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HomeEurope TravelIceland in March: Surroundings, Pictures & Aurora Searching

Iceland in March: Surroundings, Pictures & Aurora Searching

By Ava Kabouchy – Pictures & Journey Web site

There are lots of methods to journey and discover a special nation. To fulfil a childhood dream of experiencing the northern lights, the aurora borealis, Ava Kabouchy visited Iceland as a volunteer and took part in environmental tasks. Between whale recognizing, trash assortment, pictures classes and snow climbing, she discovered extra about Iceland than on a standard vacation. Right here’s her inspirational account:

It began with Sister Adelaide

When Sister Adelaide advised us eight-year-old third graders concerning the aurora borealis in geography class at St. Brigid’s Faculty in North Bergen, New Jersey so a few years in the past, I used to be enthralled on the thought of the evening sky lighting up in inexperienced. In my class picture that yr, I used to be carrying a glass pendant minimize like prism to indicate all the colors of the sunshine. I referred to as it my ‘aurora borealis’ necklace, and questioned if sometime I’d see the aurora for actual.

A distinct form of journey to Iceland

However my journey to Iceland wasn’t solely about seeing the aurora; it was additionally about becoming a member of a workcamp organized by SEEDS, an NGO primarily based in Reykjavik, which organizes workcamps for worldwide volunteers to reside and work collectively on a venture that has been recognized by a local people. Initiatives primarily concentrate on nature, comparable to constructing climbing trails or strolling paths, and taking part in reforestation, or are targeted on the setting as my workcamp was. Unattainable to spend prolonged quantities of time exterior in mid-March in Iceland, we workcamp contributors within the Environmentally Conscious and Trash Searching Venture, did two clean-up tasks in Reykjavik.

(SEEDS is affiliated with SORPA, a community-based group is in command of waste assortment and administration within the Reykjavík space with different native stakeholders. Natural kitchen waste, blended family waste, paper and cardboard, and plastic packaging are all fastidiously managed because of citizen concern)

We volunteers have been amazed to find what number of bits of plastic particularly we collected on and below the melting snow alongside streets in Reykjavik. Two volunteers have been wanted to hold the heavy burlap bag into which we had all put our discovered items, together with a really giant variety of cigarette butts. The clean-up reminded all of us how rapidly and simply small items of plastic and different trash accumulate and what hurt is being finished to the setting, along with the unsightliness of all of it. A cigarette butt can take from eighteen months to 10 years to decompose and we had picked up many.

Plans to take part in a meals distribution program, sadly, needed to be cancelled as a result of unhealthy climate prevented meals from being delivered to its vacation spot. A robust fishing business exists in Iceland and solely 2.5% of the inhabitants faces starvation, a exceptional statistic that has not elevated since 2000. Nonetheless, single moms and people unemployed due to the covid pandemic stay essentially the most weak populations, for whom the meals was meant.

Ég tala ekki íslensku

One afternoon after our second assortment of trash and disposing of it, we have been invited to an Icelandic language course for a big group of immigrants and refugees confronted with studying a language that have to be exceedingly troublesome to study. The instructor offered learners with many alternative educating modalities – a brief video of a household at dinner, a track concerning the days of the week and months of the yr, and instructor to pupil questions. Individuals within the course got here from many elements of the world, and as I checked out two Muslim girls, probably refugees from Iraq, I questioned how they’d managed to get to Iceland, however much more so, how they have been adjusting to such an excessive change of tradition and local weather. Many of the college students saved their winter coats and hats on regardless that the room was very heat whereas exterior frequent snow squalls have been nonetheless occurring in March.

We volunteers have been handled to a one-hour language class simply to study easy phrases, none of which might I keep in mind because the instructor practiced with our small group: The place do you reside? Hvar býrðu? I don‘t converse Icelandic: Ég tala ekki íslensku. Fortuitously for the group, our frequent language was English.

Purposeful tasks

All of our days with SEEDS have been full of actions, which included after-dinner workshops on {photograph} composition, lighting, and modifying. Every of the volunteer instructors gave us assignments comparable to composition after which we frolicked taking pictures, sending them to the teacher, and having them critiqued throughout the group. After our closing dinner collectively, every participant confirmed ten of her finest pictures, and plenty of of them have been actually wonderful.

