Day 3

Today started off quite early with an 8am breakfast and then a tour of the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Station.The power plant produces about 303 megawatts of electricity and up to 400 megawatts of thermal energy, making it the largest geothermal power station in the world, in terms of installed capacity.

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One of the professors gave us an informational tour on the power plant and its mechanisms. I wish I recorded it because it was a lot of technical information and I was also incredibly sleepy, but nonetheless it was interesting to see the plant “behind the scenes”.

After the tour, we headed to the Reyjkavik University for an energy economics lecture. I could pay more attention to the lecture since I had taken an economics class in high school so the material was familiar to me. After the lecture, we worked on our capstone projects for a while and toured Reykjavik University. We then went to the Ellidaárvirkjun hydropower plant, which is a really old power plant that is still in operation. It had a really vintage feel, and so many buttons that looked tempting to press.

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After the tour, we went swimming at one of the pool complexes. In Iceland, there are several of these pool complexes because Icelanders looove pools. However, before we headed to the pool, it was a rule that we had to be completely naked and shower in front of other ladies in the bathroom, as shown in the sign below. It was something I felt quite uncomfortable and shy about in the beginning. I had never seen a bathroom full of naked women before. However, rules are rules and since it was proper etiquette in Iceland to be clean before entering the pool, my friends and I quickly showered  naked and put our swimsuits on.

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Swimming was a blast. We first went into the hot tub, and then some of my brave friends went in the ice tub for a few seconds. We went down a couple slides then headed to the steam room. We stayed in there for a good 10-15 minutes until we couldn’t take the heat anymore, so we headed to the regular pool and relaxed there. Eventually we showered and headed to Kex, our final destination of the day. Kex is a social and trendy hostel so when we got there, a lot of young people were hanging out in the bars. The legal age to drink in Iceland is 20, so those of us who were 20 or over headed to the bar later as well. We had our own private room in the hostel where we had a nice dinner and played several team games which included arm wrestling and limbo. All in all, it was a fun time unwinding and bonding with my friends. Below is a picture of my capstone project group at Kex with our shots of Brennivín, which is Iceland’s signature drink similar to vodka. I thought I would hate it, but I actually could tolerate it!

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We arrived back at the guesthouse really late, but a couple of my roommates and I were determined to go for a run the next morning so we went straight to bed.

Day 2

I didn’t get much sleep the night before and it was probably because the sun did not set until around 2am. It is true what they say, Iceland really never sleeps in the summer! We all had breakfast at 6:45am and then left for the Reyjkavik University around 7:10. At the university, we had an intro class, a geothermal energy lecture and a hydropower energy lecture. The classes ended around 1:15, and then we were off to lunch at Kjöt & Kúnst. This is a restaurant located so close to the geothermal area in Hveragerði that the chefs can use the geothermal power for some of their cooking and baking.The steam from this earth power is 170°C hot and the pressure is 14 kilo bar. It’s pretty amazing how this is the only known place in the world that uses geothermal power for cooking! Our lunch there consisted of different types of bread and soups, so I ate as much as I could to keep myself energized for the upcoming 5km hot spring hike.

For me, the hike started off pretty difficult. I felt like I was falling behind already while everyone else seemed to be doing just fine. I really thought I was in shape before coming on this trip, but I was so wrong. However, I decided to hike up faster and deal with the pain in order to catch up with everyone. It definitely became easier as we were further up the mountain.

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The views were truly breathtaking. The climb was tough in the beginning, but completely worth it. I was also thankful for having good hiking boots because some people had trouble with their boots hurting them. Before you embark on a hike for the first time, definitely make sure your hiking boots fit you well!

Once we reached the hot spring, the girls tried to find a secluded area to change into our bathing suits. The weather was chilly but once we jumped into the hot spring, we forgot all about the cold. It was so relaxing to sit and bathe in warm water, especially after the long hike.

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I took the above picture of everyone relaxing in the hot spring. We were chatting in the hot spring for more than an hour and it was hard getting out of it, but we knew we eventually had to hike back to our bus.

I took some more pictures of the beautiful views on our hike back. Hiking back was much easier physically because we were mostly going downhill, but that also meant keeping your balance and not slipping!

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After the hike, we boarded the bus and went back to the guesthouse for dinner. The dessert we had tasted like indulgent hot cocoa with bread bits. Delicious! My group and I worked on our capstone project for a while and once we decided we made a lot of progress, we headed to the 41°C hot tub to “chill” out. There were two hot tubs in the guesthouse, one at 41°C and the other at 39°C. Others soon joined us afterwards and we spent about 50 minutes in the tub. One hour in the hot spring obviously wasn’t enough for us! I did feel overheated after a while so I went to shower and sleep. I could definitely sleep this time..it had been a long but fun day.

