Adventures in Iceland
This year proved even more exciting than our previous visits to this unique island because the Myrdalsjokull Ice Cap was showing signs of seismic activity occurring beneath it with sulphurous gases escaping from the ever increasing melt waters. The Icelandic Authorities closed access roads to the Black Glacier (Solheimajokull) and our planned highlight of a real glacier walk looked doomed. This was however a real lesson in how unstable the island is and seeing a film of previous flash flooding carrying away a bridge and moving vast quantities of rock debris made us appreciate how important it is that Iceland’s vulcanologists constantly monitor the situation.
After only 25 minutes in Iceland we were straight into our itinerary, visiting a region called Gunnihver Hot Springs; the geothermal area with bubbling, steaming pools was a real welcome to this exciting volcanically active island! Set amongst a lunar landscape of hardened old black lava flows, overshadowed by a huge Geothermal Power plant, the girls were quickly aware this physical and economic land mass was very different to back home.
It was an action-packed four days and before all heads had touched pillows in our comfortable l hostel in rural Selfoss on Day One, the girls had already enjoyed relaxing in the mineral rich waters of the Blue Lagoon and a horse riding trek. This is an amazing aquamarine mineral rich lake with temperatures of 37 degrees centigrade. The girls applied the silica mud to make the most of the special properties of the white mud and enjoyed iced drinks from the bar set into this steaming wonderland of turquoise waters open to wild Icelandic skies. The showers of rain had a surprisingly pleasant cooling effect and the mountains of black basalt surrounding us reminded us we were far away from England. Our second adventure of the day was a horseriding trek on beautiful Icelandic horses at Eldhestar Riding School. We were all so focused on the beautiful sandy and chocolate coloured horses we were perhaps less aware of the wild meadow lands of Icelandic summer flowers the horses took us through, as well as the persistent Icelandic rain. It was a wake-up call, however, to be told the stream we were following was 25 Celsius and its name in Icelandic meant warm water. Glancing up the girls could see rising plumes of steam all over this empty landscape.
Luckily were able to negotiate a drive the next day to a further, but safe, Ice Cap, the largest in Europe, Vatnajokull. Here the girls were instructed how to explore the exciting white ‘snout’ of the Svinafellsjokull glacier. This National Park provided stunning scenery and the only breakthrough of sunshine on the whole holiday, lighted up the main glacier flowing off the mountains. Armed with crampons and ice picks we all observed crevasses and saw the results of the retreating glacier on this wild landscape. The girls were encouraged to taste the pure water used as a drinking source by locals and everyone became skilled at moving across the mottled white slippery surface. This was a real experience of a lifetime and all the features of classroom glaciation lessons, U shaped valleys. Moraine, hanging valleys and corries were brought to life in front of our eyes.
Exciting waterfalls cascading off the rising plateau as we journeyed along the Southern coast were spectacular, especially Skogafoss where we could all walk behind the thundering spray of water, a memorable end to the day and a huge photo- opportunity. Whilst visiting the black beaches of Vik and seeing the jagged pointed coastal stacks standing proud in the menacing stormy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, we were reminded of the juxtaposition of ice and volcanic activity on the island.
Our third day saw us exploring the huge volcanic Kerio crater often described as a caldera, enjoying the spectacular two-tiered cascading Gullfoss waterfall that had cut back a 2.5 kilometre canyon in the black basalt rock, then waiting to be surprised at the Geysir centre by the Stokkur Geysir with its boiling water shooting skyward 15 metres every 6 to 8 minutes. Our Volcanic and Geothermal day ended at the Thingvellir National Park where we all joined together to link the edge of the Eurasian plate with the North American Plate along the mid-Atlantic ridge. This was the ‘Restless Earth section’ of the course brought to life leaving the girls with visual images they will remember for a lifetime, generating a memory no text book could really create.
Our ‘Urban experience’ in Reykjavik the Capital was especially exciting this year as we stayed in the Downtown Hostel right in the heart of the city. With its clean pine wooden floors and friendly atmosphere it was perfect for us to explore the capital. We visited two restaurants and celebrated two birthdays which was fun and also got the opportunity to watch a film about the explosion of Eyjafjallajokull. The huge 3D Model of Iceland in the City Hall brought the location of all our visits into perspective and showed there was a lot more to see in the North of the island that we had not yet explored.
Our Iceland experience ended in the Laugardalslaug outdoor and indoor Geothermal Public Pool, the largest in Iceland, with not only a variety of hot tubs and an Olympic sized pool but lots of slides and floats for fun. It was a brilliant way to end a wonderful holiday. The girls were one of the most positive and focused groups we had taken to this exciting island and they always showed their appreciation and were excellent ambassadors for the School. They were a wonderful group and all admitted it had really brought Geography to life and included many exciting adventures they would remember for the rest of their lives.
Mrs J Buckley, Head of Geography