Trekking across a glacier, swimming in the Secret Lagoon, and standing in awe at the edge of a thundering waterfall are just some of the experiences girls in Years 10 and 11 enjoyed during their recent trip to Iceland. Dr Gray explains more:
Our Half Term started with a very early Sunday morning coach ride to Manchester Airport. Having checked in and passed through security, 36 Year 10 and 11s excitedly boarded the plane to Iceland. A few hours later we arrived in the land of snow and ice which actually turned out to be not so “white”. In fact, it had been one of the warmest winters on record and there was no snow in sight.
We met our guide, Sheila, an ex-geography teacher from Scotland and our driver, who took us to see the bridge between the continents which spans the Alfagja rift valley in the dramatic surroundings of the Reykjanes peninsula. This was the start of our visit to this fabulous country with spectacular cultural and geographical features. Our first night was spent in The Hotel Cabin and, after a good hearty meal, an early night was had by all.
Our second day proved one we would never forget. Driving out of Reykjavik and into the country we started to really see and appreciate the wonders of Iceland. To put the cherry on the top it also started to snow! The coach headed to Husafell where we would be taken via an eight-wheel drive Monster Truck to the entrance to an ice cave on Langjökull Glacier. Having arrived in a relatively warm Iceland, we were now experiencing a snowy blizzard and, after donning crampons, we braved the entrance to the glacier. Inside was simply stunning and our guide led us through the tunnels describing and explaining the intricacies of the glacier’s features.
Iceland’s power is generated by the geothermal power plant at Hellisheidi. Its purpose is to meet the increasing industrial and domestic demands of the outlying towns and cities. We were privileged to have a tour of the power plant as well as viewing a very informative presentation.
Our remaining evenings were to be spent in the wonderful Guesthouse Husid where we were welcomed by Jana and her family. We were provided with great food and hospitality for the remainder of our stay.
Day 3 began with a swim in the Secret Lagoon at Fludir. Although it was icy cold outside, we were met with the cosiness and warmth of the geothermal pool. An underwater handstand competition was the order of the day and even Mr Morton showed off his gymnastics skills! Gulfoss (Golden) Waterfall was our next stop. An enormous white glacial cascade which drops 32 metres into a narrow canyon 70 metres deep and 2.5km long. Simply breathtaking! Next was the Geysir geothermal area where we viewed the impressive eruption of the Strokkur Geysir followed by a visit to Thingvellir National Park. Here we saw first-hand where the European and North American plates meet. Nowhere is the rift more obvious than where long deep cracks give the appearance of a crevassed glacier.
Mrs Edmonds was very excited for the horse riding at Olfus and she certainly was not disappointed. The girls all enjoyed the experience of the unique gait and canter of the Icelandic horses whilst I was somewhat traumatised when my beauty decided it was Derby day and wanted to race! Giddy up!
Day 4 began with a spectacular visit to Seljalandfoss; a 40 metre high waterfall which spills from the high basalt cliffs from the river Seljalandsá. This marvel formed as a result of isostatic rebound of the land and its lava flows and is the only known waterfall of its kind.
The black basalt sands and columnar basalt cliff faces at Reynishverfi were certainly a sight to behold. According to legend, the Reynisdrangar needles were formed when two trolls were trying to drag a three-mast ship to land. However, when daylight broke they turned to stone. Much of Iceland’s culture is based around the folklore of elves, trolls, hidden beings and the supernatural. It’s incredibly interesting and makes for excellent reading.
Not surprisingly we did not see any elves or trolls on our Glacier walk along the Solheimajökull Glacier. There was, however, clear evidence of moraines and moraine ridges crossed with kettle hole lakes which are dominant features of the glacier. The significant effects of global warming were also clearly evident as the glacier had retreated much further inland and was the same height as a nearby mountain a few years ago. Nevertheless, the girls enjoyed creating snow angels and taking many photographs on this stunning mound of ice and rock.
Although our time in Iceland was drawing to a close, we still had time to visit another waterfall called Skögafoss and the Eyiafjallajökull visitor centre. Skögafoss is a 60m high waterfall where the waters thunder down into the pool below producing huge amounts of spray. Anyone venturing near it would certainly have a good cold shower! At the Eyiafjallajökull visitor centre we watched a video created by the family that has this volcano at their back door. It clearly showed the resilience and determination of a family and their community to make the best of their situation following the eruption April 2010. Incredibly humbling and inspiring.
Our final evening was spent taste-testing some of Iceland’s specialities such as dried fish and meat prepared by our amazing hosts Jana and her family. Due to our incredibly early departure some of us managed a few hours’ sleep whilst others decided to stay up and brave the long ride to Keflavik Airport. After a very memorable flight home and a further four hour coach ride back to school, we all went home with a sense of awe and wonder at the amazing experience we had and the memories that we will hold forever.