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ICELAND | Saturday, 25 June 2011 | Views [619]

Ishestar Lava Tour

Ishestar Lava Tour

Another travel plan gone awry. I woke up early this morning to get ready for horseback-riding. I got to the lobby exactly at 8:45 to meet my bus and waited, and waited, and waited for an hour. I thought maybe the bus had come and left without me, but there was no way that I had missed the bus. Finally I headed back up to my hotel room and called the stable and they said they had stopped by Hotel Reykjavik Centrum and I wasn't there so the driver left without me. I told her I wasn't staying at Hotel Reykjavik Centrum, I was staying at Hotel Reykjavik and that they had the wrong hotel. I heard her sigh and mention that she'd have to send a taxi for me. It was already 9:50 by then and I didn't want to force whoever else was horseback-riding to be delayed so I told her I was okay with doing the afternoon trip. She sounded relieved and laughed nervously saying she was sorry. I was pretty annoyed since I rushed through this morning for nothing, and I had thought about doing whale-watching in the afternoon after my morning horseback-riding, but that plan was shot.

Since I didn't get to enjoy my hotel's buffet breakfast, I headed into town to find something to eat. I got tempted by a billboard outside a cafe called Glaetan that served English breakfast until 2, so I went in and ordered that and an orange juice. Everything came out so pretty; even the orange juice was served in a big cocktail glass with streaks of red juice at the bottom. The English breakfast was the most mouth-watering breakfast I'd seen in a while, and very reasonably priced for Iceland: fancy scrambled eggs, bacon, muffin, toast, sliced ham and cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, and finally those weird sweet British beans that I don't really care for but everything else was so filling I didn't mind. Then I walked around taking random pictures and trying to plan out the rest of my restaurants here.

The bus for Ishestar came around 1 p.m. There were 2 German girls traveling together and one of them paid particular attention to me since she saw that I was traveling alone. They were so cute together and I didn't catch their names so I'll just call them Brunette and Blonde. I was talking to them at the stables and we were talking about our trip plans and what we've done so far and just more things in general. Brunette was the more talkative one but Blonde was better at English so when I was talking with her she'd occasionally turn to Blonde to confirm what I was saying. When I said I was from Texas that got the usual reaction of comments of state executions, Bush and his ranch, and of course, guns. Brunette asked if my parents were from America, and then she nodded and said that her parents came from Russia. They were spending 2 weeks in Iceland and had booked their accommodation last December and their room overlooked the water so they really liked it. She asked me if it wasn't difficult to travel alone (taking pictures, eating out, etc.). I told her it was difficult to find someone to travel with from the U.S. because most people have 2 weeks of vacation so if you want to travel with someone you have to match up your vacations and locations. Their eyes widened and they both said, “Ohhhhh,” and then Blonde actually needed to use her hands to count the weeks of vacation they get in Germany, and this turned out to be 6 weeks. Sigh.

Our riding group got considerably bigger once the rest of the people showed up; the bus had apparently taken the wrong route so our trip was delayed since they needed to get everyone else. Sounds like someone has a consistent problem with picking people up. We watched a safety video, and just from those 10 minutes of talking about how to approach a horse and how to talk to the horse, I will say that Icelanders love horses. A lot. We headed to the gear room to put on helmets. It was raining slightly but nothing too bad so we didn't put on any of the rain gear. Then we got led out to our horses. The Icelandic horse has been bred in Iceland in isolation from other horses for 1,000 years. This means they are susceptible to diseases that other horses have so no horses are allowed to be imported into the country, and once an Icelandic horse leaves the country it is never allowed to return. It's a lot smaller than other horses that I've been on; it's the first time I've ever been able to mount and dismount a horse without any help. Supposedly they are really good for beginners because they are very tame and well-behaved. My horse was named Motsart (pronounced “Mozart”) and after I mounted they also handed me a whip, which was definitely something new.

We rode single-file for 1.5-2 hours and the horse was so well-trained that I basically didn't have to do anything except make sure not to fall off. I only had to kick a few times and thankfully never had to use the whip. Although Motsart did get spooked by a motorcyclist and jumped, and then during one trot the horse in front of us was going too slowly that Motsart raced up to pass it. We alternated between a slow pace and a fast trot, which was a lot bouncier than what I'm used to; the saddle was not as cushioned as what I'm used to either so as I'm sitting on my bed now I'm a bit sore (reason #78 I'm glad I'm not a guy and the reason one of the American guys asked the guide if she needed to stand up when galloping). It was a good tour. We had one guide in front setting the pace, and then a second guide who rode up and down the line to make sure we were okay and whipping the slower horses if necessary. We passed through some scenic countryside with the Blafjoll Mountains in the background and rode through lava fields and hills filled with Alaskan lupine flowers.

When I got back to town in the late afternoon I hung out in the hotel room trying to find a place to eat early dinner and then decided to wing it in town. I stopped by to watch this Australian street busker named Wally juggling on top of a ladder, and he was pretty entertaining. He loaded his dialog with the raciest double entendres I've ever heard in public, but the crowd of tourists and Icelanders was very entertained. He had 2 guys assisting him and asked each of them if they preferred to be the guy in the front or in the back. He told us, “Don't worry, the kids won't get it... and if they do it's not my fault.”

The burger place that I had wanted to try was too crowded so I kept on walking further into town and then settled on, you guessed it, Icelandic Fish and Chips. (Don't worry I'll have plenty of time to go to the gym once I get back home). The restaurant is located right across from the harbor and the fish they offer depends on what they catch. Then you order which fish you want, the type of potatoes, and which sauce as well. I settled on cod and crispy potatoes and this basil garlic sauce – which was amazing. The fish was very fresh and the meal was very good considering that they are trying to make the meal healthy by not frying the potatoes and instead baking them, and loading the menu items with omega-3. It was definitely the healthiest fish-and-chips I've ever had but still tasted good.

The day was rainy, which limited sightseeing but at least the clouds give some illusion of nighttime. I wanted to try more food places in town so after walking around for a bit more I settled on Cafe Babalu, a delightfully quirky cafe in the city center, but genuinely quirky. There are a lot of cafes in town considering the population of Reykjavik is only 200,000 , but some of them close at 7 so I had to walk around quite a bit to find one that was open. The décor was all eclectic and none of the mugs matched. I ordered these banana and chocolate crepes with whipped cream with a cup of tea and it was yummy. Then I called it a day.

Tomorrow I might go whale-watching if the weather is good. That's the last expensive activity I plan to do here. Otherwise I will finally check out the museums and continue to stuff myself with food before I get go Boston. I really do like this random food tour I'm doing around town and I think it'll be a nice way to end my time in Iceland.

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