South Charnwood High School

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Encouraging excellence, valuing people

Iceland Trip 2020

Diary entries from Miss Coney

Day 1: Arrival in Iceland!

 

Our first day in Iceland began with a ridiculously early start (3.30am!). We made our way to the airport, arriving with plenty of time to grab some breakfast and some much needed coffee for the teachers. We had a smooth flight to Iceland, and the students were all impeccably behaved on the plane (especially those who slept through the whole thing - Valeria).

 

As we left the airport, the students were surprised to discover that the weather outside was Baltic (or Icelandic...). However, we bravely battled our way through the wind and cold to get to our coach and set off for Reykjavík. We arrived at our hotel by 1pm and spent some time settling in. This didn’t last too long though, as it was clear that the 3.00am start hadn’t done much to deplete the students’ bottomless supplies of energy. We therefore packed up our swimming kits and headed off to the local outdoor heated pool. The students had a fantastic few hours playing water polo, enjoying the slides, and relaxing in the hot jacuzzi pools.

 

Having built up an appetite, we trekked off to our evening’s restaurant to tuck into a feast of burgers, chips and ice cream. With our bellies full, we headed off back to the hotel to get a well earned sleep, ready for our 7am start the next day!

Day 2: Secret Lagoon, a waterfall and a gorgeous Geyser

 

Day 2 began early at 7am, with a delicious breakfast of waffles, toast, cereal, fruit and more waffles. After filling up, we all piled onto the coach for our first full day excursion in the Golden Circle.

 

First stop was Pingvellir National Park. Here, we were able to observe a rift between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian plate. Mr Giannino thrilled the students with a fascinating geography lesson on the layers of volcanic rock visible in the cliff face. We also had a short History lesson, as we learnt that this was the meeting place of the first Icelandic Viking Parliament.

 

Our next stop was the Secret Lagoon, a thermal pool heated by hot springs, and surrounded by mini geysers. We spend a few hours here in the steaming hot pool, relaxing, chatting, and appreciating our surroundings. Some of our hardier students even decided to take a walk in their swimsuits around the pool in the snow to show just how brave they were, before scuttling back into the warmth.

 

After enjoying the thermal pool, we hopped back onto the bus and headed off to Gullfoss, the Golden Waterfall. We tucked into a delicious lunch of lamb soup (or tomato for the vegetarians) and bread rolls. Archie managed to beat the current SCHS record, by devouring 15 bread rolls and 4 bowls of soup, closely followed by Oscar and Hakeem. (Admin added: This sounds like Archie has eaten Oscar and Hakeem. Can I assure their parents they are OK) After lunch, we wrapped up warm and went out to explore Gullfoss waterfall. Gullfoss runs in off the freezing cold glacier and has formed a two step waterfall, plunging down into a deep, narrow gorge. It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Europe, and was a beautiful sight to see.

 

Our final stop on our Golden Circle tour was at Strokkur, one of the most active geysers in the area, which spouts up to 20 metres about every 7 minutes. We all stood with frozen hands, desperate to capture the perfect shot of the Geyser erupting, which, for some, was the perfect time for their phones to run out of battery. For some, the geyser was almost as exciting as the gift shop, where a few of the boys (Oscar, Hakeem, and Sam) invested in some necessary purchases of wooden Viking axes, swords and shields.

 

Our busy day was rounded off with dinner at a delicious all-you-can-eat buffet in a restaurant in Reykjavik. After filling up our plates (several times for some...), we set off back to the hotel, walking off our dinner. The snow had begun to fall by this point, and the students were unable to resist the temptation of a snowball fight. We therefore took a detour via a park to give the students an opportunity to both pelt each other with snowballs and expend some of their energy. The snowball fight was going smoothly for the teachers, who were policing the edges, until Daisy decided to stab Mr Giannino in the back by pelting him from behind with a snowball. Needless to say, Daisy immediately began to regret this when Mr Giannino took his revenge. We trooped back to the hotel to dry off and relax, and prepare ourselves for another early start the next day.

 

We have been advised that we were very unlikely to see the northern lights on either Wednesday or Thursday evening, so have postponed our northern lights hunt until Friday evening.

Day 3: waterfalls, glaciers, coastal landforms and the northern lights!!!

 

Our third day began with another delicious breakfast at 8am, which set us up nicely for the long day we had planned. Today was our trip to the south shore of Iceland, and we also had plans for a northern lights hunt in the evening.

 

We set off at 9am, and our route took us through some incredible Icelandic scenery. It was particularly interesting to hear about the active and non active volcanoes we were passing by. Mr Giannino wowed us all with his expert pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull. Luckily, Oscar had had the hindsight to bring along his Viking axe just in case we were attacked by any pillaging Vikings. After a couple of hours on the coach we arrived at our first stop - Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Glacial in origin, this incredible 60m waterfall was breathtaking. The photos really don’t do it justice.

After visiting the waterfall, we stopped off for some lunch, with a stunning view out over the coastline. From our seats in the cafe, we could observe some arches, stacks and stumps formed in the headlands.

