Talbot Heath

Iceland Geography Tour 2015

School Trip

"Reminiscence of a teacher"

What a lot of incredible things we did and saw in 5 days. I can't quite believe we had the beautiful snow, so pure, perfect and deep. That made it all the more magical.

Day 1: Half an hour after landing in Keflavik we were in the Blue Lagoon: the hot waters, relaxing bathing with fruit smoothies and mud pack faces, pummelling water on the shoulders made for a wonderful start to the Iceland Geography Tour. Once in the soothing waters it was hard to believe that we had met outside TH at 5.45am that same day.

More snow through the night made for lovely scenes as we woke up in the capital Reykjavik for...

Day 2: Our knowledgable guide Johan joined us and off we went. A pause to look at the newest geothermal power station Hellisheidi, made us realise that the bus would be travelling on all sorts and sizes of 'road'. Then off to meet our Icelandic horse at Eldhestar, hoping it will behave whilst trying to get on it. Walking soon became "tolting" on the snowy paths beside a river and across the lava fields. These sturdy, hairy horses quickly became our best friend. The tolting motion caused great hilarity and enjoyment. The two brave "allergy sufferers" (Mrs A and Estelle) topped up with antihistamines and enjoyed a coffee and chat with Krisjan in the warmth of the cafe but were still able to watch our entertaining moves! Next The Eyjafjallajokull visitor centre film and lovely husband and wife telling us about their experiences of just 5 yrs ago on their farm. Livestock surviving 4 days inside sheds but still covered with a cm of fine black ash. Driving onwards to the most southerly point of Iceland, to a black volcanic sandy beach at Reynishverfi partly covered in luscious snow, impressive basalt sea stacks and cave (a scene with Russell Crowe in Noah was filmed there). The Dyrhólaey door, views of the snowy Westman Islands including Surtsey. A quick pop into Vik (shopping fix). Then a Compacted ice track uphill for the bus to get us to our new rooms at Dyrhólaey. Snowball fights at the back of the hotel coupled with the realisation that this is our best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Lots of excitement. Deep, deep, untouched snow. Then the gentle knock on the door by dear lovely Kristjan to signal the start of 2 1/2hrs of green skies, goose bumps and wonder of the highest magnitude. Our very own"Paparazzi" stealing the show with their prized snaps. Georgina's knowledge of the camera aided others to capture amazing pictures of the Northern Lights. Wow! The rest of us were then taking pictures off their cameras onto our phones! Cheating maybe, but necessary! How another school at the hotel did not realise this was occurring, is still unbelievable. Surely our screams of delight and rushing around would have stirred them? A Dancing light show above our very own 3 peaked mini mountain kept us up until midnight. And that's only 2 days done .

Day 3: started with a drive up into the mountains on what could only be described as 'a challenging road' but the bus drove through the snow with great control. Biting winds, immense coldness but the whitest of scenery against the bluest of clear skies and off we walk, all 'cramponed and ice picked up' onto the glacier tongue of Solheimajokull. Deep, deep trudging for the leaders of the group made it easier for those at the back. The ice interspersed with larval rocks and ash from Katla, then sliding down an ice tube through the glacier. Whoops of joy and big, beaming smiles. Off to 2 impressive waterfalls. 60m drops. Skogafoss with the Creme Brûlée topping-style ice cracking underfoot as we got closer to the falls. The wonderful rainbow could be seen stretching across the whole of the falls. And the 2nd falls, Seljalandsfoss falling over the cliff into a plunge pool. Taking the decision not to walk around behind the falls didn't spoil the sights. Slipping on sheets of ice was not an option. Perhaps we will have better luck next time. On to Hveragerdi better known as 'Herdi Gerdi' the thermal town and it's earthquake simulator capturing the Olfus quake of 2008 at 6.6 on the Richter scale, caused nervous squeals turning to fits of laughter. Occasionally the sulphur aroma drifts into our nostrils and we all remember how seismically active this wonderful island is. Back to Reykjavik's Cabin Hotel and "Do you own this hotel?" (Aimed at Miss Dyson) and "that old lady" (Mrs Chapleo's heart sinks!) are only a couple of snippets of conversation with students from other schools, as they try to have fun after lights out.

