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#EggarsIce Day 5

This is it – the final day!

We woke in Reykjavik and had a slightly later start to the day since the city centre would not open until 10am. We didn’t have the wonderful Oli guiding us today so our driver Bergvin took us for a quick drive around the town and then we were given free time to explore the city. We started off at Hallgrimskirkja church up on the hill and then aided with a street map (this is geography after all!) and an emergency phone number we headed off in groups to explore the capital. Reykjavik is quite small and on a peninsular, so the main shopping district of Laugavegur and surrounding streets is easy to navigate. It seems that the most popular shop was Subway and a creperie! There was some retail therapy and a few gifts for home purchased (especially from the ‘I don’t speak Icelandic’ shop!) and then we headed off.

The final ‘geographic’ stops for sightseeing were in the Reykjanes area. We drove through huge lava fields and saw amazing crashing waves along the coast (well the nearest land mass to here is Antarctica!) and stopped off at Gunnahver. This hot spring area has a few legends and folk tales attached which our Icelandic guide Oli would have told much better than Ms Debens but we still had a good explore. The hot pools were bubbling hot and the sulphur smell was super strong!

Last stop was the ‘Bridge between the continents’ area. This is a symbolic bridge put in place to mark the link between North America and Europe. It is known as Leif the Lucky bridge after Leifur Eiriksson who was an Icelandic explorer who actually discovered North America 500 years before Christopher Columbus. The bridge is symbolic but you can stand in the rift and imagine the diverging plates moving away. Plus you could have a great game of hide and seek here…maybe next time!

Then it was time to head to the airport. We got ourselves through customs (thanks again to Wow Air for being efficient and friendly) and had a bit of time for more retail therapy before heading home.

The whole trip was a great experience, and we really hope that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Team Debens, Reah, Lomas, Westwood and Cartwright loved every minute and would like to say thank you to all the students for being so brilliant and to the parents and guardians for all your support.

DtW logoA huge THANK YOU as well to the fantastic Discover the World for organising such a great itinerary and guide, and for making the trip slick and super efficient.

Students – don’t forget there is the Discover the World photo competition you can enter via Twitter. Just tweet your photo to @DTW_Education with the hashtag #DTWE2015 and this competition runs this year to win an iPad mini or GoPro. If you’re not on Twitter see Ms Debens to do it for you.

There is also the school photo competition – enter your photos via email or bring in your memory card / cables to Ms Debens by lunchtime on Friday 24th (this Friday) so that we can decide. We will organise a student and parent sharing evening to showcase your photos, and to announce the winners of the photo competition and the other awards. Photo categories reminders: Landscape, Wildlife, Panorama, Funny, Tropical Island. Enter as many as you like.

Categories for the individual student awards will include: funniest moment, best quote, trooper (year 9 and year 10), participation, happiest, best all rounder, etc. Awards and prizes will be given out at the parent/student evening and we will confirm the date and time ASAP. Mr Reah is organising a photo showcase in the foyer so see him if you wish to help.

So that’s a wrap. You can catch up on various bits via the Twitter thread as well. Thank you to everyone for taking part and making #EggarsIce 2015 such a success. 🙂

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So today we left Vatnsholt (after meeting the Iceland’s Got Talent winner of ‘ugliest dog’, the new baby goat, a dancing retriever and a pet raven!) and headed towards the Golden Circle – the infamous ‘honeypot’ area of Iceland.

First stop was Kerid crater volcano. We walked around the crater rim and looked down into the semi-frozen lake – seeing a submerged picnic bench bizarrely underneath the water. Then we took in a few waterfalls, building up to the main event of Gulfoss waterfall.

The lower path was closed due to snow and ice on the slopes so we enjoyed the view from the top. The sound of the waterfall thundering over was impressive, and a huge volume of water was cascading down into the gorge.

After this we drove towards the hot springs area and stopped for lunch in the woods (hard to find tall woods in Iceland as the trees are few and small!) and a spot of snowball fighting. Mr Reah barely stayed on his feet, there was some team-tagging with students vs teachers briefly, and we saw the legend of a buried troll.

Next stop was Geysir valley – the geothermal park made infamous by the original ‘Geysir’ geyser that is one of the biggest hot water spouts in the world. Although Geysir itself hasn’t erupted for years and is unlikely to, we did get to see Strokkur erupt several times and see various hot pools bubbling away. Mr Westwood got a teeny bit close and got surprised, and George got a fantastic slow-mo video of the event. After a spot of retail therapy (including some very carefully thought out gift buying for family) and the visitor centre we headed off to our final experience today.

