We had a very full day today, but the time flew by! Several weeks before the trip I booked a tour day through a local excursion company. I booked through Viator and the company is called Gray Line, and from what I can tell, they are the largest company in Reykjavik to offer sightseeing and shuttling services. We were picked up at 8:30 from our B&B and taken to the main bus terminal to check in and then wait on our specific van. I had wanted to post cute pictures of the breakfast that our Inn Keeper would make us, but due to a really bad mistake on the tour company, we were not able to even eat the breakfast that was made for us and instead, got off to a pretty terrible first start to the day. And that’s all I’ll say about that whole ordeal.
About an hour later, we were pulling into Laxnes Horse Farm and there is no way you can stay in a bad mood when there are about 50 Icelandic ponies staring at you. The weather was very chilly and windy and our tour for the day would begin with a several mile hike on horseback through the beautiful countryside. In the afternoon, we would take the “Golden Tour” which goes deeper into the Southern part of Iceland and would take us to Þingvellir, Gulfoss Waterfall and Geysir Hot Spring. But first, let’s get to the ponies.
We had probably 15 in our group, all varying in degrees of horsemanship. Many there had never been on a horse before, and several (like me) were really experienced riders. There was a pony for everyone. There was a cute sign in the main part of the stable which read, “For fast riders, we have fast ponies. For slow riders, we have slow ponies, and for riders who have never ridden a pony before, we have ponies that have never been ridden before!” HAHA (fun helpful tip: you can click on any of my pictures to see full size images!) This nice guy wearing this killer sweater hand picked my pony for me out of the herd in the pasture vs using one that had already been caught and tied up when I told him I had been riding all my life. I knew it was meant to be, and so did Christopher (the serious pup). My pony’s name was something that I don’t know how to spell, but I can pronounce it okay. With an Icelandic accent say “Murkur”…I think. Anyway, he was really excited to meet me, see? My friend who picked him out said he loved to go fast, but he seemed asleep to me. Oh well, I loved him immediately.
It felt spectacular to be back on a horse after a few years! These ponies are gaited, which means they don’t move how you may be used to seeing a typical horse move. It generally makes them much more comfortable to ride, and easy for inexperienced riders who do not know how to balance well on horse. They are also small, so if you do fall off, you’re not tumbling far. Also, I learned today from someone in our tour that if you want to move to Iceland, you cannot bring your horse; they do not allow that. I suppose this is because the country wants to maintain the integrity of the breed here and also, it’s serious business when you consider bringing in other animals to an island country.
Rob and I had matching ponies to ride which I thought was super cute. His and Hers and these guys actually preferred to trek side by side a lot of the time. I loved this tour because there were a few guides who split themselves up, and you could really let your pony do what it wanted. Meaning, if they wanted to speed up in the line, they had enough “lane sense” to move along and put themselves where they were comfortable. Also, this was not really a slow walking tour. We spent most of the time in a brisk trot, and even galloped toward home at the end!
The naturescapes we saw today were really incredible. I tried my best to get some decent pictures with my iphone, but it was pretty difficult juggling pony reins, taking a glove on and off, and fishing my phone out of my coat pocket. I managed to get a few good ones though! So, initially the morning called for light rain. The farm offers all of the gear you could want or need to have a comfortable ride, and recommend all riders put on their waterproof suits over their clothes. So, here we are, just looking like hazmat workers trekking through the mountains on our radioactive horses. Oh well, even though they weren’t stylish, they definitely helped with the stout, cold wind. However, not a drop of rain fell on us during the ride! We stopped at the turn around point about an hour into the ride. We were all able to get off and walk around and take some pictures of a beautiful waterfall there. Still sleepy buddy? After taking in the sights, we all mounted back up and headed back toward the stable. Have you ever heard the expression “Slow pony home?” Well, that phrase did not apply today. Trail horses know the route and they know when they are headed back home, no doubt about that! The group kind of naturally split up into a fast and slow group, and without even really saying anything the leading guide just let loose and the fast group followed. Rob and I were in the fast group and I was so proud of him! He’s only ridden a few times in his life but he looked like a pro today and stayed steady in his saddle even at a gallop toward the end!! We sloshed through streams and the hooves kicked up mud and I laughed and laughed. Murkur definitely woke up and it wouldn’t have mattered if I had wanted to go at a slower pace, he was on the bit charging toward home. Super exhilarating experience!! After we got back, untacked and cleaned up, the groups split off and went different directions, and there were only a handful of us staying together for the rest of the Golden tour. Once the masses had cleared out, the staff there brought out a hot vegetable soup and several loaves of different home made bread for lunch (not free, nothing in Iceland is free except for the gorgeous scenery). But, this was much appreciated by us considering we had to skip breakfast earlier. Christopher was doing his best to appear very sad and abused. He was the sweetest, and made me miss our own pups back home.
After about an hour lunch break, our next bus arrived to pick us up and take us onward into the day! This tour was guided on a large coach bus and every seat was filled by the time they came around to pick us up. The tour guide was really nice and native to Iceland and talked about the early history of the area and pointed things out as we drove along. The first stop was Þingvellir. “At Þingvellir – literally “Parliament Plains” – the Alþing general assembly was established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798. Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Þingvellir and therefore the place is held in high esteem by all Icelanders.Today Þingvellir is a protected national shrine. According to the law, passed in 1928, the protected area shall always be the property of the Icelandic nation, under the preservation of the Alþing.” It sits on two tectonic plates and had a large crack that spanned a very long distance that you could walk into; We had an hour to explore the area. Like everything else so far, it was gorgeous. It’s interesting trying to adjust to the sun patterns here. It’s never high in the sky, so for instance in the below pictures, the sun is hanging low in the west which might make you think it’s around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. It was actually about 1:30 or so! It just always seems like it’s mid morning, or late afternoon, there isn’t much fluctuation between the two phases. Next, we drove to Gulfoss which is a double waterfall and we caught a rainbow! This was a sight to behold for sure! They had lot of access points and you could go pretty low to get fairly near the falls if you wanted. We had an hour here as well. Our third and last stop took us to Geysir, which was only about ten minutes away from these waterfalls. These are natural hot spring spouts, and this one erupts every ten minutes. It never really gave a signal when it was going to burst, but when it did it was loud and instant and gone in a flash. It was tricky to stand there, poised and ready with your camera to react when it finally erupted. We had time to eat and rest at this stop before getting back on the coach and making the 1.5 hour drive back into Reykjavik, making it back a little after 7pm. The sky is very overcast right now and there is a storm blowing in I believe. We were mostly unsuccessful last night hunting the northern lights. We drove around for 2 hours and only saw a sliver in one area; the cloud cover was just far too thick unfortunately and tonight is fairing the same. Maybe tomorrow evening will be better! For now, it’s time to get some sleep for another day tomorrow. We plan to take a little easier tomorrow, and hopefully do some foot exploring in the city center around our Inn, and also visit Crossfit Reykjavik for a workout. Here’s hoping we spot Annie there!