A Week in Iceland: Monday (Day 5)

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Monday was another Arctic Adventures day: on the agenda: The Blue Lava Tour .  We would be horseback riding in the morning and snorkeling in the afternoon.  We woke up early and returned our rental car and, happy with our choice to rent a car the day before, we booked one for Tuesday and Wednesday so we could drive along the south ring road and easily get to the Blue Lagoon.

We got back to the hostel just in time to grab a quick breakfast and get picked up for our horse riding experience.   I fell asleep on the bus ride for what felt like years, but my sister assured me when I woke up that it was only a couple of minutes.  Sure enough I was able to see the outskirts of Reykjavik when we got the stables.

Icelandic horses are characterized by their small, squat, stature.  In fact, when I posted a picture of myself and my horse to Instagram later that day, quite a few people questioned whether I was on a horse or a pony.  Allegedly when they were first bringing horses to Iceland, any horse that was tall and lean wouldn’t make it because of the rocky terrain and high winds.  They’re also famous for their “five gaits” and this is the part of the blog where you’re going to figure out that I don’t know jack about horses.  They essentially have five different ways they could move or run, which was demonstrated to us, but frankly, I didn’t get much out of it.

Icelandic horse
Hanging with my horse. We initially hated each other but were getting along fine by the end of the ride.

After the requisite safety demonstrations, we boarded our horses for a ride through what were deemed lava fields.  I have to say, I’m not sure I’m a fan of horseback riding.  I wasn’t necessarily scared of it, but do have a healthy respect for any animal who could potentially throw me off/outweighs/out runs/could trample me.  I don’t think there was any point during the trip that I necessarily relaxed as my horse did not like to listen to what I did, and would frequently try to pass the horse ahead of me which was frowned upon.  Horseback riding was also our first day where Iceland, well, felt icy.  The wind was nasty and I wasn’t dressed properly so froze most of the time.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the experience.  I’ve never really horseback rode before and my first time being in Iceland makes for a good story.  I was disappointed thought that we didn’t ford and streams or rivers.  For some reason I was expecting this.

We got back to Reykjavik and shopped for a bit before going back to Arctic Adventures for snorkeling.  You read that right, snorkeling in Iceland.  Þingvellir National Park sits on the technical border between North America and Europe which makes for a unique experience. To pay homage to one of my favorite YouTube videos: I’m about to get scientific here.  The park sits right where the North American and European Teutonic plates are being ripped in half and the outcome is the Silfra Fissure, which is where we snorkeled.  Being in the Silfra Fissure, you’re technically swimming between two continents.  The water comes from melting glaciers so it’s exceptionally clean and clear, which is why snorkeling and diving are so popular.

The water in Silfra is 35 degrees, so obviously you need some special accommodations to snorkel.  First, our instructors suggested getting down to a layer of long underwear, or even just your underwear.  They promised that no water should enter your suit.  You then put on, what they called a teddy bear suit, a plush thermal suit built to trap in your body heat.  A heavy duty wet suit went on over that and then you donned gloves, a headpiece, flippers, goggles, and your snorkel and waded out to where the fissure began.  Once in the water, the guide encouraged you to swim as little as possible, and allow yourself to float between the two continents.

One of the many fissures in the park, not the one we snorkeled in, though.
One of the many fissures in the park, not the one we snorkeled in, though.

It was indeed beautiful, but I have to admit, the whole process made me terribly claustrophobic.  I’ve been snorkeling before, and never had a problem, but the way you were bulked up and the way the wet suit caused you to float on your stomach with little mobility didn’t sit well with me.  While the snorkeling was beautiful and otherworldly, I would’ve liked to have been able to go vertical and tread some water at some point.  I actually found that rolling over on my back and floating along while the sun illuminated the mountains surrounding the park to be the most relaxing.

Silfra Fissure
Silfra FIssure. It was gorgeous when the sun came out.

After we got out we had the option to jump off a short cliff into the icy water.  Our guide gave us the option to jump in fully clothed, take off our headpiece, or go in naked.  I jumped in without my hood which was a sort of refreshing shock to the system but have to say am a little disappointed with myself for not volunteering to jump in my underwear. It would’ve been a good story.  Naked would’ve been a better story but also would’ve been a warped thing to do when traveling with only your sibling.

Jumping in the Silfra Fissure.  This is not us, as I lost the strap to my camera so didn't bring it.
Jumping in the Silfra Fissure. This is not us, as I lost the strap to my camera so didn’t bring it.

That night we did a little more Reykjavik pub crawling, nothing crazy though and ended our night down by the harbor at a seafood restaurant where I was able to taste an Icelandic delicacy: whale. Let me first say I loved the philosophy behind this seafood shop set up.  You went in and in a cooler where a variety of premade seafood kabob.  You simply went to the counter, ordered what you wanted, and they grilled it up for you.  Back to the whale.  I’m glad I did it, again theme of the day, for the story, but won’t be consuming whale anytime in the near future.  First of all: it’s a deep purple color that I found to be more disconcerting.  The texture was also somewhat problematic, a little too chewy and I couldn’t help but thinking I was just eating all the blubber.  The best way I could describe the taste is beefy with a fishy overtone.

Grilled whale served with sweet and sour sauce and some bbq.
Grilled whale served with sweet and sour sauce and some bbq.

There’s a reason surf and turf is two separate entrees.

1 comments on “A Week in Iceland: Monday (Day 5)”

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