel. To cope with this, we started documenting the trip in this blog. We just finished writing a book that enhances our blog with more stories, drawings, hand-drawn maps and chapters of the long preparation and the reintegration back into so-called normal life in Canada.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Flatland


This blog post is from the beginning of our trip, that is, two years ago in June/July 2010.

June 24, 2010 to July 12, 2010



It's time to leave Iceland and get our asses on the ferry. Once on board, we park our bikes next to all the German bikers and start looking for our cabins. The cheapest option was to share four bed cabins: since they are not co-ed, we have to stay in separate rooms. The men in my cabin are uninteresting and have nothing to say. Michèle, on the other hand, has a loud mouth ex-biker chick staying with her. With her raspy voice that cries out "Too many cigarettes!", the biker chick tells us that she, and her new Dutch husband, are going back to the "land of green".
- Land of green? I ask her.
- Because it's legal there she tells me.



Michèle writes: I met one of my cabin mates for the ferry ride, just as Benoit was walking away to find his cabin. She laughed with a husky loves-the-cigarettes rumble.
- I see your husband is cheap too, she said.
Well, we thought we had cheaped out as much as possible, but we were wrong. There were even cheaper rooms to be had, but not from where we reserved our tickets online. Down in the belly of the ship, under the car decks, were 6-person dorm rooms. We see Sebastian on board, the Masters student we encountered several weeks back. He had one of those rooms all to himself. He heard his neighbour across the hall retching all night. I guess sometimes there's a price to pay for the cheap rooms.


After the perpetual light of Iceland, we head to bed for the ultimate sensory deprivation. Having no windows, the cabins are pitch dark and extremely stuffy. I wake up feeling as if I slept under water: drenched in sweat and unable to breathe. Glad that it's morning we get a breath of fresh sea air before heading to the breakfast buffet where Roland is getting in scavenge mode. We eat breakfast the proper way and watch him stuff his pockets with anything he can get his hands on. He tells us that we should do the same. It's probably a good idea because most of the food will be going in the garbage. However, we are feeling much too old for this sort of behaviour. We'll be content with busting a gut watching him walk out looking like the Michelin man.

Michèle writes: All in all it was pretty uneventful that boat ride. We had been afraid of rough seas during the crossing, after having watched too many youtube videos of the Norrøna (the ship we were on) in stormy weather, like this Faroese news video [look for the bowling of humans with beers at 0:43 and the car deck crunch at 2:00] :



The North Sea was the exact opposite for us: it couldn't have been calmer. Without even nausea to while away the hours, we had to find some way to battle the boredom. One, as Benoit mentioned, was watching Roland pocket stuffing at the breakfast buffet. Another, was to get him to say the word 'buffet' for no other reason than it was really cute the way he said it.
- Tomorrow morning, will we see you again at the breakfast ... uh ...?, I'd ask, hoping he'd fill in the blank when I paused. Yep, we were bored.


With nothing to do for three days, we head down to the last deck to check out the facilities. There's a pool and a sauna and since children hours are over, we decide to go for a swim. The pool is somewhat entertaining as there is a perpetual tsunami going back and forth due to the rocking of the boat. After the pool we head to the sauna. As we go in we bump into Sebastian again. He is holding something in his hand.
- What's that? I ask him.
- Sauna Øl he tells me (Sauna Beer).
Apparently in Sweden, it's a tradition to have one beer in the sauna. Sebastian informs us that there is a duty free liquor store on board.
- Is the beer cold? I ask him.
- No, it's piss warm he tells me.

Michèle writes: Dirt cheap lukewarm tinnies at the duty free shop or costly chilled beers at the bar ... guess where we went. Many passengers had the same idea. One pair of youths, barely out of their teenage acne years, were facing each other across a circular table that was completely covered with beer tins. The lankier of the two lurched to his feet to replenish their table stock at the shop. Oops, better get there quick: a clerk was just closing the door to lock up. The skinny kid slipped in, grabbed a flat of 24, paid for it, and was back out the door before the guy even blinked. We saw those kids on deck the next day, looking like they were moments away from puking on each other.



Three days and two nights on the ferry and it's with joy that we disembark. Today, we are excited because this is where we meet up with David whom we met in 2007 on our trip to Cuba: we'll be traveling with him for three weeks, all the way to Copenhagen. We meet him the next day at a campground nearby. The campgrounds here are not the simple patch of grass that you get in Iceland. They are family oriented and expensive: swimming pool, water slides and all the facilities imaginable, even a petting zoo. This is tarnishing our image of adventure cycling and draining our budget.

