Today was to be my last full day in Iceland, as such I’d saved one of my favorite activities for this day, horseback riding! After a ton of research I signed up for what was going to amount to a full day ride. Considering it had been about month since I had ridden regularly with everything going on, it might not have been the most well thought out decision ever. Really, though I wasn’t too concerned. Sure, I might be incredibly sore, but I was going to the Blue Lagoon tomorrow and then off on the plane to Ithaca, NY to begin my re-acclimation to the States.
ISHestar, just outside of Reykjavik, was the place I had chosen to for my riding adventure, they had great reviews on TripAdvisor and they offered some fun, more advanced rides. I had no wish to be nose to tail for an entire day of riding, that’s fun for short rides or beginner riders, but I’ve been on a horse since before I could walk and I wanted to GO. The ride I signed up for was the Viking Tour, which included a shorter, more beginner type of ride in the morning, then lunch provided by them, a mount change and then out again for several more hours. Not surprisingly I was really excited and I showed up with plenty of time to spare.
Holy shit was it an amazingly fun day! The scenery was a very volcanic and surreal, much like a lot of Iceland, but the riding paths were great and very well groomed. All of the horses were well behaved, responsive, and the guides were knowledgeable as well as helpful. These types of trail rides in the States are usually nose to tail and really not about the riding at all. It’s more of a fun way to see some cool scenery while getting away from the car or your own two feet. That wasn’t really the case at ISHestar, while we did need to keep to a single file line, the horses were under our control, and we walked, trotted, and tolted. Part way through the ride, the more advanced riders branched off and we were allowed to canter. Besides the terribly hard saddle and my failure at maintaining my horse in a tolt, it was a ton of fun! As our time ran out we headed back to the paddocks for a lunch before heading out again. Lunch was very good, much like everything else I had eaten in Iceland, with plenty of food to make up for the exercise of the morning. Yes, for the non-riders out there, horseback riding IS exercise and the horse is definitely not doing “all the work.”
Once we finished up lunch we headed out again, this time our group was only four people, me, a mother and daughter from one of the Scandinavian countries, and our guide. We were given new horses for the afternoon ride and these ones had plenty of get up and go! Right away we headed out tolting, trotting, and cantering throughout the riding trails. The guide was awesome and I really felt in my element. Maybe I’m a *tad* socially awkward at times, but you put me around horse people and I am in my element. It was very interesting to compare the different ways that horses are kept across the world and we had a good time discussing all of them. Part way through the ride we stopped to stretch our legs for a bit and while our guide held the horses, we trekked off to find a cave that was in the area. A girl had lived there for years with her sheep and you could still see the modifications that she had made. It took us awhile to find it (which made me feel way better about getting lost a couple of times in the previous days I’d been wandering on my own), but we did after a time and as we explored I allowed myself to fall back into time, imaging what her life had been like living in the cave with only her sheep for company.
We stopped one more time on the ride, this time to hike around and look at some old sheep corrals while the horses rested. There was another cave, with modifications for living, which the shepherds had used in the past. Then we headed off again for some tolting (attempts on my part, darn horse was not cooperating) and wonderful canters. The guide explained the lack of trees in Iceland and how highly they were valued and protect because of the long amount of time it took them to grow. Most of the trees we saw were planted and watched over, much like gardens. Finally, the ride had to come to an end ad late in the afternoon, tired, and a bit sore, we headed back to the paddocks. Once there we chatted a bit more about our various horse riding experiences and I asked for recommendations on places to stay and eat for the evening. Being that it was my last night in Iceland, I wanted to make sure I had a good dinner and a place to stay that would allow me to get everything cleaned and packed up. My amazing guide once again came through for me with a couple of recommendations, which a quick look online showed me to be great places as well.
So, I left the riding center and headed towards Hotel Hafnarfjordur, making my reservation before leaving, just in case I had to find a different place. I found it without issue, even though I was driving in the city during rush hour. Frankly I was feeling pretty proud of my driving skills right now, although I was beyond thankful for my iPhone GPS telling me where to go. Those road names were still beyond me! After checking in and clearing everything out of the car, I went to go fill up the gas tank and wash the outside. In my typical fashion this ended up being something of an adventure as I tried to figure out everything out with the car wash. You can laugh, but you’d probably have a moment too, maybe it wouldn’t be as noticeable as mine (apparently I’m an expressive individual Hahaha), but people aren’t born knowing how to work things in foreign countries! Right? As I was washing the Duster I came upon a large crack in the underside of the bumper and immediately started worrying. It was obviously old and I hadn’t hit anything, so it couldn’t be from the time I had the vehicle. However, if you remember back to when I picked it up, it had still be dark, so there was nothing more than a cursory inspection given on anyone’s parts. Before renting I had read a ton of absolute horror stories about what rental companies would charge you for any sort of damage. Like thousands of dollars. Panic started to set in until I realized there was nothing I could do about it anyways. I’d tell the truth and hope for the best.
With that, I brushed it from my mind and headed to the hotel to clean up and go for dinner. The restaurant several blocks away, but was supposed to be wonderful and I was eager (as always to eat). Night was falling quickly, so I decided to drive to the restaurant instead of walking. My guide had recommended I try Gamla vínhúsið and I’m quite happy I did, although instead of trying the steak that was recommended I went for the cream of mushroom soup and Icelandic lobster. Once again ordering way too much food and basically eating myself sick! Everything was superb and I really wanted to keep eating, but if I continued it wouldn’t be unlikely that they would have to roll me out of there, so I showed a *little* self control and finally stopped. Then I sat for quite awhile, happily waiting for my check and figuring out how I was going to move…
Once back in the hotel room, gazing upon the jumble of everything I had brought to Iceland, it really hit me that tomorrow I was going home. Immediately a huge wave of loss hit me. I missed my dog terribly and yes, my family and friends as well, but I didn’t want to leave. Iceland seemed to be a place that I could happily roam for as long as they’d have me. But, my life called and it was time to go. Packing everything up, once again I realized how much I brought that I didn’t need. Future trips would see quite a bit of winnowing down, especially in the electronics and toiletries department. I wasn’t sure how much shampoo and the like I would go through, but it wasn’t anything near what I had brought with me. Overall I had done well with my clothes, at this point literally everything (except the one random dress I had brought) had been washed at least once, more like twice or three times in case of the socks and undergarments, and to be totally frank I was feeling a tad sorry for the people sitting next to me on the plane tomorrow!
Now I just had to figure out how to fit it all back into the suitcase and carry on so I could get it all home! A couple long hours later everything was finally packed up and ready for tomorrow. My plans included driving to Reykjavik to an Icelandic wool store bright and early, then heading to the Blue Lagoon for several hours, then to drop off the car, and take the shuttle to the airport. And so, for the last time I lay down on my Icelandic bed and closed my eyes to dream of the land just outside my window.
That’s just about it everyone, I’ll be posting the last day, a short one on my weekend in Ithaca, and then a post looking back at what I’ve learned from my trip. Unfortunately the only pictures I have from that day were on my phone and in the post.