I’m not sure if there’s an official slow travel movement, but Helen Lloyd should be a patron if there is, and this book a manual for it. She’s as comfortable off her bike as on it and this book oozes relaxation but is very much a motorcycle adventure so you’ll be right there as she explores every trail and attempts every river crossing.
During her three months on Iceland the weather is atrocious and that produces its own battle, yet the beauty of the land somehow remains and certainly has an impact on her. The descriptions are wonderful – of sky or land. The tracks are an engaging challenge, but it’s the human interaction, however slight, that brings the simplest daily situation alive.
There are multiple elements to this work but constant is the unending pleasure that travel clearly brings. And it’s infectious. The story of the ride itself knits the narrative, but over-laid is an illuminating history of the place (and its folklore) and the way those social interactions add so much depth and connection to the country.
On the first day she ends up staying with strangers for a couple of nights and it proves somewhere welcoming to return. Deep in the central Highlands, where she finds so much peace and tranquillity, she sleeps in a hut with a couple of guys celebrating their 60th with copious rum and wine. On the north coast, meeting someone online for a day’s riding trails, that she could never have discovered on her own, leads to a week-long invitation to house sit. The list goes on and whether it’s due to the author’s friendly character, or the nature of the Icelandic people, the result is the same for the reader; a building desire to go and live it all for yourself.
Helen is forever resourceful, using thermal pools to cope with the bitter chill brought on by the incessant rain, making bicycle spokes fit her Serow’s failing wheels and ignoring the vanishing oil problem as the bike limps on. It’s beautifully written work.
Review by Paddy Tyson
262 pp 25 images inc. maps £10.99
Published by Take On Creative (2020)