Wednesday, 26th October 2016

It was a very early start on the Wednesday morning; however there was the element of excitement in my stomach about the amazing trip that was lying ahead which made it so much easier. At 7am we arrived at school and climbed upon the bus. We then had a swift and successful journey to Gatwick. After making our winding way through the baggage drop, passport control and security, we had some time to relax and eat our lunch before departure. Following our small trek to the gate we climbed aboard the unique purple WOW airlines plane and set off over the North Atlantic to our destination... Iceland.

Once landing in Keflavik, in the south west of Iceland, and getting through the airport control, we stepped out through the exit doors and experienced the crisp and tingling feeling of the Icelandic breeze upon our faces. We then hopped upon our bus and met our very welcoming Rayburn tour guide Paul Berry. After a brief introduction, we ventured to our first Icelandic destination, The Bridge between the Continents. It was beautiful scenery and a great start to our tour. It was an incredible experience having the feeling of walking between the tectonic plates, on the soft black sand which was formed by volcanic activity hundreds of thousands of year ago.

After getting our first idyllic photos we then gathered again and set off to the next destination, the Gunnuhver Hot Springs. When we stepped out to explore the geothermal area, there was a pungent and bitter smell of the sulphur that the geothermal vents produce. However, besides the fact it smelt so badly, we could not hide our amazement at the engulfing steam that was erupting from the vents. It was truly incredible that the vast amount of steam being produced was natural. The group then had a walk around the area, even spotting the small Grindavik lighthouse in the distance. We then headed off to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, discovering on the way that 60% of the Icelandic population lives in Reykjavik or the surrounding area. After the sinuous journey through the dark Icelandic country we finally made it there and enjoyed an evening in our warm hostel for the night.

Thursday, 27th October 2016

In the morning we all got up and prepared for another day of adventure ahead. After loading up the bus with our luggage, we had a short journey into the center of Reykjavik. We stopped off at the harbour and watched the sun rise over the mountains in the distance, reflecting the gentle and beautiful orange colours of the late Icelandic dawn.

The group was then led to the new Harpa Concert Hall. It was constructed using the most incredible architecture, with the outside of the building being made from hexagonal glass structures which were glowing with the colours of the Reykjavik sunrise. After looking at the amazing building we had a lovely stroll around the beautiful city of Reykjavik, exploring the diverse and colourful nature of the buildings and cafes. We even had the chance to look at the stunning Hallgrímskirkja Church and then went to the top floor of the Perlan building to have the best view of the city, exploring it in full panorama.

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Once we had completed our time in Reykjavik we had a long journey into the Þingvellir National Park. We stopped off and ventured through another example of the spreading Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. It was spectacular walking through the gorge formed by the enormous continental plates with the fault walls (horsts) erected high either side of us. We then came across another spectacular landform, the Öxarárfoss waterfall. Pure, clear blue, glacial meltwater gushed over the top, creating the most beautiful sight; it was the perfect location for many photos.

We then moved along further into the valley, which is a key location in Icelandic history. It is where the oldest existing parliament in the world first assembled in 930 AD. Þingvellir has, for this reason, been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After our brilliant time in the National Park we then continued through the Icelandic countryside taking in the astonishing views to the famous geysers. This place was thoroughly enjoyed by all the students as the Strokkur geyser provided extraordinary eruptions. It was certainly funny when some people were waiting for the little geyser to erupt, even though it never does!

Following our time wondering around watching all the eruptions, we set off for the Gullfoss waterfall. Before we arrived, there was a significant sprinkling of snow. Therefore, when we got to the view of the waterfall, and the surrounding landscape, we were certainly treated to an unbelievable sight. The sheer size and power of the waterfall was incredibly daunting when comparing it to the Öxarárfoss waterfall. We carefully walked around the edge, being covered in its engulfing spray. It was extraordinary having the chance to experience a waterfall on such an unbelievable scale. After this we set off for our last stop, the Secret Lagoon. This was the perfect place to end an amazing day, relaxing in the warm 38ºC natural pool; reflecting on our Geographical journey so far. It was brilliant to socialise and we even tricked the teachers into going into the boiling warm area which heats up the lagoon! We then headed to our next hostel in Selfoss and once again enjoyed a calm and cosy evening.