Like the biker chick said, I am becoming cheap. For me, the budget is a mind poison: leaving it all behind (including my job) has created a dark cloud over my head. The result is a lingering stress that I can't seem to shake. Worried about being in Europe where life is expensive, I find myself eager to get to cheaper countries. Well, that won't be for a while since we have to go to France to pick up our new bikes.

Michèle writes: We rode down the ramp and off the ship into the bright sunlight and warmth of Denmark in the summer. Finally no need to wear my fleece jacket. I still had my sea legs after 36 hours of being on that ferry. I felt fine while on my bicycle, but swayed slightly when walking as I adjusted to being back on solid ground. Since there was no David to greet us, we chose the closest campground to the ferry terminal to make meeting up the next day all the more easy. Unfortunately you had to pay for all the campground services that you didn't want. Benoit forgot to mention the rows of huge freezers. I don't get the appeal of the holiday campground. It looks like just moving from your regular house to a plastic house. This type of camping is not exclusive to Denmark. We're more familiar with the ones in Canada and know to avoid them. So our first camping experience in Denmark came as a shock after the wilds of Newfoundland and the pre-tourist season emptiness of Iceland.





Denmark has what is called Natur Camping. Basically, you camp on somebody's lawn for a few Kroners and have access to basic facilities. They are shown on the tourist map but finding them is another story. One night, we end up at such a campground. On our final approach, Michèle wipes out in the gravel. I rush over to make sure her bike is undamaged. Shortly after, we finally arrive and unload our stuff. At this point I am dead tired and I ask:
- What do you guys want to do?
- Let's go for a bike ride! says David.
David has way too much energy. In the morning we get woken up by a herd of sheep trampling through the campground. Luckily our tent was off to the side and we avoided the stampede.

The adventure continues through the campgrounds of Denmark, each one having something unique. One morning we wake up to find our panniers infested with earwigs. At the toilet of another campground, someone didn't seem to aim right whilst defecating and ended up shitting on the floor. How can something like that happen? Alcohol was probably involved. Another place had a shoe eating fox roaming around but, to our disappointment, we didn't see him. What will we find next?

Michèle writes: David read somewhere that the churches in Denmark always have a toilet and drinking water for public use. I needed to pee but with no church in sight we opted for a restaurant. It looked a little too fancy pants for us, so we weren't planning to stay for a meal. I raced for the washroom and David acted as a diversion by asking the staff about these mysterious Natur campings, one of which was supposed to be in the area. David was a master at asking directions. He'd stride up to anybody, with a big grin and a hearty "Hello!" no matter what the other person's language. I came out from using the washroom to find him in full flirt mode with one of the waitresses. Unfortunately I also noticed an earwig crawling up the tube of his water backpack. Just before it crawled onto his neck, I slapped it onto the ground, which killed the mood. Sorry, David. But the good news was that the waitress knew how to find the Natur camping. We were on our way.



Denmark has the most amazing bakeries. Huge displays with shelf upon shelf of the most scrumptious looking breads, cakes and pastries. One day David and I were standing in a bakery trying to choose what treats we would buy. Benoit stood guard outside with the bicycles.There was a pretty blond woman behind the counter, waiting patiently for our selection. David flashed his pearly whites. He motioned to the many shelves of breads and cakes.
- Do you sell all these in one day? he asked incredulously.
- No, she answered.
David paused as he looked around, I think trying to find the bags of "day olds" for sale.
- Where does the stuff go that you don't sell?
- In the garbage, was her reply.
David paused again, then said in the most innocent purring tone:
- Oh, and where is your garbage?




No matter that we had a super detailed map of the myriad of bicycle paths in Denmark, we still got lost. Many times. Once we took a wrong turn and found ourselves in a Bible camp. They were friendly there and they had ice cream but we didn't stay. Another day we were searching for one of the elusive Natur camping spots and ended up in the town of Gludsted. It was a quiet place, with nothing open and no-one on the streets. I half expected a tumbleweed to go rolling by. The three of us were stopped in the middle of the road discussing our options. No food, nowhere to camp, what to do? A man came out of his house. He was motioning us inside.
- Do you know...? I began.
- I know everything he replied. Come, come.
Benoit and I didn't hesitate and followed him inside. We had learned in Newfoundland that we'd regret saying no to invitations. David soon followed. Hans, he who knows everything, introduced us to his wife Birgitta and their dog Zilla. Really, we have Zilla to thank. It was her barking in that quiet little town that alerted them of our presence. Suddenly our situation was on the flip side: they invited us for food, tons of it, and drinks to match, and a place to camp on their lawn. Thanks, Hans and Birgitta, for an unforgettable Denmark experience.




