March 1st to 4th: Mountain Skills
March 9th: Travel ideas for 2022 - an illustrated presentation for trekking in Morocco, Iceland and Nepal this year.
March 9th/10th: RGS certificated Off Site Safety Management qualifying for Mountain Training CPD points
March 23rd/24th: REC Level 5 Advanced First Aid for Travel and Expeditions (this course is full but dates for another course are about to be confirmed)
March 25th: NNAS Tutor Award
Please use the Contact Form above for enquiries thank you.
March 9th at Brecon Scout Hut (7.30pm) but bookings are required by email to firstname.lastname@example.org please as space is limited.
Topics covered will be Mt Toubkal in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco, the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland and Everest Base Camp. 2022 departures are:
This 5 night break to Reykjavik was booked through BA Holidays with a 4WD booked for three days with Europcar. The BA Holidays package included Club World flights, airport transfers in Reykjavik and accommodation with breakfast at the Canopy Hilton Reykjavik. Due to the early flight departure time from LHR T5 we stayed the night of February 9th at the Hilton Garden Inn - we parked with Purple Parking and checked in for our flights before taking the free Paddington Express over to T2/T3 and our hotel.
The 0515 Paddington Express took us over to T5 where all we had to do was pass through security and go up to the BA lounge for breakfast before the flight. The A320 was slightly late taking off but after 2hrs 45mins we landed at Keflavik International Airport after descending over snow covered terrain.
Not having flown since March 2020 when I returned from Indonesia I was quite apprehensive about this trip with all the Covid-19 administrative requirements. Our flight permits were issued by Nuffield after our Lateral Flow Tests at Cardiff Airport cleared us to fly. Staff at the BA check in counter asked us if our paperwork was in order but didn't ask to see it. Even on arrival at Keflavik, the entry process was simple enough and didn't take too long. I was very relieved.......
Our transfer to the hotel took about an hour and we were soon checked in to Room 405 which was quite spacious and pleasantly furnished.
We spent the afternoon at leisure, visiting the Hallgrímskirkja Church which stands guard over the city and provides excellent views from the tower (ISK 1000), the Sun Voyager which is a striking steel sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, made to resemble a Viking ship but is in fact a dream boat and an ode to the sun and the old Reykjavic Harbour. We returned to the hotel through the fascinating central area of the city.
Dinner was at the Italia Restaurant on Laugavegur, very close to our hotel, where the food was average and not a restaurant I'd return to.
The Canopy Hilton Reykjavik provided excellent breakfasts which set us up for a day in the sub zero temperatures which we experienced every day. We were due to collect our rental vehicle at midday so decided to walk the 5km there to explore the suburbs on the way. We started by walking along the Sculpture & Shore Walk, passing the Sun Voyager and the new Höfði lighthouse (opposite Höfði House - the mayor's reception hall) which guides all the ships coming into the main commercial harbour to the east. Beyond the lighthouse, we headed inland and followed Laugarasvegur and Holtavegur down to the light industrial area to Europcar.
We'd booked a Kia Sportage AWD, similar to the car I have here but with AWD due to the very wintery weather conditions prevailing. A Suzuki Across Hybrid was allocated to us and this was a nice vehicle to drive. The handover briefing was very thorough and came with a Europcar 'Move in Iceland' safe driving brochure. Staff checked road conditions for our proposed 'Golden Circle Tour' the following day.
We were able to explore more of Reykjavik with the car and explored more of the old Reykjavic Harbour area. My previous visits to Iceland were in 2009 and 2010 when I saw two ancient (1948) whale catcher vessels in very poor condition. Now, in 2022, these vessels have been refurbished and look ready for sea although no harpoon guns are fitted so I'm not sure what their intended use might be - they are illustrated above.
Over in the old Reykjavic Harbour area is the fabulous Grandi Mathöll (Website: https://www.grandimatholl.is/) - a unique street-food hall in the innovative old harbour district of Reykjavik. 8 great food vendors using fresh Icelandic produce to deliver an array of great dishes. We enjoyed lunch here and returned for dinner after our Golden Circle Tour on the Saturday - my plaice and chips (Frystihusid counter) and Yolande's Icelandic lamb (Fjarhusid counter) were two fabulous meals........
After lunch we drove over to the the island of Grótta, a unique natural pearl in the western part of the capital region. It is about 5 hectares and is connected to land in one part where there is unspoiled and unique nature. The shores south of Grótta, Seltjörn, and Bakkavík are suitable for outdoor activities and are rich in life that is worth the visit. The birdlife is very diverse and about 106 species of birds have been seen in Seltjarnarnes. Life in and around Bakkatjörn is interesting to observe and explore. From the beach, you can get out on foot to the island and stay there for about 6 hours. Flood and tidal information can be found in the flood table for the relevant month. There is also information about floods and tides on a sign by Gróttugrandi.
