Imágenes de páginas

But we must hasten on. From Stykkisholm the steamer shot across the bay to Flatey, famous for its magnificent Manuscript, now one of the glories of Copenhagen, but containing some of the worst texts ever written of the Sagas. Then they steamed on to the North-west Firths, affording some of the finest scenery in Iceland, and ran into Eyri in Isafirth, of which Mr. Shepherd has written so interesting an account. Thence they doubled the Horn or North Cape at the north-western extremity of the island, and running along that ironbound shore where Swan the wizard, mentioned in Njala, once abode, they made their way to Bordeyri in the Hunafloi, and after a stay pushed on to Grafaros in the Skagafirth, which was the farthest of their progress north. That was on July 2nd, and on the 6th the Jón Sigurdsson 'was safe back at the capital; and so this pleasant expedition, favoured on the whole by fine weather, came to an end.

All this, however, was but beating about the bush, so far as real Icelandic travelling was concerned. Standing on the deck of a steamer, with constant food in the cabin, is certainly pleasant, but it is not the way to see the island. On horseback, and horseback alone, is that task to be accomplished. If we were inclined to quarrel with Captain Burton it would be for the contempt which he expresses for our old friends the Geysir and Hekla, visits to which he invariably calls 'cockney trips.' It is clear, however, that as it is not the fault of the Geysir that it does not gush out above a given height, nor any blame to Hekla that it is not much over 4,000 feet high, the cockneydom of a trip to them must consist rather in the character of the tourists who visit them with exaggerated notions of their magnitude and importance. No doubt many cockney tourists bore us with their record of the difficulties of the ride to the Almannagjá, of the precipitous descent of that great rift, of the glories of the Great Geysir, and of the steep ascent to Hekla. Let these exaggerations be visited on the heads of those who never knew what rough riding was, who were ignorant of the surefootedness of Iceland ponies, and to whom Hekla was the first mountain they had ever ascended. Call them cockneys if you will, but do not gibbet the wonderful plain of the Allthing, the strange natural phenomenon of the Geysirs, and the weird landscape to be seen from the brow of Hekia with a term which reminds the reader of Beulah Spa and Richmond Hill. If Captain Burton found the trip' easy so much the better for him ; easiness, as he himself afterwards found, is not commonly the characteristic of Icelandic travel, of which it has been truly said, if a man does not mind being con

of that oth these mmensely in the the

stantly wet through, if he does not object to fording rivers ' where his pony may have to swim, if he does not care if he

is starved, let him travel in Iceland.' But to return to Captain Burton: though he protested against the cockney trip, he had to make it. Accordingly he and his friend, Mr. Chapman, set off with a ham, a couple of sausages, four loaves of rye bread each weighing six pounds, snuff, cigars, and pigtail for friendship, small change for 5l., and lastly, two mighty kegs of schnapps. For guides they had a man and a boy, and eight ponies between the four. Combining business with pleasure and disdaining the beaten tourist route, they determined to take Krisuvik with its sulphur deposits first, then to make their way across the country to Hekla, and to return by the Geysirs and the Thingfield. On July 8th they started from the capital in the forenoon, and passing by Hamnefirth reached Krisuvik at 8.30 P.M. We refer our readers interested in brimstone to the full details on the deposits of that mineral at Krisuvik given by Captain Burton. We hope that both these mines and those at Húsavik in the north will be worked at an immense profit by those who now possess them. If so, it will be a novelty in the history of sulphur in Iceland, for we believe that many, from the Danish Government downwards, have touched these deposits only to burn their fingers. From Krisuvik the pair pushed on south-east, crossing the Olfusá and Thjorsá by ferries, and arriving at the farm of Nefrholt, under Hekla, on June 12th. On the morning of the 13th Captain Burton and his companion ascended the mountain, escorting the Misses Hope, three English ladies whom they met accidentally at its foot. The ascent, as others have found before them, though they did not call Hekla • cockney,' was steep but easy. The recent tourists who have talked of ridges on the summit two feet wide with precipices on each side of several hundred feet in depth, must have been romancing. We are glad that Captain Burton had eyes on the summit to admire the view over the great plain of the • Wrongwaters,' and out on the desolate regions to the north and east. Even to contemplate the various streams of lava which for thousands of years at intervals of fifty years have seared its sides it is worth while to ascend Hekla. The descent was made in three hours; the travellers parted from their fair friends, and next day pushed on to the Geysir, finding the day's workthe most unpleasant in civilised Iceland, though they were consoled in the midst of it by a friendly priest, who greeted them in Latin and feasted them sumptuously. Crossing the White-water (Hvitá), which they found not so bad as the dry land, they reached the Geysir, after a ' long weary day,' at 9 P.M., only to find that the Great Geysir had gushed, as Burton calls it, the day before, and that it was unlikely that it would gush again during their stay. The same mortification and worse happened to the travellers of 1861, for as they rode to the spot they beheld the steam of an eruption of the Great Geysir. In 1862 the same party, or some of them, were more fortunate. The Geysir gushed for them, and they were one and all delighted at the exhibition. We cannot help thinking that this want of politeness of the Geysir in not gushing' for Captain Burton made him in return less gushing' in his account of this great natural phenomenon. It is probable that the Great Geysir, if the measurements of earlier travellers are correct, is declining in the force of its superheated steam and consequently in its height; but all who have seen it 'gush,' which Captain Burton did not, have been amazed not only at the magnitude of the volume of water, but in the towering clouds of superheated steam which it emits. As a whole, the Geysirs are not, as Captain Burton holds them, “gross humbugs. He predicts their speedy extinction, though they will probably survive his prophecy on the principle that threatened Geysirs, like threatened men, live long. For many generations we hope that it will not be necessary for tourists to follow him to the Geysirs of New Zealand or the Yellowstone, even though those 'trips' may be enhanced by the risk of being eaten by the Maories, or scalped and slowly roasted alive by savage Modocs, led by some of Captain Jack's successors.

