05 March, 2015

Riding across Iceland

My stuff and Strokkur
Most tourists spend far to little time on Iceland, barely allowing time to visit the "The Golden Triangle" of Gullfoss, Geysir and Thingvellir. These are all well worth seeing, but please show this island of sagas more respect, and venture further and stay longer. Let my series be an introduction, even if my three months there only allowed me to explore the western half of Iceland.

The bike

I chose the bike, with a trailer as main mean of transport. A Trek / Gary Fisher Genesis 29" was the perfect bike for the job, along with my Bike Bob trailer, with suspension on the wheel. They did a great job on the long stretches of rough gravel and wet dirt.

The powerful falls at Gullfoss.
Paul Olai-Olssen and a "teddy-horse".
A beautiful multitude of colours.

The Horses

Riding an Icelandic horse is one of the most Icelandic experiences you can have. This cosy creature reminds of a crossing between a teddy bear and a camel. For hundreds of years, it has been bread towards reliability and sturdiness. It should "tölt" (the typical Icelandic gait) well and generally behave as a nice horse. If it fails in this, it will be eaten, as horse meat is among the best I have eaten. The result is a wonderful race of multicoloured, hard working horses that has been kept isolated from all other horses ever since the viking-era.

Samúel Örn Erlingsson became a good friend.
Crossing one of several rivers.

Àsa and her dog.

The trip

Arranging a ride in Iceland is very easy. I contacted Ishestar, but you can find several alternatives. What seemed a good alternative to me, was to join the trip from Kjóastaðir, situated near the southern end of the Kjölur trail. You should of course choose route according you your riding skill, in order to complete and enjoy the adventure. This I did not, but my background as a kayaker (balance) and long distance biker (endurance) did to some extent compensate for my total lack of horsemanship.

Hot pool and women - and cold bjór!
Undertaking a somewhat tough journey with 25 people you never knew before is a fascinating social experiment. The participants differed greatly in age and background, but ...

... a pleasant and surprising bonus for a single male traveller, was to realise that the majority of horse-tourists consist of charming women from all over Europe. This definitely boosted my spirit in times of hardship and pain...  ;)

Àsa, Hjalti and their bunch.

The nature

Landscapes of Iceland are something else. From the plane it seems that the lava flows have just frozen, and on the ground you will many places se steam and hot springs, escape routes in case of volcanic eruptions or other signs of thermic activities. The Island (referred to as "The Rock" among locals) are alive, in multiple meanings of the word...

No place is like Iceland, go explore, and make sure to enjoy the following episodes that will be presented her on Pauls Planet Blog!

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