We visited the Reykjavík Maritime Museum (Website: https://borgarsogusafn.is/sjominjasafnid-i-reykjavik) on our way back into the city, quite a small museum but we both found it to be interesting.
Returning in the dark we parked next to the hotel in the Tradarkot multi-story car park on Hverfisgata where there was always space available. On entry a barrier rises after your car has been photographed with no card being issued. On exiting, a machine asks for the number plate and you then click on the image of the car and pay - it was all very simple.
Dinner was at the excellent Hard Rock Cafe (Hard Rock Cafe Reykjavik - Cafes in Reykjavik, Iceland) which was just a short walk away from the hotel. We both enjoyed ribs for the main course followed by a dessert.
We woke to fabulous weather where the skies were blue and no snow falling which was a real bonus for our self-drive Golden Circle Tour which was expected to be 8hrs + to Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss.
Our route out of Reykjavik took us to Highway 1 until we reached Highway 36 where we turned east towards the Thingvellir National Park, designated by a special law on the protection of the area, passed by the Alþing on 7th May, 1928. Þingvellir was the site of the Alþing, the annual Parliament of Iceland from the year 930 until the last session held at Þingvellir in 1798. Since 1881, the Parliament has been located within Alþingishúsið in Reykjavík.
I don't think this trip would have been achievable without the vehicle we were in as there were large lengths of snow covered road to contend with even more snow starting to drift across Highway 36 in places.
Geysir, sometimes known as The Great Geysir, is a geyser in southwestern Iceland. It was the first geyser described in a printed source and the first known to modern Europeans. The English word geyser derives from Geysir. The name Geysir itself is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa the verb from Old Norse. Geysir lies in the Haukadalur valley on the slopes of Laugarfjall hill, which is also the home to Strokkur geyser about 50 metres south. We were lucky to see The Great Geysir erupt three times.
Gullfoss, one of Iceland's best-known landmarks can be found tucked away in a canyon. There's nothing delicate about the breathtaking Gullfoss waterfall, so maybe "tucked" isn't the right word. In the summertime, the waterfall produces on average 130 cubic meters of water per second, and has been recorded to produce up to 2000m³/s per second. Early in the 20th century, some entrepreneurs had grand ideas about building a dam by Gullfoss and use its raw power to create electricity. For lovers of British rock, its worth noting that Gullfoss can be seen on the album cover of "Porcupine" by "Echo & the Bunnymen". The frozen Gullfoss was a spectacular site but the temperature must have been about -30C if wind chill was taken in to account. We parked at the Visitor Centre to view the waterfall from the upper viewing point, then drove down to the lower viewpoint for more views and photography. The steps between the two car parks were closed because of snow. The lower path was also snowed over and closed but normally this path allows very close access to the waterfalls.
There are well equipped visitor centres at all these sites with shops and refreshments available. All these sites have free admission but a parking fee was required at Þingvellir.
Our return journey into Reykjavik took us past the Keiro Volcanic Crater - a55m deep explosion crater that harbours a small green lake in the Grímsnes region. The crater is filled with water and steep circular slopes resemble an ancient Amphitheatre. The crater is nearly 3000 years old, often displaying intense colours.
An extremely enjoyable day with challenging driving conditions but well worth the effort. Without our 4WD capability the day could not have been achieved.
Dinner was back at the Grandi Mathöll (Website: https://www.grandimatholl.is/) for Yolande to enjoy the Icelandic lamb again (Fjarhusid counter) whilst I opted for the Jalapeno Chicken Burger (The Gastro Truck) which was excellent.
After dinner we went out to view the Northern Lights at Grótta where, after several hours we were rewarded with sighting in a couple of directions. Photography was challenging but I ended up with several images I was reasonably happy with.
We woke to falling snow and after another enjoyable breakfast set off to explore the Reykjanes Geopark which lies on major plate boundaries along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, part of the 65,000km mid-ocean ridge that encircles the earth like a seam of a baseball.
One of two UNESCO-recognized areas of international geological significance in Iceland, the Reykjanes Geopark is a unique area. Sitting on the doorstep of Reykjavík, the area is full of natural and geological wonders, rugged lava fields, geothermal areas, and active volcanoes. Still, even though virtually all visitors to Iceland drive through the park on their way from the airport to the Capital region, it is frequently overlooked by visitors but not by us.
The most famous of the tourist attractions in the Reykjanes Geopark is the Blue Lagoon. A man-made lagoon, it is one of two blue water pools in Iceland (the other is Mývatn Nature Baths), and contains 9 million litres (2.4 million gallons) of 37-39°C (99-102°F) hot geothermal sea water. The mineral-rich water is actually the discharge water of the nearby Svartsengi power plant.