 

We tucked into a filling lunch of cheese toasties and chips, then set off to visit Dyrhólaey, a black volcanic beach as seen in Game of Thrones. It was a bizarre sight, the crisp white snow contrasting with the black sand beach. We were able to observe some hexagonal basalt columns, coastal landforms, a cave carved into the headland and enormous waves. Mr Giannino provided everyone with another fascinating geography lesson on coastal landforms. The students gave a resounding cheer as a photographer got too close to the waves and soaked his feet in search of the perfect shot! It was only when frost bite started to set in that we piled back onto the coach.

Since we were making such good time, our guide suggested another stop on our South Shore tour. We trekked for about 15 minutes to observe the amount of a glacier, passing by other people with ice picks and crampons. We decided not to join them on their hike up the treacherous glacier, but instead observed it from afar. We were stunned to learn that the glacier had retreated hundreds of meters in the ten years since our guide had begun doing tours around Iceland. It was a real wake up call to realities of climate change. The stunning landscape didn’t detract from the students’ overwhelming desire to jump, slide and pelt each other with snow balls. In particular, Sam did an excellent reenactment of a scene from Happy Feet by sliding along the floor on his belly like a penguin.

 

Our final stop was at another waterfall: Skógafoss. Again, this majestic waterfall wowed us all. We had to drag ourselves away, reluctantly, from these awe inspiring sights in order to get back in time for our dinner in Reykjavik.

 

Our final dinner was at the Hard Rock Cafe in Reykjavik. Here, we had a delicious dinner of mac n cheese, burgers, ice cream and even the odd salad! Once we had refuelled and darkness had set in, we piled back onto the coach at about 9pm, ready to set off in search of the northern lights! We drove to an area outside of Reykjavík, far from light pollution. We stood out in the freezing cold and fierce wind, with our fingers crossed. Luckily, thanks to the expertise of our guide, we were able to catch a glimpse of them through the clouds! The cameras began to click away, and some students were able to take some impressive shots of them. The clouds soon covered the sky again. However, we had achieved our aim and feeling rather pleased with ourselves we headed back to our hotel around midnight, for our last night before heading back to England.

Day 4: Plate boundaries, volcanic craters and geothermal vents.

 

We started our final day early, demolishing more waffles, toast, fruit and cereal. After checking out of the hotel, we hopped on the bus to head off for the Reykjanes Peninsula. Our first stop was at some geothermal pools. The familiar smell of sulphur greeted our nostrils and left some of the girls feeling queasy, though this wasn’t helped by the addition of a new fish factory in the vicinity. Ignoring the smells, we started to work through the labyrinth of geothermal vents and bubbling mud pools. It was a surreal experience as at times we could only see a couple of metres ahead of us due to the plumes of steam erupting from vents. At one point, Fraser emerged from the steam, like a contestant on Stars in Your Eyes, drenched in condensation. Our journey through the geothermal pools was made even more treacherous by the ice that had formed on the paths. The award for the most number of falls can definitely be awarded to Ms. Estill. Luckily, Mr Giannino was there to save her.

 

The next stop on our day trip was the coastline of the Reykjanes Peninsula. Despite the fierce wind chill and bitter temperatures, we disembarked from the coach to observe. As the enormous waves of the North Atlantic crashed against the coast, we were able to see some excellent examples of coastal erosion. Here, there were stacks, stumps, caves and wave cut platforms. There was also evidence of undercutting, abrasion, cliff collapse, and weathering. The students listened intently as Mr Giannino delighted them with a discussion on coastal landscapes.

 

After the excitement of that impromptu geography lesson, we set off for a well earned lunch of pizza, pizza, and more pizza. The boys competed again for the award for most food consumed. We stopped counting after 15 slices of pizza, though Archie, Hakeem, Oscar, Jack and Sam were all in the running. With our bellies very full, we piled back onto the coach and were informed that our guide had, again, added something extra onto our schedule for us. This time, she took us to a volcanic crater. Here, we were able to walk along the edge of this (non-active!) crater and even stand in the middle!

 

Our final stop in Iceland was at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where we walked across a bridge suspended over the margin between the Eurasian and North American plates. After a quick geography lesson on plate tectonics, the students were able to blow off some steam (all geography puns intended) before our flight by throwing a few snowballs and sliding around in the rift between this constructive boundary. Eventually, we had to drag ourselves away from these awe inspiring sights in order to catch our return flight, ending our exciting four days in Iceland back at Reykjavík airport on Saturday evening. An amazing time was had by everyone and the students were all incredibly well behaved and polite. They were a credit to both the school and their families.

 

The staff would like to award the following prizes from the trip:
Most number of bread rolls consumed: Archie Francomb
Most glamorous in the snow: Valeria English
Most number of falls: Ms Estill
Luckiest escape after losing a mobile phone: Oscar Mulleur
Best penguin impression: Sam McCartney
Backstabber of the year: Daisy Sloan
Most incessant talker: Adam Rodwell

SCHS: Our thanks go to Miss Coney, Mr Giannino and Mrs Estill for organising and taking care of everyone.