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Geography trip to Iceland
17 April 2012
The GCSE Geography trip to Iceland got off to a prompt start with the enthusiastic group departing for Heathrow several minutes in advance of schedule! The 14, 5th year pupils and 6, 4th year pupils passed smoothly through check-in and security and after a brief exploration of the T1 duty free we were taking off and unusually heading North! After a cloudy flight with brief glimpses of Northern Ireland and the Western Isles we touched down at Keflavik airport 3 hours later.
Here we collected our bags and boarded the most extraordinary coach, a huge 4WD Ice vehicle that could handle the mountain roads of Iceland. Ludvick the driver took us to the Perlan viewing platform above Reykjavik on top of the cities geothermal hot water supplies. The smell of Sulphur was too much for some! We then had a tour of Reykjavik in which we visited the main church and Radhus. A walk round the lake took us to Ingolfur Arnarsons statue, the founder of the city and Iceland’s first well known inhabitant.
Dinner was taken in Iceland’s finest hamburger restaurant where once Gorbachev and Nixon were cooked for and where our pupils met some very nice Icelanders! One of these resembled a large Viking carrying a stone at all times and we also announced the addition of two more to the population via a bell ringing exercise! We returned to our accommodation to meet Clara for the ‘happening’. This introduced us to the unique landscape, language and culture of Iceland.
Day 2 started with a meat and cheese feast for breakfast and then we met our guide Soliweg. Our adventure vehicle embarked for the Geothermal powerplant and an informative tour showed us how Iceland produces more energy than it can use from Geothermal sources and thus sells it to the Aluminium industry. Hot water is also provided very effectively from the 300 degree pressurised ground water. Heading away from the city we stopped at Hveragerdi geothermal park where fumeroles and boiling rivers were used to cook bread and boil eggs! A roadside café provided a lunch stop and then we crossed the flood plain from the glacial burst of Ejafjallajokull’s eruption we arrived at the afternoons Waterfall sites. Seljalandsfoss was spectacular and we all walked around the back of the 60 m fall. Soli, our guide, then led a 1 hour walk towards the glacial sources that feed Skogafoss another very wet and impressive waterfall. We also had a great view of some of Iceland’s wildlife with Fulmars gliding around the waterfall and nesting in the mist soaked cliffs. Many photos later and a little wet we returned to the monster bus which took us to our accommodation at Hotel Dryholaey on the south coast overlooking the Vestmannaeyjar, 15 impressively eye catching islands offshore. Here we had twin rooms and a well earned supper!
Day 3 began with snow on the ground. Overnight the temperature had dropped and Iceland was showing its capacity for sudden weather changes! After another good breakfast and with our packed lunches made, we headed for the coast. Our 4WD coach was showing its strengths as we easily ascended and the steep roads on route to Reynishverfi. Here we walked through the snow along the black sand beach to see the huge basalt cliffs, caves and sea stacks. The North Atlantic was in full force and impressive waves pounded the coast. We then stopped at Vik for a short break and where we could see the coastal defence systems that kept the town safe. Dyrholaey was the lunch stop and with amazing coastal scenery including an impressive blow hole and arch. Soon we arrived at the Glacier snout where we met Arctic Adventures who would guide us up the glacier. This glacial tongue, Solheimajokull is an offshoot of one of Iceland’s Ice caps Mydalsjokull and not far from the Eyjafjallajokull which caused such disruption when it erupted in 2010. Walking on the glacier was incredible and watching the Moulins bore their way through the Ice was a first for all. Even an Ice tunnel was navigated, the crampons and axes essential for grip. Soli then led us up a small Volcano Stori-Dimon which was formed under the Ice and now stands in the midst of the glacial outwash plain which was recently effected by the glacial outbursts from Eyjafjallajokull. The view from the top was incredible with huge distances across flat plains and snow covered peaks in the distance. The pupils had a spectacular vantage point and equally enjoyed the rapid descent. That night we arrived at a rural farm where we stayed in very well presented rooms at Vatnsholt. Our hosts and their dancing goat Elvis, entertained us and fed us particularly well.
On the penultimate day we started with a short walk around a crater lake on a recent volcano. We then visited Gulfoss one of Iceland’s most photographed Waterfalls. Here the frozen water droplets formed amazing patterns on the gorge. Next to Geysir, where we viewed the geothermal area from a high point before watching Strokkur erupt 30m into the air! We ended the day with a visit to the Mid Atlantic ridge at Thingvellir, also the home of the world’s oldest continual democratic parliament from 930AD.
On the last day we headed west to the Reykanes peninsula where we walked among the solfataras and hot springs. At the Lucky Bridge we saw the Mid Atlantic ridge descend out into the Ocean and put one foot on either continent! The final highlight was bathing in the hot mineral rich waters of the Blue Lagoon. It is not every day you get to bathe in the waste water of a power station and this was a memorable and relaxing way to end the trip. Iceland air provided excellent levels of service and with 45 videos to choose from we settled down to the flight home. Everyone enjoyed this memorable trip which was really just an introduction to the amazing landscape, people and experiences this country has to offer.
Phil Poynter, April 2012