One other exercise was a go to to the Whales of Iceland exhibition with life-size creations of whales and details about every one. A movie was proven of the numerous totally different species of whales, which included whale track to which we listened whereas sitting comfortably on giant pillows on the ground. The exhibition is academic, reminding folks of the impression people have on the existence of whales. On the residence we considered a video about dying coral reefs in Australia, the Florida Keys, and different locations the place the 1.1⁰C diploma rise in temperature of the water, brought on by world warming, has all however put an finish to the reefs within the Keys, now bleached white due to the shortage of life inside them.

Geothermal energy

For those who aren‘t an engineer or a scientist, you won’t discover a go to to a geothermal plant attention-grabbing, however this was Iceland, which makes use of imported oil just for transportation and fishing, one in all its major pure assets. We discovered on the Hellisheiði Energy Plant that in 1940 to 1975, Iceland started utilizing geothermal, a renewable vitality supply.

Amazingly, 73% of Iceland‘s electrical energy is produced by hydropower crops and virtually 27% is produced by geothermal vitality. When a drill is put into the bottom close to one in all Iceland‘s almost 600 sizzling springs, the steam is used to run the generators which distribute the recent water to cities and cities. The temperature of the steam is 180C/356F. Electrical energy is produced by hydro-power, and 70% of the nation‘s vitality consumption is from renewable sources, a exceptional statistic.

The fantastic thing about Iceland. It truly is all it’s cracked as much as be

After visiting the plant, our younger driver and information from Portugal, Luis, a useful long-term volunteer, drove us to the Geysir Geothermal Space to see among the geysers which give the nation‘s sizzling water for heating houses and different areas. We noticed steaming fumaroles brought on by the boiling water which runs only a few toes beneath the earth‘s floor and the geyser, which frequently shoots steam and boiling water excessive into the air. (Geysir is definitely an Icelandic phrase, which has turn into a phrase used internationally.) Close by was the Gullfoss Waterfall, giving us an thought of the facility of hydropower, a spectacular sight below a blue sky the place all the things else was pure white. We hiked alongside the rim of the Burfell Crater and regarded down on the frozen lake within the crater under us, sturdy winds howling round us.

On our method again to Reykjavik, we noticed a small herd of Icelandic horses – small however sturdy animals with a double coat to maintain them heat within the very lengthy and harsh winter. Dropped at Iceland by the Vikings within the eighth century, the horses by legislation can’t be imported in an effort to maintain the breed pure and illness free. If an Icelandic horse is exported, it’s not allowed to come back again. And they’re very pleasant to guests.

Volcanic cliffs, howling winds, whale recognizing and snow climbing

Our second tour took us to Snaefellsnes Nationwide Park, positioned on a peninsula in west Iceland the place March winds blowing over the cliffs made us tread fastidiously as we watched excessive surf crashing in opposition to the volcanic cliffs. And as we watched, we noticed the again of a whale emerge, a tremendous website, which was like a present from nature to us. Earlier we had walked to a seashore the place we noticed quite a few seals sunning themselves on lava rocks within the ocean. On the seashore was the skeleton of the backbone of a whale.

And as if these sights hadn‘t been sufficient, we then hiked within the snow to a cave within the blue and white panorama to see a river flowing inside it. From there we hiked all the way down to a black sand seashore bordered by black volcanic monoliths protruding out of the white snow and others standing within the sea, being battered by excessive winds and excessive seas. The solar got here out and went away, a snow squall got here and went away. The day continued with a go to to an 18th century church seemingly in the midst of nowhere, with no homes to be seen, and solely a small cemetery subsequent to the church . We have been pushed onward the place blue was the dominant color, a chilly blue, no different automobiles in sight as mild snow continued to fall.

As our van approached Kirkjufell Mountain, its iconic magnificence might be seen even from a distance. Excessive and looking out very similar to a peaked hat, some snow nonetheless coated it and under it two waterfalls cascaded.

Reflections on a special form of go to to Iceland

After all you’ll be able to go to the Blue Lagoon and Skogafoss Waterfall and Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, behind which you’ll be able to stroll, and sleep within the bubble lodge ready for the aurora to seem at any second within the evening sky. However this was a special form of Icelandic expertise.

I left feeling admiration for the younger program contributors, all younger girls by likelihood from Italy, Greece, France, Mexico, Germany, Portugal, and the U.S. ranging in age from 17 to 23 (for those who don’t depend the participant from the U.S. who was considerably older.) Some had simply completed highschool and have been doing a niche yr to journey not solely as vacationers, however as younger girls all for organizations comparable to SEEDS and the environmental work it’s doing. Some have been already enrolled in college, or had completed college, and have been taking a niche yr for a similar cause.

