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Sale Grammar’s Icelandic Adventures 2015

Posted on: February 5th 2016

Mrs Sallabank

Our adventures started as soon as we left the airport and arrived at the Blue Lagoon. Plumes of steam rose from the moody landscape as we entered the silica rich geothermal seawater. Surprisingly, the water is actually white; it’s the sindrandi (sparkling) sun that makes it blue. Swimsuits were covered with silica mud as we wallowed away our stresses and applied silica face masks.

Relaxed, rested and raring to go, we made our way to our hotel in Lemmur Sq. where we ate a hearty meal before exploring Reykjavik in the evening. Despite being warned that it may not happen, we were rewarded by being able to watch the magical Northern Lights. We were all hugfanginn (fascinated).

Traversing the Eyjafjallajokull flood plain allowed us to see the evidence of the glacial flood water that washed down the valley damaging farmland, roads and bridges after the volcanic eruption. The dystopian landscape was certainly bleak and forbidding. At the visitors’ centre, we met the lady whose farm was subsumed by the lava and watched some astounding footage of the volcano as it was erupting.

Later, we were able to walk behind the impressive 60 metre plume of Seljalandsfoss and experienced the beauty of Gljufurarfoss, a delightful waterfall concealed in a cave. Both these waterfalls were einstök (unique). Indeed, there is nothing like standing at the brim of a waterfall and meditating on the power of Mother Nature.

They were my favourite experiences…until we went to Solheimajokull, the ‘sun house glacier’. Although it was stunning, it did serve as a stark reminder of global warming; it has been retreating since the end of the 19th century at a rate of around 100m per year.

Wearily, that evening, we entered the country Hotel Dyrholaey in Brekkur; there was raðljóst (just enough light to see by), which made the barren landscape eerie and mysterious. After our meal, we held a quiz in the hotel lounge. All the teachers had created a round of questions, but perhaps the most difficult was the quiz our Headteacher had done on: The Life and Times of Mr Smallwood!

The following day we visited Reynishverfi and its imposing cliffs that rose from the black volcanic beach like a towering basalt army. Vik, the quaint coastal town that we walked to, provided more basalt sea stacks and black sands. (If I sound like I know what I’m talking about, it is mostly thanks to Mr Murray who gently led me through the difficult geophysics of the trip!)

Although it was gluggaveður (window-weather…good for looking at but not being out in), we braved the cutting winds for a spectacular víðsýni (panoramic view) of the mighty Atlantic ocean from above the small town.

Screams and laughter heralded out visit to the earthquake simulator in the small ‘greenhouse’ town of Hveragerdi. Evidence of the geothermal activity could be seen by the wafts of smoke and the whiff of sulphur. (Actually, that odour permeated our nostrils and clothes for the whole stay, but you somehow get used to it.) It was then back to Reykjavik and dinner at The Hamburger Factory.

Although our grandmothers tell us not to swim on a full stomach, the Icelandic people have no such qualms. Dinner was followed by a brisk and slightly chilly walk to the outdoor geothermal swimming pool. Thanks to Mr Roberts’ trusty map reading skills, we made good time. Our eager excitement was chastened a little when we had to have showers before entering the pool. (Girls, you know what I mean!) However, we soon escaped the icy October air, and bathed in mineral-rich, warm, comforting waters. The ice bath was an acquired taste that some students proved themselves capable of surviving. You know who you are! While Mr Smallwood was swimming laps in a dignified and professional manner, my favourite memory was of the other teachers (me included) running laughing (or maybe we were screaming) for the pitch-black waterslide. Swimming in the freezing cold can be unbelievably exhilarating.

Our final day gave us Gullfoss, geysirs and skyr ice-cream. They were all my favourite experiences! Gullfoss’ double falls drop around 33m then plunge into a mile long gorge – it is one of Iceland’s most photographed waterfalls. (Mostly by Sale Grammar.) The Strokkur Geysir, aptly named The Churn, was extraordinary. Geysers are one of the manifestations of later stages of volcanism, and when you stand near one as it is erupting, you are in awe of their primordial power.

Another favourite moment (I had lots of them) was our visit to Efsti-Dalur dairy farm. This was not as much to do with the delicious skyr and ice-cream, (and delicious it was too), but more to do with no Wi-Fi and lots of lovely students talking with no phones in their hands. (To be fair, they rarely had the chance because we were on the go most of the time!)

As ever, Miss Wilkinson’s excellent sense of humour and quick wit made the students relaxed as we ate our final evening meal. After which, we were back to the hotel for an early bedtime as we were up with the lark the following day.

I am deeply indebted to Miss Evans and Mr Roberts for inviting me on their fantastic trip. I have never really been a Geographer; I think this is because I didn’t realise how thrilling it could be. Both Geography and Iceland have definitely won my hjarta (heart).

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