Journey to the Land of Ice and Fire 2015
On Wednesday 28th November, Mrs O’Neill and myself set out with 21 students from NSB for a five-day adventure in Iceland. We arrived at Keflavik airport at around 4.00pm, by 5.00pm we were swimming in the bathwater-hot, mineral rich waters of the Blue lagoon. It may have been about 2ºC raining and blowing a gale but we were able to swim outdoors in absolute comfort. Volcanic heat warms the waters, which fill a bowl in a massive lava field. That night we stayed at the Youth Hostel in Reykjavik but there was little or no time to unpack as we were on the road the next morning at 9.00am.
Thursday saw us exploring the South shore. First stop a new geothermal power station, closely followed by a visit to the Eyjafjallajokull visitor centre and a chance to talk to a lady farmer who lived right next to this volcano that brought air travel to a halt when it erupted. In the rain we visited the immensely spectacular Skogafoss waterfall before walking to a tongue of one of the vast ice sheets that stud this part of Iceland. As is often the case in Iceland, the weather does not stay the same for long and our walk, which began soggily, ended in glorious sunshine. Our action packed day ended with a visit to the Dyrholaey headland. Here massive sea stacks, arches and cliffs and hexagonal columned caves, set against a black sand beach were pounded by massive storm force waves… spectacular.
We were back on the road early the next morning when we picked up a massive 8WD monster truck that was to take us up the Thorsmork valley. To get to the head of the valley, which is set between three glaciers we had to ford some 20 rivers – ‘Siggy’, our driver made light work of it. We climbed a big hill that gave impressive views along the valley before hiking up a narrow gorge, fording another river and clambering into an amazing cave. The roof had collapsed and a 30 m high waterfall cascaded down. It was like something out of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones (not surprising as they used this area to film it!!). We all thought this trip was brilliant.
Dinner that night was back in Reykjavik, at the “best burger restaurant in the country” and we all had to agree that it lived up to the hype. We had hoped to see the Northern lights that night, but despite it being clear and walking by the bay… no luck.
Our last full day was spent on the Golden Circle, the jewels of Southwest Iceland and the incredible Gullfoss waterfall. The weather was being kind and we saw it in brilliant sunshine and were rewarded with a perfect rainbow framing the impressive cascades. Next we saw the Geysir hydrothermal site, from which the term geyser is derived. We all found it hard to tear ourselves away from Strokkar, which erupts every 4 – 5 minutes sending water and steam 40 metres into the air. Our final stop was Thingvellir, sited atop the mid oceanic ridge where you can see and walk in the rifts caused as the American and Eurasian plates pull apart.
For a web gallery of images from the trip please Click Here
After a walk into the centre of town we took our last evening meal, Italian this time. We walked by the bay on the way home, it was our last night and although we didn’t hold out too much hope we thought we should look for the Northern lights. We were rewarded with a 40 minute display. Huge swathes of green light dancing across the sky in vivid curtains. You could not tear your eyes away and our photographers used up the batteries in their cameras that night. It was the perfect end to an amazing trip.
There were other places we visited on the trip and I could go on at great length - it was all a breath-taking experience! The students, boys and girls from Years 13 and 11 were a treat to be with. They were great ambassadors for the school and our guides and drivers all commented that they were the best behaved and most interested group they had worked with this year.
Well done to them and thanks again to Mrs O’Neill for her help. I sincerely hope that we will be able to visit this fantastic country again.