 

 

 

Day 1

After 6 hours of flying, I finally reached Reykjavik at around 7am. I hadn’t slept the night before or during the flight, but I felt awake from the excitement of what was to come. Every sign in the airport was in Icelandic so I was pretty confused, but I just followed the crowd and ended up in the right line for the passport checks.

At baggage claim, one of my suitcases didn’t arrive. I was scared out of my mind! That suitcase had all the things I needed for the adventurous activities I was going to do in the program i.e. hiking boots, waterproof pants, jackets etc. In a panic, I rushed to the customer services desk and filled out a form with my contact information and address in Iceland. After handling all the details about my missing bag, I rushed to the restaurant “Joe & The Juice” where the rest of the group was. The GREEN program leaders, Helga and Erla, greeted me with big smiles and welcomed me into the group. I felt relieved to finally be with the group, but I was still really nervous about my missing suitcase. I let the leaders know about it and they told me they would talk to the airlines and handle all the paperwork so I would get my bag as soon as possible. Phew!

I walked over to the group of students standing outside the restaurant. No one seemed to be talking besides the group mentor, Steve, who immediately introduced himself to me once I joined the group. We chatted for a while and then I looked over at the rest of the group. Everyone was still standing around awkwardly and I wished I made the effort to introduce myself, but honestly my missing bag was still on my mind! Soon, another student, Chloe, joined the group. From her accent I could tell she was British, and that made me super happy. There is just something about British accents…

After the whole group was there, we left for the bus and started our adventure. In the bus, I sat in the front with a few girls and we all started introducing ourselves and talking. We made a few stops at some beautiful sights. At the first stop, we saw a bridge that was built between Europe and North America on Reykjanes Peninsula. (shown below)

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At the next stop we saw the statue of the Great Auk bird by the Reykjanes Peninsula. I didn’t get a picture of the statue but the place was so beautiful! (shown below)

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We then had some really good Icelandic chocolate and Skyr yogurt outside, where the weather was sunny but slightly chilly from the wind. The airport staff also called Helga to let her know they found my missing suitcase! WOOHOO! Apparently it had been in the airport the entire time and I missed it.. Anyways, I was very relieved. Our next stop was at an active geothermal area of mud pools and steam vents called Gunnuhver, named after a female ghost who had laid there. There is a story that Gunnuhver’s spirit was trapped by a priest in the hot springs around 400 years ago, which is why this area has an extremely sulphuric vapor and eerie atmosphere. The geothermal area is shown below.

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Our last stop before heading to the guesthouse was at the Blue Lagoon, which is an awesome geothermal spa and a huge tourist attraction. Bathing in the warm water, rich in minerals like sulfur and silica, is supposed to help cure those suffering from skin diseases. I only saw the Blue Lagoon from a distance, but the water looked very inviting! I didn’t take a picture, but below is a picture I found of people in the warm lagoon during the winter.

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Above picture found on: http://www.trover.com/d/zzA2-blue-lagoon-iceland

After the Blue Lagoon, we went back on the bus to the guesthouse. We chose our roommates and settled all our luggage in the room, then headed over to the dining area for pre-dinner snacks. The hosts had made pesto pasta and creamy vegetable soup, and being a vegetarian I was extremely grateful for this.

We then had some time to relax in our rooms, so I got the chance to finally chat with my roommates and others that came into our room. After an hour, we went outside for some icebreaker games that were really fun and silly and a good way to get to know everyone. After the games, we all sat down to talk about our capstone projects that we would have to present in 8 days at Reykjavik University. It sounded exciting and also a little stressful, seeing as we only had a week to come up with an idea and present it to so many professionals!

We formed our capstone project groups, and my group decided to come up with a business plan of updating flash geothermal plants to binary-flash geothermal plants somewhere in the USA. After coming up with the idea, we all hung out in the dining area and had an amazing dinner the hosts cooked for us followed by an even more amazing dessert (which I forgot the name of, but it was really really good). After a while, we all decided to sleep since we had to wake up the next day at 5:30am. (yikes!)

Stay tuned for day 2 in the land of fire and ice…

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to my blog! In about 9 days, I will be traveling to Reykjavik, Iceland from New York and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I will be in Iceland for around 10 days for the renewable energy and sustainability program, and my family will join me on my last day there. During the program, there will be a lot of hiking, swimming, and other physical activity so I am mentally (and physically) trying to prepare myself for it. After Iceland, I am traveling with my family to Amsterdam, Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca, Lisbon, and London.

Stay tuned for my next post in Iceland!