Sunday, 15 July 2018

Day 16 - To the ferry across The Netherlands

Hi,

Welcome to day 16’s blog. Not long until you no longer have to read my daily updates, haha. 


I awoke this morning to a first for the trip. It’s the first time that I’ve been woken up by being cooked inside my own tent. It happened a few times on my Nordkapp run but regardless it’s not a fun way to wake up. Needless to say, the sun was out and it was hot. 

I got the bike packed away and headed out of the campsite. I saw a superstore on my way in from the motorway last night so I headed there  to get some supplies. It was only when I arrived to an empty car park that I remembered it was Sunday, doh. Being on the road I’ve totally lost track of days and dates. Luckily I’d filled my tank last night so I jumped back into the autobahn and opened up the throttle. 

I had an odd feeling when I first hit the road. I knew I ‘only’ had 250 miles to ride but I also had until 9pm to reach the ferry port, so I was time rich for a change. I was going to take it easy but the power of the V-Strom’s 1000cc v-twin engine, combined with the open and quiet autobahn meant I ended up pushing on at a really good rate. 




I stopped at 75 miles and 160 miles to get stretch my legs and grab a few nibbles of food. I then had another 100ish miles to do and thought I’d have another stop in between. However as soon as I saw the signs for Hoek van Holland (just West of Rotterdam) where my ferry departs from, I could resist bombing on and making it there in one. 

Having these little challenges on the road I think is what keeps me from going mad for so long riding solo. Always with safety at the front of my mind, I see how many more miles I can do even when my arse is hurting, or if I need fuel and i see there are 2 fuel stops coming up, I try and make it to the 2nd. To keep my mind ticking over, I don’t change my speedo from miles to kilometres. This way I’m always working out distances into miles and my speed when the road signs change. Sad I know, but I need to do something to keep my mind active mile after mile (or 1.609 km to 1.609 km). 

I arrived in HvH super early, so I headed into the town centre, pulled up at a local cafe and treated myself to some lunch. I parked the bike right outside the cafe and the town didn’t look all that safe. I had a Gouda and ham toastie (brown bread) plus some thick cut chips and a full fat coke! Yum. After being in Iceland I was pleasantly surprised when the waitress told me it was €11. That would have got me mars bar and a bottle of sparkling water on the windy isle. 



I tried to find somewhere to show the World Cup final but there wasn’t anywhere in the town, so I pulled up at the port check-in and watched it on my phone. By the time the footy was done I got checked in and waited to board the ferry. While I was waiting, I listened to two English chaps in the queue behind me on bicycles spend the best part of 15 minutes belittling different nationalities in a rather vulgar manner, including the Scots. For those of you that don’t know, my heritage is of Scotland, so it took all my will power not to say anything or throw their bikes into the water. Shoutout to willpower, you rock. 

I boarded the ferry and got my bike strapped down on the car deck. A Welsh guy on a Harley beside asked me if I knew what I was doing when strapping the bike down. I told him about the issues on the Iceland-bound ship, and the Samskip ‘duvet and wall’ method from my passage to Grimsey. I saw from his face that he wished he’d never asked so I finished with “yeah I’m good man, thanks”. 

I got to my cabin, dumped my gear and had a look around the Stena Britannica, which takes me to now, writing this blog. 

So all I have left to do now is the final sea crossing and then ride the 320 miles back to my house to see my wife and kids. It’s been an amazing trip although slightly frustrating with the number of hard milestones (mainly) ferry’s which has meant I’ve been rushing only to end up waiting a lot too. 




Total miles today - 325

See you again tomorrow. 

Ride safe. 

Gordon. 


Saturday, 14 July 2018

Day 15 - big afternoon South

Hello there.

Wow... somehow we’re on day 15 of this trip. I’m not sure where the time has gone.. it only seems a few days ago I was rushing down to Harwich to catch the ferry on day 1.

