A not too early start on Sunday morning saw excited students and tearful parents gather in preparation for SBSJ’s first ever geographical adventure overseas to the Iceland, the “Land of Ice and Fire”. A final roll call revealed that we were one short!! A quick phone call resulted in a taxi pulling in seven minutes later with the student telling us: “I thought we left on Monday…”
All accounted for, we set off for Manchester Airport and our flight to Keflavik where we arrived mid-afternoon. On to the coach with our own personal travel guide, Anthony from Rayburn Tours, and a quick visit to the Bridge Between Two Continents where we witnessed the divergence of two tectonic plates. Gunnuhver Hot Springs were met with cries of: “It stinks of rotten eggs!” from gasping students and Miss Swallow. After a quick visit to Krysuvik Mud Puddles we set off to our hostel and dinner at 9.15pm.
An early start the next day and some sleepy students, amazed at the fact that it appeared to be light all night. Monday saw us visit the classic Icelandic tourist spots of “The Golden Circle” and Mr O’Donnell commence his relentless battle to take as many group selfies as possible. A swim in the Secret Lagoon where the naturally hot - too hot in places - water gushes up from underground was followed by a walk to Gullfoss waterfall where we stood right next to the water as it thundered over the rapids. No wonder it was used for scenes in Game of Thrones.
At the Geysir Geothermal Area we stood in anticipation of Geysir blowing its top. We were neither disappointed nor dry as the water came crashing down on top of us leading to screams and a dash for safety. However, it was so good that many returned to the same spot to experience another soaking minutes later.
Unfortunately, our coach broke down so we had to spend an hour in the souvenir shop and café wondering how anybody could afford the ridiculous prices for all items. The replacement arrived and off we went, via and Ice Cream Farm, to Þingvellir National Park, another location for the filming of Game of Thrones before another late return to a filling, homemade meal at the hostel.
The students had a great first day and what we thought was bad weather, wet and windy, was in fact the right weather to see such dramatic scenery and anyway, it is sure to be a nice day tomorrow…
Tuesday saw heavier rain and stronger winds. What a day to take the ferry across to Heimaey Island! All of our party managed to keep their breakfasts down unlike students from other schools who were clearly not as tough as ours. Those other students embarked buses and took site-seeing trips around the (small) island while our intrepid crew set off on a grand hike up Eldfell volcano; so new that it didn’t even exist in 1972. We made it to the top despite the gales and heavy rain but it was an exhilarating experience – not another soul there except for us. A well-deserved afternoon at the local (outdoor) pool with the air temperatures at 5OC was great fun with slides, hot-tubs and even a cold-water barrel for the very brave was followed by a visit to the local supermarket which was cleaned out of Pringles and Doritos despite the extortionate prices. The sun will come out tomorrow……it did!
Wednesday and the geography kept giving. We climbed up Stóra Dímon, an extinct volcano, walked behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall (even on the dry day we still got soaked!) and went to the Eyjafjallajökull Visitors’ Centre with Mrs Myers in her element as the only one of us who could pronounce the name of the volcano that erupted in 2010 causing all that disruption to air travel. Souvenir shopping at Vik plus more Pringles and ice cream took us into our last afternoon of sites. Reynisdrangar beach had arches, stacks, stumps AND hexagonal basaltic columns, yes you read correctly hexagonal basaltic columns. What more could a geographer ask for? Well we asked for more and got: a walk to the snout of Sólheimajökull glacier and a walk to the top of Skógafoss waterfall. The only thing that could top the day was the fantastic meal of genuine, king-sized Icelandic fish fingers for tea.
Bed at 10.30pm and awake at 2.30 am (still light at that time too) for our journey to the airport and the fun of check-in and security.
What an experience for everyone. The students were OUTSTANDING and a credit to their families and the school. They have life-long memories from this unique trip.