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HomeEurope TravelIceland in March: Atmosphere, Pictures & Aurora Searching

Iceland in March: Atmosphere, Pictures & Aurora Searching

By Ava Kabouchy – Pictures & Journey Web site

There are a lot of methods to journey and discover a unique 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 initiatives. Between whale recognizing, trash assortment, pictures classes and snow mountaineering, she realized extra about Iceland than on a conventional vacation. Right here’s her inspirational account:

It began with Sister Adelaide

When Sister Adelaide instructed us eight-year-old third graders in regards to 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 night time sky lighting up in inexperienced. In my class photograph that 12 months, I used to be sporting a glass pendant minimize like prism to indicate all the colors of the sunshine. I known as it my ‘aurora borealis’ necklace, and questioned if sometime I’d see the aurora for actual.

A distinct type 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 dwell and work collectively on a undertaking that has been recognized by a area people. Initiatives primarily concentrate on nature, resembling constructing mountaineering trails or strolling paths, and collaborating in reforestation, or are centered on the setting as my workcamp was. Inconceivable to spend prolonged quantities of time exterior in mid-March in Iceland, we workcamp individuals within the Environmentally Conscious and Trash Searching Undertaking, did two clean-up initiatives in Reykjavik.

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

We volunteers had been amazed to find what number of bits of plastic particularly we collected on and beneath the melting snow alongside streets in Reykjavik. Two volunteers had 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 accomplished 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 dangerous climate prevented meals from being delivered to its vacation spot. A powerful fishing business exists in Iceland and solely 2.5% of the inhabitants faces starvation, a outstanding statistic that has not elevated since 2000. Nonetheless, single moms and people unemployed due to the covid pandemic stay probably the most susceptible populations, for whom the meals was supposed.

Ég tala ekki íslensku

One afternoon after our second assortment of trash and disposing of it, we had 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 tough to study. The instructor supplied learners with many alternative instructing modalities – a brief video of a household at dinner, a music in regards to the days of the week and months of the 12 months, and instructor to scholar questions. Individuals within the course got here from many components of the world, and as I checked out two Muslim girls, presumably refugees from Iraq, I questioned how that they had managed to get to Iceland, however much more so, how they had been adjusting to such an excessive change of tradition and local weather. Many of the college students stored their winter coats and hats on despite the fact that the room was very heat whereas exterior frequent snow squalls had been nonetheless occurring in March.

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

Purposeful initiatives

All of our days with SEEDS had been crammed with actions, which included after-dinner workshops on {photograph} composition, lighting, and enhancing. Every of the volunteer instructors gave us assignments resembling composition after which we hung out taking images, sending them to the trainer, and having them critiqued throughout the group. After our ultimate dinner collectively, every participant confirmed ten of her finest photographs, and plenty of of them had been actually glorious.

One other exercise was a go to to the Whales of Iceland exhibition with life-size creations of whales and information about every one. A movie was proven of the various completely different species of whales, which included whale music to which we listened whereas sitting comfortably on giant pillows on the ground. The exhibition is instructional, reminding individuals of the influence people have on the existence of whales. On the residence we seen 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

Should you 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, certainly one of its foremost pure sources. We realized on the Hellisheiði Energy Plant that in 1940 to 1975, Iceland started utilizing geothermal, a renewable power supply.

Amazingly, 73% of Iceland‘s electrical energy is produced by hydropower vegetation and nearly 27% is produced by geothermal power. When a drill is put into the bottom close to certainly one of Iceland‘s practically 600 sizzling springs, the steam is used to run the generators which distribute the new 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 power consumption is from renewable sources, a outstanding statistic.

The great 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 offer the nation‘s sizzling water for heating properties and different areas. We noticed steaming fumaroles brought on by the boiling water which runs just some toes beneath the earth‘s floor and the geyser, which repeatedly shoots steam and boiling water excessive into the air. (Geysir is definitely an Icelandic phrase, which has grow to be a phrase used internationally.) Close by was the Gullfoss Waterfall, giving us an thought of the facility of hydropower, a spectacular sight beneath a blue sky the place all the pieces 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, robust winds howling round us.

