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A Day of Firsts


Sabine Jessen, National Manager of the Oceans and Great Freshwater Lakes Program for CPAWS, is accompanying the Students on Ice educational expedition on a trip through the Arctic.

Icelandic horses at Gauksmyri Lodge

In our evening wrap up after a day of traveling from Reykjavik to the town of Saudarkrokur, the students shared some of the best parts of the day for them, and it made me realize that every day can bring a first experience.

For many students it was the first time they had been to an extinct volcano. Our first stop of the day was the famous Grábrók crater. As we hiked this 3000 year old extinct volcano and wandered around the top edge, looking into the centre of the crater, I was reflecting on the many other craters I had hiked in Hawaii, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

Our next stop was a hearty and delicious lunch at the charming farmhouse and lodge Gauksmyri. The wonderful food and hospitality were only the beginning of our short but memorable visit, for soon we had discovered the more than 60 Icelandic horses at the farm. The beautiful stallion in view of the dining room was only too happy to munch on the fresh grass being fed to him by the eager students. We were even more delighted to discover the dozens of horses in a paddock behind the barn, which must have come close to showing us the more than 40 named colours of Icelandic horses. They calmly allowed the students to mingle with them and stroke them. And seeing the mares with their young foals, melted my heart. Geoff had a difficult time tearing us away from these beautiful, gentle animals.

We learned tonight that it was the first time that some students had ever seen a horse, let alone touch one. Being among these horses made me miss the riding lessons my daughters and I used to take together, and brought back memories of a horse trip my daughters and I took in the South Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia.

Today, I finally felt reconnected with the ocean after the past few days of travel to the interior of Iceland. While I was in awe of the landscape and geologic wonders of this country, I missed walking along the ocean, an evening activity in West Vancouver that my dog Puck and I share. Our final outing took us to the seal centre in Hvammstangi, where researchers are hoping to show that seals are not competitors for the fish sought by local fishermen, and that live seals can make a great contribution to the local economy through increased tourism. Led by our guide, Eva, we viewed a group of seals lounging on the rocks just outside of town. Tonight, one of our students shared with us that it was the first time that she had seen the ocean.

And my first today? Each place was a first, as I have never been to Iceland before. But more significantly, I have ended today with a profound appreciation for the vast array of perspectives that each one of us brings to this trip, how this enriches the experience that we each take way from every new encounter, and in the process how we are creating memories that will last a lifetime.