Day 4: A slight delay to our start as we visit the local bus depot...a broken down coach meant that we needed a replacement one and it needed a wash. We were invited to wait for the few minutes in the driver's cafe. The sight of fresh fruit being eaten by the drivers (no bacon sandwiches here) and their welcoming demeanour, together with free wifi was enjoyed by the girls. Clear windows and off we went across the snow pass to Kerid the stratovolcano that erupted 3,500 yrs ago, a salmon ladder and additional waterfall (extra in the schedule), the awe-inspiring power of Gullfoss (without -10 degree colder winds, phew), videoing and capturing pictures of "the bubble" of the geysir, Strokkur, which erupted every 5-7 mins. Darina's photo would be the envy of many a professional photographer this time. Some of us watched it about 8 times. You wouldn't get tired of seeing these amazing natural beauties! Next on to Thingvellir and it's plate tectonics, one foot either side of the continental rift, standing on both the Eurasian and North American plates at the same time. Goose bumps for those that really appreciated the enormity of this. Deep gorges, the first parliament meeting place in 930AD, crystal clear cold waters,where cold waters can be dived in. A massive natural lake and extensive plains in the valley. Then a drive back to Reykjavik and a stop-off at Perlan. It is a hot water storage building which comprises of cylinder tanks with a glass dome perched on top. We were able to walk around the outside of the hemisphere dome and see stunning views of Reykjavik and the surrounding scenery. Eden took a stumble on the stairs and her mobile phone flew out of her hand into the fountain below. The last deed for Johan, our trusty guide was getting the phone back (which culminated in him slipping and getting wet up to his shins.). He took it in his stride. Calm and professional. A stop off at the impressive basalt columned designed Hallgrimskirkja Church to see the huge array of organ pipes, it's window at the alter which looked out to the flat table topped mountains and the beautiful simplistic Lutherian style of interior. From here some of the group went back to the Hotel Cabin in the bus whilst others accompanied Mrs. A and Miss D down through the town to be met at the Harpa Concert Hall. Photos by Mrs. A show the sights along the way...the larval block brick prison, a fish shop, the Hallgrimskirkja Church, the harbour scenes and the impressive glass designed concert hall. After supper half the girls chose to go swimming at the local thermal pool in -6 air temp degrees, frozen icicles on hair during the 5 min walk back. Again we watch the skies for green trails but to no avail tonight.

Day 5: started with trip certificate presentations (best quote going to he statement "I didn't realise there would be so much A' Level Geography on this trip", then off to the lava fields, but alas no caving this time. Our eyes looked left and right to see cod heads drying in long cages on the roadside, hot springs, icicles hanging from the rocks beside the road. A vast frozen lake with signs of it melting around the edges. Then the much needed, if impromptu stop, next to the biggest field of snow most of us have ever seen. What followed next was close to an hour of sheer snow-based delight; sliding down snowy slopes and squeals of delight. Snow balls thrown in all directions and at all people, bar Mrs C the photographer. TH written in the snow with girls lying end to end and finally a snowball fight, aimed only at camera-less Mrs C! Wide grins, wet hair, soggy socks and back on a warm bus. Wonderful Kristjan's mystery tour took us to the small, but rich fishing town of Grindavik located in the lava field of Reykjanes peninsula, where we stopped at a very welcoming cafe. We were nearly at the end of our trip, but still had time to see the solfataras and fumaroles at Gunnuhver. Waterproofs were needed one last time to walk through the steam from the vigorously boiling mud pools. The smell of sulphur was everywhere. Lastly, we paused at Leif, the "Lucky Bridge". More goose bumps as we walked over the bridge between the continents, spanning the fissure of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Plenty of photos holding the bridge up, linking the continents with a human chain for those of us who braved the biting winds. Then off to the airport for our return flight.

Miss Dyson

The girls were fabulous and a real credit to TH, but the trip would not be possible without my two wonderful colleagues giving up 5 days of their Easter break to accompany 32 students to Iceland. Many thanks to everyone in our party - staff and students alike. What a truly wonderful trip - I'm already planning Easter 2017...details to follow!

Mrs Chapleo

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