The solar eclipse might have stolen the headlines but for 33 geography students and their teachers their arrival at Keflavik airport was the most important event of the day. Their Icelandic adventure was about to begin.
Where better to start than the Blue Lagoon. After all it was International Day of Happiness. The journey was soon a distant memory as the hot, milky blue waters washed any cares away and the silica mud packs left faces glowing healthily and skin silky soft.
It wasn’t long before the students understood the source of these geothermally heated waters as they explored the Western Volcanic Zone and its high temperature geothermal areas on day 2. There was even time for a stop at an ice cream farm. Yes really, ice cream in Iceland. Homemade, beautifully prepared and delicious. Too cold for ice cream, there’s always the hot chocolate with fresh whipped cream option!
The sky was threatening as we left the hostel on day 3 and we were prepared for the worst. Layers to insulate against the cold, waterproofs to keep us dry and for the most optimistic … sunglasses. How lucky we were. Iceland kept its down pours and hail storms for whilst we were on the bus and we were treated to dry conditions and even some sunshine when we ventured outside. Perhaps the most magical moment was the beautiful rainbow that glittered enchantingly in front of Skogafoss as we walked towards the falls. Still no sign of that pot of gold though!
A walking tour of Reykjavik revealed some hidden gems – Elf Rock reminding the students of the importance of respecting the Hidden People – even in the face of urban growth, and the views from the Perlan viewing platform were spectacular, with a 360° panorama. Still time to experience a magnitude 6.3 earthquake (in a simulator, not for real) and taste the most delicious (according to everyone who tasted them) tomatoes produced from Iceland’s geothermal heat and crystal clear waters.
Despite the action packed, adventure filled days there was still something missing – the Northern Lights. It was the last night, we at to leave for the airport at 03.00 and we still hadn’t seen a glimpse. This was it – our last chance. The sky was clear but the activity forecast only moderate. Undeterred we were determined to give it one last shot. Braving the bitingly cold wind we ventured out on our quest. The teachers invented a new Northern Lights dance and the students, whilst looking slightly embarrassed, were secretly hoping it worked.
It was getting late and we were starting to feel the cold and about to give up and then there they were. Just like that. Arcing out, high in the sky across the river were the Northern Lights. The moment we had all been waiting for and we weren’t disappointed. It wasn’t the most dignified sighting as there was a lot of squealing (you know who you were) and jumping up and down but if you can’t show your excitement at a miraculous moment like this then when can you?
Thank you Iceland. As always you didn’t disappoint. The Eastbourne contingent could return to the UK happy, with memories to last a life time and the photos to match.