This is not the original article. The original was once on the web, but for some reason taken off. Because I believe that any article about cycling in Iceland is worthwhile, I saved a copy and publish a slightly edited version here. If you are the owner and don't want this, then please contact me. I will remove it right away.
  • Author : Allen Ehrlicher
  • Original URL : http://chaos.ph.utexas.edu/~allen/Icereport/hekla.htm
  • Available at www.archive.org : YES


The road to Mt. Hekla is not paved with gold, or anything else.

I initially set out from Reykjavik the night of June 18th around 8pm after the traffic had died down- or so I thought. It was still a nightmare to get out of Reykjavik on a bike, taking me about 90 minutes. When I finally got out there was a storm beginning, but I kept going. At the top of a hill about 5 miles out, I was going pretty slowly when a heavy cross-wind gust knocked me from the bike. I fell over into some rocks, not really injured but sore and annoyed. I realized I had been sweating profusely under my wind breaker, and I started to get really cold. The ring road, the main highway of Iceland which I was traveling on, is one lane in either direction with a soft gravel shoulder- which I was consigned to. As I lay there in the cold rain and wind I started to think that I was going to die there, only 5 miles beyond Reykjavik. As soon as I got back on the bike heading towards Reykjavik, I felt much better. I returned to the campsite defeated, but a little more in touch with what the conditions were going to be like. I should have been pulled from the road and committed, as I had no idea what I was doing.

The next day was much better- I took a bus to Selfoss, which is about 25km out of Rek and near the end of bumper to bumper traffic, then I continued on bike to Hella, the closest city to Hekla, and camped. The next day (the 20th) , I set off from Hella on the ďsecondary roadĒ (see above photo), which was more like a river bed for about 50 km towards Hekla.

Hekla (aka the Hooded) is almost always shrouded by clouds, and seeing the summit from the surrounding area is pretty rare, even though itís only 1491 m high. Hekla has erupted in 2000, 1991, 1970, 1947 in recent times, and with slightly less frequency before. It erupted just prior to Icelandís settlement in the 9th century, but the green valley was more enticing than the lava was intimidating, and the intrepid settlers built their farms under the shadow of Hekla, although in the last age it may have been called Orodruin. In 1104 during a major eruption it destroyed everything within a 50km radius- a serious blow to the new people. In 1300 it coated more than 83,000 sq km with ash. By the 16th century Hekla had earned the infamy of being the front door to Hell in the eyes of mainland Europe, and that the moans of the condemned could be heard crying from its interior.

The only moans I was aware of were coming from me as I bounced further down the road. On the way I began to taunt the volcano (spend a few days alone and youíll taunt your socks), and it seemed to fight back every step of the way.

There was one point where I was enjoying a gentle downhill grade and a tailwind, so I was sure that I was going the wrong way. I was right. After about 8 hours I reached the closest my road would pass to the mountain- it was time to dismount and begin the climb, however, I had a new obstacle. Swarming flies and mosquitoes. I had just entered a valley between foothills, and the wind, which had apparently been protecting me from attack had disappeared. When the first came upon me I kept going, hoping that they would disappear once the wind picked up again or I got to a new area, but they never did and I was going further from the mountain. I was grinding flies into my eyes, slapping my ears, trying to push them from my nose, and careening on my bike like a drunkard. I could almost hear tiny little voices screaming, "if we can bring him down, weíll feast like kings!". Funís fun, but after about an hour of increasingly intense insects I was starting to get desparate. Iíd already sprayed my face with 95% DEET repellant with no effect, besides a burning in my cheeks and my lower lip was numb. I decided it was either camp now in what was a forbidden area, or smash my head with a rock, and I chose camp. 12 hours later there was no improvement. I tried to go for the mountain but they kept swarming, and I turned back after about 40 minutes. I decided to make for another road further North where I might be able to hitch, or at least bike faster to keep up a breeze. No rides, but I did keep up a breeze- unfortunately within 2 seconds of slowing or stopping they caught me. It was like some bizarre hell for the physically unfit, where one must not stop pedaling. Thankfully I came upon the Leirubakki farm and guesthouse, where a nice lady let me stay for a few hours until a bus came.

When she saw me ride up she exclaimed, "my God thatís a lot of flies,". There were some kids playing in the yard, but cleverly wearing headnets!

At any rate, I had coffee, enjoyed the break from the flies, and washed bug out of different holes. The bus came about 4 hours later and took me back to Hella, where I didnít bother to camp again but when straight on back west to Hveragerthi.