Thursday, August 25, 2005

Picking up the pace

Last night, we had our best riding lesson so far. We were a small group this time – myself and Miss C, plus two friends, although the lesson was shared by two young children (perhaps 8 and 10 years old).

On this occasion, I rode Sky, a good cob, big and white with some grey on the legs. Now, up until recently, our lessons had begun to get rather dull – lots of walking interspersed with sitting, rising and standing trots, and the occasional hack around the surrounding fields.

Tonight, however, the walking and trotting were merely a warming-up for the main event: we all turned in from our circuit and stood in a semi-circle facing our instructor, who then talked us out, in ones and twos, to practice cantering. I went first: Sky stepped out smartly in response to my heels, moving up to a trot, and then, almost immediately, into a canter. This pace is quite different from the trot – much faster, and also much smoother, although I had not thought so the previous week (I compared it afterwards to the motion of a speedboat heading into choppy waves).

This time, I was much more relaxed, sat back in the saddle and found myself rising and falling with the horse, rather than bouncing against its back. Very exhilarating, to be moving so quickly, with such sensation of powerful movement – I found myself grinning broadly, perfectly comfortable and secure, and even encouraging Sky to greater efforts with mild instruction from my crop.

We took turns cantering: and we all did pretty well. Even our instructor seemed very pleased, and took a much more active interest in our riding than previously – I think the walking and trotting bored him at least as much as it had begun to bore us. So, a very exciting and instructive evening, which seems to promise future adventure…

I wonder what it feels like to gallop?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Time to pack

So, the big day is almost here - two nights left for packing before we fly out to Reykjavik.  Preparations have already begun, in the form of a weekend shopping expedition:

  • Wetsuit boots, pairs of, x 2, for fording rivers – glacier-fed rivers

  • 90ft strong and buoyant rope x 1, for safely fording rivers

  • Waterproof trousers x 1, for the rain

  • Space blanket x 1, for hypothermia – well, for not getting hypothermia

  • Ground rolls x 2, for sleeping comfortably in stony places

  • Sleeping bag x 1, for sleeping comfortably in temperatures down to 0C

  • Compass x 1, spare, for finding our way if the GPS unit is lost, broken

  • Whistles x 2, for finding each other / rescuers

  • Walking poles x 3, to complement the single working pole we still have from our visit to Chamonix

  • Garmin Etrek GPS unit x 1, lost, for not getting

  • Canon EOS Digital SLR x 1, for recording our adventures in 8 glorious megapixels per shot

  • 1GB Compact Flash cards x  2, to attempt to satisfy Miss C’s appetite for photography

Items we already own, but need to find before we leave – insect repellent, sunscreen, gloves, the other compasses, cutlery, shopping bags, waterproof bags, converters…

Currently, we’re planning to spend the first day in and around Reykjavik, then drive east quite some distance and camp near Svartifoss, a very beautiful waterfall.  After that, we’ll try to go ice-climbing or skidooing on a very substantial icecap, then visit a lake full of icebergs.  Next, it’ll probably be time to head north, possibly traverse a sub-arctic desert, before visiting volcanoes, hot springs and so on.  Fjords surrounded by snowy peaks may also be seen.  I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get accommodation indoors, but we are coming prepared to camp out if need be.

The one big snag: at the moment, the weather forecast looks miserable.  Here’s hoping the desert lives up to its title.

A question for the general public, should it happen to visit: can you recommend an internet cafĂ© in Akureyri where one might backup one’s photos on CD?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Going North

At last - our summer holiday has actually been booked. Immediately on receiving the thumbs-up from Miss C re destination and dates, I booked return flights to Iceland. When we get there, we'll have just over a week to look around. She doesn't know it yet, but we'll also have a Suzuki Jimny (4WD, small, looks fun) for the duration.

The current plan (which she doesn't know about yet) is that we'll spend a day in and around the capital seeing the usual sights, possibly on a standard tourist bus, then take off into the interior of the island, leaving such frivolities as tarmaced roads far, far behind. We'll be looking for glaciers, volcanoes and the like. Any suggestions about equipment for off-roading, hiking in a sub-arctic desert, surviving volcanoes and so on, will be gratefully received.