Their pursuits have been in developmental economics and humanitarian work, artwork, enterprise start-ups, drugs, and medical analysis. Not admiring their enthusiasm for his or her time in Iceland together with their future plans and targets was not possible. Throughout meal prep or simply sitting within the frequent space, I talked with a few of these younger girls and admired their independence, their plans for his or her futures, and their considerations concerning the setting and what might be finished to maintain it clear and produce it again to well being.

Concern exists amongst Icelanders and its authorities that over-tourism is harming the nation’s fragile setting. Justin Bieber, who produced a video within the valley the place the Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls are positioned, introduced a lot tourism to that space that the federal government needed to shut it for some time. Bieber‘s antics, comparable to skateboarding atop a crashed airplane and rolling down a moss-covered hill have been being imitated by vacationers, inflicting not solely hazard to themselves however to the setting – moss can take as much as 70 years to develop and it was being destroyed.

Swimming exterior whereas it was snowing

We spent our final full day speaking and enjoyable within the frequent front room. I had heard concerning the outside thermal swimming pools close by and determined that may be an effective way to spend my final afternoon in Reykjavik. A brief distance to stroll within the snow, I went into one of many swimming pools the place folks sat in water, geothermically heated in fact at a temperature of 44C/110F.

When it felt it was time for a swim, I walked within the chilly to the massive lap pool the place the water was comfortably and naturally heated, did some laps, then returned to the sitting pool. The air temperature was 2C/33F, and it was snowing. I regarded up on the snow and marvelled at what I used to be experiencing – being exterior in Iceland within the snow and in naturally heated swimming pools. Again for some laps, again to heat up within the pool, extra laps…

As I walked again to the home, refreshed and relaxed, it was snowing, a delicate snow this time, not a squall.

Again to Sister Adelaide

I did see the aurora borealis. Getting out of the van with seven different folks on a really chilly and really windy March evening in Kleifarvatin, the dream of an enthralled eight-year-old got here to life. I put my gloved palms over my face and simply stared upwards. Inexperienced lights within the sky simply as I had imagined them, totally different dimensions and shapes, shades of sunshine inexperienced and darker inexperienced. They might disappear. They might return. Fourth of July fireworks might by no means have in contrast. This was pure, this was nature at her best.

I keep in mind Sister Adelaide’s lengthy Dominican behavior and wimple, which coated her face. After we third graders grew to become fifth graders, we heard a hearsay that Sister Adelaide had left the convent, which didn’t shock any of us as a result of we might simply how fairly she was. As we speak I ponder if all these years in the past if Sister Adelaide was enthralled by the imaginative and prescient of the aurora borealis and that she, too, noticed it as I did and skilled the surprise of inexperienced lights dancing within the northern skies.

Fascinating details about Iceland

Beer was unlawful till 1989. Iceland has no army – no air pressure, no military, no marines.

Getting there

Nicely-priced tickets on Icelandic Air, very quick and environment friendly verify in. Flybus on the airport makes many stops. Simply inform the driving force the identify of your lodge.

The place to remain

Nupan Deluxe close to Keflavik Airport; good place to relaxation earlier than your journey house, €59 an evening, about $64.

The place to eat

You’ve got many decisions within the centre of Reykjavik.

SEEDS Volunteer program

In case you are all for volunteering with SEEDS in Iceland, right here is the web site: 

I discovered SEEDS by, which provides quite a few volunteer alternatives around the globe. There is no such thing as a higher age restrict.

About Ava Kabouchy

As a baby, Ava was fascinated by world maps, which later become travels to many elements of the world. She has labored in a number of African international locations, created a microcredit group for girls in Honduras, and did a volunteer pictures gig for a clinic for a Mayan neighborhood in a distant mountainous area of Guatemala. Lately, she hiked alongside the Camino de Santiago in Spain and in France, travelled in Morocco, fulfilling a childhood dream of strolling barefoot within the Sahara and one other of seeing the aurora borealis in Iceland.

Ava is the writer of the just lately revealed “The place within the World is Grammie Now?”, a guide for younger readers to show them about Saudi Arabia, a rustic not typically studied in center college curricula. She has additionally authored a guide on her 4 years in Saudi Arabia:  “Wanderlust, A New Lease on Life within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.

Ava makes her house in southwest France and on a distant island off the coast of Maine, USA.

Discover out extra about Ava Kabouchy on her web site.

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