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Mary Explores Remote Iceland

Describe your proudest moment.

My proudest moment was on our last backpacking day. We only had a 1.5 hour walk into Nordurfjordur to complete and it was all downhill so it was relatively easy. The simplicity of the route allowed us to reflect on the journey we had gone on. We knew that in a few moments we would be in a proper campsite with a shop, restaurant, swimming pool and harbour. This would be a contrast to the last 12 days were we had adapted to living out of a tent. I felt proud of how we had done this as a group, supporting each other along the way. I strengthened old friendships and made new ones. Looking back on how far we had come and the challenges that we had overcome, I realised how much I will miss spending time with the group.

What was your highlight of the trip?

The highlight of the trip for me was running over rocks along the fjord to get to the Dragon’s Teeth (a rock formation). Emilia and I, raced each other, jumping from rock to rock. When we got to the Dragon’s Teeth we climbed up a steep bank and looked out across the sea to where we would be walking to the next few days. We paused on the top to take pictures and to watch the fulmars circling around the cliffs. This was my favourite bit of the trip as we had left our heavy backpacks where we had pitched the tents. It meant we could focus more on the fantastic environment we were in, and we felt free to run around and scramble up the banks.

What was your most challenging moment and how did you overcome it?

I had booked to visit the Blue Lagoon during our time in Reyjavik. One of the most challenging moments of the whole trip was waking up early that morning to rush across the city to get a bus. The Blue Lagoon is situated over an hour outside the capital and we wanted to go early to avoid the crowds but we were already exhausted from spending the previous day shopping. Ruby and Rosie obviously were still half asleep when they accidentally woke Kay and Georgiana up instead of Martha and I. We arrived at the destination after eating a pot of Skyr (yet again!). The Blue Lagoon was relaxing and I’m glad I was able to experience it, however, it did appear overrated after we had made do swimming in glorified thermal ponds for the last few weeks.

Describe a memory you will treasure forever

On the first day of the expedition, we had to get a boat from Isafjordur to the bottom of the Hornstrandir national park where the backpacking began. I stood on the deck, braving the cold winds and the rocking of the boat. Rosie spotted a spray of water in the distance and, before we knew it, 3 humpback whales became visible. We watched them dive and lift their tails out of the water before they disappeared under the surface. I had never seen a whale before so I will treasure this memory forever. Later on in the boat trip, we also saw some of Iceland’s many puffins. We departed the boats via a dingy and as it left we realised how remote the place was. Although it was hard to get used to at first, I enjoyed the lack of phone signal and the need to be self sufficient.

Any memories from the trip you wish you could forget?

I wish to forget being kept up at night by the sound of someone’s snoring, even though their tent was the furthest away! And the slightly traumatising experience of getting pecked on the head by an Arctic Tern.

What advice would you give to others who were thinking of doing the same trip (or similar expedition)?

It is important to relax and take each day as it comes. Before I went on the trip I thought the main focus would be getting from campsite to campsite each day. I quickly realised that the experience is about immersing in the Icelandic wilderness and learning about the environment. It is fine to take things slower one day, or set off late to avoid bad weather, as there is less time constraints. It never gets dark and there are additional days fitted into the schedule just in case of delays. There is no point worrying about how much you have to do, just enjoy the moment as it is such a once in a lifetime opportunity.

What was the first thing you did when you returned home?

The first thing I did was have a large cup of Yorkshire Tea. Then I had a nice, warm shower and washed the remnants of the Blue Lagoon out of my hair. For dinner, I had mozzarella sticks and a pepperoni pizza and afterwards enjoyed sleeping in an actual bed for the first time in 3 weeks.

Have you learnt anything about yourself from the trip?

I have learnt that I enjoy the simplicity of living in a tent much more than I thought I would. The trip provided a welcome change from the stress of doing A Levels and the constant never-ending to-do lists. The fact we didn’t have phone signal was one of the best bits of the trip and we were completely disconnected from the outside world (although it was weird not even knowing who our Prime Minister was). I also enjoyed that when I got up in the morning we just had the same routine of making porridge and coffee, cleaning our teeth, applying sun cream, washing our bowls in the stream and then packing the tents up. Not being allowed to be fussy with food or spend time figuring out outfit choices removed a lot of small every day dilemmas. Having these constants meant that the biggest variation between each day was the landscape. We were allowed to take in the surroundings and focus on what was around us. I was surprised at just how appreciative I was of having the chance to relax.

What destination would you love to travel to in future?

This trip has inspired me to go on more expeditions. Given the opportunity, I would love to return to Iceland and also explore countries in the Arctic Circle, perhaps Alaska or Canada. The arctic wildlife and landscape are so different from anywhere in the UK. At some point, I also would like to return to Iceland in the Winter to experience the lower temperatures and to see the Northern Lights.

What are you plans for the summer holidays?

I am planning to spend lots of time with my family and start preparing for going to university. I also plan to keep up the hiking and camping as I walk parts of The Pennine Way and The Cleveland Way with family and friends. I will also spend time prepping for my next adventure which will be cycling from London to Paris with my dad.

Final thoughts…

The trip was altogether an amazing experience and it went so quickly. I have made so many memories- from glacial river crossings, to meeting the ambassador to putting up with cream cheese sandwiches every day. It was the perfect end to my time at The Mount- although I’m glad that the Borealis Lecture series are an excuse to come back!

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