Iceland Feb 15: Viking Horse & Blue Lagoon

In reality, it’s quarter to seven on Tuesday morning and I’m eating a croissant and drinking apple juice at Keflavík. Having an alarm to get up nice and early, I’ve obviously been waking up every hour or so to check the time and I gave up at about 4am, when I heard the second aeroplane using the motorway outside my window as a runway (it later transpired that all these planes were actually snowploughs, it having been very snowy overnight). I was picked up just after 5, taken on a tour of the hotels of the city as usual – at two of those hotels, the person who was supposed to be picked up wasn’t there. I don’t know what became of them but I’d like to think that a phone call was made and they were dragged out of bed and put on another minibus. It was very hot in my room – I was trying to dry everything that got soaked at the Blue Lagoon yesterday and then it was quite warm in Reykjavík, so I didn’t put my coat on and then when we arrived at Kef, I didn’t think I’d want it. Mistaaaake! The weather was pleasant, with fresh snow on the ground, in Reykjavík. At Kef, there was a snowstorm, wind so strong I couldn’t even get out of the coach. Even the twenty yards from the coach to the door was trouble, trying to run, frozen instantly, with a bag in each hand, trying to hold my coat and my hat – with the same hand, obviously, with the inevitable result that the coat ended up across my face, so running blind into the airport.

But in another reality, it’s still ten o’clock on Monday night and I’m writing this as soon as I got home.

On Monday morning I didn’t wake up early. I’d had the first half-decent night’s sleep since I’ve been here and I had nothing whatsoever to do in the morning. So I didn’t do any of it. Well, I wrote Sunday’s blog and did the photos. And then, reluctantly, I packed for the afternoon’s activities. I was being picked up at 12.30 and after spending far too long waiting for the nice man from Íshestar at the Grayline office, we were off to Hafnarfjördur.

I am experienced in the ways of Íshestar, so I hadn’t brought many warm layers. No point shoving them all in a bag. I won’t want them while riding or at the Blue Lagoon. You see, Íshestar have these big fluffy overalls and neon orange rainsuits, so I got all dressed up, prepared for any weather. I’ve been out riding in any weather and I know how freezing it can get, riding in stinging hail, with your feet about to fall off. Admittedly, I was the only one of the entire group to opt for head-to-toe orange rainwear but it was recommended and it was cloudy and if it had rained, I’d have been the only dry one.

My horse was called Sægal (once again, very much guessing at the Icelandic spelling) and he was pretty. He was dark brown with blonde highlights in his mane and black legs. They were all very fluffy and for the first time, I wanted to call them ponies. I stroked him and talked to him and a couple of horses from the next paddock came to the gate to visit and I had three horses! I was hoisted onto Sægal and left up there for a while, while everyone else was paired with a horse and put on it. The horses in the next paddock were apparently showing off. What it looked like was every single horse having a fight with another one, all biting each other and kicking and jumping on each other. A fairly magnificent sight, these small fluffy horses rearing and showing teeth and leaping. I thought they were fighting or bored or overexcited or something but apparently no, just showing off.

We walked sedately across the lava field, until we came to the fork where the experienced riders could go off in the fast group. I am not an experienced rider. I’m gradually becoming less nervous and I can cope with a few yards of jogging but I’m not ready to tölt and probably never will be. Like all the horses I’ve met so far, Sægal was quite a characterful little thing. He didn’t eat the scenery but neither did he like getting his feet wet or muddy and my little horsie walked around patches of mud, puddles and ice. At one point when we jogged, one of the horses behind us got overexcited and tried to overtake the line and had to slot in in front of us. Sægal didn’t like that. He was determined to get in front of this horse.

We made a short stop in a field. I was hoping to be able to get off because my legs were hurting but no. We wandered around the field, some of the horses had a snack, one walked straight over a small tree and one wandered down a bank and into a wild patch. Kelsey (who had been on the Snæfellsnes tour with me on Saturday) took photos of us all, hauling the horses around to get them into pretty arrangements, or moving anyone who was in the way.

When we headed off again, we just went in whatever order and Sægal was happier now with the horse in front. I wasn’t so much – the horse in front didn’t want to jog and by then, jogging made a tiny but nice variation on my muscles.

It was just starting to snow when we arrived. I had to hand over my camera to someone because I couldn’t work out how to dismount with camera in hand (it had been in an inside pocket until the photo stop, then it was around my wrist) but once I’d handed it over, I managed to get off the horse without dying, managed to tie him to the gate with no trouble, took some more photos of him and removed his saddle all by myself.

When we’d changed back into normal clothes, we had to wait for the next bus – long enough for the woman from Illinois to ask out loud a few times “how long do we wait for the bus before we start to worry?” But it came along eventually and off we went to the Blue Lagoon.

It was getting dark by the time we arrived and it was misty and snowy, although that cleared up as it got really dark. The mountain behind it became briefly visible through the mist and then you could see its outline against the red glow from Grindavík. It’s sort of fun and sort of scary swimming in the lagoon in the dark. Because it is dark. There are little lights around the edge and every now and then they’ll swing a searchlight across but mostly, if you’re not sitting under one of the algae boxes or the hot water pumps, it’s pretty dark. But of course, you don’t really go there to swim. You go there to hop around in the warm water. I also went in the café and had a chocolate cake loaf because lunch was a very long time ago. I didn’t think I’d eat the whole thing but I did! It just vanished! I’d had the sense to take a spare towel because I knew I’d want it every time I got out to go to the café or get my camera from my locker and it would be soaked long before I wanted it for actually drying. I may or may not have ended up with several little pebbles in my bag.

I got the nine o’clock bus back and by some miracle, I was the first one dropped off instead of the last. I put out the wet stuff to dry and packed as much of the rest as I could and then, fast-forward three or four hours and we’re back where this blog began, except that I’ve finished the croissant and the juice.

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