During the October half term, 40 excited geographers set off for an adventure to the land of ice and fire: Iceland. The seven day trip was packed with activities and sightseeing, so packed in fact that the group rushed to their first destination straight after disembarking the plane. At their first Icelandic wonder, ‘The Bridge between two continents’, they actually crossed from Europe to North America and back again in a few short steps. The coach trip then continued to Gunnhver Springs. The Springs are rumoured to be haunted by the witch ghost Gunnah. No Ghosts were seen but there were plenty of spectacular steam plumes which provided a fantastic end to the day.
The following day pupils boarded the coach and set off for Geysir. The landscape was wild and windy with great clouds of sulphur-smelling steam. The geyser, after which the site is named, only erupts once or twice a year but the nearby Strokkur erupts every 6 – 7 minutes giving a fantastic display of super-heated water shooting 20 meters into the air. Pupils also had the opportunity to witness the Gullfoss waterfall, at the head of a steep sided gorge, the roar of the water and the curtains of spray werespectacular to see. The morning finished with a relaxing time in the geothermally heated spa. After a dip in the freezing lake there was a choice of pools ranging in temperature from 32 – 40 degrees centigrade.
Day three was another day of stunning scenery, subterranean exploration and ‘interesting’ Icelandic delicacies. First stop was the shark museum where the group learnt about the life, hunting and processing of the Greenland shark. It is an enormous creature whose flesh is poisonous to humans when fresh, but after it has been buried for six weeks and then cured for four months, it is considered a delicacy! Shark cookery lesson over, the coach set off on a remarkable tour around the peninsular, looking at the dramatic mountains and coastal scenery. The coach stopped at some lava tube caves where helmets were donned and pupils descended into the caves. They are created by lava flowing and cooling from a nearby (dormant) volcano that is situated beneath the ice-capped plateau. A highlight of the trip was conquering Holy Mountain, a small mountain and temple in honour of Thor. Pupils followed the local tradition and, mostly, managed to walk to the top in silence without looking back whilst thinking only happy thoughts. Once there it is customary to face east and make three wishes. A truly magical experience.
On day four the trip moved on the northern town of Myvatn, with the group desperately hoping for a glimpse of the Northern Lights, after several false alarms. Sure enough that night, at 10pm, everyone started to drift off to bed and at 10.10pm were all back outside amid great excitement that the Northern Lights were starting. Head of Geography, Alsadair Cradock said: “It was such a privileged to see the famous light show, they started with faint wisps of what looked like cloud and culminated in dancing multi-coloured ribbons. It was a truly magnificent experience.”
The next day the tour visited a moon-like volcanic landscape area known as Dimmuborgir, formed by a mixture of water and lava. On from there, they went to Krafla volcano where there was a covering of snow and so, naturally, a major snowball fight ensued. The last stop of the afternoon was the mud and thermal springs at Hverir. The steam jets were incredibly powerful and the bubbling mud was fascinating. On the final night it was decreed that it would be rude not to take advantage of the traditional spas one last time and so the day was rounded off by a two hour visit to the Myvatn nature baths to soak away the stresses of the day.
The trip was a massive success, with the party sad to say goodbye to the stunning country.