On Sunday 27th July the Guides, Rangers and seven adult leaders met up at Gatwick airport in their matching pale tops ready to board a plane to Iceland! Eighteen months of fundraising over £11,000 had got us here and we were finally off.
We arrived in Iceland on Sunday afternoon and boarded a coach to the Scout centre. Upon arrival, we were then greeted by the wonderful centre staff with tea and biscuits.
The first thing that we noticed was that the shower block was a good walk down the hill from our bunk house, which at 7am in the cold Icelandic air was a challenge for some more than others. Then there was the fact that it never really got dark, just dim, and the sun rose at about 4am glaring through the windows. Then there were the midges. Hundreds of these small creatures descended each night and tried to get in your ears, in your eyes and mouth, all over your head. The camp site sold midge nets for your head at a cost of about £8, but being Guides we coped with just putting our hoods up, or making our own head gear with scarves and tights and sunglasses. By the end of the week, we had got used to all these things and it was then strange to come home to darkness and a shower that was not at the bottom of the garden!
We also soon realised we were staying right next door to a group of 20 scouts from America, which proved to be very entertaining for the week and a challenge we had not anticipated! They did even manage to get some of our girls to go for a 7am swim in the freezing cold lake though, this was not attempted by myself or any of the leaders, apart from the younger Miss Umney who bravely took the decision to accompany the girls. The American scout leader informed us at breakfast that they could now be given their ‘Polar Bear Badge’. I’d rather go without myself.
The week in Iceland was all we wanted it to be and more. Every day after breakfast, we all made packed lunches and boarded a coach to our excursion of the day.
After a very wet day on day one when we went on a hike, the rest of the week was bright and crisp. We enjoyed a full day on the Golden Circle tour, visiting geysers, majestic waterfalls, the Pingvellir National Park and the mid- Atlantic ridge. We learnt all about Iceland’s history and geology, then it was off to the hot springs for a soak in pools of various temperatures.
We had a day glacier walking with crampons on our shoes, to ice axes in hand we walked across the ice with our guide to explore various water features, and even had a drink of the ice cold natural spring water.
We went out to sea on the cold Atlantic Ocean on a small fishing boat to spot some whales. We were issued with warm red overalls for protection, which made us look rather strange, but allowed us to stand on the front of the boat to watch. We did only see one minke whale, but had a fantastic time all the same and no one got sea sick!
There was a day trip to the capital of Reykjavik. We started with a walking tour and were told all about the peoples’ belief in elves, the settlement of Iceland and their parliament. Then it was free time to sightsee and shop.
The last excursion was to the volcano, where seven of the group climbed to the top. Then, it was onto the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a naturally heated hot spa, with several pools and steam caves. There is also the silica mud, which the girls put on their faces as natural face packs. We could purchase drinks from the pool bar and just relax in the warm waters.
Every evening when we arrived back at the Scout centre we were given refreshments, sometimes including beautiful fresh homemade cakes, and one time pizza. This was before a delicious dinner at 6.30ish. There was an assault course on the lake which some took part in, go-karts and an adventure playground. The girls made scrapbooks of their holiday, plus of course there was the entertainment of the BOYS!
We took over the evenings with a quiz night of American and English teams and there was also football and bingo. The bingo evenings got bigger and bigger with Americans, Spanish, French and Icelandic all taking part. We had to keep finding extra prizes! The French cooked us crepes on our last evening in exchange.
Every one of us had a fantastic experience – one we all remember for a lifetime.
Suzanne Umney ( Chip )
5th East Wickham Guides