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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Eldhestar (Volcano Horses)

I am not a morning person... and I am even less an Iceland morning person. This morning we had to be up and out the door by 7:10 to go to BSI, the main bus station in town. It's about a 5 minute drive, and we had to be there around 7:45, but Mom gets nervous if we're not early, so off we went. We were picked up in a private van and driven out to Eldhestar, a stable that does horseback tours. There we met with Marieke and Ella, two of the guides that took the four of us and four others out on a three hour trail ride.

First up was the donning of the raingear, because of course it was pouring rain. Once we were properly swathed in rubber pullovers and pants, given gloves, and fitted for helmets, we were taken out to the yard and matched with horses. I did riding lessons when I was in elementary school, but not for at least ten years, so I was put on a horse that was basically trained as a follower. It knew where to speed up, where to slow down, what the route was, etc. I had as much control over that horse as you do over the 737 on your flight from Seattle to Chicago from seat 27B.

Once we'd mounted up and ridden around the paddock a couple of times, it was off on the tour. We actually crossed over Route 1. The stable hands stopped traffic for us - all three cars. I've seen Route 1, the ring road, described as the freeway, but once you're outside of Reykjavik, it's one lane in either direction, with minimal traffic.

We did a little riding along the river, then up into a forest. Hveragerði, the town we were next to, had the trees replanted a couple decades ago. All of the trees in Iceland were cut down by the original Viking settlers, and it's only recently that there has been a mass effort to replant. The birch is apparently the only tree native to Iceland that grows widely, but these were some sort of fir or pine tree - there were needles, but I'm not a dendrologist so I couldn't tell you exactly what.

Eventually we got out of the forest and into an area where there were hot springs. One thing I noticed today that I've seen before but hadn't really thought about is ladders and steps in the fields. They're set over fences, so you can walk up and over the fences, but the horses or sheep can't. Interesting way of doing it - I guess it saves having to drag a big metal gate out there and place big heavy posts. There was a big metal gate out there, though, so we tied up the horses and had some of the coffee and hot cocoa that had been placed there in thermos bottles by the staff.

Once we were done with the cocoa and coffee, the staff switched Rachael onto a different horse, one that was more independent. I didn't know it before the trip, but Rachael used to have a pair of horses, and ride and show regularly, so she was much more comfortable than the rest of us - I think Nick has only been on a horse a couple of times. Once she was set, we headed back - the wind and rain was getting worse, and the coffee spot was the turn-around anyways.

Icelandic horses have a special gait, the tölt, which seems to be like a high-stepping walk, but it's pretty fast - somewhat faster than a canter, apparently. We got to try that out a few times. Slightly bouncy, but fun. When we got back, we helped get all the tack of the horses, got out of the rubber suits (they didn't really help, we were still soaked), and cleaned up while we waited for the bus back.

Once we were back in Reykjavik, since we were already soaked, we decided to walk up to the Noodle Station. They make a Thai version of what is basically pho. I'm not much of a pho fan, but this was the perfect thing to warm us all up, with just the right level of flavor and spice. When that was done, Nick and Rachael decided to walk around town looking for gifts and whatnot, while Mom and I headed back to the apartment. I did a load of laundry, since I was running out of clean things to wear. The apartment listing said "full size washer and dryer" and perhaps they were - the other apartments had similar sized appliances in the basement laundry room - but I could have fit this entire washer into my washer at home.

At 17:30 we headed back into town and met up with Nick and Rachael at the Chuck Norris Cafe. It's basically a tiny cafe with Chuck Norris jokes painted onto the walls - apparently these are still popular here. We had some great burgers, though - these had chili mayo that was perfect. After that, back to the apartment to relax. Tomorrow we're going on a Golden Circle tour in Ari's super-jeep, and have to leave early so he can be back in time for an evening class. Thursday will be a day around town - I need to do some shopping, Mom and Nick and Rachael are going to hit the museums - although not the Penis Museum.

Random notes:

I want an Icelandic horse now.
There are signs on the roads here forbidding tractors from being on the freeways during the morning and evening commute times on weekdays. The signs look new, but I haven't seen any tractors. Auburn could use some of these signs.
Rachael's music is driving me crazy.
I grabbed the skeleton door for my GoPro, not the solid door, so it's not waterproof. So no video of the horse ride today - or anything, really. There will be video of the super-jeep trip to Gullfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir tomorrow, though.

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