Doing the tolt in Iceland – Black sand, lava fields and volcanoes

In August 2008 I was lucky enough to be able to take up the opportunity to trek with horses in Iceland and a group of fundraisers for the British Horse Society. I didn’t know anyone else going on the trip and I didn’t know what to expect of Iceland…

Outbound:24 August departs Stansted 12.40 arrive Reykjavik 14.40

Day one involved travelling from home in Preston to Stansted with my mum and then to Reykjavik with everyone else. We didn’t land in Reykjavik on time as planned, we had a 4 hour delay because the fuel gauge on the plane wasn’t working. So when we landed it was dark. We travelled to Eyvindarmuli Farm in beautiful surroundings in the Fljotshlio countryside. We stayed at the farm overnight, it was chilly outside, but toasty in the basic dining room and bedrooms.

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The next morning it was nice to see our surroundings, and after breakfast we made our packed lunch and met the horses. They’re small, cute, bushy haired and very strong. You were paired up with a different horse everyday.

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We rode to the Einhyrningur Mountain Cabin alongside the Markarfljót River. We slept at the cabin, enjoying the spectacular views of the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier and Thórsmörk Nature Park. It was very cold, but with all my layers on, I think a t-shirt, 3 jumpers and a raincoat with hat and gloves, the only thing cold was my nose. I didn’t get “the tolt” today. The hardy Icelandic horses have a gait of their own, in addition to walk, trot and canter. The tolt is a four beat gait without a moment of suspension so they always have one or two feet on the ground. It is a fast pace and when pushed can be as fast as a gallop! A few days later I mastered this gait and it was really comfortable, like the horse was just scooting along the floor and I hardly felt any movement. Some people say it’s like sitting in an armchair…

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Day three takes you over the awesome rivers Markarfljót and Kaldaklofskvísl, riding through scenic countryside until reaching Hvanngil mountain cabin for a hot shower!

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There’s pretty much no road involved and if there are roads, they’re single track dirt roads and no cars in sight. It’s great to get away from the hustle and bustle. And when we stop for food we just let the horses loose in a make-shift pen and you sit next to your saddle on the floor and get your butties out!

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I'm taking up the rear as we cross the river

I’m taking up the rear as we cross the river

On day four we rode 40km, passing Lake Álftavatn and the Laufafell Mountain with the terrain changing to black sand and deserts. We stayed two nights at the Landmannahellir mountain cabin, we had time to relax in the famous Landmannalaugar area with its hot pool, surrounded by colourful mountains and black lava fields.

Me and my pony

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Myself on the left, and 2 other girls, trying to get a good picture of our scenery

Myself on the left, and 2 other girls, trying to get a good picture of our scenery

Day five we moved north of Mt. Helka volcano and stayed in Rjúpnavellir Guesthouse which is located in beautiful surroundings in the shadow of the volcano.

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Day six is the last and longest day of riding covering some 45km of fertile farmland, crossing the Ytri-Rangá and Eystri-Rangá rivers. We followed the famous Hekla Trail which is perfect for the Icelandic horses’ signature pace, the tolt. Farm Foss is the location for the last night’s stay and a well-earned dinner.

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Reykjavik is the last place we went to on the trip. We had a free day to explore the city and we went out for a nice meal in a restaurant and got a drink in a good bar although they were £6 for half a pint of beer! I liked the city, it felt small and quirky but I’m pleased it was just a day to be honest, soooo expensive! We stayed over in the YHA in the city centre, it was modern and clean and the location was really good. It was the first time we got our “Icelandic Krona” out  because everything was included in the trip and there was nowhere to spend any money other than Reykjavik anyway, not a single shop in sight!

Day eight arrives and we travel to the airport for the flight back to London, then home.

Inbound:31 August depart 07.50 arrive Stansted 11.45

I loved my time in Iceland. I had dreaded thoughts that I’d be freezing all the time but I was totally fine, wrapped up warm and loved every minute of it. The memorable part of this trip for me was racing along, doing the tolt with around 80 other horses, some with riders on, some loose. It was a great experience and I recommend it to everyone that likes horses and a bit of adventure. Splashing through rivers, riding through mud and sand and fields. You just can’t beat clip clopping all day!

I had 6 months of boring office graft to do and then its off to Bali for another adventure…

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