Today started early again. The couchettes onboard the ship really arnt that comfy at all. I headed up on deck and got myself a cup of tea and a banana. I got freshened up, packed my kit away, and waiting for us to dock in Hirtshals (North of Denmark). We weren’t due in until 1230 and I was told that we’d be 30minites late getting a shore as some cargo needed to get off the ship first, urgh. I passed the time by chatting to a Swedish biker I’d meet as we were boarding in Iceland. We had a good chat about all things bikes, travelling, and work. It was really nice. There is something about the Scandinavian folk that really just seems to click with me 



Finally we were allowed into the car deck to unload but it was another 30minites before I finally rolled off the ship. I made the wise choice of staying in my ‘shop clothes’ for as long as possible. Some of the other bikers were all kitted up and were just about boiling by time we got off the ship. 


Knowing I had about 650 miles to cover before end of day Sunday, I really wanted to put some big miles today, even though I was starting early afternoon. So I quickly navigated my way out of Hirtshals and onto the motorway where I could eat up the miles. 

It was so odd being back in ‘civilisation’ after 12 days away at sea and in Iceland. Traffic, warm weather, petrol stations that arnt just unmanned outposts, and motorways seemed so strange for the first hour or so. 

My plan was as a minimum to get out of Denmark and at a push make it to the Netherlands. With the limitless speeds out the autobahns on my side, in the end I managed to do 400miles stopping around 8pm just south west of Bremen in Germany. By doing this id managed to navigate past Hamburg (which is super busy at all times it seems) and countless roadworks on the Autobahn 7 & 1. That leaves me about 250 miles to do tomorrow before I catch my final ship, back to Blighty. 

I found a nice campsite on side of a river. Although when i arriveed and asked if they spoke English, in German, I was greeted by huge laughs from a guy behind reception and an unimpressed look from the cashier. I then said I could try in German if it was easier but they just carried on in English. I really do try when I’m travelling to learn some phrases and words but also know my limitations. I did think it was a bit much to be laughted at though. Nevertheless I’ll keep on using my current approach as it seems to work most of the time. 



I got to my camping spot, put up my tent, and cooked some pasta with pesto and ham. It was lovely. 

So that’s day 15 over. Only a few more days and I’ll be back home and this whole trip will seems like a dream, no doubt. Thanks as always to everyone for their support and continued reading of these blogs. Also thanks to all the great new people I’ve met on this journey so far! I know some of you have now joined the blog reads, and it’s been a pleasure to meet such kind and interesting folk along the way. 

Ride safe all. 

Gordon. 

Friday, 13 July 2018

Day 13 & 14 - Goodbye Iceland

Hello,

Welcome to another edition of the Arctic Rider blog.

Day 13

I awoke early to the sound of my alarm. I was determined not to sleep in as I had to be at the port by 8am to check in for my ship to Denmark. As I packed up the tent, I got chatting to a couple of other British bikers who’d been touring around Iceland for a few weeks and were on their way home. As it turns out one of them lives in Gosforth, about 5 miles from my house! After barely hearing another native British accent (apart from my ship buddy Jon) I bumped into a Geordie thousands of miles from home. 

We chatted about how bad the weather had been and they told me how both their bikes had been blown off the road in the West Fjords  and they were rescued by some Icelandic truckers. Luckily they escaped major injuries but their bikes had taken a beating. I think I got lucky that I didn’t have a serious incident during my trip. 


I got packed away and rode the few hundred metres from the campsite to the ferry. I was frustrated to fine the motorbikes would be boarding last. I managed to pass the time by speaking to a few others bikers and taking one last looks at the Icelandic scenery. 



Before long it was time to board the ship. I got a bit more space this time but the straps and availability of places to tie the bike down to where very limited as per my outbound journey. A few Swedish guys gave me a hand but we were all equally worried about our bikes. 

I got onto deck, found my shared ‘cabin’ and laid my stuff out before heading out into the open deck to say bye to Iceland. 

