A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
A Barren Land
We had started under a sky overcast but calm. There was no fear of heat, none of
disastrous rain. It was just the weather for tourists.
The pleasure of riding on horseback over an unknown country made me easy to be
pleased at our first start. I threw myself wholly into the pleasure of the trip, and enjoyed
the feeling of freedom and satisfied desire. I was beginning to take a real share in the
"Besides," I said to myself, "where's the risk? Here we are travelling all through a most
interesting country! We are about to climb a very remarkable mountain; at the worst we
are going to scramble down an extinct crater. It is evident that Saknussemm did nothing
more than this. As for a passage leading to the centre of the globe, it is mere rubbish!
perfectly impossible! Very well, then; let us get all the good we can out of this
expedition, and don't let us haggle about the chances."
This reasoning having settled my mind, we got out of Rejkiavik.
Hans moved steadily on, keeping ahead of us at an even, smooth, and rapid pace. The
baggage horses followed him without giving any trouble. Then came my uncle and
myself, looking not so very ill-mounted on our small but hardy animals.
Iceland is one of the largest islands in Europe. Its surface is 14,000 square miles, and it
contains but 16,000 inhabitants. Geographers have divided it into four quarters, and we
were crossing diagonally the south-west quarter, called the 'Sudvester Fjordungr.'
On leaving Rejkiavik Hans took us by the seashore. We passed lean pastures which were
trying very hard, but in vain, to look green; yellow came out best. The rugged peaks of
the trachyte rocks presented faint outlines on the eastern horizon; at times a few patches
of snow, concentrating the vague light, glittered upon the slopes of the distant mountains;
certain peaks, boldly uprising, passed through the grey clouds, and reappeared above the
moving mists, like breakers emerging in the heavens.
Often these chains of barren rocks made a dip towards the sea, and encroached upon the
scanty pasturage: but there was always enough room to pass. Besides, our horses
instinctively chose the easiest places without ever slackening their pace. My uncle was
refused even the satisfaction of stirring up his beast with whip or voice. He had no excuse
for being impatient. I could not help smiling to see so tall a man on so small a pony, and
as his long legs nearly touched the ground he looked like a six-legged centaur.
"Good horse! good horse!" he kept saying. "You will see, Axel, that there is no more
sagacious animal than the Icelandic horse. He is stopped by neither snow, nor storm, nor
impassable roads, nor rocks, glaciers, or anything. He is courageous, sober, and
surefooted. He never makes a false step, never shies. If there is a river or fiord to cross