Power of Creation

riding past the Unicorn mountain

riding past the Unicorn mountain

Fjallabak

Fjallabak

There’s an area of Iceland between the glaciers called ‘Fjallabak,’ or ‘the mountainside,’ which may or may not be the most beautiful trail I’ve ever ridden in Iceland. It rides past the infamous Eyjafjallajokull and the Laki craters, a volcanic lava field created in an eruption 250 years ago. I may be a bit biased, since we had perfect, sunny weather the entire 6 days, but any or all visibility you could have were stunning, breath-taking views. There are glaciers and mountains in all directions, sand deserts, lava rock fields, yellow mountains, green moss and water galore. We saw beautiful waterfalls on our first day, rode over grassy fields at sunset on our second day, and through volcanic canyons on our third day.

Hundafoss

Hundafoss

The fourth day we went exploring some vegetated valleys, and found an old sheep-round up hut built of turf and stone. Then we went to the top of a mountain, for a 360 degree view of countless mountain peaks and 3 big glaciers. We could see all the way from Eyjafjallajokull to Landmanalaugar, sitting just above the Thorsmork nature park. Our last 2 days rode us past a unicorn mountain and back into the farm lands, to Birna and Kiddi’s horse breeding farm at Eyvindarmuli. We went up to the mountains behind his house to look for some foals, but instead got stuck with the only rain and fog we had seen all week. It passed in just a few minutes though, so we clambered back down the slippery steep slope and saw some more beautiful waterfalls.

feeling like we're on top of the world

feeling like we’re on top of the world

This was my first time riding this trail, which we took from Lakagigar west back to Eyvindarmuli. There were only 7 guests in the group and it eventually felt like we were just a group of friends riding the same wonderful horses we came to know and love. We rode one of the longest days I’ve ever ridden, 53km, but it went by nice and easy with our small herd and young staff. I can’t wait to ride this trail again next year, perhaps from west to east, and see what kind of weather and riders we’ll get then. Take a peek at the tour description here, and maybe get tempted to come too ­čśë

one of many stunning waterfalls

one of many stunning waterfalls

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Egilssta├░ir Riding Tour

If I had to name my favourite tour, the one I could do over and over without getting tired of it, it would be the Egilsstadir ride in the east. It’s basically 6 days of roaming the highlands, the same highlands wild reindeer and foxes live, which is the largest uninhabited area in all of Europe. There are almost no fences to open, or roads to cross, only a handful of interactions with civilization as we dip in and out of the valleys between the heaths to feed the horses and charge the riders batteries – literally, and figuratively. Some of the huts area really primitive, no running water or electricity, just a big shelter to squeeze 20 riders and all their luggage into for a cozy night of eating, drinking, singing and sleeping.

riding past snow towards Snaefell

riding past snow towards Snaefell

There were only 2 tours this summer, but I was happy to take both, one with Ishestar and one with my old friends Denni and Arna. I’ve taken this tour more than 10 times now, and its the one area of Iceland I’ve started to know like the back of my hand. Every fall I go to the same area, Fljotsdalsheidi, and ride with 10 or 12 other farmers to look for sheep. There are a couple thousand sheep that roam this area freely each summer, and they come home each fall with their lambs all fat and fluffy. There are hundred-year-old horse and sheep trails all over the place, but its still tricky to find your way when thick fog rolls in and your visibility gets reduced to about 2 or 3 meters. It happened to us on the first tour of the season, when we climbed up a few hundred meters into the clouds and had to keep avoiding snowbanks that still hadn’t melted in July.

the valley of rainbows and waterfalls

the valley of rainbows and waterfalls

Even though the highlands can be like one big marsh, waterlogged from the late snow-melt, the rivers run cold and clean enough to fill our waterbottles on the way. There’s no need for running water either if you’re gutsy enough to dip into the icy rivers for an all-natural bath – me and a crazy Norwegian managed to do it on night 3, sitting beside Saudarkofi mountain hut under Icelands largest mountain Snaefell. We could have waited til night 4, when we reach Laugafell and the natural hot-water baths there, but then we wouldn’t have appreciated the hottubs as much after trying the other extreme.

Egilsstadir usually has repeat guests, the same riders who come back twice, sometimes thrice or more, and ride the same trail. Its different every year, depending on the weather and the difference between the highlands in July or August, and even the way can change a bit to avoid the really wet lands or washed out trails. Two of the mountain huts have also changed over the past few years, upgraded to include electricity and water. Ill be back next year to ride it again and see what else is new, and those who want to do the same can make a booking with Ishestar or Denni and Arna.

Being a Tourist in Beautiful British Columbia

Beautiful British Columbia

Beautiful British Columbia

I used to call Canada home, having lived in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley for nearly 12 years. I went to highschool in Chilliwack, a town that always smells like cowpoop and only really has 2 highschools. It was the 10 year reuinion of my 2004 Sardis Senior Secondary graduating class, and also a friends wedding, so I had two good reasons to go back home. My sisters and mom still live there, and I still have a room at moms house, and grandmas home-cooking is reason alone to make sure I visit the family. But, I also wanted to experience BC as a tourist for a change, combine a familiar place with the novelty of exploration, and so I ended up on a roadtrip around Vancouver Island.

A friend of a friend from Vancouver came to visit Iceland in May, so after helping him out with his westfjords roadtrip, he so kindly repaid me with the best Vancouver Island roadtrip I could have ever asked for. We started by taking the ferry from Horseshoe bay to Nanaimo, and then drove along the east-coast beaches and lake-side parks on our first day. It was sunny and 30 degrees C, and I was slightly jet-lagged and in weather-shock, but nothing that a good nights rest in a tent and a campfire-cooked meal couldnt fix.

foggy Tofino

foggy Tofino

We stayed in Tofino and Ucluelet, hiking almost every trail between them in Pacific Rim National park. Sadly there wasn’t much surf those days, but we managed to see a whole pod of gray whales on our way to Hot Spring Cove. Theres a place, only reachable by boat or floatplane, where hot water pours out of the cliffside, into pools of water beside the sea. As the tide came in, the seawater mixed with the hot water to create little cold pools, but we could hop between them to find the perfect temperature.

Hot Springs Cove

Hot Springs Cove

On our way back to Nanaimo, we stopped in Port Alberni for a little wine-tasting. We spent the afternoon at Emerald Coast vineyard and the Chase and Warren estate winery, but got a lot more than just wine at Chase and Warren. We were hosted by the owner, who was maybe a little tipsy himself, and enjoyed home-made chocolates and sockeye salmon along with our free wine samples. We left with a case, as you do, and enjoyed a few bottles that night in Ladysmith, where we slept in a beautiful house on the water, complete with a (not-so-natural) hottub.

Reid and Erin

Reid and Erin

The other highlight of my trip was Reid and Erin’s wedding, a couple I’ve known since UBC days, and a perfect occasion to have an informal 2004 cohort UBC reunion. Friends came from all over north America and enjoyed the serene setting of North Arm farm, cradled between the massive mountain peaks in Pemberton, and witnessed the most beautiful outdoor wedding I’ve ever seen. After a night of dancing and romping around in some blueberry patches, I got on a plane back to Iceland, wishing I could have taken some of that summer sun with me on my next horse tour.