Horace and the rough stuff fellowship follows the footprint of three man, who go on one and the same adventure, over the period of 80 years.
1933 | Horace Dall
The engineer and astronomer from England loved solitude. When Europe had it’s roughest times, just in between two world wars, he set out to make the first wheeled crossing of Europe’s greatest desert Sprengisandur, a landscape so rough, raw and remote that it was used by NASA to train their astronauts for the moon landing only a couple of years later.
A piece of paper, not much bigger than his hand, showed the entire island of Iceland and was his only map. Dressed in a suit, with supplies, which would hardly have been sufficient for half of his planned trip, he crossed the river Þjórsá – and stood alone in the desert.
1958 | Dick Phillips
Four men set out from England to cross the vast deserts of Iceland on their bicycles. The rough stuff fellowship was a club destined to get off the beaten track and ride where no bicycle ever went before.
We probably would have drowned, had we not belted ourselves down. The river crossing was a lot deeper with stronger currents, then we were expecting. It did take us a whole day to make it across! At one time our rubber dingy almost escaped us with all our supplies on board!”
Rough-Stuff, riding over and through uncharted territory, through woods, fields and meadows of the British homeland. However their passion would not be stilled by what they found locally, they needed to go further and further to still their appetite, leading to the planning of their dream trip to Iceland. Dick looked at every detail, searched for sponsors and companions who where willing to endure the travel and share his appetite for adventure. He finally got on the boat with three young fellows to accompany him, to seek out their own boundaries.
And yet , nowhere else have I seen such a vast, tremendous nature. This very young piece of the world errupts and grows even now, out of the Earth’s core, and builds fantastic masterpieces on the surface. No Expressionist could ever create paintings that contain so many weird complementarily contrasts and be yet so smooth in color gradations. Incredibly large glaciers flow down from the peaks into the sea where small icebergs are cracked out only to be thrown back as blue shiny diamonds onto the black beach.
"Mountain Biking in Iceland is different" says our guide Magne with his cheeky Viking humor. What he means is that you basically have to schlep your bike up all the way. And he’s right, the first tour is already quite different. The surface of the small massif west of Reykjavik looks like rock with pimples . Basically, the sandstone is incredibly grippy, but if you brake on one of these rock pimples, you slip away immediately. I ride a ridge trail accordingly, almost humble. To be honest with you it’s not really a trail, but some kind of petrified dragon’s back . Slowly I warm with the round rock structures and the free line choice, until the wind almost blows me from the mountain and the weather is turning really bad.
For a change, the sky isn’t cloudy today, the constant wind a mere breeze. On the hiking map I saw what looked like a wonderful trail to a nearby peaks that I want to try today. After three hours of climbing with the bike on my back there’s still nothing that looks anything similar to a trail. I turn around . Even the pleasure of a downhill ride is denied to me by hundreds of sheep, which transformed the mountain side into a mine field and so I carry my bike frustrated all the way back to the tent . So far, only the proposals of Magne led to a meaningful tour. I ‘m annoyed and decide to ride one of his suggested trails. Magne works as a graphic artist in winter and shows Icelands wilderness to adventurous bikers in summer. At the second meeting , his complexion has changed from some white, grayish into a healthy tan. He obviously didn’t get too much sunlight during the long Icelandic winter, but now he’s more than happy to ride and tells me about his favourite trails.
Glymur is Icelands highest waterfall. He is relatively hidden and not directly approachable by car. The water falls into a deep gorge, a bottomless hole whose depth one can only imagine. The steep and abysmal path that leads along the waterfall, is exactly to my taste. Full of joy, I even ride the narrow trail twice, since all the other trail aren’t for real but only exist on the map.
In the summer month he lives in a tiny hostel directly across from the Eyjafjallajökull glacier massif, a very special and lonely place where you can hear nothing but the water that rushes through a huge river delta from the highlands. When i step into the house i can feel the love, that Dick put into this piece of land. I haven’t seen a so perfectly maintained grass roof during my whole month in Iceland, and the beautiful garden blooms with flowers and even some little wine vines. I meet Dick in the living room, the walls covered entirely with books on Iceland. You couldn’t tell his age of 81 years since he’s eye sparkle like he would head out to the next adventure any minute. We note that we are not related to each other in spite of similar surnames, talk about bikes back in the day and now and of his great adventure. I want to know how he felt when they learned that they were not the first ones to have crossed Sprngisandur. His answer surprises me. "Yes we thought we were the first ones, but didn’t think that was a big achievement and if we were’t…" Full of fascination he shows me all the articles and information that he has collected on Horace Dall. I watch him and suddenly understand that, being the first one, was meaningless for his own adventure. It was rather the journey than the destination that makes for an awesome adventure. He has experienced something great with his friends and found his irrevocable love with Iceland. With a twinkle he adds, that at least they were the first ones to have crossed the river Þjórsá on their own.
Have I done anything out of the ordinary … It doesn’t matter.
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