Daniel Bruun

Routes over the Highlands

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The road over the Sprengisandur must be commenced from Húsavík or from Akureyri in the Eyjafjördur. In the first case a southerly direction is taken to Bárdardalur in the Sudur-Thingeyjarsysla.

If the traveller starts from Akureyri he follows the road eastward over the mountains (Vadlaheidi), down to the pic- turesque Fnjoskardalur, here crossing the Fnjóska at a ford, near to which is a splendid birch-wood. The parsonage Háls (neck) is passed, then he enters the Ljósavatnsskard; and the lake Ljósavatn (the bright lake) soon comes into view. It contains plenty of trout. Good accommodation at the farmhouse.

(Akureyri—Ljósavatn 6 hrs.).
From Ljósavatn a short distance to the Godafoss a splendid waterfall in the Skjálfandi (the trembling). This stream is followed in southerly direction through the Bdrdardalar to the most southern farm Mıri in the valley.

(Ljósavatn—Mıri a long daysride.)
On August 12th 1902, I left Akareyri for Sudur-Thingeyjar- Sysla. Sigurdur Sumarlidason, an active young man, who had spent several years in North America, had been engaged to accompany me on this journey. He had never crossed the Sprengisandur, but in the Bárdardalur, Jon Oddsson, an uncommonly plucky and active peasant was to join us. In 1897, Jon Oddsson accompanied me across the sands, and was later on, commissioned by the Deputy-Governor to superintend the erection of cairns along the northern part of the road. This work, begun in 1901, could not be continued before it had been decided which direction the route should take through the difficult part of the country along the glaciers.

After having made a little detour by Mıvatn, I left the vicarage at Skútustadir on August 19th - and crossed the moor to the Bárdardalur. It was bitterly cold, and had been snowing in the mountains, so we did not begin our journey to the interior with the brightest prospects. After a ride of 6 hrs. we arrived at Bjarnastadir (a farm), having traversed an undulated tract of land, covered with stunted willow and birch, and where flocks of ptarmigans frequently rose in front of our horses. The drifting sand had done great damage on the border of the valley through which the Skjálfandi flowed like a silver streak. The farm looked like an oasis in the sands.


We found Jon Oddsson at Bjarnastadir, where we spent August 20th preparing for the expedition.

The greatest difficulty we should have to contend with, would not be the fog, nor the unfordable rivers, nor the glaciers, but the lack of pasturage for the horses. We had also to take into consideration, that the unusually cold weather they had had in Iceland that year, would have injured the scanty vegetation on the highland. It was therefore necessary to have as few and as able horses as possible.

Our equipment was exceedingly plain. Each man took one travelling suit with him, besides an overcoat, and two changes of undergarments; and we decided to take one tent in which we could all three sleep. I took a camp-bed which weighed 7 Ibs., and some blankets. My two companions were to sleep on the sacks of hay for the horses, and on the skins

Jon Oddsson and Sigurdur Sumarlidason.

which were thrown across our saddles, their coats and overcoats to serve as covering for them.

In the usual Icelandic cases, we packed our cooking appa- ratus, as well as our provisions, consisting of boiled, salted and smoked mutton, dried fish, bread, butter etc. etc. (Icelandic products) besides some conserves.

I had three riding horses, which I rode alternately, each of the men had two, in all twelve, pack-horses included, quite a little horse caravan. We had to turn out every morning between 4,30 and 5 o'clock before sunrise. We lighted a fire to boil the kettle, made our toilet at a neighbouring stream, had a good breakfast, as we would get nothing to eat before evening, then packed our things. Finally we got hold of the horses that were grazing in the pasture, undid the ropes with which their forelegs were tied together in order to prevent their straying away, and saddled them. Although we wasted no time, all this took 2 1/2 — 3 hrs., so we could not decamp until about 8 o'clock.

For twelve hours we went on, halting several times, to give the horses time to rest, and also when I wanted to reconnoitre.