For our final approach to Copenhagen, I call a contact obtained by my mother. Emilie is a family friend who, apparently I used to play with in a pool when I was two years old.
- She is waiting for you to call my mother tells me.
Turns out she had no clue that we were in Denmark or even who I was. But no matter, after explaining what should have already been explained, we get invited to spend a few nights. It's all great fun because Roy, her husband, sees it as a great opportunity to break out a flat of beer and a pack of social cigarettes. Aside from mosquitoes we all had a great time.



If you are young, you cannot go to Copenhagen without checking out Christania. For us, who are pretending to be young, it seemed like a worthy tourist attraction. I had never heard of Christania before David described it as a bunch of hippies who built houses on an old army base. At once I imagined groovy artists creating all sorts of weird and interesting stuff: if that was the case, we didn't see it. We did see, however, a large open air drug market: kiosks with multicoloured hash tablets on the counters and people in deep conversation about the quality of the merchandise; you would think they were talking about fine wine. Having no patience for this sort of subculture I get into one of my unfortunate bad moods.

Michèle writes: Speaking of hippies, have you heard the joke:
- How do you know that hippies have been to your house?
- They're still there.
Sometimes I wonder if people see us a bit like that: like freewheeling freeloaders. Do they ask themselves if they should lock up the silver before we show up? That kind of thing. I had given our vagamonde website address to a Dane. He looked slightly taken aback. Then, hesitantly, like he didn't want to offend, he said:
- In Danish, vagabonde means tramp.
He looked quite serious so I resisted laughing. I asked, Do you mean like a type of homeless person whose only belongings are tied in a bundle on the end of a stick? He nodded. I thought of me and Benoit with not much left of our possessions except our bikes and panniers. Yep, I thought, that pretty much sums us up. When we got to Copenhagen, I looked up some more of my relatives whom I had never met. We were invited to afternoon tea. Emilie helped us to find on the map where they lived.
- It's a nice area, she said. Very nice.
I had a tinge of a worry in the back of my mind: maybe they'll think we're bums and won't want to let us in the house. Nothing could have been further from the truth. When we arrived to meet Keith and his family, they welcomed us graciously like we were old friends. The afternoon tea stretched to dinner and to overnight. The next morning Keith accompanied us on his bicycle to make sure we didn't get lost going downtown. So much for my worries.


With our limited time in Europe, we decide to fly to France. Since we have new bicycles waiting for us there, we decide to donate our old ones to Baisikeli, an organization that ships used bikes to less fortunate people. Once all packed up, we get a ride to the metro in a cargo bike.



All of our Denmark photos are here.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The beginning continues to the end of Iceland


This blog post is from the beginning of our trip, that is, two years ago. The second part of Iceland in June 2010.

June 8, 2010 - June 23, 2010

The weather is good. So good, that I fear we will pay for it later. For now, we hitch a ride on the strongest tailwind we've ever had: flying east along the north coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula all the way to the next campground where horses are easy to excite.



Michèle writes: Not only the horses, the birds are also easily excitable. Especially the dive bombing birds that attack you on your bicycle. I guess they like nesting near the road.
- Get away from my young 'uns, they screech in bird speak.
They didn't detract from the spectacular experience that is the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Just when you think you've seen THE scenery that takes your breath away, Iceland presents you with one better. I read that as much as one third of the population here believes in trolls and faeries and the like. After descending into the misty valleys, often feeling an other-worldly presence, I could understand that belief. The mists transformed to rain when we reached Stykkishólmur. For us, this would have been the excuse for taking a day off.  But there was a really strong wind in the direction that we wanted to go, and in Iceland, not taking advantage of a stiff tailwind seemed unthinkable.




We are inching our way around Iceland by taking the north route. If you are not on the Number 1 highway (The Ring Road as it is sometimes called) chances are you're on a dirt road. They will have to wait. Today, we have no choice but to be on the Number 1: the Ring Road is very busy between Reykjavík and Akureyri. We take a break at a roadside restaurant to have something to eat. Inside is another cyclist: a tough looking man from Poland who has no problems with the traffic on the Ring Road.
- Tonight I catch plane, at home I sleep he tells us.
The man is a machinist and if you didn't believe him, you could inch yourself closer to the truth by looking at one of his hands: there are two fingers missing. The man tells us about his trips to Russia and Ukraine.
- Isn't Ukraine dangerous? I ask him.
- No problem Ukraine he tells me.
- How about Russia?
- No problem Russia.
- How about Kazakhstan?
His eyebrows go up and he makes a quick slicing motion across his throat. Back on his bike he vanishes into the mist that engulfs the Ring Road. We do the same but in the opposite direction.

