Tuesday. Arriving at Heathrow Terminal 1, the adventure begins with the first task, the excitement of spotting fellow conservation volunteers. More thance do the four letters B, T, C and V get put together a question, result in blank looks and confused responses. Claude is the first of this years that I meet, approaching me with uncertainty. Claire is the next as I pick her out wandering lost near the the Icelandair ticket office with rucksack and sleeping bag.
Within a very short time of this we are all gathered together swapping names, trying desperately to remember them together with their correct faces. Three hours later and we are walking away from an uneventful flight into blazing sunshine and clear blue skies over Keflavik airport. Chas Goemans is there to greet us – and recognises me – as does Sara, a VO from last year, and our leader for this years holiday. Within no more than half an hour of our arrival our bags and rucksacks are transfered to a trailer and secured under a tarporlin and bungee ropes. We ourselves bundle into the blacked-out van that disappears for miles to the furthest reaches of the back seats, and drive off towards and through Reykjavik on Route 1 – around the island to our night’s stopover on the north coast.
During the six hour journey, punctuated with numerous stops at petrol stations for toilets, chocolates, or hot dogs we are given ample opportunity to get to know our fellow volunteers. I discover that the ginger haired Alex that I found I vaguely recognised, was in fact the same Alex Martin that I met previously in 1998 on a National Trust working holiday in Mathry, cutting gorse in atrocious weather conditions and repairing the Pembrokeshire coastal path.
bv5185.n1At nine-thirty, and with the sun only beginning to set we arrive at the City of Hölar – agricultural college with a population of 100. We are given a welcome meal of unspecified meat soup and settle into sleeping bag accomodation in two of the classrooms, watched over by some frightening Harry Potteresque dignatories on the walls. In a last conversation before bed we are told a story of some girls who slept in the rooms on the top floor and had their jewelery stolen by ghosts. Thankfully, these ‘ghosts’ did not visit us tonight.
We feast simply on pasta and cheese this first night, cozy in our new home, and retire early (midnight) to bed.