The day passed quickly, and before we were aware of it, it was evening; when we came to a pasture, we unpacked and pitched our tent. The horses rolled in the sand, glad to be rid of their burden. We tied their forelegs together, and they hobbled off to graze. We went to a river to refresh ourselves, then took our supper. After we had lighted the candles, we smoked a pipe, and went early to rest, but we very rarely slept soundly; we often awoke, partly on account of the cold, but especially for fear of the horses attempting to go homeward, or to better pastures, in spite of their being tied. We were obliged to get up several times during the night, to ascertain if they were all there, and soon discovered that this fear was not groundless. We had to be very careful, especially where the grass was scarce and poor, but even where this was not the case, the animals sometimes felt an irresistible inclination to go back towards the north, whence they had come. A big grey pack-horse bothered us more than any of the others; it had several times broken the rope with which its legs were tied, and then wandered off, followed by its companions. When this happened, and it was discovered in time, we hurried after the fugitives, and drove them back at a rapid pace. After this, they stood sulking for an hour or so, as if they repented of what they had done, but no sooner had we fallen asleep, than they started off again.

We left Bjarnastadir in the morning of August 21st. The object of our expedition was to explore the Sprengisandur, in order to find the best routes, partly to the south, to Árness-Sysla and Rangárvalla-Sysla, along the Thjórsá, partly to the north, and if possible direct to the interior of the Eyjafjardardalur.

The reader will perhaps be surprised to learn that these districts were formerly so slightly known; the reason has already been alluded to in the introduction. Iceland peasants who go every year in autumn to the interior of the country to look for their sheep and lambs, are acquainted with those parts used as joint pastures, but with no others. To obtain correct information, one should have to assemble a number of people from the north and south of the country, and even if this could be done at great expense and loss of time, there would still be many remote parts unknown to them.

A sheep fold.

Professor Dr. phil. Th. Thoroddsen had several times visited the country around the Sprengisandur, where he had made important discoveries east of the Skjálfandi in 1884, south of the Kaldakvísl in 1889, west of the Thjórsá in 1888 and at the north end of the Hofsjökull in 1896. Jon Oddsson however, knew the greater part of the country north, as well as south of the Sprengisandur, but only on one particular route. We hoped to be favoured with fine weather, so as to be able to find our way in those parts, which were unknown to us. It may be mentioned, that the main route over the Sprengis- andur had occasionally been used by travellers.

Mıri, and Litla-Tunga in its vicinity, are the only inhabited farms in the Bárdardalur, but it is not long since that Ishóll, a farm about 6 miles to the south, was also inhabited. The forming of settlements here, as well as in other districts in the interior of Iceland, has greatly decreased. In the middle ages there were several farms in the interior of Skjálfandafljot, traces of which are still to be seen. Several proofs of this depopulation have been found since 1897, when I under- took to explore this part of the country.

It was now warm, there was not a cloud on the sky, and in the clear atmosphere, rising above the Ódádahraun, we saw the snow capped summits of the Askja, the Dyngjufjöll, and the Herdubreid. We rode from Mıri southward to Ishóll; on the beautiful lake close by, two loons were swimming. We stopped near the farm and rested, while little birds flew twittering about us, and the curlew whistled in the distance. We visited the ruins of a large farm in the neighbourhood, and then rode a short way towards the west, ascending the whole time, then down into the Mjófidalur, so as to get up to the highlands through this valley. Now and then we came across young cattle, lambs and sheep, that grazed here in summer without the care of shepherds or herdsmen.

