Students from the outdoor adventure program won the Student Changemaker Award because of their efforts to raise awareness about Eco-friendly tourism in Iceland.
Cameron Dubé and Chris Melmoth, two professors in the outdoor adventure program at Algonquin College, came up with the idea to ride fat bikes to promote Eco-friendly tourism in Iceland. When they suggested the idea to their second-year students, five students jumped on the idea right away.
The American and European plates are pulling apart and since Iceland is located right on that fault line, the country has some of the newest earth in the world, explained Melmoth. This makes the country amazing for geologists. Iceland is one of the only places you can see this happening on the surface.
Tourism has boomed in the past few years and all the fragile plant life is being destroyed due to the increase of traffic. Since fat bikes have a larger surface area than the human foot or a typical bike, it doesn’t leave an impression in the ground. Riding fat bikes on this trip enabled the students to go places cars couldn’t in less time it would have taken to walk and not disturbing the environment.
The group of five students organized the whole trip to Iceland. They had to plan everything from the food to where they wanted to experience. They spent nine days riding fat bikes around southeast Iceland.
“We packed a lot into the trip but we got to a lot of different places to learn about different aspects of geology throughout the country,” said Conner Furneaux, a second-year student in the outdoor adventure program.
Beyond the geology, the team visited a plane from the Second World War sits on a black sand beach, it is a huge tourist attraction that takes about three hours to get to.
“We show up with our bikes and instead of walking, we just bike down the whole thing. We are turning heads, people are looking at us like ‘wow that’s so smart’,” Furneaux explained.
The students had previous experience doing long treks before heading off to Iceland, making them strong enough to be biking many kilometres a day.
According to another student in the same program, Alexandre Guardado-Scorsone, they had to pay a chunk out of their own pockets but got some funding through grants that support these types of projects and had outfitters supply the fat bike. Even though the trip was a financial commitment, it was worth it.
“While we were there, we were biking along this black sand beach and I saw a whale for the first time… oh my god it really took me back, I had to sit back and just look at it, I was hit with this feeling of euphoria. I had never felt it before. It was really special to me,” explained Matt Asselin, a student in the outdoor adventure program.
The Algonquin students rode over mountains, beaches, volcanoes and flat land. According Guardado-Scorsone, it was like a scene from The Lord of the Rings.
“The expectations were definitely met on the fact we worked as a team together, had a great time and learnt a lot,” said Furneaux.
Furneaux, Guardado-Scorsone, Asselin and all the others that went to Iceland will be talking about their mission to raise awareness in Iceland through flat bike to the Vice President, the Board Of Governors and the Executive Committee of Algonquin College in February.