It’s been a really emotional visit to Iceland. I wholly underestimated the conditions and faced my riding fears head on, not only with the weather but gravel roads also. I’m also proud I came out the other side. It’s true what the say, it’s the journey that makes it, no the destination (although that’s also pretty important for an Arctic Ride). 

With another 2 days onboard ship, I took to grabbing some tasty lunch (Icelandic sausages,  potatoes, green, and sauce), charged up my devices, and backed up my media. Then I spend the rest of the night writing my blog for day 12 and trying to post it! (Sorry for the delay). 

Day 14

Day 14 started at 3am. The ship was docking the Faroe Islands and I can only presume that my ‘cabin’ was next to the bow thrusters as the noise sounded like an Apollo mission take off. Alongside that, and new passengers coming aboard and making a lot of noise, I didn’t get my head back down until about 4.30am. 

I managed to sleep until about 6.30am before getting up and having a cup of tea and looking out on the ocean. 

Today has been a mix of podcasts, eating, lisenting to music, starting to write articles for my media commitments back home, and FaceTiming the family. There is a gym and small pool onboard, but after 2 weeks on the road not eating properly, I’m keeping my energy for the 1,000 miles of motorway that awaits me when I roll back into mainland Europe tomorrow. 



As I write this blog I’m looking out over the North Sea knowing, as the crow flies, I’m just a few hundred miles from Blighty, but I’ve still got a lot of riding to do. 

That’s all for today folks. As always thanks for reading and for being part of Team Arctic Rider. 

Ride safe. 

Gordon. 

Day 12 - icebergs and sunshine

Hello there! 

Thanks for tuning into my Arctic Ride Iceland blog, riding my motorbike to the Arctic Circle to raise money for Tiny Lives Trust & Cerebra. 

Day 12... wow. What a day! I started the day waking up inside a national park and a stones throw away from a glacier, where I’d camped last night. I wasn’t in the mood for breakfast so just grabbed an apple and started packing up my gear. I was on the road early knowing I had a long day ahead of me, with over 250 miles (a long way on these roads) to do to get me back to the port where I’d catch the ferry tomorrow morning. 


The scenery along Iceland’s south coast (just like yesterday) was again truly stunning! You almost get immune to how beautiful it is as it’s constant. From one mountain range to the next, it’s just epic. 

I stopped a few times to snap some photos, then I pulled into the ‘Iceberg Lagoon’ on recommendation of Olafur. Wow. This place was even more remarkable than the rest of South Iceland. It’s like a different world. 



I carried on East eating up the miles. I stopped at a small services where I ordered a panini, only for it to be burnt in the toaster. I ate it anyway as it was the last one they had and they gave me a refund, cash-back!

With about 100miles to go the road turned to gravel once more. The first section was also roadworks and the road was filled with deep and heavy gravel. I really struggled riding on this kind of terrain and I had to take it really easy to make sure the bike and I got across in one piece. After a few kilometres the gravel eased and it become a more ‘regular’ unpaved surface, so I was able to pick up some speed while riding on the pegs. 



Apart from the odd gust of wind, the weather really picked up today and I got to enjoy the roads and in relative warmth, although my all-in-one rain suit stayed on, so I’m not sure it was actually ‘warm’. 


I made it to the town of Egilsstaðir in East Iceland in time to do some quick shopping, and catch the England football semi-final. Alas it was not meant to be but the locals made me really welcome, even if most were rooting for Croatia.
After the game I started the ride over to the port-town where I’d camp for the night. Due to the Northerly nature of Iceland, it was still super bright even though it was past 9pm so I was able to stop and get some shots at the top of the mountain pass, and stop at my last waterfall (this time with no other tourists) before getting to the campsite and settling down. 



Aside from crossing The Arctic Circle, this was definitely my best day in Iceland and I leave with a good taste in my mouth. This country is nature in its rawest form and, put simply, is stunning and wild. I’ve loved seeing the sights of South and East Iceland and finally riding without the wind trying to take me out. I’d highly recommend anyone come and visit, but bring warm clothes and a wind break. 

