The Forgotten Coast
The Forgotten Coast
Bikerafting Iceland's South Coast with Chris Burkard, Steve "Doom" Fassbinder, and Cameron Lawson
Daily Updates by: Chris Burkard
Photos by: Ryan Hill
Day 1 : Djupivogur to Skalafell
~ 80 km / 6 river crossings
We started our bike/ packrafting journey in the Eastfjords at the small harbor town of Djupivogur. We crossed two inlets to a series of small barrier islands followed by endless miles of sandbars that varied from soft and unrideable to near perfect hard packed soil. We encountered arctic foxes, whales, and millions of seabirds. Including the ultra aggressive Skua - who would dive bomb at our heads for miles. The beach is ever engaging with massive tides swings and sneaker waves rushing up the shoreline. Our heads are always on a swivel while riding. This day ended with near perfect light as we passed the town of Höfn, crossing the harbor at sunset. We rode for 16 hours making camp around 11:30 in some sand dunes after a final river crossing.
Day 2: Skalafell to Jokulsarlon
~ 76 km / 7 river crossings
We woke up to rain at our camp along the beaches south of Höfn. The small dunes and grass made for a decent wind break. The temperature at night hovers around high 30’s - low 40’s (Farenheit). We got on the sand around 10AM in dense hazy fog and encountered our first glacial river where the water was milky from sediments in the glacial silt. The terrain was slow moving today as the high tides pushed us into soft sand. Riding a fatbike (especially loaded) feels more like lifting weights with your legs than riding a bike. It’s always engaging, constantly mashing the pedals, and there’s never a single moment to “coast”. We resupplied at Hali Farm and crossed the lagoon while getting attacked by Kria. At 8pm, we made it to the famous Jokulsaron glacier lagoon and conditions were perfect, so we inflated our small raft and drifted past massive icebergs to the other side of the lake to camp.
Day 3/4: Jokulsarlon - Alvioruhamrar Lighthouse
~ 120 km / 18 river crossings
"I could fill a library with the experiences these two days held. We embarked upon the most remote, unknown, and dangerous section of our route encompassing all of Iceland's largest glacial rivers. We encountered this section with less than ideal weather as it poured rain & wind for 2 full days. At times we lashed ourselves to our boats so we wouldn’t lose them if they fell out or blew away. We encountered more whale bones than I can count & the most unusual landscape I have ever witnessed. The Atlantic ocean sat to our left and massive interconnected rivers spread for as far as the eye could see… at times the sky, the sea, and the sand all fused together and it almost gave you vertigo as we struggled to find a perfect line to ride. I learned a lot about myself in these two days as well as my partners, my bike, and this landscape. This was the section that kept me up at night, endless shipwrecks & tales of sailors being stranded. We made it through but were humbled in the process."
Day 5: Alviðruhamrar Lighthouse - Vik
~50 km / 9 river crossings
It’s not often that you worry about the “surf” on a bike ride, but often on day 5 we found ourselves riding on the wet sand just beyond the surf, which was the only rideable surface. This stretch of coastline around Iceland's southern most point is known for its sleeper waves, big surf, rip tides and overall extremely dangerous shoreline. We kept our heads on a swivel all day. We awoke to strong offshore winds and a fresh groundswell, our goal was to make it to Vik but the moving was slow as huge surf rushed up the beach forcing into soft sand. The glacial river crossings were cold, some of the coldest we had encountered. We made it Vik chilled to the bone, beaten, and luckily a local let us into her home, fed us, and let us dry some clothes. We pushed onward as the winds subsided and paddled around Dyrholaey and rode the iconic “endless black beach” before making camp.
Day 6-7: Solheimafjara - Thorlakshofn
~120km / 14 river crossings
The final push always seems to come with its highs and lows. On day 6, we had planned some of the lowest mileage of the trip but a ferocious headwind made it one of our hardest days. Dry soft sand made it feel like an absolute slog where we found ourselves pushing our bikes and at times cursing at the weight. We crossed the mighty Markarfljót river that flows straight from the highlands near sunset, a large cold crossing with high tide wave trains rolling in. We took shelter in a small bunker on the coast warming up and drying out gear. The last day was the one I feared the most… All the preparation told me it was going to be easy, but still, crossing the Thorsja and the Olfusa river was something to be respected. Two of the largest and highest volume rivers in the country with wide exposed crossings laid in our path on this monster 44 mile final day. We crossed safely enjoying the colorful glacial patterns. We managed to get near perfect weather as a final goodbye to our route and rolled in the last few miles toward Thorlakshofn.
Watch a full Q&A of the trip here: