Home Sweet Home

Its wonderful to come home after months of traveling. Not only have I been away from home, but also homeless, in a sense of the word. On the road I’m constantly seeking out accommodation, either as the guest at someone else’s home, or the couchsurfer on some strangers couch. Not that I’m complaining… but its nice to finally be home again.

the natural geothermal area of Kyrsuvik

the natural geothermal area of Kyrsuvik

being a tourist at Gullfoss

being a tourist at Gullfoss

At the moment ‘home’ is Dad’s house, in the ‘countryside’ (this has a better ring to it in Icelandic). My bed is actually a couch there, but its my couch so I love sleeping on it. I missed drinking tap water, ice cold straight from the source, and showering in hot water that kind of smells like rotten eggs. But its okay because its smells like home.

I love bathing in open air, in an assortment of pools and hottubs, even the ice-cold sea, because there’s never a steam room or hot shower too far away. The wind on my wet skin and ice under my toes doesn’t even bother me after I’ve stayed long enough in the hottest hottub, and sometimes I purposely dip in the cold tub or sea just to remember how much more I love the heat.

Iceland is still one of my favourite countries to travel, especially impromptu road trips

Iceland is still one of my favourite countries to travel, especially impromptu road trips

The sun doesn’t rise until after 11 am and sets around 3 pm… and the days have gotten shorter every day. Tomorrow will be the shortest day of the year, but I don’t mind, because that means every day after that until June 21 will be longer. Its cold, but not that cold, so I was happy to clean the snow off my car yesterday for the first time – it might mean that we’ll have a white Christmas, even though every day last week was warmer than in London, New York or Vancouver.

some random, friendly horses

some random, friendly horses

I’ve been home nearly a week now, and the only thing I’m still missing are the Northern Lights and my horses. Both are within reach, so I don’t feel homesick anymore, but it’s amazing how you can’t get enough of home even when you’re finally home. Oh home, sweet home.

Photo Highlights: A Summer of Riding in Iceland

the calm before the storm - an empty sheep coral waits for the round up to arrive in Oxafjordur, Iceland

the calm before the storm – an empty sheep coral waits for the round up to arrive in Oxafjordur, Iceland

After 7 week-long tours and 2 sheep round up weekends, my summer of riding in Iceland has come to an end. It’s a bittersweet moment, since my butt and back are surely happy to not spend another hour in the saddle, but as soon as the last ride is over, I already start to miss the horses.

the lose herd is one of Iceland's signature horse tour characteristics

the lose herd is one of Iceland’s signature horse tour characteristics

Here are a few photos from a summer of riding Kjölur, Mývatn, The Golden Circle, Þveráhlíð and Melrakkasletta.

a rider poses over Jökulsá á fjöllum glacier river

a rider poses over Jökulsá á fjöllum glacier river

If you´re looking to book a riding tour in Iceland next summer, check out Ishestar´s long list of short and long tours on offer (some are even available all year round!).

Heading into Mývatnssveit

Heading into Mývatnssveit

Other operators that I´d also highly recommend are Exploring Iceland, Riding Iceland, and Hestasport in Skagafjordur, North Iceland.

my second Kjölur group

my second Kjölur group under Langjökull glacier

Checking out Hornstrandir

Spending an entire summer in Iceland on horseback is always fun, but its still work. During my vacation days, its fun to roadtrip or boattrip and camp in the highlands or fjords or by the seaside.

black sand beaches are a common sight in Hornstrandir

black sand beaches are a common sight in Hornstrandir

The Westfjords are a common destination in Iceland, especially for roadtrippers, hitchikers, and campers, but you’ve got to drop the car if you want to get to Hornstrandir.

the old whaling station at Hesteyri

the old whaling station at Hesteyri

Hornstrandir is one of the most remote parts of Iceland, the furthest north-western part of the country, uninhabited and road-less. You can only get there by ferry boats – most of them leave from Isafjörður and depending on the day of the week, can shuttle you to one 7 or 8 fjords in Hornstrandir. Some of them leave on you on the beach or just the side of a mountain, but other places with a little more infrastructure have boat docks, a few local summer houses owned by family descendants (from the days before 1960’s when Hornstrandir was still populated), campsites and outhouses.

