Iceland – day two

After a night of no sleep me and the people who had slept started the day. The “rule of 5” was evident throughout the trip. No cake for Gary, just the other 5; no sleep for Gary, just the other 5; no bed for Gary, just the other 5; no camper van for Gary, just the other 5.  I’m not bitter.

Breakfast was followed by a visit to the waterfall. We didn’t have to walk far as we’d been camped next to it. Skogafoss is pretty big. You can walk right up to the bottom of it and you can also climb steps at the side of it to get to a viewing platform at the top. The waterfalls in Iceland are a lot like the ones here in Wales in Waterfall Country (http://www.breconbeacons.org/waterfall-country-walking-trails) – but the Icelandic ones are about 3 times the size.

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Jacob and Sandra spent ages taking pictures while the rest of us wandered about. Eventually is was back in the bus and off to the next stop which was going to be a trek originally but ended up being just a visit to a visitor centre because we were short of time. We had lunch at Skaftafell (http://www.vatnajokulsthjodgardur.is/english/operation/visitor-centre/skaftafellsstofa/) and then went on to the Ice Lagoon. Jacob had booked us on a trip on a zodiac inflatable boat to see icebergs and the glacier.

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So the Ice Lagoon is next to the sea. It’s a big lake with an opening that goes into the ocean and you can drive across a bridge at that opening. The lake is glacier meltwater and the lagoon contains lots of icebergs that have broken off from the glacier. After putting on drysuits we jumped in the boats and were taken round lots of icebergs, saw seals basking on them, and then went right up the glacier. It was one of the many highlights of the trip and unforgettable. The pictures can’t really do it justice.

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The picture above shows the end of the glacier and a seal bottom right.

Before and after the boat trip we spent ages watching the icebergs ramming into each other on the sandbar that protects the bridge. Chunks of ice would suddenly accelerate then crash into each other and as they did so you could see all the rest of the ice that was hidden under the water.

We spent the night at a place called Hofn which was very nice. I decided to try sleeping on the floor of the camper van because the bed had been too small. It wasn’t so great.

 

 

Iceland – day one

We flew from Bristol Airport with WOW Airlines on Wednesday 24th August as it seemed to be the best deal and as it turned out the flights and luggage were all fine. Luckily we met Tim and Ben in the airport car park, arriving at the same time. Onto the plane, we left on time and it was next stop Iceland. At Keflavik we had to wait for the person from the hire company to turn up but it wasn’t a long wait and was a quicker drive to get the camper van than expected.

Picking up the camper van was a slow process. First we had to watch a video, mostly irrelevant. Then we had to check the van over from head to foot and note any problems – we also took pictures. Then there was also all the paperwork. This took about 3 hours, so don’t envisage a handing over of keys in the airport car park.

After leaving the depot we headed for the supermarket. That was a real shocker. I think we had 3 or 4 carrier bags of food. Nothing particularly luxurious, it would be £30 to £40 in the UK. In Iceland it came to more like £120. So when everyone but me had had a nice cake from the bakery we set off. The first road was good. Then we turned off. Now on the map we were given this was just shown as a road. In fact it was just a gravel track. Long and bumpy with lots of loose gravel. We had to slow right down and it took ages. There is a much better map that we found later that shows exactly the type of road – it’s a cycling map and is free and available in lots of places.

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We stopped for a break from the gravel road and Ben decided to investigate some rocks. Then we got back on route 1 and off we went to our first itinerary item Seljalandsfoss – a waterfall.

The waterfall is right next to the road so we parked up and went exploring. This is a waterfall that you can walk round the back of, so we all did. It was nearing sunset as we arrived so there were many people with cameras rushing around trying to get in position for the best picture with the falls and the sun going down.

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You can just make out the little dots on the path in the background. When we’d got damp enough we headed back to the camper van then on to Skogafoss, another waterfall. By the time we arrived it was dark, but there was a campsite there so we decided to stay the night and see the waterfall in the morning. The van had six berths, if you had small children perhaps. Sandra and I ended up sharing the smallest double. I don’t think I got much sleep. It was a great start to the holiday and the scenery was amazing. Volcanic rocks everywhere and you had to rethink everything – it looks like sedimentary layers but you know it’s layers of lava. Quite breathtaking!

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Sandra and I decided to head up into the mountains to catch what might be the last of the short-lived snow today. The main attraction for me was getting a chance to get my crampons on again, we’ve been up these peaks many times so getting to the top isn’t that novel. We set off around 1000 and went over the footbridge by the stream and got about halfway up before we needed to put the crampons on. Sandra made do with grippers which lasted the trip but were then binned.

