The Land of Ice and Fire
36 students and 5 staff embarked on an adventure to Iceland over Easter. As the plane descended over Iceland, we were treated to fantastic views of ice caps and barren lava fields. On arrival at Keflavik airport we were met by our driver, Siggi who drove us out to the Gunnuhver; a fierce and eggy volcanic area. The area features a number of hot-springs and is widely believed to be the area Tolkien used as the basis for Mordor. From here we went to the bridge between the continents – the only place on land where you can walk from the North American to the Eurasian plate. We then headed to check out one of Iceland’s freshest lava flows at only 10 months old. The lava was still cooling down and we could feel the heat coming off the brand new basalt! We ended the first day in the Blue Lagoon under bright sunshine and blue skies.
Day 2 we met our guide Margaret and drove down to the south coast via an earthquake damaged shopping centre and the first of many waterfalls – Seljandfoss. That afternoon Margaret took us on an extended hike to the top of cliffs overlooking some amazing black sand beaches at Dyrholaey. Exhausted after our hike, we headed back to our countryside hotel hoping to see the Northern Lights.
Day 3 and the weather had turned more typically Icelandic and we spent the morning at Reynisfjara beach standing well back from the infamous ‘sneaker waves’ and admiring the stunning basalt columns and caves. Next stop was one of the highlights of the trip – the glacier climb! We all donned crampons and were given ice axes to help us transverse the Solheimajokull glacier. Our guides took us to the highest point whilst avoiding crevasses and piles of ash from the nearby E15 volcano. At the top we were allowed free rein with the ice axes and chipped away fresh ice to drink. It was sobering to realise that this glacier is receding and may not be around for more than a few decades. After, we had a quick visit to the Skogafoss waterfall and another ‘Margaret’ hike to the top. Exhausted, again, we retired to our very remote and windy hotel for a quiz and an early night – still no Northern Lights!
Day 4 – For our final full day we headed around the Golden Circle. We started by visiting one of Iceland’s many greenhouses where they grow tomatoes. We were given a shot of fresh tomato juice and marvelled at the boxes of imported bees. Next stop was the huge Gullfoss waterfall, which provided some amazing photo opportunities. After lunch, another highlight – the Strokkur geyser that erupts every 5-8 minutes. Our final Golden Circle stop was Thingvellir National Park. This was the seat of the first Icelandic parliament and also home to some impressive waterfalls and another opportunity to touch the edge of the tectonic plates! We finished the day in Reykyavik with a visit to the Perlan building where we finally got to see the Northern Lights (albeit in the planetarium!) and spend some time in a -15 degrees ice cave. This is where we said goodbye to Margaret and Siggi. We completed our day with dinner at the Hamburger Factory and prepared ourselves for our 2.45am wakeup call!
Day 5 a very early start to get us to the airport on time, but we made it! The Vandyke students were amazing throughout the entire trip and Margaret, our guide, called them the ‘best school group she’s ever met’, due to their curious questions and interest in the country and sights they saw. Well done!
Ms Monk, Mr O’Rourke, Mr Bodo, Miss Pearson and Lucy