Highland by Hoofs
The highland trail over Kjölur is just as old as Icelandic culture; it has served as national highway between south and north since the early settlement, that started in year 874, according to our ancient scripts. It was the fastest road to Þingvellir (parliament) where chieftains met every summer to tell the law, settle disputes, judge criminals, make matches for marriage, and see and be seen by others. The route lies between glaciers, over lava fields and through black deserts and grassy heath lands, crossing three glacier rivers, providing extraordinary views over the vast Icelandic highland in the center of the island. In the very center of the island we overnight in an oasis, called Hveravellir, a field of boiling hot springs. In one of them we soak our sore muscles and rest our tired bones. A heavenly experience. History follows us every tölting step of the way, and will be told as we ride the same paths they happend upon. We will fx learn why people didn’t take trips over Kjölur for a century in the 1800s. We will also get acquainted to outlaws, ghosts and trolls. Last but not least we will personally get to know the sure footed Icelandic horse, its smooth gates, sturdiness, friendly nature and cooperating manners. We will make new friends, both horses and riders.
Accommodation is in sleeping bags in shared quarters, the authentic farmers’ way.
Starting point is at Mælifell in the fertile country-side in Skagafjörður county. We head to the mountains, our noses pointing south, climbing slowly but surely up the long Mælifells-valley,
up to Heiðarhaus (Head of Heath). Here both horses and riders get a well-deserved rest and take out the lunch-pack. We change horses and keep going south along the path to our day’s destination. We will experience barren, rocky landscapes, and some grown areas as well, and some great views over the vast highland, if the weather is favorable. We make a stop at Bugaskáli cabin to change horses, and munching on the last remains of our lunch-packs. We seek shelter for the night in Galtará cabin, where we can take a shower; a heavenly balm to our sore muscles and weary bones. Rooms with bunkers for 4.
After good, solid breakfast we start the day riding over the grassy fields of Eyvindarstaða-heath, a rather even terrain and excellent tölting paths. The day is easier than the first one; a welcome fact for our sore bottoms and thighs. We stop for the night at Strangakvísl cabin, in shared sleeping quarters.
Up again to adventure day! Today we ride 3 glacier rivers. We don’t want to spend time idling around, because the rivers are smaller in the mornings. Did I mention the views!! You will not forget them. Bring your cameras, of course, even though we do not recommend using them while riding. Also we have a wonderful geothermal hot pool waiting at Hveravellir cabin, just by our cabin. But before soaking in the hot pot we’ll take a stroll around the geothermal area, that was inhabited by an outlaw couple in the 1700s. Here we are in the center of the island and from here most paths go downwards. We also have showers and toilets in the vicinity of the cabin. Shared sleeping quarters. 2 horses, 25 km, 5-6 hours.
The toughest day challenge is awaiting you, brave riders. This day could be described as lava-day, since we will be riding through the lava field Kjalhraun most of the day, descending lightly to the south, riding alongside the glacier river Fúlakvísl, fending off the glacier Langjökull, to our near right. We also have a great view to glacier Hofsjökull too, to our left, and mountain ridge Kerlingarfjöll ahead. There are tales of deaths and haunting ghosts in these areas, along our very paths. You will be informed. Our cabin Árbúðir by the clear river Svartá welcomes us after the hard days ride, with shared sleeping quarters and showers on location.
We ride on the banks of Svartá river the first part of today, on good tölting paths, crossing glacier river Hvítá on a bridge. We’ll be riding towards the mighty mountain Bláfell, an we will change horses, in its slopes, by the river. On we go riding the banks of Hvítá river with Bláfell mountain on our right in wonderfully quiet and beautiful surroundings. Fremstaver cabin is our shelter for the night with shared sleeping quarters, no showers.
Last day we ride the desert sands, that farmers have been working on to grow grass now for decades. It is a fight with wind and drought, but we can see the results clearly; they are making progress for sure, but it is a long run. We stop at Sandá for a change of horses and then again at famous waterfall Gullfoss, that we take time to visit and film, and maybe buy a souvenir, hmm?
Only the last bit is left to farm Myrkholt, where we have rooms with bunkers for 4, a hot pot and showers.