Iceland Summer 2018
I arrived early in the morning to KEF, Keflavík International Airport, where I was met by my research team of eight other interns and two guides. After everyone’s flights landed, we left for a suburb of Reykjavik, called Kopavogar, where we saw the house we would share for the week. We got settled in, chose our rooms and went on a tour of the house, which sat in front of a harbor. As soon as we got to know each other and felt comfortable, we went to Reykjavik to explore and play a scavenger hunt game with the sights around downtown. Following the game, we all met back up at a local wood-fire pizza restaurant. To end the day, we went back to the house and got the chance to know each other a little bit more before turning in.
Our second day started early as we headed out for our first hike. The one and a half hour hike up Holy Mountain was cool and damp with a beautiful fog that casted up the mountain. The surreal sights of fog over giant mossy boulders was like nothing I had ever seen and a great way to be introduced to Iceland’s beauty. Coincidentally, Iceland was playing against Argentina in one of the World Cup games after we finished the hike. Our team decided this was possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we headed to downtown Reykjavik to watch this match with the locals. The crowd’s enthusiasm was contagious and understandable considering that Iceland is the smallest country to make it to the World Cup. With an exciting tie for the match, the rain did not stop us from seeing how Icelanders can celebrate their country with great pride . We cooked dinner at home after the match, but took it with us to our night hike near Hveragerdi. This hike was to the geothermal river, where we hiked an hour up the mountain to plop into a naturally heated river. The reward was definitely worth the effort and chilly car ride back to the house.
This was the first day that the team split into two different research groups. My group went into downtown Reykjavik to focus on Icelandic culture. We hoped to visit many museums but were given the news that it was actually Iceland’s National Day, which celebrates their independence from Denmark, so many museums were closed. First, we enjoyed the sights of the beautiful harbor, but we used this opportunity primarily to talk with locals and enjoyed getting to experience this holiday and its festivities for the first time. The other research team went to hike Glymur, which is the second highest waterfall in Iceland. There were many different types of researchers on this team. From GIS mapping and flora to fauna research, the entire team was proud of its journey and amazed at the sights even if the hikers had to cross a over a frigid stream. We all returned to the house for dinner to share our experiences, play some games and then sleep off the exhaustion we encountered after a packed third day.
The day started with breakfast and then the entire group going on a city walk tour. The information from this tour was important for all of our research and sparked a lot of curiosity and conversation. From the education system to the ecosystem and tourism impacts, every team member benefitted from this entertaining tour of downtown Reykjavik. After the tour, we ate lunch together at the house and then broke out in to our separate research groups, culture and trail information. My group, studying Icelandic culture, went to the Árbæjarsafn Open Air Museum near Reykjavik. We were able to see reenactments of early settlement life in Iceland, as well as preserved turf and timber houses, churches and barns. This museum also had abundant facts about settlement. The trail research team hiked Akrafjall. It flipped a coin to decide between two of the hikes in this area and ultimately hiked the trail of shorter distance but steeper incline, which eventually lead to a crater to explore. Although we got to discuss our experiences in the evening, we ate separately as the trail group packed a dinner due to their late-night hike.
We were able to spend the morning together as a group again as we met with a friend of Global Treks and Adventures who works as a botanist at the Reykjavik Botanical Gardens, which holds 5,000 species of plants in eight different plant collections. Bjork gave us more than just information on flora, as she described tourism’s impact on Reykjavik, myths and legends, and some geological information as well. After asking all of our questions, we roamed the gardens until it was time to split into our groups for the day. My group went back into downtown Reykjavik to conduct interviews with tourism experts, locals and museum staff. We were also able to go to the National Museum of Iceland, which held artifacts from the beginning of Iceland’s Viking settlement to modern day, and we went to the Saga Museum, which holds lifelike figures that depict Iceland’s history. The second group started hiking some of the trails on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. These hikes gave them the opportunity to gaze at coastal views and conduct glacier explorations. These trails led them into a late night arrival back at the house, and after a quick snack, straight to bed.
We all got a slightly later start as the other team was tired from the packed schedule of the previous day. My group was dropped off in downtown Reykjavik to visit The Culture House and finish conducting interviews with locals. The Culture House held a lot of art and textiles from the settlement period of Iceland until modern day. The trail group hiked Hafnarfjall. Hafnarfjall was a series of peaks. After hiking the first steep incline, they were able to hike from to peak to peak while partaking in the amazing views. We all arrived home earlier in the evening for dinner together and some time to plan our last day in Reykjavik. After dinner, we all relaxed around the house together, some of us going for a walk and some enjoying the house’s geothermal hot tub.
For the morning of our last day, we were all able to sleep in some before starting the day with a writing workshop (for those of us who are writing for the publication), and then our team mentors conducted our one-on-one meetings. In our meetings, we discussed the research material we had gathered over the week, created an outline for our post-trip work and our mentors answered any remaining questions we had. After this morning of preparation, we were dropped off in downtown for lunch and exploration. Some of the team decided to go to the Reykjavik Family Park and Zoo while others wanted to go into different shops and talk with the locals. We were picked up earlier in the evening and went back to the house for dinner.The Midnight Run, a summer solstice 5K, happened to be on our last night in Iceland. With this in mind, we unanimously agreed to take part in this event. Although it was cold and wet, it did not stop us from participating in the 5K or being elated in the fact that we received medals just for our participation. After the event, we got all packed up and turned in quickly in order to be prepared for our early drive to the airport.
Our last day started as early in order to make our individual flights. We had a couple different groups going to the airport as some people did not need to be there as early as others. After a drive back to Keflavík International Airport, we said our goodbyes at the airport and started our treks home.