Thingvellir is the ‘parliament plains’ – a wide rift valley where the world’s first parliament ‘Althing’ was held from 930AD for tribes to settle disputes and trade. As the plates diverge you can see the rift valley and the lake inside it. It’s a classic tourist spot where you can imagine you are standing with one foot on the North American plate and one on the Eurasian plate at the same time or jumping between the two.

Finally we headed back to Reykjavik and said goodbye to our wonderful guide Oli. He was truly fantastic and we are really grateful to him for the stories, logistics, and expert knowledge. We took a nice walk along the coastline towards the city centre for our final meal at Restaurant Reykjavik where we were spoiled with amazing food and a lovely room to ourselves – thank you Discover the World for arranging this upgrade!

So tomorrow is our final day, to be spent in Reykjavik. Everyone who wants to submit their photos to the photo competition in school needs to do so by Friday 24th in the categories: landscape, funny, tropical island, panorama, and wildlife.

Thanks to all the parents and guardians as well for following along here on the blog and on twitter!

Here are some pics from today.

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#EggarsIce Day 3

Busy day today! Up and away from Dyhrolaey and towards the mountains for an 8WD adventure through Thorsmork. We were taken on a monster truck tour up through the river valley, crossing streams and driving through the snow. Iceland has had quite a heavy winter so there was still lots of snow to explore. We went right up towards the Gigjokull glacier that used to have a lagoon until the 2010 eruption caused a ‘jokulhlaup’ flood. Then we headed deeper into the area for lunch and had some snowball fights and made some snow sculptures before scrambling uphill to an amazing view of the whole floodplain and mountain plateau. Lastly here we explored up through a ‘glyfur’ (gorge) along a stream to see some hidden waterfalls and had a go making our own stone pathways that was great fun. Especially when Mr Reah fell in the snow and Ms Debens waded through the river to check the path.

Last stop today was at Seljalandafoss – a huge waterfall that was once a sea cliff and has a cave at the bottom where the plunge pool is. During the last ice age, Iceland was fully covered in ice and as a result the land was push down and the sea level was higher. Once the ice started melting the land dried up and expanded, like a drying sponge, and rose up higher and sea levels fell. This is called isostatic rebound. So nowadays along the coast there is lots of land that was once below sea level and the cliffs are now further inland so you see exposed inland caves. Anyway, this means that there is a wide bowl at the bottom of the waterfall that you can walk behind. Awesome stuff but very wet! Alongside was another waterfall inside a hidden canyon like a secret fall which we explored.

We stayed at Vatnsholt farm today and hope to see the northern lights maybe if it stays clear. Tonight we have enjoyed the playground and chasing the dog! Also a baby goat was just born!

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#EggarsIce15 Day 2

So this morning we woke up in Reykjavik, enjoyed some continental breakfast and local breads (as well as finding the local sweets in the shop!) and packed up to leave. We met our Icelandic guide Olafur (Oli) and set out to explore. When we hit the mountain passes we got to experience some proper Icelandic weather – hill fog and snow! Oli told us stories along the way about the tectonic plates, eruptions, coastal landforms, ancient legends and folk stories.

As we headed along Route 1 the first destination today was the Thorvaldseyri visitor centre about the 2010 volcanic eruption under Eyjafjallajokull (one of our GCSE case studies). The farm at the bottom of the mountain beneath the glacier was covered in thick ash when the wind blew the eruption ashes south and the local farmers had to abandon the area. We watched a brilliant video made by the family during the eruption and in the months afterwards as they rebuilt their life. The eruption became quite a positive for the local farmers – providing nutrient rich ash for the soil, shelter from the winds to the north, and now a new source of income in tourism. The family has built the visitor centre to share their story, and you can speak to the owners about their experiences as they are there in front of you! Some great gifts available too that have been made as profits from the eruption (another positive influence for locals) like lava candles, bottled ash (!), lava jewellery, perfume made from the glacial water, etc. Icelanders certainly know how to put a positive spin on a bad situation and make the most from it!

After this we visited Skogarfoss – a huge waterfall that is fed by the glacier Eyjafafjallajokull and which turned black during the 2010 eruption when so much ash was pouring down river. We hiked up a steep hill to the top to a viewing platform and a little upriver so we could see the gorge and some higher waterfalls. It’s good to see how a river works in real life! At the bottom of the fall, we were able to get close to the plunge pool to feel the spray of water on our faces and hear the thundering water – pretty special. And if you wanted you could try some fresh glacial meltwater!

