This route, across the Longufjorur or "Long Beaches," has been in use by horsemen and women since the Saga Age. Before roads were bulldozed through the Eldborg lava fields in the early 1900s, it was the main highway. Until 1933 you'd buy your soap and nails and flour at a general store out there on the sands, where now you'll find only seals and seabirds, hear only the sounds of surf--or hoofbeats on sand.
"It's a dangerous path if you don't know the tides," my friend Haukur warned, when he took me on the trail for the first time in 1995. When I wrote about that experience in my book A Good Horse Has No Color, I summed it up this way: "This is Iceland."
This August I hope to recreate that ride--with your help. I'm looking for 8 adventurers to sign up for the Trekking Bootcamp offered by America2Iceland from August 10-16: see http://www.america2iceland.com/trips/riding-bootcamp-level-1/
|Photo by America2Iceland.com|
Why? The trail cuts the mouths of several rivers, some of them deep-channeled salmon streams, others edged with quicksand. The safe paths shift from storm to storm, while the force of the wind and its direction, and the fullness of the moon, decide how fast a rider must cross.
Henderson (or his guide) was exaggerating--but not much. In his book Summer at Little Lava my husband, Charles Fergus, told this story:
My work is going very slowly in the smithy,
Even through I'm clattering.
You should aim for Eldborg,
Under the hammer of Thor.
The travelers set off toward Eldborg. Perhaps they dawdled, crossing the sands. The tide rose and caught them, and they drowned. After that, Tobbi lost his ability to compose poetry and could bring forth only gibberish. He became known as Æra-Tobbi, 'Crazy Tobbi.' "
We rode north onto the sandbar, across some grassy flats, back out through the sucky mud to the hard wet sand, whose color ranged from black to coffee-colored to tawny to gold. Tide pools, I knew, held tiny shrimp and sea lettuce; their bottoms were mosaics of shells.
With the islands to our left, we rode on hard-packed sand, the tapping of our horses’ hooves making music with the wind and the seabirds’ cries. I could feel time almost stop, suspended in the wet air between sea and sky, as history clustered all around us.
Close on our right rose the snow-flecked mountains of Snaefellsnes, the Snow Mountain Peninsula. Ahead loomed the Snow Mountain itself, glacier-topped Snaefellsjokull, a classic Mount Fuji-shaped stratovolcano. Jules Verne began his Journey to the Center of the Earth from this mountain, and New Agers now affirm it the third holiest spot on the planet, ascending it in droves on the summer solstice and bringing new riches to the fishing towns down below. Gazing at its beauty, I wondered what the two more-holy places could possibly be.
This August, we'll be riding from Gudmar Petursson's farm of Stadarhus, about 40 km from the beach. We'll spend the first two days at the farm, getting used to our horses in a clinic that will get you ready for the trek.
Go to http://www.america2iceland.com/trips/riding-bootcamp-level-1/ and sign up now for the Trekking Bootcamp 1 on August 10-16. I can't wait to show you the Long Beaches of Iceland.
And if you're not a rider, note that I'm leading a tour this year for you, too. See the riding-optional "Sagas and Vikings" tour offered by America2Iceland on July 10-16: http://www.america2iceland.com/trips/song-of-the-vikings/. "Sagas and Vikings" is an educational trip for the whole family through the scenes and sagas that have inspired my many books about Iceland, including The Far Traveler, The Saga of Gudrid the Far-Traveler, Song of the Vikings, and the latest, Ivory Vikings.