On our method again to Reykjavik, we noticed a small herd of Icelandic horses – small however robust 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 regulation can’t be imported with a view to hold the breed pure and illness free. If an Icelandic horse is exported, it’s not allowed to return again. And they’re very pleasant to guests.

Volcanic cliffs, howling winds, whale recognizing and snow mountaineering

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 rigorously as we watched excessive surf crashing towards the volcanic cliffs. And as we watched, we noticed the again of a whale emerge, an incredible web site, which was like a present from nature to us. Earlier we had walked to a seaside the place we noticed quite a few seals sunning themselves on lava rocks within the ocean. On the seaside 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 right down to a black sand seaside 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 course of nowhere, with no homes to be seen, and solely a small cemetery subsequent to the church . We had been pushed onward the place blue was the dominant color, a chilly blue, no different automobiles in sight as gentle snow continued to fall.

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

Reflections on a unique type of go to to Iceland

After all you may go to the Blue Lagoon and Skogafoss Waterfall and Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, behind which you’ll be able to stroll, and sleep within the bubble resort ready for the aurora to seem at any second within the night time sky. However this was a unique type of Icelandic expertise.

I left feeling admiration for the younger program individuals, all younger girls by likelihood from Italy, Greece, France, Mexico, Germany, Portugal, and the U.S. ranging in age from 17 to 23 (if you happen to don’t rely the participant from the U.S. who was considerably older.) Some had simply completed highschool and had been doing a niche 12 months to journey not solely as vacationers, however as younger girls taken with organizations resembling SEEDS and the environmental work it’s doing. Some had been already enrolled in college, or had completed college, and had been taking a niche 12 months for a similar motive.

Their pursuits had been in developmental economics and humanitarian work, artwork, enterprise start-ups, medication, and medical analysis. Not admiring their enthusiasm for his or her time in Iceland together with their future plans and objectives was unattainable. Throughout meal prep or simply sitting within the widespread space, I talked with a few of these younger girls and admired their independence, their plans for his or her futures, and their issues in regards to the setting and what could possibly be accomplished to maintain it clear and convey 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, resembling skateboarding atop a crashed airplane and rolling down a moss-covered hill had 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 widespread front room. I had heard in regards to the out of doors thermal swimming pools close by and determined that might 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 individuals sat in water, geothermically heated after all 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 individuals on a really chilly and really windy March night time in Kleifarvatin, the dream of an enthralled eight-year-old got here to life. I put my gloved fingers over my face and simply stared upwards. Inexperienced lights within the sky simply as I had imagined them, completely different styles and sizes, shades of sunshine inexperienced and darker inexperienced. They’d disappear. They’d return. Fourth of July fireworks might by no means have in contrast. This was pure, this was nature at her most interesting.

I bear in mind Sister Adelaide’s lengthy Dominican behavior and wimple, which coated her face. Once we third graders turned 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. Right now 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 marvel of inexperienced lights dancing within the northern skies.

Fascinating information about Iceland

Beer was unlawful till 1989. Iceland has no navy – no air power, no military, no marines.

Getting there

Effectively-priced tickets on Icelandic Air, very quick and environment friendly examine in. Flybus on the airport makes many stops. Simply inform the driving force the title of your resort.

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 many selections within the centre of Reykjavik.

SEEDS Volunteer program

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

I discovered SEEDS via, which provides quite a few volunteer alternatives all over the world. There is no such thing as a higher age restrict.

About Ava Kabouchy

As a toddler, Ava was fascinated by world maps, which later changed into travels to many components 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 group in a distant mountainous area of Guatemala. Just 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 creator of the not too long ago revealed “The place within the World is Grammie Now?”, a ebook for younger readers to show them about Saudi Arabia, a rustic not typically studied in center college curricula. She has additionally authored a ebook 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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