From Iceland — Look at Me, I’m Rugged

The Grapevine filled a van with people who hadn’t left the city all year, and headed out for a day of rafting and barbequing at the Arctic Rafting headquarters near Laugarvatn. While the company runs individual packages, the advantages to a group tour are remarkable. For starters, for glacial river rafting you must don a large amount of gear, including wet suit pants, booties and gloves, a dry suit top and helmet. Strangely enough, watching your friends dress like action figures… or at least active figures, makes for genuine entertainment.
As for the rafting itself, the key to that experience is the equipment and the guides. Having done a good amount of non-Arctic white water rafting, I was surprised at how organized and all-around competent the staff was at Arctic Rafting. Basic things like teaching people in the boat to row together and preparing them for the excursion were handled well. As we rode down Hvítá, in a ride not at all dissimilar to a gentle roller coaster, the guides easily put the raft in the ideal position. In a boat in which two people had rafted before, and possibly six people would describe themselves as not interested in things athletic, we managed to hit every rapids in the sweet spot.
Toward the end of the ride, we were given a special surprise: we were shown a large rock and told it was the jump rock. As our guide went on to explain, there has never been an injury on the Arctic Rafting tours, but there have been many injuries jumping from the rock into the glacial river 40 feet below.
From the jumping rock, we continued down the river, though those dumb enough to leap into a glacial river suffered the consequences—it was a chilly day anyway, and glacial rivers tend to make a person cold. Still, nobody got cold enough to do any permanent damage, and, had the air temperature been above five degrees, as it is most of the year, we all would have been perfectly comfortable.
Base camp had a sizeable kitchen and barbeque area. If you forget beer, chocolate or coffee, the staff is happy to help you out. If you bring your own, they’re happy to join you. To their immense credit, they are able to smile and respond to rafting anecdotes and jokes as though they’ve heard them for the first time, a remarkable skill.
Arctic Rafting,
near Laugarvatn, 898-0410, information at www.activity.is.

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