We’ll go riding on the Icelandic horses, baby

We didn’t have anything booked early on Friday morning so we slept in until about 11am, the sun having risen and breakfast finished in the hotel. I think we really needed the sleep.

We walked up the road to Cafe Loki, opposite the big Lutheran church, Hallgrimskirkja. The cafe serves traditional Icelandic food, which consists mostly of fish – herring, in particular. The thought of eating fish for breakfast is a bit off-putting for me but that’s just because I’m a boring white Australian. Glen had a salmon bagel while I had a vegetarian salad that was pretty delicious and filling. I still managed to fit in one of their specialties, rye bread ice-cream. Interesting texture, kind of like cookies and cream ice-cream but a bit more bitty. Was yummy though.

We then walked back to the hotel to wait for the bus to take us horse-riding.

Since seeing the small Icelandic horses in the fields as we went on our tours, I’d thought it’d be pretty fun to go for a ride on one. The last time I went horse-riding was when I was about six years old. I fell off before I’d really got started and, contrary to popular thought, I didn’t get back on. I’ve wanted to ever since and getting on a miniature horse (miniature compared to the ones back home) seems like a good first step.

I’d booked the horse-riding tour through Reykjavik Excursions which outsources it to Is Hestar. Their shuttle bus picked us up at 12:45 and took us to the stables where they are setup. It’s built right next to lava fields, which in the winter are covered with snow.

We were in a group of about twenty or so people, with varying levels of experience. We watched a short safety and instructional video. I remembered only a few points out of it, like don’t scream or raise the reins because that will just make the horse go faster.

We then went to put on whatever clothes we didn’t already have, like gloves, jackets, ski pants, though Glen and I were pretty well prepared so the only thing we had to put on was a helmet. We then fit the GoPro camera over Glen’s helmet and then lined up at the stable door to be given our horse to take out into the yard.

These horses look so adorable. They’re small, their head the same level as mine, and they come in a huge variety of colours. Despite the cute factor though, they’re sturdy animals and aren’t easily one over. There were a few instances on our ride where the horses would—and did—prefer to do their own thing, like eat the bushes.

We walked our horse — mine was called Fylkir — into the yard and then we waited while the guides sorted out our stirrups and helped us on. We then milled around waiting for everyone else to be ready before turning our horses and following the guide out of the yard.

We had to keep in line, pretty much horse’s nose to horse’s arse the whole way. They lead you out through the lava fields, with a stunning view of the mountains beyond. The light was beautiful as the sun wasn’t far from going down.

There were a couple of moments where we picked up a bit of speed, which were fun, and then the group split in two: experienced and inexperienced. We stayed in the inexperienced group, continuing on for a while until our group then split into two so the people who wanted to go a bit faster could do so.

We then went in the faster group, hoping we could pick up some speed. By this time my hands and feet were really starting to get cold — freezing in fact. This was despite wearing gloves and thick socks with my boots. Next time I’m wearing ski gloves and two pairs of socks.

Unfortunately, people came into our group who really had no clue what to do, even when given one-on-one instructions. I was third from the front and was stuck behind a girl on a stubborn horse. She was given a whip and told she needed to kick the horse to make it go faster but she didn’t do any of this and consequently it slowed the rest of the group down. My horse was just as impatient as me and kept trying to get a bit farther ahead. I should have let him.

But there were times when we did get to go faster and they were lots of fun, especially as you bob up and down on the horse’s back and feel like you might fall of. We rode around for about an hour and a half, the whole experience lasting about two hours, and it was really worth it. It was probably long enough, considering my feet felt like they had frostbite. I’m so glad we did it and would love to try it again in summer.

When we got back to our hotel, we were told that the Northern Light tour for that evening had been cancelled due to low aurora activity. Very sad we didn’t get to see them while we were here. We’ll now have to look elsewhere, maybe Yellowknife in Nunavut. Glen wants to stay in an igloo so that could be perfect.

We went for dinner at an Indian restaurant called Austur-Indíafjelagið, recommended by one of the radiology fellows. Spiciest food we’ve had in a while. The lobster tails we had for the entree were delicious, and the salmon curry was perfectly cooked. The tandoori mixed grill and the vegetable curry were also nice. I had to slow down because it was so hot. We still managed to stuff ourselves silly.

We had a snow fight outside our hotel just before going back inside. I think we would have got a lot of strange looks as it was just outside the hotel’s packed bistro bar and we were in the carpark. It was a lot of fun though.

We spent most of the rest of the evening in our hotel room, watching tv, before going out for a late night hot chocolate at a cafe/bar. We considered going to Iceland’s only gay bar, Kiki Queer Bar, but decided against it. Maybe next time.

And so ended our last full day in Iceland.

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