On the morning of the 16th-thus giving the veteran impostor little time for repentance-Captain Burton started for Thingvellir or the Thingfield, which they reached in an easy day's journey. As Captain Burton is sceptical, he will not believe that tlie Thingvalla Lake and the Thingfield have subsided bodily between the two gjás or rifts which bound the sunken plain. He finds the Great Rift grossly exaggerated, as no doubt it has been by some tourists, but he admits the beauty of the scenery and the historical interest of that Parliament Field on and about which so many spirit-stirring scenes in Icelandic history were enacted. Half-a-day sufficed for this. In the afternoon of the 17th they were again in the saddle, and rode merrily back to Reykjavik, which they reached a little before midnight, finding people strolling about in the endless summer night. They had been away ten days, had ridden hard and seen much, and the share of each traveller was 104 dollars, or 121. After all, in spite of the rise of

theysirs of Newe necessary for toumany generationeysirs,

prices, we think that travelling in Iceland is not so very expensive. The following observation of Captain Burton on this subject is very much to the purpose. “In West Africa in one • day on the Congo, I have been asked, for simple permission ' to pass onwards, three times more than the cost of a three

Riera interferie

But thereur in Icelaree times em asked, for West Atton on this

[ocr errors]

etistence opusses that nest and the "tolerable,

But there still remains the Vatna Jokull, without a sight of which, at least, Burton could not feel comfortable in returning to England. He attacked the giant both by sea and land, employing the steamer · Diana' to carry him away east to Berufirth. On July 27th he embarked, finding the Danish Post Office ship by no means so clean and comfortable as the • Ión Sigurdsson,' and favoured by tolerable weather they ran past the south-east coast and the Westmen's Islands. On the way he discusses that vexed and threadbare question as to the existence of the Great Awk, and comes to the conclusion that if that clumsy bird, for whom a thousand pounds might be offered dead or alive, exists any where, it must be in Greenland. In this we are assured Captain Burton is mistaken. The Great Awk was never found very far north. It was very rare, for instance, in the north of Iceland; and this is probably why it is extinct, while the Great Northern Diver and other birds flourish, because they betake themselves to those Arctic solitudes to breed, undisturbed by man. We are inclined, therefore, to give up the Great Awk with the same resignation as we regard the Dodo. Both are gone, and let us make the most in the more recent case of the skeletons and eggs, which still remain to us. But this is not a treatise on ornithology: let us hasten on to Berufirth. Landing at Djúpivogr (Deepvoe) in the bight of the Firth, Captain Burton parted from Mr. Chapman, and threw in his lot with Mr. Lock, the concessionist of the north-eastern sulphur mines, who was bound for the Mývatn district, in which those mines lay. The route would lead Burton close to the Odada Hraun, the great lava waste which borders on the unexplored Vatna Jokull. After some days' delay the party started on July 30th, not under the most happy auspices. First of all their guide Gísli, according to Captain Burton, was a skulk and a sneak, whose one virtue was temperance-in everything else he was worthless. Then they had nineteen horses, all young and unbroken-a great mistake, as they fought, and bit, and broke away. Mr. Lock misses his carpet-bag, which contains his money and papers; and the baggage suffers as much in ten hours as in a year of railways. Mr. Lock too, it appears, had a highhanded way of compelling the most headstrong to obey


him, and putting up with no nonsense.' Certainly not the way to conduce to comfortable travelling in Iceland, where the peasants must be managed gently, just as much as their horses. Thus the disorderly party started, and by August 3rd had made their way to Valtheofstad, where they had a review of their forces, reduced their unruly nineteen horses to sixteen, paid off some of their guides, mended their packsaddles, and engaged a new guide in a student of Bessastad. So they plodded on northwards, catching a sight of the Vatna Jokull, crossing the Jokullsá, or Jokull river, in a cage or lidless box, while the horses swam over and so reached Moðrudalr, one of the finest farms in Iceland, on August 4th. Here they were most hospitably treated by Sigundr Jónsson, the whitebearded owner who, if we remember, was equally kind to Mr. Holland's party in 1862. Beyond the river, opposite to the farm, lies the wilderness, out of which rises Herdubreid the broad

shouldered,' and beyond that again, south-east, stretches that tantalising Vatna Jokull. Reserving his final attempt for his return, the party pushed on for Mývatn, which they reached by way of Grimstadir on the 6th, pulling up at Reykjahlid, the farm of Big Peter of that ilk."

The district of Mývatn is commonly described by travellers in Iceland as one of the most picturesque and wonderful in the island. A beautiful lake of the purest blue, studded with green islands, is girt by a savage and dreary region, showing at every step signs of volcanic action. The journals of the party of 1861, who came on the lake from the north-west end at Skutustadir, and rowed across it to Reykjahlid, show that they were enchanted with its scenery, and yet they were most of them old travellers; but then they were earlier in the year, and had lovely weather. Captain Burton was not favoured in the latter respect, and under the influence of a dull grey sky,

like an inverted pewter pot, saw Mývatn in anything but rosy hues. He boats and shoots over the 'ugly puddle,' and has no sport, on which he abuses his predecessors for talking of the ornithological wealth of the district; and yet, oddly enough, he says that he found defunct chicks at every few • hundred yards. There is an Icelandic proverb which says, 'An apple does not fall far from the tree.' Captain Burton might have reflected that where there were many dead chicks there must have been a corresponding number of old birds. He is surprised, too, that there were no midges, from which the lake and district derive their names. The veils which he and his companions brought with them were useless, and for a very good reason ; in August the midge season is over, the traveller

« AnteriorContinuar »