Kazakhstan is a long ways away I thought: besides, I think the Polish guy is exaggerating. So, we continue our ride on the Number 1 to end up at another campground. This time, however, there are other campers. The site is equipped with a common area where you can get out of the wind and cold. This is where we meet Robert and Delphine who are hitch hiking around Iceland. Funny how you can meet people and have nothing to say them, whereas with others, you develop a deep relationship in five minutes.

Michèle writes: Up to this point, we'd been getting coffee the Roland way (Roland was that cyclist who gave us tips for Iceland on the cheap). That is, at gas stations where you pay for one and get unlimited refills. Often that meant just handing over the thermos and they'd fill 'er up for the price of one coffee. Then Robert offered to show us how to make coffee on a camp stove. Benoit was suspicious. He knows that I am a coffee snob.
- Is it instant coffee?
- No! shouted Robert, offended by the suggestion.
It would be turkish style coffee and it would change our coffee drinking lives. Another thing would change our lives that day. We spent the entire morning with Robert and Delphine doing yoga stretches in the sun. Things creaked and popped and loosened like never before. I had been getting neck cricks and headaches from the tension in my shoulders. Benoit had had a recurrent pain between his shoulder blades for so long that he gave it a name: The Spot. With those stretches, it was bye-bye to the aches and the tension. Bye-bye to the Spot. Soon it was the early afternoon. We should be on our way, I kept thinking, but neither of us wanted to leave.




Every town seems to have a campground around here. One evening we get to one just as the wind starts howling: It looked as if we were trying to set up our tent while skydiving. Luckily for us, there is a thick hedge of pine trees acting as the perfect wind shield. Later that night, we meet Sebastian, a German grad student out collecting data for his Masters. This entails hitching around Iceland all summer interviewing fishermen: could be worse. He says that once the fall rolls around, he should have enough information to write something up. The only thing to avoid in his interviews is the whaling issue because it could result in being thrown in boiling mud. More on the later.

Michèle writes: People thought we were crazy to cycle Iceland. One of the first comments on our blog said something like,
- L'Islande en vélo? Respect!
The strong winds can be an issue. We haven’t wild camped yet in Iceland. Not that we haven’t looked, but it’s hard to find a spot sheltered from the wind in a place devoid of trees, and our tent is not what you would call windstrong. Besides, campgrounds aren’t so bad when it's early in the tourist season and no-one is around. At one of the campgrounds, we met Daniel from Norway, also on bicycle.  He was all smiles after doing 120 kilometres in 5 hours with the help of a powerful  tailwind. He told us to come to Norway. You can put your tent up anywhere he said. We were enjoying Iceland by bike, if you could follow the wind and stay off the main road. But like Benoit said, sometimes we were forced to take the Number 1 highway. One of those times, we met two snobby young Brits on bicycle. They were riding with all their stuff in huge hiking style knapsacks on their backs, and they were taking the Number 1, all the way. When we asked where they were from, they didn’t even look at us. One answered, London, in monotone. I didn’t dare suggest that they consider a bike rack and panniers for next time. There was no telling them whatfor, they knew it all.


Many young men in Iceland seem to have bred with the north american redneck. In Sauðarkrókur, one of them is a little too eager to show off his new novelty muffler that makes his car sound like it's going 150 km/h when only doing about 40. He goes back and forth in front of the campground for about two hours, driving everyone crazy. Like all morons, he eventually gets bored and fucks off somewhere else, just in time for us to enjoy the four hour sunset.



We cycle to Varmahlíd where we ride up a hill to find an overpriced campground. Down the hill is a much cheaper one ... and it has a hot tub! The only other person there is a German guy with a van converted into a DIY camper: it is covered in stickers and flags and the owner is about as weird as his vehicle. He doesn't speak a word of English but assumes that we speak fluent German. As he rambles on about something, I manage to make out the words "... drei Tage". I take a wild guess and imagine that, because the campground is so cheap, he wants to stay for three days. He is very nice and tries to help us set up camp but ends up being annoying instead.
- Nein, nein, nein! he tells me as I put up a line to hang some clothes.
With the little German she knows, Michèle asks him where the hot tub is. He shows us, but cautions that we will catch a skin disease if we go in. Skin disease or not, it is impossible to refuse a hot tub if you are touring by bike.