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The wind at the saddle was blowing a gale as usual, but the rocks up to the summit of Corn Du (873m) provide some shelter before you come out on the top. Although it had been foggy at home and in places on the way, the views from the top were nice and clear.

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We turned round and went back instead of carrying on to Pen Y Fan. Then we have a good excuse to go back if there’s a bit more snow! The forecast for tomorrow though is rain and increased temperatures so it’s not looking like happening soon. It was below freezing all the time we were out.

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The verges around the Storey Arms have been ripped up by all the people who came sledging on the weekend. Hopefully the hard ground won’t have suffered too much alongside the paths up to the top where a lot of people with no crampons or grippers were walking today. It’s very difficult to see how they can keep this area unspoilt when it’s so popular.

Skiing Day 3

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Apologies for the slightly later blog and the brief nature of this blog – it’s been a busy day!

Another awesome day on the slopes with the top groups getting to play on the black runs and the beginners making their way up the mountain for the first time – superb all round!

In the video folder here is a video so you can see how the beginners group has progressed in just 24 hours!

The weather is beginning to turn a little……we’ll wait and see whether it’s rain or snow on the way – just look at this stunning horizon though – if I was a Geographer I would be able to explain the beautiful cloud formation……

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As I type this, the pupils are all in enjoying their traditional Austrian folk singing/dancing evening – an event there will undoubtedly be stories from on our return.

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Cadair Idris

On Saturday 30th May Sandra went to do a course on wooden joints at the Centre for Alternative Technology just outside of Machynlleth and James, Jacob and I went up Cadair Idris. We’d camped out the night before and while the boys were in the new(ish) Vango tent, Sandra and I were in our old tent. You know it’s time to get a new tent when you start to worry what other campers might think when they see yours. It now looks like we got it at a cart boot for a fiver. It’s done okay but it’s not one of those old classic tents: just old and knackered.

Sandra went off to her course and the boys and I started the ascent with Jacob being in charge of the camera. He took some excellent pics.

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There were a lot of steps at the start and plenty of waterfalls. It’s quite a hard walk, mainly because you get all the uphill bit pretty much in one go and then all the downhill in one go. No gently sloping paths, just up, flat, down.

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We recently bought a LifeStraw bottle (http://www.lifestraw.org.uk/LifeStraw.html) and we used that to drink from the streams and likes. Seems quite good, we haven’t keeled over yet. The scenery was fantastic. Mountain lakes, huge cliffs and great views.

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James had a paddle in Llyn Cau and then we had elevenses. Didn’t see any fish but the water was very blue and looked lovely. Then we started the ascent proper, got to the first peak, Craig Cwm Amarch, where a chap told us he’d lost his coat when it blew over the edge.

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We stopped at the cwm between the two peaks for lunch, it wasn’t too windy and the sun was shining. After we’d eaten we were ready for the next peak, but looking back we could see the top of the first peak we’d been sat on with a huge cliff just feet away. You can just see the pile of stones sticking out at the top on the picture below.

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At the top, Penygadair, we took a few pictures. Didn’t get that close to the trig point as it was very crowded, had a look in the old shelter and then started back down. Most people headed straight down but we took a detour to the third peak Mynydd Moel.

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Our legs were aching as we came down that rough path with loose stones. Jacob seemed to power on, James did a fantastic job as his legs were aching, as were mine. We saw plenty of knackered looking folk on the way down. At the bottom we headed for the cafe and met up with Sandra who was happy with her course. Cracking day all round.

Britain: For the Love of God, Please Stop David Cameron

Benjamin Studebaker

On May 7 (this Thursday), Britain has a general election. I care deeply about British politics–I did my BA over there and will return to do my PhD there this fall. But more importantly, David Cameron’s government has managed the country’s economy with stunning fecklessness, and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do my part to point this out.

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Teachers I trust…but Headteachers…of Academies…??

There has been a lot of talk about the new A level science practical component and whether it’s good or bad. I think it is good that teachers have been listened to. But at the same time, a lot of people defending the changes are being a bit naive. The new practical side sounds pretty good in terms of moving those folk who don’t do much practical towards doing more. Folk have pointed out that this allows teachers to do more practical, to explore wider options – this is all good.

But teachers ain’t the problem. This component isn’t assessed by teachers. Students lab books are not needed as evidence. So how long before a headteacher is asking the new prospective physics teacher if they could manage on a smaller budget given that practical work could be streamlined? And they will. Because all the evidence tells us that this is what happens. Headteachers always find a way to bend rules and redirect resources to where they think they’re needed. How long before that practical component is a set of simulations, videos and demonstrations, because in Gove Ltd Academy they reckon they can get away with it.

If you look back at the cross exam board report that was put together teachers did say that they would have been happy with students work being evidence – so why not do it?

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