We found out late yesterday, after returning from our tour of the Icelandic countryside, that the Norwegian air traffic controllers have gone on strike and all of the airports in Norway are closed. No flight to Norway on this trip! These things happen, so we simply changed our destination to Scotland. I say "simply" for us, but it was the home office at Air Journey back in Florida, leaping into action, changing hotel reservations, canceling tours, finding accommodations for five aircraft and all of us in Inverness on a moment's notice- not simple at all. So here we are, cruising at 29,000 feet (FL290), enjoying a whole grain meal bar, Perrier water, and Swiss Chocolate. It will be great to get the North Atlantic crossing behind us, these "Gumby" survival suits are getting really uncomfortable.
Iceland is delightful, it must be the Viking heritage, but these folks are some serious adventure rednecks. When we were picked up at our hotel yesterday for our tour, our guide was driving a modified Ford Explorer with a lift kit, huge mud tires, and a 400 horsepower engine. We headed out into the countryside, four wheeling and splashing through rivers and creeks- what we Florida rednecks call "muddin". When we came to a bridge, our guide would announce, "Hold on, we can not use the bridge, it is too narrow", down the we went- into the river. Driving through Reykjavik you see these jacked up trucks everywhere- just like home!
The volcanoes, geysers, mountains, waterfalls, and glaciers are fantastic, but I really enjoyed seeing the Icelandic horses. The Icelandic horse is a matter of national pride here, they first arrived with early Viking settlers around 900AD, and have been here ever sense. There are approximately 90,000 horses on the island, with a human population of 330,000- nearly everyone rides! No other breed of horse is allowed onto the island- the government is worried about disease, and whenever Icelandic horses leave the island they are never allowed to return. The breed is amongst the oldest of the domestic horses- they're short, stout, and extremely fuzzy, with a mane so thick it nearly stands up straight on the horse's neck despite its long length. We saw herds of these little guys all over, they're very friendly and people oriented, we stopped at one farm that had a large herd in a pasture- as soon as the horses saw us by the fence they came trotting over looking for treats and attention. Even the baby foals aren't shy about approaching.
Throughout the day, we saw lots of people horseback enjoying the spring weather. Icelandic horses are naturally gaited and have a running walk similar to a Passo Fino. The horses are used to herd sheep as well as for recreation. The spring gather of the sheep herds from their mountain grazing range had just taken place. These horses aren't driven much at all here- the ground is too rough for a carriage for the most part. During the winter, the horses live outside, their incredibly thick coats keeping them toasty warm. Whatever you do when you visit Iceland, don't call them "ponies"", the Icelanders don't like that. They really are cute though!
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