We proceeded to a good pasture Ytri-Mosar, where we encamped. While taking our supper here, we heard a roaring outside the tent, and, peeping out, we saw a herd of young bulls, which had followed us and were now attacking our horses and tent; we tried to frighten them, and to chase them away, but in vain; at last Jon grew impatient, and mounted one of the horses, took his whip and rode right in the midst of them. The bulls bellowed, kicked, and gored the ground with their horns, but after they had felt the whip, they fled, pursued by Jón. They quickly disappeared in a tremendous cloud of dust. Half an hour after, Jon returned after having chased them for about two miles; they did not show themselves again. We now made our beds, the first time on this expedition. Jon was in high spirits at the thought of passing some time in the mountains he was so fond of. When I said: "Good night", he answered: "Thank you". Afterwards. I heard him exclaim: ..How delightful it is to be in the mountains". He was right, such peace and comfort as that of one's tent of an evening in the highlands when the horses are grazing outside is only found in nature. The more fatiguing the day has been, the more one enjoys the moment when the lights are put out, and one is about to fall asleep. If it is raining and blowing, the tent seems more cozy than ever, the only thing which troubles one being the thought of the horses running off.

It was lovely weather when we started on August 22nd. We soon passed the next pasture in the Mjofidalur (Innri-Mosar), and then upward over barren plateaus, towards an elongated hill, the Kidagils-Hnúkur, for a couple of hours; the Vatnajökull, and the Tungnafellsjökull covered with ice and snow, appeared in sight, but rain and fog soon came on, and when we reached Kidagil I decided to pitch the tent and recognoitre. Kidagil is a deep ravine, about three miles long, surrounded by beautiful bassaltic rocks, through which a river flows, on to the Skjálfandi. The Kidagilsá has three tributaries, all coming from the sands in the west. North of the river, on a slope opposite the ravine, there is a miserable grass-plot called Kidagil; here there is only suf- ficient fodder for a couple of horses for one night. South of the ravine and opposite the first pasture, there is a larger one, Áfangatorfur, but here too the grass is scanty, there being fodder only for six to eight horses for one night. These pastures are about twenty minutes walk from the Skjálfandi. In 1897, we had pitched our tents in the neighbourhood of Áfangatorfur, at that time there was rather much grass, but the drifting sand had now completely spoiled this place; such is always the case in the highland, where grass is a rare substance. The ruins of three or four houses, south of the junction of the Kidagilsá and the Skjálfandi prove that this part of the country was formerly much more fertile. The sand and earth that covered the ruins have been blown away; we saw bones, bleached by the sun, among the ruins, and I even found nails, and other similar things. This must have been the site of a mountain dairy or a farm.

It rained during the night, and we had to watch the hor- ses till sunrise. It did not clear up till twelve o'clock next day, when we again made a start, partly because it would be impossible to pass another night here owing to the scarcity of grass. From the place where we pitched our tent, there is half an hour's ride towards the west, along Kidagil, and across sandy rocky ground, before one reaches the place where the Sprengisandur crosses the ravine. The cairns erected by Jon Oddsson and others begin here, and indicate the road, a good way southward in the northern part of the Sprengisandur.

In 1897 I went from Kidagil direct to Eyvindarkofaver, at the south end of the Hofsjökull in 9 1/2 hrs only. This time I would not go so far, but break the journey by going to the Tungnafellsjökull where (as Jon said) there was good grass to be found in a valley (called Jökuldalur). By making this halt, the ride across the Sprengisandur becomes very much shortened, and in future one will be able to ride from the Mjófidalur direct to this pasture, without stopping at Kidagil where the pasturage is only poor.

Halt on the Sprengisandur. The Hofsjökull in distance.

After a ride af 2 1/2 hrs from Kidagil we were on a level with the elongated hill Fjórdungsalda to the west of which lies the lake Fjórdungsvatn; this year it was very dry, there was no vegetation around it, and not a bird was to be seen on it.

The Hofsjökull's north east corner is now seen, and we pro- ceed southward along the Fjórdungsvatn, following a row of cairns. At the S. end of the lake, we branched off in a S. E. direction towards the S. end of the Tungnafellsjökull. There was a dense fog prevailing, but we went on following a horse track. Jon said this was from the preceding summer, when the workmen who were building up the cairns, had a few horses grazing in the Jökuldalur (Jökuldalur = Nıidalur).

