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Eanunculus glacialis. Under covert of the bushes, crept a little Briar, (Bubus saxatilis), with bunches of white blossoms peeping saucily from under the glossy birch leaves.
We scrambled across the Hrafnagja, a rift much like the Allmannagja, only on a somewhat smaller scale, and passed some caves resembling Surts-heUir in conformation, but probably not so extensive. We had neither time nor inclination to explore their recesses.
A low rise of sand and cinders on the right, crowned by a slag chimney, is worth a visit, as this chimney appears to be the vent from which has been ejected the ash and dust which cover the mound. A trembling Alpine Rock-cress (Arabis petrcea) was nestled within the lip, vibrating with every blast which rolled over the black gulf. The funnel-shaped throat is about five feet across, and stands up about fifteen feet above the sand; it is vitrified, and streaked red, yellow, and black. If a stone be dropped into the abyss, it is heard to strike before very long, and, judging from the time it takes in falling, I suppose the hole to be about. seventy feet deep.
After leaving this ash vent, we rode over cinder till a rapid descent brought us to a sandy plain, beneath the gloomy but picturesque range represented in the opposite plate.
The most distant cone is reddened by volcanic fires, though not to the extent to which the charring of Hlitharfjall and other mountains around Myvatn has been carried.
On surmounting the next rise, we came in sight of a great marshy plain, extending for fifty-five miles to the sea. Two lakes lay before us, the Apavatn, and the Laugarvatn famous for being full of hot-water jets; beyond these, stretched vast morasses, out of which rose puffs of steam, which rolled away before the breeze. Heckla stood up majestically beyond, covered with snow, and flushed with the evening sun; and far away in the horizon, soft as summer clouds, and tinted like the tenderest blush-rose petals, rose the peaks of Tindfjalla and the back of Eyjafjalla, their bases lost in the bloom of evening.
The boggy tract in front of us was blue-veined with some of Iceland's goodliest rivers, the White river, the Salmon river, the Tongue-flood, the Bridge-stream, and the Bull river.*
We changed horses at Laugarvatn. The lake is certainly curious. In the green morass east of the lake rose a dense column of dazzling white steam, and we could see by the leaping and tossing of the vaporous whorls that the water below was boiling savagely. Beyond the lake close to the margin, is a jet which intermits, sending up puff, puff, puff, like a steam engine. Vapour rises from the sheet of the lake itself, showing that hot springs are bubbling up in its bed, and near the farm are fountains, some throwing up water about two feet, whilst others smoke quietly, or gurgle through holes in the beach. The soil around these springs consists of grey, blue, and red clay containing sulphur and gypsum. These jets empty themselves by a little brook into the lake. The smell of rotten eggs which issues from the water shows that it contains sulphuretted hydrogen in solution. On attempting to bathe in Laugarvatn, one soon finds out that there is a stratum of hot water spread over the surface of the lake, whilst the body of water below is intensely cold.
We skirted the lake, and our course then lay over smooth ground, passing near farms which studded the slopes of this smiling country. Certainly a tourist who runs to the Geysirs and back to Reykjavik gets no true idea of Icelandic scenery. I saw nothing so bright, fertile, and grass-grown in any other portion of Iceland, Yet poor is the best, and inferior to an Irish bog.
Presently we came upon the Bruara, which is crossed in a somewhat eccentric fashion. In the midst of the river is a fissure, into which a considerable portion of the water roars; the rest flows down a series of shelves, till it tumbles over a ledge into still water, and unites with the foaming stream bursting from the rift. Over this chasm a slender wooden bridge has been thrown, and the horses wade to it,
* HvitA, Laxa, Tungnflj6t, Briiara and Thjorsa.