The Sprengisandur II

The start of the F-26 is fairly mundane- an average Icelandic gravel road for a while and then the last gas station for almost 300km.

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At the gas station they have good information about road conditions and river crossings.  A few are labelled as ‘V’ crossings- may require specially modified 4X4 to cross.  Hmmm… Ah well, worst case I can always turn back.  After fueling up and letting more air out of my tires I was off- only to be met by another sobering sight.  Two camper vans were coming down F-26, but there was something different about them…

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I believe that might qualify as ‘specialy modified’. 

Then I think about it- I’m about to ride The Sprengisandur in Iceland solo!  I think this means I’m hardcore, that I am an adventure rider.  Cool.  I haven’t really mentioned it before, but for much of this trip I’ve had a bit of a feeling of being a poser.  Here I am, on what is arguably the world’s best bike for true long distance adventure riding, and I spend most of my time on the road- never much more than an hour from the nearest gas station.  What do I need a GSA for?  Heck, what do I need any kind of true adventure bike for?  For this.  For the knowledge that I have the equipment to take on anything- there is no excuse for me, no hiding from a tough ride.  If F-26 beats me, it’s going to beat me- not my equipment.  Perfect.

Moving further along the road it starts to earn its reputation- the gravel road slowly becomes little more than track scraped out by a plow and heavily corrugated.  The bike is riding fine, but I quickly come to dread the occasional sandy patches.  My bike is heavy with gear and the tires are really not up for sandy riding (yes, I’m completely contradicting the previous paragraph), making the bike wallow around like a wounded buffalo (now I know why the GSA is nicknamed ‘the cow’ in Italy!). 

You can barely see the Hofsjökull glacier in this pic, but it gives a good view of the terrain and road.

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Riding on, I come to my first real crossing where I have to dismount and check for the best way through the water.  It’s a short crossing, but the approach is sandy, steep, and I don’t like the look of how calm the water is.

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I quickly realise why the water is calm when it sloshes over the top of my boots and keeps rising as I walk through it to find the best place to cross.  It gets high, but not enough to submerge the muffler or air intake.  I decide that since this is my first crossing and if I drop the bike the water is deep enough to completely submerge the pannier on the bottom, I should strip the bike, cross, and then walk the gear over.  The crossing goes smoothly, the gear stays dry, and my feet are soaked with glacier runoff.  Ah well, a change of socks and plastic bags over the feet keep the wet out cures that and allows them to warm p slightly despite the 5C rainy/windy weather.

More crossings and the inevitable meeting of The Swedes again going in the opposite direction and I hit the rescue station and home for the night.

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The next day dawns a bit brighter, but much colder and the wind is really up.  With nothing to stop it, the wind ripes through the landscape and feels colder than any glacial stream.  In the pic below note the waves on such a small lake as well as the fact that not even water seems to be able to attract life to this part of the road.

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