We passed Tómasarhagi, a big yellowish mossgrown dip, where some sheep were grazing, and following the Fjórdungakvísl we came into the Jökuldalur, after 2 1/2 hrs. quick riding from the Fjórdungsalda. Jökuldalur It was late in the evening when we got there, flocks of geese flew screeching through the valley, apparently provoked at our taking possession of their home, but we could not avoid doing so, as the horses had to be provided with grass.

We pitched the tent on flat but rather marshy ground, close to which there was good grass, even Angelica grew in abundance, on a slope near the tent. The mountains were hidden by the fog, and a cold wind was blowing. By midnight everything was in order and we retired to rest.

On the Sprengisandur. The Fjordungsalda in distance.

The next day, August 24th, there was a dense fog and drizzling rain, and as we wanted to get a view from the mountains, we had to wait for favourable weather; meanwhile we strolled about the deep valley. A lamb was seen here and there in the clefts of the rocks, appearing like a white spot; on one occasion the spot seemed stationary, and on investigation, we discovered that it was a dead sheep from the previous winter. Later on we found other dead sheep, the marks on their ears showing that they were from the Bárdardalur. These poor sheep had evidently escaped the notice of the men who in 1901 went to the mountains to drive them down, and following the river, they had gone up the valley. As a rule, sheep cannot live a winter through in the interior of Iceland. There is only one instance on record.

It is incredible how far the sheep can roam. Jon told us that some people from the Bárdardalur had once driven their sheep (some ewes) to the south part of the country, in order to have the race mixed. This was in July; on the way back, some of the sheep ran away from their owners near the Budarhals, and in January one of them came down in good condition to Mıri, after having crossed the Sprengisandur in mid-winter.

In the evening when the fog lifted, I rode up the moun- tains, and obtained a beautiful view of the sands and the gla- ciers. On the rocky sterile mountains we saw some snow- sparrows and a ptarmigan here and there.

On the night of August 24th we had beautiful moonlight; the wind was from the south, but it was very cold. After sunrise on the 25th the clouds came up the valley and a dense fog followed, but Jon assured us (and he was right) that it would lift about 11 o'clock, so we started early and went across the sands to the district near the Hofsjökull, at the base of which we marked off the road towards the S., following the course of the Thjorsd to Eyvindarkofaver. There we pitched our tent, near the ruins (which I had examined some years ago) of the miserable hut of an outlaw, Eyvind, who lived there about a hundred years ago.

After having carefully tied the horses legs, we let them loose in the boggy pastures, and went to bed, thinking there would be no danger here, as there was good grass. The last time I heard the horses grazing outside, was between 3 and 4 o'clock, just before dawn, so I was very much surprised when Jon came into the tent at 4,30 and awoke Sigurdur and myself saying: "The horses are gone".

We jumped up and rushed out. It was somewhat misty, but we could see a good distance, although the sun had not yet risen. We looked, and looked, but the horses must have hidden themselves in a dip. We all went in a different direction to search for them, and soon afterwards I heard a cry in the distance: "They have gone towards the north, here is their track". Suddenly I saw Jon and Sigurdur running across the hills following their track. Meanwhile I went up a hill to reconnoitre, but saw nothing. In about three hours, however the men returned with the horses at full speed having found the fugitives about 4 miles to the north. They were led by the grey pack-horse, and were making for home. The animals looked very sleepy and stupid, while we packed our things, and placed the burdens on their backs.

The fog lifted, the sun broke forth and a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky just as we started southward along the Thjorsd, in the direction of Hvannagil, a pasture north of the Búdarhals.