We drove past the Keflavik International Airport to the Lighthouse Inn for morning coffee before walking over to the lighthouses and museum area. Apparently this spit of land provides excellent Northern Lights viewing under the right weather conditions. The Garður Old Lighthouse now features a cafe which was closed and overshadowed by the much larger and newer lighthouse.
We then followed the snow covered Highways 45 and 425 along the quiet coast road where we say plenty of Icelandic ponies and lava fields before arriving at the small fishing port of Grindavík. This a fishing town on the Southern Peninsula of Iceland not far from the tuya Þorbjörn. It is one of the few towns with a working harbour on this coast. Most of the inhabitants work in the fishing industry. The Blue Lagoon, Grindavík's premiere attraction, is located 5 kilometres from the town centre.
Yolande managed to navigate us to the Café Bryggjan which was located right on the fishing harbour front where several ocean going fishing boats were tied up. I watched another vessel enter harbour and began to unload the daily cod catch - they'd unloaded 50 tons yesterday and sometimes landed one metre long cod. The crew were very chatty and pleased I'd shown an interest.
Café Bryggjan was amazing in my opinion and I opted for the Lobster Soup with Yolande opting for the GF Vegetable Soup. The price included a refill too which we both enjoyed and bread was also available. I had a couple of open sandwiches whilst Yolande chose the Meringue Cake which was delicious too (I was offered a very small taste).
We drove back into Reykjavik to return the car to Europcar in a snowstorm before getting a taxi back to the hotel.
Dinner was at the Maharaja Restaurant (Maharajah – Ekta indverskur matur) on Geirsgata but it was all fairly average so I wouldn't make a return visit. Heavy snow was falling on the walk back to the hotel.
February 14th - Valentine's Day
Our last full day in Reykjavik, for final sightseeing and shopping with heavy snow falling. After a leisurely breakfast we walked into town to browse a few shops and called in to the pleasant Cafe Rosenberg (Café Rósenberg | Visit Reykjavik) for a late morning coffee and cake. We then called into the 1011 store for a light takeaway lunch we ate back in our hotel room.
After lunch we set off along the Sculpture & Shore Walk, to the Sun Voyager, having to dive in to a snowdrift as the pavement snowplough approached without slowing down. Yolande was in the snowdrift up to her knees as the driver went by without so much as a smile.
We left the Sun Voyager to walk up French Street to the Hallgrímskirkja Church and paid our ISK1000 for the tower lift but the viewing level was bitterly cold but did provide excellent views out over Reykjavik.
Frakkastígur (French Street) is one of the most beautiful streets in the city centre. It is situated north of Skólavörðustígur and travels down from Hallgrímskirkja to the sea. At either end of the street are works of art. The statue of Leifur Eiríksson stands at the top of Skólavörðuholt, and The Sun Voyager by Jón Gunnar Árnason stands by the shore on Sæbraut. Jón Gunnar won a competition for outdoor works for the 200th anniversary of the City of Reykjavík in 1986. The artwork was unveiled in 1990.
Frakkastígur takes its name from the French wooden houses that were transported from Austurstræti in 1901 when the street was built. At the bottom of Frakkarstígur, French shipping companies built a hospital in 1902, which is now used by a music school. Between 1830 and 1914, the French fished cod in Icelandic waters. It is estimated that around 4,000 French fishermen lost their lives in Iceland during this period.
Leaving the Hallgrímskirkja Church we walked down Skólavörðustígur to do some shopping before heading back to the hotel.
Dinner was in the hotel at the Geiri Smart Restaurant (Geiri Smart) which was excellent and all of our food choices turned out very well.
Our last excellent breakfast before checking out and waiting for our airport transfer which was late due to an administration error made by BA Holidays. The issue was soon sorted and after an hour we arrived at Keflavik International Airport where check-in and security was efficient and we found ourselves in the Icelandair Lounge which was nothing to shout about.
Boarding was punctual and Yolande's GF Mexican Chicken and Rice was excellent, as was my Sausages and Mash. After a slightly turbulent descent we were on the ground after a flight time of 2hrs 20mins. The immigration hall was deserted so we were soon down in the baggage hall where I think our priority tagged luggage was about the last to appear.
The aircraft was de-iced before we could taxi away from the terminal at Keflavik Internatioal Airport.
Purple Parking had our car ready for us and we were home after about 3hrs.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our hiliday in Reykjavik and would highly recommend it as a destination.
January 26th at MOD Corsham - this course was delivered to 6 Joint Services personnel who are leaving for the Annapurna region of Nepal in March. This was an enjoyable course for me and I've delivered this course several times to MOD groups.
Following on from retirement, more time will be available for hill and mountain walking on a personal basis with friends.