Snaefellsnes Beach Ride

Ishestar offers a  riding tour on Snaefellsnes peninsula, where over 100km of the 4 or 6 day ride is on the beach at low tide. Its usually around 20 riders with over 100 horses, and the sight of a free-running herd over the never-ending sand is one you’d never forget.

Snaefellsnes beach ride

Snaefellsnes beach ride

The ride starts at Stóri-Kálfalækur farm, with the Icelandic cowboy Siggi and his staff. There are dogs running around and children playing everywhere you look, and it´s hard to keep track of who is who is Siggi´s family or friend circle. But noone ever forgets his wife Ólöf, who manages to cook up the most delicious food and stuff us to the brim with every home-cooked meal.

happy riders

happy riders

We ride into the mountains and valleys on the first couple of days, where its normal to be eaten alive by midgle flies, but a fly-net can solve most of your problems, except when you want to eat and youre not sure if you should lift the net over your mouth to take a bite (which may include a midge or two) or just shove the sandwich inside the net too.

low tide

low tide

It rained alot on our week-long ride, but we didn´t mind since we got wet anyway with the splash of seawater from the horse hooves running around us. There were a few deep rivers we had to cross, and we didn´t bother to lift our feet since our boots were filled with water already.

nearly swimming

nearly swimming

The rain was also a relief from the flies, and dry weather would have caused alot of dust, so the grey skies and calm winds really made the trip perfect for me. I made alot of new friends, both horses and people, and sometimes had to pinch myself to remember this wasn´t a dream… just my dream job.

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A Weekend in Tampa, and a visit to the #1 Beach in the USA

Fort DeSoto Park BeachI spent this weekend in Tampa, Florida, traveling with my best friend Clio from Montreal. She flew out to San Francisco first, and after a few days touring around Berkeley Campus, visiting the Green Strings farm in Petaluma and winetasting the Sonoma Valley, we flew to Tampa to visit Kyle, my ex-next-door-neighbour from the MV Explorer (the cruise ship that was home to our Semester at Sea fall 2006 voyage).

When we arrived early Friday morning, we went straight to Clearwaters beach from the airport, and after some seafood, famous Skyline Chili and beer for breakfast, we transferred to lounging poolside at his downtown apartment. We spent the day going between the pool, hottub, and case of locally brewed Yuengling beer (self proclaimed as the oldest brewery in America). This was pretty typical of our everyday activities, plus we managed to sample a bit of the nightlife in Channelside and at ‘gussy’ Jackson’s (Kyle’s descriptive word for dressing up more than usual for the venue).

The beach we went to on Sunday is part of the Fort DeSoto State Park, and has been (2005 was the last time) rated the number one beach in all of the USA. It was certainly beautiful, under-commercialised, clean and peaceful, a rare sight to find anywhere near Miami or Orlando beaches where the multidues of people quickly infringe upon the serenity and natural feeling that this remote beach offered.

Driving around Tampa Bay was certainly a though-provoking sight; the entire state is basically at sea-level (except for the towering bridges over mile-long bodies of water), and with the growing concern of rising sea levels, more storms (hurricanes particularily) and the natural disasters recently hitting New Orleans and the Philippines fresh in our mind, I couldn’t help but worry about the city of Tampa and its surrounding natural paradises that could one day easily be completely under water.

Marin County, California

sunset at bolinas beach

sunset at bolinas beach

If you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, just north of San Francisco you will find Marin County, a beautiful, sparcely populated oasis of redwoods, beach and countryside. I roadtripped with a friend north up the 101, and then went west towards Muir Beach, until finally driving along the coast up to Stinson Beach. The drive over the hills was a little trecherous, speckled with road-side grazing deer, but the small, single lane highway made it seem like we were miles and miles away from the city when we were really only about a 30 min drive away.

Once we arrived at Stinson, we tipped our hats to the (amazingly) good weather by heading straight to the beach, where kids were still swimming and surfers still catching waves, despite it being late October. There was barely a breeze, and luckily enough no fog either. We ate lunch at a locally run, organic, open-air cafe before heading out for some surf. We drove around Bolinas Lagoon to the north side of Bolinas Bay where the town, Bolinas is actually situated. We rented boards and wetsuits and spent the next 3 hours riding waves without ever feeling cold.

We welcomed the evening by settling on the beach ontop a sleeping bag we took from the Bolinas “free box,” a place where you leave or take what you dont need or have. We stayed there throughout one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, and on through to the darkest point of night where the only light you could see was the distant city glow of San Francisco, still within eyesight but definitely out of mind.

The following day we drove through Samuel P. Taylor Park, home to some enormous redwoods, and all the way to Pt. Reyes Lighthouse which sits at the end of Drakes Bay in Pt. Reyes National Seashore Park. Enroute we stopped in some tiny, historic towns like Pt. Reyes Station, Inverness and Olema, and dipped our toes in the sandy beaches of Drakes Beach and North Beach.

It was the perfect getaway out of the city, only a short drive away, with enough natural beauty, solitude and quietude to make us totally forget about the stresses awaiting our return home to the huslte and bustle of the bay.