We expected to have an easy ride, but were soon disappointed at having to encounter difficulties of the worst kind. First we had to contend with the soft sandy bed of a stream, and on crossing the Thúfuverskvísl later on, we had a narrow escape. The banks looked quite safe, and we never dreamed of danger. Jon went on to find a place where he could ford

A camping place at Hvannagil.

the river, and he began to cross it. The bed of the river was a little soft, but not so bad that we could not follow; he was just on the point of reaching the opposite bank, when both horse and rider almost disappeared. They tumbled about in the water for a few minutes, when Jon got up, but he could not pull the horse up; with distended nostrils it rolled about struggling in the quick-sand, and it was only after considerable exertion that Jon succeeded in getting it ashore. For some time I looked about for a better place to cross the river, and finally found one, close to where it comes down over a basaltic rock, like a small waterfall.

Shortly afterwards we halted near Thufuver, a fertile pasture, where the people from the south encamp when they go to the mountains for their sheep, and where they have constructed a small sheepfold. We again continued our journey, passing by the Soleyjarhofdi and heading towards the south along the Thjórsá. We had again to cross some streams with quick- sand, so the horses were very tired, when we reached the pasture Hvannagil in the evening; here can be seen a beautiful waterfall in the Thjórsá. The weather had been magnifieient the whole day, and we had had a beautiful view of the glaciers. It was oppressively hot when the sun shone, and bitterly cold when it disappeared behind the clouds. I had exactly the same sensation as when I sat near the camp fires in Africa. One was too hot on the one side, and as cold as ice on the other.

On the Sprengisandur.

We pitched our tent near one of the many pools of stagnant water between mounds of sand covered with Salix Glauca. We felt cold in the tent, and could not sleep for fear of the horses escaping; at last I fell asleep, but was soon awakened, with the news that the horses had disappeared; it was then half past two, and pitch dark, but nevertheless they were found and brought back. The night passed without further disturb- ance, and after a good cup of coffee, we were alright again.

At sunrise we washed and dressed, near one of the pools; there was a coating of ice on it, and at the bottom, the impression of swan's feet was distinctly visible, and feathers were scattered about. We took advantage of the beautiful weather to arrange several things, such as shoeing the horses, repairing broken boxes etc. etc. We started on a little trip southward at 10-30, and thereby ascertained that the route could be continued to the Tungnad and that the Klifshagavellir lies much too far towards the east on the maps (a ride of 3—4 hours). During the whole ride we enjoyed the beautiful view of the Hekla, and the mountains in its vicinity. In the evening we returned to Hvannagil, as I dared not attempt to go further south on account of the cold, and the prospect of a snowstorm; the mountains were entirely covered with snow. We had therefore to be content with our reconnoitring along the Kaldakvísl, in which there was much more water than usual.

We went so far east that we could see Illugaver, and the country south of Vonarskard, behind which the Vatnajökull's white surface is seen.

Again that night the horses attempted to get away but were captured.

This would have been almost the worst place it could have happened; we were certainly not far from inhabited districts in the south part of the country (a ride of one day and a half) but we could not have crossed the Tungnaá, because the boats that the peasants use when they take their sheep to the mountains, were all on the north-side of the river.

It would have taken us three days to ride to the inhabited districts in the north. To cover this distance on foot would have taken us double the time, as we should have had to take provisions and a tent with us — so it was most fortunate that we recovered our horses.

On August 28'h we began our journey northward, taking this time a route more to the east, and about one mile from the Thjórsá, thus avoiding the soft sandy tracts near the outlets of the streams. At the same time we marked off a good road. We reached the Sóleyjarhöfdi, the ford across the Thjórsá generally used, and crossed without any obstacles, then we let the horses graze west of the river near a hut. We again proceeded northward so as to get to Náthagi (a place close to the Hofsjökull) before sunset. Jon said that there were hot springs there, and luxuriant vegetation. South of the Hofsjökull the beautifull light summits of the Kerlingarfjöll were seen in the distance, between which, gleamed the eternal snow. In the narrow valleys of the Kerlingarfjoll there are hundreds of hot springs, which I visited in 1897.