We had a picnic, dried off, and then headed off to our glacier hike at Solheimajokull. The glacier has been retreating inland as melting has increased – partly due to global warming, but also influenced by the ash from the eruption that meant the ice turned black and absorbed more heat from the sun so melted quicker. We split into groups and set off on the ice in our crampons and set with ice axes. The guides told us stories about how ice moves, and we learned about the dangers from hidden moulins and crevasses. The sound of the ice was impressive. We didn’t realise how deep it was until our guide dropped ice down into a hole and we could still hear it bouncing down inside for a long time!

After this it was time to reach the coast. We drove along to Dyrholaey and saw the black sand beaches and headland with puffin out to sea. There were some very impressive waves going on (which we kept well away from!) which we sat and watched for a while. Lots of coastal landforms to explain as well. The last place today was just next door at Reynisdrangar to see some basalt column cliffs and caves.

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Day 1 saw us travelling from school to Gatwick and then into Keflavik airport. We had a really good flight and great service from the airline. As soon as we arrived we were met by our Icelandic bus driver to take us out and about. First stop was the Blue Lagoon!

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermally heated spa pool that has bright bluey green water and silica clays that you can put on your faces and hands.The water was lovely and hot! We enjoyed local Skyr yoghurt smoothies and frozen drinks in the hot pool, and floated around.

After this we drove into Reykjavik city and up to the Perlan restaurant. This is up high and has a rotating top restaurant. You can get a great view from up on the roof terrace looking out over the whole city. You can see the central city, all the coloured roofs and houses, the coastline and fishing district, the central Hallgrimskirkja church and everywhere into the distant mountains. A good way to get a perspective of the area – and to see how small scale the city is!

Here are some photos from Day 1.

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eggarsgeogSo departure day is nearly here! Wahoo! We are very excited to be jetting off tomorrow for the first Eggar’s School Iceland trip, being taken by the wonderful Discover the World.

The trip itinerary is going to be full on, and we will have the chance to experience many of the great classic Iceland sites such as:

– the Blue Lagoon

– the Golden Circle including Geysir and Gulfoss

– the ancient Thingvellir and rift valley where the plates diverge

– an 8WD excursion through the mountains and rivers of Thorsmork

– a glacier hike over Solheimajokull

– see the infamous Eyjafjallajokull eruption area

– climb a volcano (dormant!)

– walk behind waterfalls

And much more. The full itinerary can be seen here if you wish.

Just in case you still haven’t quite packed (like Mr Westwood…!) or want to check over the list, it can be seen here.

Your enjoyment and safety are our first priority, so we will be putting you into groups assigned to either:

Team Debens

Team Lomas

Team Reah

Team Cartwright

Team Westwood

It doesn’t mean you can’t mix with others and chat, it is just to make the logistics easier during check in / moving out to different sites.

You will be on and off the coach all day long, so be prepared with a good rucksack, comfy shoes (with grip!), waterproofs, warm layers, snacks and drink, sunglasses, and something to do on the coach if you wish (tablets / mobile phones taken at your own risk). In the hotel you can wear whatever is comfortable, but maybe take slippers or thick socks as many hotels have a ‘no outdoor shoes’ policy.

You’ll need to be aware of Data Roaming on your mobile, so perhaps best to stick to Wifi in hotel and switch off your 3G when out and about. You can buy data bundles from your mobile phone provider which might be best, e.g. T mobile is £3 a day for 50mb for 24hours.

We will be blogging each evening, and tweeting during the day from @eggarsgeog using the hashtag #EggarsIce.

Discover the World are also running a Photo competition so be creative, and this can win a Go Pro camera. They are also offering a Twitter and Facebook competition to win an iPad mini – simply tweet them @DTW_Education using hashtag #DTWE2015 or go on the Discover the World Education facebook page and end your message DTWE2015 ! Good luck! But remember to do this when using wifi to save yourself (or your parents) some nasty phone bills 🙂

Right, let’s have an amazing trip. See you tomorrow! Ms D

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The Iceland 2015 trip will be taking place on the 15-19th April and this site will share some of the events and images of our explorations at the time.

We shall update twitter via @eggarsgeog using the hashtag #EggarsIce as well as the blog each day (wifi provided!) with some stories of what we have been up to, and some images to make everyone back home jealous 🙂

Thank you to Discover the World Education who will be putting on an amazing trip for us – we can’t wait!

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