Driving through the Mont Blanc Mountain, the coach gave a small cheer as we officially crossed from France to Italy, the tunnel opening onto the Aosta valley where we were greeted with 24 degree heat and beautiful sunshine at the bottom of the mountain.
On the 31 October 2010, thirty six year 9 students made the journey to North Wales for the annual outdoor activities week af adventure and excitement. They formed the forty seventh group to visit the Kent Mountain Centre from Dane Court since the school's first visit in the early 1980s.
As always, the group were well prepared for the challenges of the mountainous Snowdonia National Park and the nearby rugged coastline.
With expert guidance from the tireless KMC instructors, our students reached mountain summits and tackled river gorges, mountain crags and sea cliffs.
For the first time this year, a dedicated band of students and staff produced illustrated daily reports on our blog to update parents and friends back in Kent.
This year, once again, Dane Court took on Iceland and we started with a bang! The very early sleepy start saw fifteen year 11 pupils board the bus and make their way to Gatwick where we would fly to Iceland. The journey was quick and as soon as our plane touched down we straight away started our adventure and first stop was no other than the famous Blue Lagoon. What an amazing place it was! The natural heat of the geothermal pool was incredible to experience and the mix of the cold Iceland air on your face and warm water was really bizarre!
As we boarded the Iceland Wanderer, the name of our coach named by Tim, Betty, the greatest tour guide in the world, introduced herself and we set off to the first hotel. What an amazing place Iceland is! You can drive for miles and not see a single car or house and then see one lonely farm on its own, it is a surreal experience that I'm so grateful I got the chance to experience.
The first hotel was owned by a lovely lady called Helga and it was so peaceful, the rooms were like little chalets and the girls had a massive house which was cursed by a swan picture, the evil swan would disappear and appear under people's sheets! We all had a great meal and some of us played an intense, heart racing game of cards which would give anyone heart palpitations! As the evening progressed everyone got even more tired so we retired to our chalets ready for the next adventurous day!
The second day was an early start with a lot to do. We made our first stop at the earthquake centre which was an emotional visit to see what can happen when you live on plate boundaries, inside the centre was an earthquake simulator which Libbie, Niamh, Alice and Tim bravely went in first, well what an experience! You stand in a narrow box in the pitch black. A growl starts to sound from the speakers and bright lights flicker then a banging starts and the floor shakes. Well, we were all screaming and shouting and falling over and all four of us gripped on to each other for dear life. As we staggered out we all suddenly felt very awake and the screaming continued with the next four going in the simulator.
The next stop was one of Iceland's national parks, Thingvellir, where the first ever parliament was formed. This is where the tectonic plates are moving apart! There were some amazing views and waterfalls which I could try and describe to you however they were all just so magical that to experience it you would have to go and see for yourself! As we walked around the huge national park, treading through the snow, everything was glistening in the sun.
We came to a church we saw no other than the Prime Minister of Iceland, the real Prime Minister in his yeep (Jeep, however our tour guide Betty would say 'yeep'!). We were all amazed to see him so casually walking around with so little security as we jumped back on the bus ready for the next stop.
As the Iceland Wanderer turned into a deserted dirt patch on the side of the road a yeep met us, it felt as if we were being taking hostage up a mountain. We bundled in and bounced along up the rocky mountain. We were all swaying about, the journey was hilarious and when we got to the top we were swept up by a snow blizzard that we had to battle through, it was like being in an arctic blizzard, as we neared the top we could see the entrance of the lava tubes. It was amazing to be climbing through tubes where magma had flowed. The tubes were incredible, filled with icicles and pillars of ice.
We all had a lot of fun sliding, climbing and crawling along, of course with a few screams here and there, after another bumpy ride back down the mountain we met the Iceland Wanderer and our driver Dory, who I forgot to mention earlier. Dory was not only a coach driver but also a pilot and he was also a customs officer on a ship stopping drugs entering the country, I think he was may have been a spy as he was very mysterious!
The second day continued with more adventures and the next stop was a Geysir which was awesome! The idea of 100 degree water shooting out of the earth and then sprinkling back down and doing it over and over again every ten minutes was amazing and there were many tourist with cameras at the ready to get the perfect picture. They Geysir was amazing and it had a great gift shop as well, proving that Iceland is a made up country. The gift shop was selling canned Icelandic air in tins that weren't even metal but plastic for £5.50, this wasn't a joke and was a serious gift, proving that Iceland is a dreamland, as if we stepped into the land of Oz!
The previous day has been very busy and everyone was very tired on the third morning, but after two cups of coffee, maybe three for the more grumpy amongst us, we set off again to discover more rural Iceland, we also left Helga and the first hotel and moved to the next one on the coast. The third day was a bit more relaxed and everyone boarded the Iceland Wanderer and was surprisingly quiet, unlike the other mornings there was no singing or dancing from Tim and Jasmine and no musical ballads from the back row, just quiet as everyone slept. We had a joke in Iceland that every conversation that was started was never finished as Tim would have a song for every occasion ready to belt out when someone spoke a word relating to the song, throughout the week this slowly rubbed on to others in the group especially Jasmine and The Twins ( Connie and Maisie).
