22 of our geography pupils returned from Iceland early on Tuesday morning after an exciting and jam-packed 5 days. The pupils were a credit to the school throughout trip and it has been a pleasure to share these experiences with them. They behaved excellently and were polite, courteous and great fun; approaching each activity with interest and enthusiasm. Our tour guide and coach driver repeatedly sang their praises.
Mr D Savagar
Head of Geography
A diary of their experiences can be found below:
An early 4.30am start, followed by a very smooth journey through to Heathrow. Arrived in plenty time before boarding the flight at 12.40pm.On arriving in Iceland, we met our tour guide Richard and the multi-talented bus driver, Thor. They taught us some basic Icelandic phrases as we drove across the lava fields of the south-west to Gunnuhver. Here we watched steam seep from vents and fissures and mud pools bubble due to sea water infiltrating through the hot rocks of Iceland’s crust.
Our next stop was the Reykjanes Peninsula, a rugged coastline of dark volcanic rock, where huge waves rolled in. Richard taught us about the Great Auk, a flightless sea bird that became extinct in the mid-19th century due to hunters catching the birds and their eggs for food. The wind was super powerful here (around 20m/s), making walking back to the bus a bit of a challenge. Next we drove a short distance to the ‘bridge between the continents’ and crossed the fissure that has opened as the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates have split apart.
Our last stop of day 1 was Perlan, an observation deck and exhibition centre with 360• views of Reykjavík.
We reached Hjardarbol Guesthouse at 8.00pm and were greeted by the resident dogs. Tasty lasagne and salad and some time in the hot tubs before bed.
Fri 12th April: Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Station, Waterfalls of the SW and Hveragerdi earthquake simulator
Our first visit of the day was Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Station, where we were given a tour and shown a video on how Iceland is harnessing heat from a volcanic hotspot to generate electricity and provide hot water.
From here we drove to Seljalandfoss, a 60m waterfall caused by glacial meltwater flowing over a former sea cliff. Everyone took the opportunity to walk behind the waterfall and look up as it plunged down from above. Waterproofs were definitely needed! Walking another 300m along the foot of the cliffs led us to another waterfall, Gljufrabui. Hidden behind a tight rock face, the group had to take turns to carefully plot their route over the stepping stones, to squeeze into the tight gorge that hides the waterfall. Needless to say a few ended up with wet feet.
In the afternoon, we visited a lava tunnel, stopping at one more waterfall, Urridafoss, en route. We were kitted out with helmets and crampons and led 400m through the tunnel created by the lava flows of an eruption that occurred 5,200 years ago. The roof was rich with shades of red and small columns of ice had grown wherever snowmelt could enter through a crack in the roof. When we reached the deepest point the guides asked everyone to switch their head torches off and we were plunged into pitch darkness for a few minutes.
Before returning to the guesthouse we stopped in Hveragerdi at a local shopping and information centre which was destroyed during its construction by a 6.6 earthquake in 2008. The information centre has been rebuilt astride a fissure that opened in the ground during the quake and we were able to peer through the glass into the ruptured rocks below. Monitors on the wall showed CCTV footage of the damage inside local shops. The information centre included an earthquake simulator too which everyone experienced, despite the best attempts of the first group to put the rest off with their screaming.
Spicy chicken wraps and more hot tub time at the guest house in the evening.
Sat 13th April: Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River, the Lava Centre, Gluggafoss and Selfoss Swimming Pool.
We drove through Hveragerdi and parked by a ford in the Reykjadalur River ready for our hike. The path ascended steeply for the first mile and wound through hot springs and mud pools on the flanks of Mt Hengill, an extinct volcano last active 12,000 years ago. Some of the hot pools we passed were 100•c. After the initial ascent the path levelled our and we reached a stretch of warm river where most of the boys had a dip despite the cold, wet, windy weather.
After returning to the bus we drove to the lava centre, where we were shown footage of the volcanoes that have erupted in recent history. Afterwards we explored the exhibitions to learn more about the volcanic hotspot beneath Iceland and actually touch cooled lava and lava bombs. We took a quick visit to Gluggafoss waterfall before driving back to Selfoss for a visit to the swimming pool. Everyone sampled the various hot and cold tubs and the slide before finishing with a long game of water volleyball. We were back at Hjardarbol guesthouse for 6.30 for Spaghetti Bolognese and more hot tub time.
Sunday 14th April: the Secret Lagoon, Gulfoss, Strokkur, Ljossafoss HEP station, Thingvellir National Park.
We set out for the Secret Lagoon first thing and spent an hour bathing in the geothermally heated waters. Parts of it were very, very warm so we had to pick our bathing spots carefully.
Next we drove to Gulfoss, a huge waterfall where thousands of litres tumble over two-tiers into a narrow canyon. In the past British investors planned to divert the river for energy production but were unsuccessful after a protest by a local farmer’s daughter, Sigridur Tomasdottir, who walked to Reykjavík bare foot to draw attention to the issue.
A few miles further we stopped at Geysir, another geothermal area with bubbling springs and geysers. We walked a short distance to Strokkur, a geyser which constantly bubbles away then blasts water 20m in the air every 5 minutes or so. We stayed for 4 steam eruptions, taking it in from each angle.
In the afternoon we stopped at Ljossafoss HEP station and used the interactive exhibition to learn how flowing water can be used to produce electricity. Iceland produce 80% of its electricity this way.
Our last visit was Thingvellir National Park. We walked past another fast-flowing waterfall and then about a mile through the Rift Valley alongside the edge of the North American Plate which towered to our right hand side. Looking east we could see braided streams running into Lake Thingvellirvatn and volcanoes framing the horizon. En route Richard stopped us at Logberg ‘the law rock’. Here Iceland’s Viking leaders formed the world’s first democratic parliament and would meet annually to recite existing laws and resolve judicial matters. The walk ended with a great view over the Rift Valley.
We arrived back at the guest house in the evening where we ate lamb schnitzel and said our farewell to Richard who was leaving early in the morning.