I never saw Alex on the southern road. I was looking for him. I saw many randonneurs with their bundles and packs maneuvering their way up steep hills and speeding down paved sloping roads, but I never saw this bold Polish cyclist I had met in Hirtshals and enjoyed so many conversations with on the ferry. Considering the warm sunshine by the sea on the southern coast, I knew he would be doing well. And where was Oleg? Tearing up the distance between Egilstaðir and Akureyri, swerving off-road for a few minutes of furtive photography before bracing himself for the next sortie? “I am fast,” he had told me on the ferry, grinning, showing me a selection of shots of birds on the wing foregrounding the Shetland Islands which he had snapped before they disappeared on the southeastern horizon. He would have to be in order to cover seventy kilometers a day while still making time to take the kinds of photos rarely found in travel magazines. I missed him already. “I invite you both to visit me in Magdeburg!” he had cried out, happily, on the day of our mutual departure in Seyðisfjöður. “I live in a beautiful park in the middle of the city. You will love it!” He was so compelling in his passion and enthusiasm and courage. And now he is on his own road. And I am on mine.
I was aiming to camp at the small town of Vík by the end of the day, for the two simple reasons that it was a decent halfway point between Egilstaðir and Grundarfjöður, and also because my host in Klaksvik had recommended the black sand beaches there to me. It’s also the southernmost point of Iceland. When I saw the beaches, I agreed that they were reason enough to stop.
The sands are prefaced by an aggregation of smooth, black and gray stones, the size of one’s thumb or smaller, and steadily decreasing in size as one approaches the crusts of sea foam on the beach itself, where the geology simplifies into volcanic sands, mixed with the tiniest pieces of broken shell. After I pulled over and parked the car, I wandered out on the beach, joined a handful of other travelers drawn by the pull of the crashing surf.
In a little while I had reached the town itself. The wind had come up and the warmth of the afternoon had transformed into a cold, blustery evening. I wandered into a woolen garment shop and ran my hands through a dozen different sweaters, jackets, wraps, and weatherproof clothing, but left empty-handed, in search of the campsite. Upon arrival, I paid the fee, an equivalent of about $9.00, set up my tent, and immediately got inside, ready to fall asleep and depart early the next morning. Somewhere between sleeping and waking, a hoard of French tourists arrived, and as I heard them fluttering around my tent, I realized I had unfortunately set up my sleeping quarters in the vicinity of the water faucet. As they went back and forth in the twilight, they repeatedly tripped over my tent string, which caused my small bivy to collapse on me numerous times. Finally frustrated, and not knowing how to say “watch out!” in French, I simply called out “Pass auf!” and disgusted with the enterprise, I hauled everything out of my tent and went off to sleep in the car. This proved to be a better idea by far, as the car was weatherproof as well as soundproof, and I awoke in the morning, fully rested, to surroundings drenched in rain from the night before. When I went to go and fetch my sopping tent, I realized that it would not have time to dry out, so I wrung it out, wrapped it into a damp ball and flung it into the back of the car.
At 6:00 am I was underway, driving northwest towards Grundarfjödur. I had covered about 450 kilometers and still had about 350 to go. There was also a an under-sea tunnel in my path, and I was eager to get to my destination in order to have time to hike Kirkjufell on Saturday, my last day in Iceland.