The next day it's back onto the Number 1 where most people between the age of 20 and 30 are going to the annual Akureyri car festival: Oh boy! Lucky for us, we are heading to the same town. At a rest stop we meet Bertus, a dutch cyclist on a three month tour of Iceland. We chat for a few hours and during that time, we tell him that we are on a world tour by bicycle. He tells us that he hopes to do that one day.
He also tells us to avoid the main campground in Akureyri as it is full of knuckle-heads looking for attention. Instead, we should use the one that is on the outskirts of town. He also tells us of an alternate route over the mountain that avoids the Number 1.

We opt to go off the beaten track that Bertus told us about: a dirt road that winds up the mountain just east of Akureyri. At the beginning it's asphalt as it goes through some of Akureyri's nicer residences. Then, the rough surface starts and doesn't end till the other side. It's not easy going. The only reward is the view and the absence of traffic. At one point, Michèle has to pee and there isn't a bush in sight. What better time to try out the Shewee (a device that allows women to pee standing up). Although I didn't see the incident, the seal was broken by the rushing urine and Michèle ended up soiling herself from waist to toe. Good thing there was a stream to clean up. It makes for a good running joke, along the lines of the guy asking if her writing book is a bible. Anyway, having done very few kilometres, we dash into the next campground.

Michèle writes: Right, the Shewee incident. There wasn't a person in sight either. Not even Benoit: he was far ahead, powering up the slippery gravel. Seemed like a good time to try out the Shewee that my friend had given me at our going away party. Ya ya, you're supposed to practise in the shower. But how difficult could it be to use? Sadly I had to learn the hard way why the shower practice is so strongly recommended. By this point Benoit was probably thinking that I was so far behind him because I had wiped out, when really I was washing piss out of my shorts in a stream. I knew he'd laugh about the incident; and that I'd laugh about it too, once my shorts dried. We continued up that steep dirt road that Bertus had recommended. Easy for him on his knobbly Marathon Extreme tires. I had been cursing him and his damn ideas on the fourteen torturous kilometres up, but then was bursting with thank yous to him when I caught sight of that magnificent view at the top. Bertus had been exploring the northern fjords of Iceland, the part that looks like a rooster’s comb. Barren roads that ribbon their way through valleys. Needless to say his photos would put ours to shame.



I don't know why we tend to get stuck with no food. Maybe it's because we don't do enough kilometres to reach the next store in one day. So, on an empty stomach we ride towards Lake Mývatn which is one of Iceland's main tourist attractions. The area is known, of course, for its beauty but also its bugs. Thank god for our bug hats.



Being on empty stomachs, our mood quickly deteriorates and on the last stretch of road, with a restaurant almost in sight, Michèle starts crying and says she cannot go on without eating something. There is some stale bread and a remnant of blue cheese at the bottom of a pannier. I stand there pouting as I watch her sniffling while wiping up a few crumbs of cheese with the dried up bread. Once back on our bikes, we quickly get to the restaurant to gobble down a burger and fries. We were so hungry that we didn't even feel full afterwards. It seems that the food got absorbed as soon as it hit our stomachs.

Michèle writes: Ten kilometres before the lake, the flies were there to greet us. These bugs are supposedly vegetarian, not interested in flesh nor blood. They sure seemed carnivore-curious, though, because they zipped into ears and noses when we slowed on the hill climbs. We were almost at Mývatn when I bonked. My legs gave out. Benoit was gesturing impatiently at the road ahead of us.
- It’s just around the corner.
More like on the edge of an event horizon, I was thinking. Thank goodness for those stale snacks that fueled me the last few k's. After devouring burgers like we hadn't eaten in days, it was off to join the crowd of tents at the campground. A highlight for me, if you can call it that, was its co-ed washroom. It was a bit trippy to be brushing my teeth at the sink beside a man shaving his head.


The campground is expensive and crowded so we end up staying just one night. The next day we start heading east again. A few kilometres from the lake is a thermal hot spot.



After the boiling mud, where they used to throw convicts back in the good old days, we head out onto the lunar landscape with a nice tailwind. Not far into the ride, a cyclist comes in the opposite direction: another German who is fighting the head wind. We stop to say hello and Michèle gets out her broken German because the guy does not speak English. It's all pretty boring till we try to tell him that we want to take the ferry to Denmark. He doesn't seem to understand what we are trying to say. Then, I remember one of my favourite German movies.
- Das Boot! Das Boot Denmark! I tell the guy.
He then gives me this very weird look. So weird that we stop our inquiries, stand around awkwardly for a minute and take our leave. Later I thought, maybe I was telling him that we wanted to take a U-boat to Denmark. I guess we'll never know.