Following the Blautakvísl, we made a curve in a westerly direction, so as to avoid the various rivulets which come from the Hofsjökull; these unite, and form large rivers which empty themselves into the Thjórsá. Later on we crossed the Blautakvísl at its broadest part, and made for a group of mountains on the border of the Hofsjökull.

About 6 o'clock in the evening we went round a little promontory, and were very much surprised to see a green plain abundant in vegetation, below the cold white glaciers. The vapour from a hot spring was seen rising up from the plain, and along the stream, flowing from the spring, vegetation was most luxuriant. Among other plants there were gigantic Angelica. The temperature of the spring was, at a rough estimate over 35 ° Celsius. But at a distance of less


than 100 feet from the place where the hot water ran into a tributary of the Miklakvísl (from the jökull) the water is very cold, there being ice near the banks. We saw stickleback swimming from the cold into the warm water.

The name Nauthagi is derived from Naut (young cattle). About 50 years ago, two heads of cattle ran away from Reykjavík and were found here.

Webfooted birds lived in this oasis. We saw a flock of timid swans at a distance in the meadow, while flocks of noisy geese flew backwards and forwards in the neighbourhood of our tent, curious to know what we were doing there. After the sun had disappeared behind Arnarfell hid mika (at Hofsjökull), I heard the quacking of ducks in the stillness of the night, and when crossing the swamp to see to the horses before going to rest, I roused a ptarmigan which gave them a fright.

After nightfall, the glacier loomed dark and threatening near us, but above it the atmosphere was clear and sparkling, and in the east, on the other side of the Thjórsá, we saw the Vatnajökull, with its two big characteristic promontories Hágöngur. At sunset, the Hekla was just visible when the sun shone on its snow-capped summit.

I hurried off to bed, after a bath at the hot springs. It was bitterly cold during the night, and when we came out of the tent at sunrise a keen wind was blowing from the glacier. As the sun rose it grew warmer, and we took our time, for we had much to repair before making a start, and besides there was no hurry, as we did not intend to go further than Arnarfell hid mikla, a mountain 2 1/2 to 3 hours from here.

We rode along the base of the glacier, crossed the Miklakvísl, and later on all the Múlakvíslir which come from a projecting corner of the glacier towards the south east. They pass through the mounds of gravel and sand which girth the glacier.

Here and there on the outer slope of these mounds, we "saw some very old bridle-paths winding through beautiful grassy patches. Now and then curlews flew up from the ground, ptarmigans ran through the heather and willow with their full-grown young, or they rose, and flew a short distance from us. Sometimes we came across some deserted breeding places of swans, covered with feathers. We enjoyed looking at the snow-birds, or we chased the titlarks along the paths while they tried to hide themselves.

Across the milky water of the Múlakvíslir we saw the mossgrown plains near the Thjórsá, and if we looked in the opposite direction towards the glacier, we could see the big dark mounds of gravel piled up in front of the cold, almost even surface of the glacier; all the Múlakvíslir force their way through this mound. One of these rivulets had recently broken through a new place, and carried a quantity of gravel and mud down over the plain. This very often happens. The rivers frequently change their beds, and the maps can only state their names. All the Múlakvíslir form, west of the little hill Arnarfellsalda, one river which empties itself into the Thjórsá. After the Múlakvíslir, we crossed the Arnarfellskvíslir near Arnarfell id mikla.

At the foot of this beautiful mountain, we encamped on a slope facing the south, abounding in grass, flowering plants, angelica the height of a man and various other plants.

This grass plot formed a strange contrast to the glacier, and the barren gravel and stony tracts in the neighourhood.

Tempted by these comparatively fertile spots the previously mentioned outlaw Eyvind made his abode there. He had lived a long time at Eyvindarkofaver, but did not feel safe there, so he settled down with his wife at Arnarfell. The place where he lived is no longer known, being hidden in the gravel from the glacier. He spent one summer here, and seized the opportunity of stealing a number of lambs and sheep from the "Afrjettir" (joint pastures), 80 of these he slaughtered for food in the winter, but the peasants discovered his hut and took possession of the stolen goods. Eyvind was obliged to give up living in the mountains, and had to resort to inhabited places.