Tomorrow I set sail for Denmark (I was meant to visit the Faroe Islands on the way home, but change of plan) and then have another 1,000 or so miles before I get back to Newcastle.

Thanks you again to everyone for the support, messages, and donations. It seems like ages ago that I crossed the Arctic Circle, but my journey is still far from over. You can still donate at www.virginmoneygiving.com/thearcticrider after some very generous donations we’re now closing in on £5,000!! Super effort from everyone. 

Ride safe everyone

Gordon. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Day 10 and 11 - Still windy, but warmer wind

Hello!

Welcome to the latest instalment of the Arctic Ride Iceland blog. Apologies for missing last nights blog! A double issue awaits this read. 

Day 10 - I packed up the bike first thing from Bogarnes planning to ride South to Reykjavik then up into the mountains to visit Giyser and Gullfoss waterfall (two of Iceland’s biggest attractions). Whilst it was a breezy start, I did see some blue skies and thought my weather luck was changing. As soon I got on the road I realised I was mistaken. The dark clouds drew in and the heavy wind blew me across the road once more. Only a 6km tunnel gave me any relief and I was starting to wonder if I’d ever experience Iceland without a gale force wind. 

I got close to Reykjavík and found the road to the mountains that led to the attractions. I knew I had about 60 miles to do but after only 20 miles of the being blow around the road I pulled in. This was getting dangerous. The roads were narrow, there were lots of tour buses, and sheer drops either side of the road. I couldn’t control the bike and keep it in my lane, so I decided it was safest to turn around. My aim of this trip was to make it to the Arctic Circle and make it home again, and this seemed like a risk not worth taking. 



I rode down the mountain pass and then headed into Reykjavik city centre. I came here with my wife Kirsty and our friends Ant & Christine back in 2014, so it was great to be here again. This city has changed so much since then though, with high rise hotels, food quarters, and tour guide huts lining the once empty harbour area.



I treated myself to a Icelandic delqecasey, a hot dog. They are genuinely lovely.. I had 2.  I then mootched around the city for a few hours, before heading over to see Olafur and Hronn, a lovely Icelandic biker couple who had invited me to stay at their place in the suburbs. 

They gave me the most incredible welcome and I was treated to a proper warm shower, chicken casserole, coffee, and 2 types of Icelandic beer!! Great Icelandic hospitality. We spend the night chatting bikes, Route planning for my trip east, and learning about each other’s countries. It was great stuff. 

I can’t thank them both enough for the wonderful time they gave me, which all started chatting about the football in the ships bar last week, and Olafur celebrating England’s win over Columbia with me! Meeting likeminded folk is one of the best things about travelling, and makes me feel happier about the crazy world we live in. 

Day 11

I set off from Olafur and Hronn’s place and headed 10 minutes across the suburbs to meet with Jon and Ming, my other biker buddies who ever on both sea crossings with me earlier in my trip. I met them at their Air BnB and we have some more bike chat and Iceland weather chat over cup of tea. Then Jon kindly interviewed me for his radio show (www.exilefm.com) talking all about The Arctic Rider project and the Iceland trip so far. 

I then started my journey East. I had a few sights planned to see along the way thanks my Icelandic buddies, and a planned to do a big day. We’d checked the weather too last night and it looked as though I might get a dry and wind free day. The weather forecasters were wrong. For the first 2 hours East the wind blew and blew and blew. It wasn’t quite as bad as day 10 or my first day in Iceland, but it was enough to see me riding at about a 25 degree angle. I did manage to stop and take some photos at a volcano but my camera, and nearly the bike, kept getting blown over. 



The further east I traveled the lighter it got until it was more of a strong breeze than actual wind. On the route along I stopped at somespectacular waterfalls. Iceland is beautiful. 