The freezing temperatures meant we couldn't walk behind the waterfall seeing as there was ten metres of ice but Niamh Elstone managed to find somewhere else further along the hill we could climb up as far as possible and created a competition to see who could climb the highest. With faint shouts of 'risk assessment' below we all started to descend the hill.
Next we went in the Super Truck to the glacier where the famous Eyjafjallajokull had erupted in 2010.
The volcano, which lies underneath the huge glacier, had melted a lot of the glacial water and as we drove through where the flood had occurred, many erratics could be seen. We journeyed further towards the huge glaciers and saw the amazing size of them. I learnt a lot about glaciers over the week and can tell you so much all about how amazing this huge blocks of ice are, however I won't bore you with all the geographical facts about them! The glacier that we were walking around also is very famous as the area is used in many films. The Super Truck had transported many film crews such that of the James Bond film, 'A view to a Kill', onto the glaciers.
The Super Truck was really cool and all of us had a great time even when it got stuck on the path back and we all had to get out; Niamh Elstone and I, again found a rather steep hill we could run up and found a great river that ran down the hill. As the others got out of the Super Truck we all walked up a snowy hill and thought it would be a great idea to slide down it which was awesome, however it was very steep and everyone was going very fast! The highlight of this impromptu sledging was Libbie heading straight into a tree and wiping out which was the funniest thing and the pictures are even better! After everyone had got down we boarded the Super Truck and went on our way! The final stop was another waterfall which was amazing to see and Alice and Tim went and saw some Icelandic horses which were fab. They had great hairstyles!
We arrived at our second hotel and all settled into our rooms, luckily the curse of the swan did not follow us and on we played another intense game of spoons, the hotel was lovely and we were even lucky enough to see the northern nights in the early hours of the fourth day. They were amazing to see and everyone stood outside, very cold, but very excited staring up at the starry night sky, looking at the huge bands of the northern lights!
The fourth morning everyone was still buzzing from the northern lights and we had another early start! However, as we were up to early, we were lucky enough to be driven up to the top of a glacier as the sun rise over the tops of the other glaciers around.
We were all surprised with bum-boards and sledged down the side of the glacier as the sun rose over our heads! Everyone was in ore of how incredible it was to be sledging down a glacier as the sun rose into the clear blue sky. This day was focused around glaciers and we all learnt even more about glaciers about the formations of them and how they move along forming valleys! It was incredible to learn and we were lucky enough to walk along the glaciers and around them with the use of crampons on our feet. The crampons were odd at first however after a few minutes were really cool and made you feel like a true Icelandic Expeditionary. That afternoon we were told that a big storm was coming and we would have to leave the coast early and everyone had to pack quickly, it felt as if we were being evacuated as everyone frantically packed up their suitcases and boarded the Iceland Wanderer. Before the storm rolled in we ventured down to the beach and all saw the famous basalt columns and sat on them taking in the amazing view of the stony beach.
As we drove the two hours to the capital city Reykjavik, it put everything back into perspective as the land began to fade and more buildings began to rise, however even though the capital city is no larger than Cantebury it still felt huge to all of us after only seeing a handful of people each day. The city was a lovely place to be even though it did feel like a large fishing village. It was a really cool place and our hotel was right next to the sea, which from the 3rd floor had a great view. After dinner we had a great evening all together and went back to our rooms to sleep.
The following day was a great one and we woke up with snow drifts all over the roads and the winds howling! We boarded the Iceland Wanderer and made our first stop of the day to the bus depot to swap busses (I can confirm that we are the first group to be taken to the magical place that is the Trex Bus Depot) where we transferred onto a smaller minibus (Iceland Wanderer Mark II) and made our city tour. We saw many sights such as the presidents house as well as many churches and then made a surprise stop to an ice rink and all went ice skating. It was a magical afternoon and we discovered some great ice skaters amongst the group! Everyone was on a high, even though the weather was very cold, and after getting back to the hotel some people ventured in the Baltic winds to walk to the shopping centre. I figured that the locals must have thought we were crazy as we were the only ones on the blizzard swept streets! The shopping centre was very modern, however it made everyone realise how expensive Iceland is, with one of the members of the group buying an' Elle Collections' magazine, which in England would cost about £4, costing £12! However with a successful shopping trip for many we ventured through our third blizzard of the holiday back to the hotel with Tim and Jasmine once again singing many musical tunes as everyone staggered through the Baltic winds.
The final day was a sad one however we made the most of it with a walk along the coast. We all boarded the Iceland Wanderer for the final time, with a quick stop at the local supermarket, which Tim of course had another song for! We all got back on the bus, where we were treated to an inspirational speech from Betty, who told us to go and do what we wanted to do and not leave it until it was too late so that we couldn't do it. It was very emotional and everyone was feeling inspired. After an emotional goodbye to Dori and Betty we boarded our plane and headed back to England.
It was a phenomenal trip and on behalf of all the students that went I would like to thank the three teachers that gave up their holiday to go with us, Mr Ballard, Miss Brears and Miss Morris, without whom, the trip would not have run. Thank you also to the people who paid for us to go on this incredible adventure. I hope that we have shown our appreciation and gratification to you all.