At Arnarfell id mikla.

The pasture near Arnarfell id mikla and probably that near Nauthagi have evidently been more frequented formerly than now.

At that time the road west of the Thjórsá was sometimes used. J. C. Schiödte for instance, slept one night at Nauthagi on his journey in 1840 to Vonarskard and further on via Vatnajökulsvegur. The road at that period was evidently at times worse than it is now, and one was even obliged to go up on the glacier. Only sixteen years ago a peasant had to do so, as he could not get on along the base owing to the softness of the soil. It was old Gudmandar, a well known guide of the Sprengisandur, but he was most unfortunate. He had five horses with him, and had taken the wrong road owing to the fog; one of the horses fell into a fissure of the glacier, which the snow had completely covered, he tried to pull it up with a rope, but as he did not succed, he was obliged to kill it.

On August 30th we got up at 4,30, the sun rose about 6, and we were soon ready to start. We left this lovely place to proceed to the main route of the Sprengisandur, across the Thjórsárkvíslir. The first two hours we had to ride step by step across the stony plains, in front of the moraines; later on we rode towards the N. E. and crossed the largest of the Thjórsárkvíslar. Safe and sound we reached the main road, where a few days ago we had marked off the place where the road should diverge towards Arnarfell.

The road along the glacier had proved to be rather good, and there is no doubt that it will be advantageous, espe- cially when one cannot reckon on crossing at the Soleyjar- hofdi on account of the swollen rivers.

In the mounds of gravel, N. of Arnarfell id mikla. I found

Hofsjökull seen from the Jökuldalur.

big pieces of obsidian evidently brought down by the ice from the remote parts of the Hofsjökull. They were strewn over large tracts. In a few places there was abundant vegetation. Snow-birds, and other small birds, as well as curlews were often seen. We went to the Jökuldalur and encamped for the night.

It had proved that the route leading across the Sprengisandur could easily be continued as well to Rangárvalla-Sysla (E. of the Thjórsá) as to Arness-Sysla (W. of same river) after the Sóleyjarhöfdi is passed. The road along the Hofsjökull or the Arnarfell road had also proved to be good. Now we had only to find a more direct route to the interior of the Eyjafjardardalur. This was our task the last days we were in the highlands.

From the Jökuldalur we went S. of the Fjordungsalda, and towards the N. W. to the Laugafell, an isolated mountain N of the Hofsjökull. In fine weather it can be seen from all parts. None of us had ever visited these regions, which on the whole were very little known.

When we were to leave the Jökuldalur, it was most unfor- tunate, as this was the very day we were to find our way through districts unknown to us.

After a few hours ride the fog lifted and we went on towards the Laugafell, constantly ascending and crossing the tract of land with the watershed between the tributaries of the Thjórsá, the Skjálfandi, and the Jökulsá Eystri (to the Skagafjördur). After having crossed the main road, which is indicated by cairns, we crossed the Bergvatnskvísl or Bergkvísl, that joins the Thjórsá. We reached the mountains S. E. of the Laugafell, on the above mentioned watershed, after having traversed plains of gravel and sand. From here we had a beautiful view of the vast desert. The country S. of the Laugafell, and down to the Hofsjökull, is one of the most barren tracts in Iceland. We saw distinctly the most N. tributary of the Thjórsá flowing from the N. E. corner of the glacier, where a little conical shaped mountain Litla Arnarfell is to be seen, we saw the two arms of the river Bergvatnskvísl, one of them being only ten minutes ride from the Laugakvísl. We followed the Laugakvísl, ascended the Laugalda on horseback and enjoyed the beautiful and extensive view once more. In the W., we saw the Mælifellshnjúkur, in the S., the HofsJökul, in the S. W. and W the Vatnajökull with the Hágöngur, the Tungnafellsjökull, in the E. the Ódádahraun with the Dyngjufjöll, the Kistufell, and the Trölladyngja; the horison is obscured by the heights near Kidagil in the N. E., and the Vatnahjalli in the N.