I then finished my day camped near a huge glacier which is covering a volcano that’s ready to blow.... fun times. 8 hours on the road riding a lot of Southern Iceland. 



Southern Iceland is like a different world. From crazy waterfalls, and mountains bursting out of the ground, to huge volcanic ash beaches... I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when riding along. I’ve got some amazing footage in the GoPro which I can’t wait to share with you all. 

Thank you so much for the recent donations too. We are so close to £4,500 now. Everyone will be getting a special thank you when I return (and get better internet connection). 

Tomorrow, I head 250 miles East back to Seyoisfjoror, where on Thursday morning I board the ship leaving Iceland. I’ve still got a lot to see in East Iceland before that and I’ll also need to try and find somewhere showning England’s World Cup semi final!

Today’s mileage - 238
Total mileage - 2143

Ride safe,

Gordon. 

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Day 9 - A day of 2 halves

Welcome to day 9 of Arctic Ride Iceland

Today was a very interesting day in which I finally got to see the best of Iceland. 

I started later than planned after I got chatting to quite a few folk at the campsite post-blog last night and didnt get my head down until after midnight. There was an old German couple who were touring Iceland, some young German hikers who were also bikers whom I was giving the V-Strom sell too, and an American guy called Kevin. All this while I was charging my phone at the wash hut so I could post my blog. 

Back to this morning, I had some porridge, refueld the bike and the headed North West towards Isafjordur, the ‘capital’ of the West Fjords. I had some touches of rain and light wind but nothing compared to previous days. Before long I was climbing my first mountain pass that was spectactual. The roads over the passes tend to run parallel with river and waterfalls which makes the ride over even more of a joy. 


I then started on the fjord coastal roads which wave in and out of the Fjords following right by the waterline. The way way I can describe the Westfjords is a cross between Scotland and Norway (in a good way). So many times it felt like I was riding through the glens and past lochs. The only difference was that instead of an old castle ruin beside the water, a little Icelandic farm house stood there. 

The roads were empty. Like don’t see a car for 30mins empty. Seriously it was so far out in the sticks, even more so than my time in Northern Norway. At times I wondered if I was in the right road, as it’s meant to a tourist trail, but then I’d catch up with a motorhome and realise I was in the right place. 



I took several stops to admire the scenery. This was what I was expecting from Iceland, and I had finally found it. 

Today was the half way point of my time in the island of Iceland (or Island as the Ivelandics call it... how confusing) so I told myself I’d ride until 1200 then turn start to head home. I didn’t make it as far as Isafjordur, so around noon I stopped to check out a waterfall then spun the bike around and headed back from where I came. 


I got a heads up from my Icelandic buddy Olafur that there was some pretty mean weather coming in from the West so I decided to up the pace as I started South East. I got back to Holmavik where I’d camped last night, grabbed another tank of fuel, and treated myself to a chicken burger and chips. 

From here on I headed the south as the weather took a nose dive back to rain and howling winds that started to throw me around the road again, not fun. On one of the passes south the usual tarmac road became a gravel track due to roadworks, so I was back up on the pegs dodging the big rocks and fighting off the wind. At one point when back on the tarmac, I almost had my knee down I was at that much of an angle from the wind. It was genuinely scary riding at some points today, I’m not too proud to admit that. Usually when I’m riding I have my headphones in listening to music or podcast, but the roads have needed so much attention here I’ve not had them in since I arrived. 

I finally made it back into the number ‘1’ ring road and heading South to Reykjavík. The scenery here was different again, looking almost Rocky Moutain-esque. I arrived at the town of  Bogarnes late afternoon and decided to stop here to set up camp. 



As I write this blog I’m tucked up inside my tent and inside my sleeping bag as the rain pounds down and the wind gusts. I think I’ll stay put until the morning. 

Thanks again for all the support, wishes, and donations. This trip really has been a rough slog so it’s fab to have some many people, metaphorically, along for the ride . 