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Friday, 28th October 2016

On Friday, we visited multiple waterfalls, a glacier and some beaches built up of black, volcanic sand. Our tour guide led the way as we first stopped at a waterfall in the Rangárþing eystra area, walking behind it and looking out over the coast. The view was very good, and the rushing water provided further amazement. When walking up to the waterfall, the spray was almost unbearable but, once behind the falls, it was sheltered and calm. As a group, we then piled on to the bus and travelled to the next waterfall. It cut through the side of a cliff, falling into a pool below. A rainbow had formed in the spray and the clouds had cleared to create a great opportunity for photos. The waterfall is known as Skogafoss and is a great site of geographical interest. We spent an hour there, walking around, climbing the long staircase to the top of the hills where you could look straight down the waterfall or, like some, eating at the café. When it was time to leave, everyone made their way to the coach and our tour guide briefed us on our next destination.

We arrived at the coastline of Mýrdalshreppur shortly after setting off, and were all amazed to see black sand. The volcanic rocks had been worn down over many years to form the black sand we were standing on. Unlike in a Mediterranean area, this beach was definitely not one for relaxation. It was very cold as the coastal wind cut straight through us, and the sea was extremely dangerous. The waves were huge and we were told they could get even bigger. Supposedly, ‘creeper/sneaker’ waves would emerge every now and then, towering twice as high as the normal waves. Their force was said to be so strong that anyone too close to the sea would be swept off their feet and dragged in, where they would most likely be held under the water by the insane force of the riptide. Another interesting characteristic of this coastline was the hexagonal columns that appeared to form the cliff face. A lot of us began to take great photos of these columns, trying to capture the stacks and arches in the distance.

After another coastal stop, it was time to visit the glacier. Unfortunately, due to bad weather forecast for the following day, we were not able to put on ice spikes and walk up the glacier. As a compromise, we visited a day early so we could at least see the glacier properly. The ice was amazing, showing a slight blue tint as a result of its great mass. After a briefing with our tour guide in which he explained the ice had melted, causing a recession of around two hundred metres in the last 30 years, we hiked to the glacier’s base and had some group photos and a few talks on the geography of the area. The black grit covered a lot of the ice and a giant pool up to sixty metres deep had formed from the melting ice. It was a shame we couldn’t get on to the glacier, but we were very lucky to at least study it and experience it first-hand.

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Saturday, 29th October 2016

As predicted, the weather was terrible. The wind and rain were both so strong that it was very hard to stay warm and dry when outside. We visited an information centre to avoid the bad weather, and many of the group took turns on the earthquake simulator. Once finished in the adjoined shop, we set off to our next destination: an area where we could hard boil eggs in a natural water system. The water that formed the streams in this park was, in places, at a temperature of around 80 degrees Celsius - a complete contrast to the low temperature of the rain! The eggs were carried out to the water pools in nets on sticks, eventually being held in the water for around 10 minutes. They were surprisingly well done and tasted very good.

We then travelled to a ‘Geo-thermal power station’ in which we learnt about the energy use in Iceland and, more specifically, Reykjavik. Iceland is one of the world’s leading countries in renewable energy, with amazing levels of environmental knowledge and care. Once the tour was over, we visited a crater that was so large; it was almost like the mould for an upside down ‘mini-mountain’. The water that had settled in the bottom was so blue and almost unnatural looking. The rain still fell and the weather didn’t look as if it were going to clear, so we travelled back to the hostel for dinner and a quiz.

Sunday, 30th October 2016

We had to wake up at 2AM in order to get to the airport on time. Everyone was very tired, but we were able to board the plane and get home safely. The experience was great and extremely interesting. If this trip runs again, I highly recommend it. The geography was very interesting, and seeing everything first-hand really added to the experience. The teachers were very organised and helped make the trip a success. As well as that, our tour guide and bus driver were great at keeping everyone entertained and interested on the longer journeys. On behalf of everyone who went on the trip, I would like to thank all of the adults who were involved in planning and organising the trip, and I feel very lucky to have been a part of such a great group of students.

- James and Ollie, Year 12

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