We then descended the mountain to look for the hot springs, which, according to Thoroddsen, are in the vicinity of one of the tributaries of the Laugakvísl. After searching a short time we found the three hot springs, (Laugar 38°— 40 ° C. of heat) emerging from a stream of cold water; along this brook there was a little vegetation, but we were rather disappointed at not finding sufficient grass for our horses for one night, so I determined to go on immediately.

Tradition says that as long as the plague lasted, there were mountain dairies near the Laugafell. There are said to be ruins from that time, which I looked for on my way, but failed to discover them. For the sake of the horses we were obliged to push on, so as to reach Eystri Pollar (two grassy swamps with small lakes and ponds) before nightfall. First we crossed a small river, and after a ride of P/a hrs. from the hot springs, we reached the most southern swamp, where we encamped in a dip, with little knolls covered by grass and Salix Glauca.

We were now on the so called Vatnahjallavegur (which connects the interior of the Eyjafjardardalur with the Kjalvegur) a pass very much used in olden days, although it was very long and stony. In 1897 I had surveyed a part of it towards the west as far as the Jökulsá-eystri. I had not travelled along the other part of the road myself, but had seen most of it at a distance. The late Mr. F. R. Howell, an English- man, had given me some information about the route. Thor- oddsen has described a part of it.

From Eystri Pollar the road leads in a N. direction over rather stony ground to Geldingsa (a pasture) from there it runs more to the N. (towards the Vatnahjalli) across very rocky ground, where the horses could hardly find foothold. On September 1st after a very cold night, we began the last stage of our journey, and after having crossed very rocky tracts of land, we reached the Ullarvotn, some small lakes with barren surroundings. Here we rested, lunched, and prepared for the fatiguing ascent towards the mountain Vatnahjalli, whence we should descend into the valley. We had been informed that it would take us 4—5 hrs. to ride from the lakes down into the Eyjafjardardalur.

As it was fine weather I gave the horses the hay we had with us. My companions had wished to get rid of it several times, but I thought we ought to keep it, as there was no knowing what might happen. After luncheon, while the horses were being saddled, I went on in advance, as I often did. While ascending the very rocky side of the mountain, I saw clouds of fog drifting up to the plateau, evidently from the Eyjafjardardalur. I now waited for the horses. The fog grew more and more dense, and before we had reached the border of the valley, we were in total darkness. We had to dismount and grope our way; sometimes the cairns helped us to find the right direction, but misled us when they were not in the right places. We kept all the horses together, and as soon as we had found a cairn, I sent a man on to look for the next one and when we heard his call we followed him. In this way we proceeded for some time, but at last we could find no more cairns, and had to go on at hap-hazard. We felt however, that we were descending, and we heard the sound of water rushing through a ravine. We followed the brink of the ravine, and after groping about for a few hours, we reached the slope of a mountain, where the fog began to lift. We saw at our feet a lovely green valley, in which the sun was shining, and where horses were grazing. At a little distance, we saw a cluster of houses, which proved to be the farm that lies furthest up the Eyjafjardardalur. After a halt on the slope, where the horses got a good feed, we went down into the valley by a very difficult path. Here we saw the haymakers in the meadows, and to us, coming from the uninhabited parts of the country, it was a most beautiful sight. Sigurdur rode up to them, and asked where we could pass the night.

They stared at him.
"Where do you come from?"
"From the Sprengisandur."
"The Sprengisandur?"
"Yes certainly."
"But how did you find your way across the mountains in that fog?" they asked looking amazed.
Soon after we were safe and sound at the farm Tjarnir.

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