I’ve had my share of naysayers for this trip also but I can honestly say this is no holiday. The weather has been almost everything an Arctic summer can throw at you and the roads have been worse than I thought. I’ve also struggled to get enough calories due to my schedule and the fact stopping to get the stove out or make up a sandwich is somewhere between not fun and dangerous depending on how the weather has been and the road conditions. This same goes for my filming too. I’ve wanted to do a lot more filming but the weather has really held me back. Finding a safe place to pull over where the tripod won’t get blow away has been tricky but I’ll be putting pressure on myself to get more footage over the coming days so you can all experience more of what I have. 

That’s it for tonight folks. I hope all my UK readers have been enjoying the heatwave and some tasty grub. I’m having Nutella sandwiches tonight with some cookies on the side. 

Ride safe all. 

Gordon. 

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Day 8 - Why does it always rain on me

Hello! Welcome to Day 8 of my Arctic Ride Iceland blog.

After completing my mission yesterday, today I started my tour of Iceland while I wait for my ferry home on Thursday. 

I started my day in Olafsfjordur where I camped last night. After a quick FaceTime with the family I got the tent packed up. The campsite owner came to take my payment and I asked what time the supermarket opened and he said 11... urgh it was 9am and I was ready to go. He said it was the same in the next town too and he tried to convince me to go to his cafe for breakfast. I wanted to get on so I left anyway. When I got to the next town it turns out their supermarket was open, so I think the campsite over was just looking for the trade. 


It was only 10 miles into my ride that the heavens opened and I was riding through rain again, and it didn’t stop for 2 hours. I got some petrol and food at the mentioned town then ploughed in through the rain. 

Unknown to me the route I was taking West had some unpaved roads, which I wasn’t expecting until the West Fjords. So, through the rain, I got up on my pegs and navigated my way through the pot-holes and gravel, somehow getting through unscathed. 

When I reached the other side of the Pennisula I was riding around, the rain eased and I stopped to do a quick Facebook live video and took some photos. Iceland is stunning when the rain goes away. I’ve not had much chance to see it without rain or fog, but when I have I’ve been blown away. The mountains are endless and the way the rock is carved looks like something out of lord of the rings. Truly beautiful. 



Before long the rain was back. I got back into the main ‘1’ road, which circles Iceland, and stopped for a break and some lunch. I also checked in with tourist info and found a town 2 hours away that had the England match on, so I hurried back into the road, fighting the showers to go watch the game. 

After England’s victory I headed off once more, again in the rain, heading West destined for the Fjords. I had planned to make it to Isafjorur in the far West which was only 400kms away, which I though I could do in 4 hours... how wrong I was. I turned off the ‘1’ road and it wasn’t long before I hit more dirt road. This dirt road was more special than the last though and included steep inclines, downhill bends, rogue sheep, and lasted for hours. 



The photos don’t do it justice but it’s was painful. After 3 hours riding on these roads, mostly up on the pegs, my body was aching, and I’d only managed to cover 100kms... urgh. When the road turned back to tarmac I found a town with a camp site and took refuge for the night. 

I still managed to rock up a solid 240 miles today, taking me up to 1,500 for the trip but it was a looooong day. I spoke to the tourist info who said the weather looks like it will continue to be windy and rainy for the rest of my stay. This is such a shame as I think Iceland would be amazing in the dry, but I’m destined not to experience that. I’ll head off further into the Westfjords tomorrow before starting East on Monday. 



The view form my campsite at 9.30pm... not bad. 

Thanks for reading and for following my journey. I’ve got loads of videos which will make their way online when I get home. 

Thank you too for all the continued donations. I feel humbled to have such great support. I’m struggling with internet access but everyone will get a personal thank you upon my return. We are only £150 off £4,500 which would be an amazing achievement for Team Arctic Ride. You can still donate at www.virginmoneygiving.com/thearcticrider

Ride safe. 

Gordon.