Michèle writes: The boiling pits of mud stank so much of rotten eggs that it was hard to breathe without gagging. Months ago, before the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, I had sent an email to reassure a friend that there was no danger of volcanoes in Iceland. They’re all dormant, I wrote. Little did I know. The burps of scalding mud brought it home that there is a lot of fiery madness down there and some quite close to the surface.

Towards the end of the day, we have the option to get off the Number 1 and take a side road to a campground a few kilometres down. It is freezing cold and the campground has no hot water. Doing dishes that evening was a bit torturous but once the feeling in my hands vanished the task became much easier. Back in the tent we put on all our clothes and wrap ourselves in our sleeping bags: it took a good 15 minutes to warm up.

We decide to continue on the dirt road where we have to conquer three passes. The gravel is loose but the views are something to be remembered.



Once we join back up with the Number 1, we are rewarded with a down hill, but the head wind is so strong that we almost have to pedal. At the bottom, it's still early but we decide to call it a day and dash into a campground that has a heated pool and reindeer burgers on the menu. In the morning, there is a bird stuck between the tent and the fly. It's very cute but it ended up shitting everywhere.



Michèle writes: "What is the grossest thing you ate?" some kid asked friends of ours about their cycling trip. Sometimes the food we eat while on the road is less than ideal. Like the time we decided to try a can of beans and wieners in Newfoundland. Yuck. Yet I remember stuff like that being so good when I was a kid. We met a couple of Icelanders ready to head home from their hiking trip. The woman gave us the packages of food that they didn't finish.
- Camping food only tastes good while camping, she said. Don't try to eat this at home.
It was pretty tasty to us and we were grateful to have it. Especially when there were no food stores within many days' ride. Then, there are the experiments with food. We mix whatever we have in our bags and see if it tastes good. With limited success.




In the town of Egilsstaðir we look up at the mountain we have to ride over. It's pretty big but doable. Once we get to the other side it will be goodbye to Iceland and a great start to the trip. It's 7 pm, and since there is no night, we decide to do the climb. It has many switchbacks and the powerful side wind stop us in our tracks. But we inch ourselves to the top where we find thick fog and subzero temperatures. After a short break we start the downhill which proves to be more torturous than the uphill. Once we picked up speed, the windchill seem to drop the temperatures to minus 20. Even in Montreal I had never felt so cold. Chilled to the bone, with giant waterfalls on either side of us, we make our way down to Seyðisfjörður and the fjord that will be our exit.

At the campground I dive into the shower and crank up the heat. After a half hour shower we go into the common area to cook some dinner. Once comfortably seated, our friend Roland storms in. He comes and joins us after which we quickly start talking about the climb, the wind and cold. The conversation gravitates to a tale of major fuck up: Roland at the top of the hill, ready to come down to the other side realizes that he forgot his cell phone at a tourist centre at the bottom of the hill. He had plugged it in to recharge and now his downhill won't be on the proper side of the mountain. I imagine myself in that situation and start to feel nauseous: we decide to head to bed.

Michèle writes: The last bit over the pass to Seyðisfjörður was only 16 kilometres. It looks easy from afar, then once you're on it, almost immediately it becomes a major pain in the ass. Benoit was still film happy, recording our slagging progress up eight kilometres of steep switchbacks. He pointed the camera my way. I glared at him. I wasn’t in the mood to have my struggles documented. At the top, we were in the clouds. I was almost crying from the frustration. It was 10:30 at night but not dark in this land of the midnight sun. However, the fog obliterated the light so that we could barely see two feet in front of us. We got out all our flashing lights and reflective gear so that we would light up like Christmas trees to any passing cars. I was nervous nonetheless that drivers wouldn’t see us until it was too late. At last, to my relief, we descended out of the mist. My hands were stiff from the cold. I braked often, mostly to convince myself that my hands hadn’t frozen right off. When I heard that Roland had to do that climb TWICE, and that he was only 500 metres from the top when he had to turn back for his cellphone, I shuddered at the thought.

The ferry that will take us to Denmark awaits. A thirty-six hour journey across the North Sea. More in the next post.

All of our Iceland photos are here.

All of our Iceland videos, plus others, are here.