Hesteyri fjord

Hesteyri fjord

We went to Hesteyri, which used to be a village of 80 Icelanders in the 1930’s complete with a mini-hospital and shop, but now the doctors house is a small hostel/hotel and cafe, and the shop has been turned into a private summerhouse. A few other remaining houses are also used by vacationing Icelanders, but the majority of backpackers and tourists that come set up in the camp site among the ruins of once-upon-a-time homes and yards. Fishing off the boat dock proved there’s still plenty to eat in the sea, and a sea-swim skinny dip brought the attention of at least one curious seal.

the boat dock at Hesteyri

the boat dock at Hesteyri

On the ferry rides between Isafjörður, we were lucky enough to sail in and out of 3 other fjords to pick up other hikers, and saw dozens of seals and even a pod of whales. We were on one of the last boats of the season, August 26, but the season doesn´t even start til early June.

camping without roughing it

camping without roughing it

To plan your own trip to Hornstrandir, check out West Tours for ferry boat schedules, or Borea Adventures for guided day trips (hiking, kayaking, or even skiing in the winter season!).

My First Bachelor party, in Reykjavik

I’m not much of a bachelor, but getting invited to a bachelor party was a dream come true, one kick of the old bucket list. I was some kind of a tom-boy growing up and still love being one of the boys every once in a while, and 25 friends and friends of friends of mine were coming from the US/Canada to stag Mr. Chotzen, the groom to be. He’s a friend from UBC, one of the few that managed to party like an animal and snowboard all season every season at Whistler throughout undergrad and still graduate on time (spring 2008). I’ve only ever seen him since at Whistler, most recently over New Years, when we all starting planning his bachelor party behind his back.

The bachelor party of 51 balls and 2 tits... noone is sure who has 1 or 3, or if I have some, but that's the official count

The bachelor party of 51 balls and 2 tits… noone is sure who has 1 or 3, or if I have some, but that’s the official count

He didn’t figure out he was going to Iceland until they were already checked into the Icelandair flight and waiting at Sea-Tac airport, and one of the others accidentally mentioned my name. He would have found out 5 minutes later after going through security, but now the guy who slipped up will never live it down. And the stories just kept on rolling in after that.

the groom-to-be, Chotzen

the groom-to-be, Chotzen

There was the guy that got left at Gullfoss (and the guy who skinny dipped in Hvítá), the guy who hooked up with the flight attendant from the Seattle flight, the guy who got a special kiss in the Danske Kro bar bathroom, and the guy who passed out in his plate during dinner at Kolabrautin. I can’t say names, but I can admit that Chotzen wore a horned Viking helmet and the Borat green g-string one piece into the Blue Lagoon and nearly got kicked out. He was allowed to stay after he put on some extra shorts, but there were many other costume changes, including a pink tutu and shirts printed with a picture of him on the bow of a viking ship.

I managed to drag 3 bachelorettes out with me to a few bars; my polish girlfriend wasn’t even impressed but more horrified than anything else, and the two Canadian girls, who thought it would just be like being back home, were completely overwhelmed. When I was alone with them, I got a few looks of ‘How much are they paying you to do this?’, as if I may be their paid escort, but always admitted ‘these are my friends – I actually want to be here!’ no matter how embarrassing or rowdy it got. And I always pretended I was also American. It didn’t help running into people I knew, but time will heal all, and I can’t wait until my next bachelor party. I think I’ve been invited to at least 2 more and a wedding, just from this weekends shenanigans, and maybe my reputation as a bachelor party enthusiast will spread and I’ll get a few more invitations.

Photo Highlight: Polar Swim

I always love going to Nautholsvik whenever I'm in Reykjavik, no matter what time of year or no matter how cold it gets. This time it was -10°c.

I always love going to Nautholsvik whenever I’m in Reykjavik, no matter what time of year or no matter how cold it gets. This time it was -10°c.

A little dip in January in the freezing North Atlantic seemed like a good idea, until it came time to get in the water after walking barefoot and half naked across an icy beach

A little dip in January in the freezing North Atlantic seemed like a good idea, until it came time to get in the water after walking barefoot and half naked across an icy beach

Photo Highlight: the Lonely Trails of Melrakkasletta

The north-eastern most part of Iceland is an isolated peninsula called Melrakkasletta. It doesn’t have mountains or fjords, but it has a lonely Heath full of moss and sheep and not much else. It seems as if more farms there are abandoned than inhabited, and riding there felt like we had risen into the clouds.  

the lonely trails of Melrakkasletta


If you’d like to ride here next year, check out Halldór’s tours with Ishestar