An Icelandic Saga: Chapter One
It was a particularly hot June day when I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 1 – how I was regretting having to wear my steel-toe-capped work boots and where my fleece and my waterproof jacket, but with tent and sleeping bag &c. taking up precious room in my rucksack, I had no choice.
1100 hours. The Icelandair check-in desk. I meet my fellow volunteers – nine lads and lasses from every part of England – who will be companions and my friends for the next 16 days. The expedition had begun. What a sight we must have been to the poor check in clerk, as she was faced with a queue of ten boot clad people in front of her with more than double that number of bags, all of different sizes, shapes and colours (although it is amazing that blue and green seem to very popular colours for the modern rucksack?!). Despite arriving a well in excess of our two hour check-in desk, by the time we had despatched our bags through the out size baggage route, collected our boarding cards, and retrieved our passports it was a quick dash through passport control (pausing only to be thoughly searched after my boots unsurprisingly set off the metal detector, “No, no, it’s my boots,” I tried to explain…) and on through the terminal to our Departure Gate to await boarding. A few moments more and we were funnelled into the plain and shown to our seats at the back of the plane. Nothing more now but to sit back, enjoy a couple of episodes of Friends on the in-flight entertainment, eat something vaguely resembling a product that once, if you were lucky, probably resembled fish pie, and we were touching down at Keflavik Airport. My Icelandic Adventure had begun.
Keflavik Airport, Friday 22 June 2001. What’s to report? All our bags, tents, and rucksacks have arrived thank goodness. All, except that is, for a package that our leader has been carrying … a tent delivered to him at Heathrow Airport to bring with him to Iceland to replace one belonging to one of the VO’s (Volunteer Officers), whose former had been completely destroyed in a storm that swept through the campsite last week, we are told. Aprehensious? Of course not. So whilst this inconvenience is sorted out, myself and my fellow volunteers can ponder upon the two items of sculpture, alone in the Keflavik car park. One, a representation of broken rain bow constructed out of coloured metal flags, and the second, a claw (or concord-nose shaped thing) protruding from large cylindical metal ball perched on a heap of rocks piled in the middle of a pool. A dinosaur hatching from it’s egg, I suppose. No I am reliably formed (but with a joking smile the guy’s face) … a Jet Egg. Ah well, let us board the FlyBus to Reykjavik.
And to Snorres, the guesthouse on Snorrabraut street … it’s a ramshackle little hostel with rugs all over the stone floors, and an ecletic mix of furniture. But it’s comfortable, and it’s home for our first night. Snorre was a famous Icelandic poet by the way. We eat, wonder about the origins of the small child outside our window performing strangely for us, and introduce ourselves to the group, explaining who we each are and why we have come for this 16 day holiday which will involve perhaps the most strenuous work we have each, ever done in our lives. That said, we head out down to the harbour, circumnavigate the oil refinery taking in several local artworks, and return via the main street and a little Reykjavik cafe where us adventurers enjoy an Icelandic pint (500 Kroner), and hot chocolate (something slightly less than 500 Kroner). It’s a strange establisment, where at about 11 o’clock the patrons turn down the lights to give the effect of night, despite the fact that anyone facing the windows can still see clear daylight beyond. After one drink (for that’s all we can afford) we retire to snore at Snorres on Snnabraut. Incidentally, the Icelandic have an excellent system in bars where you order whatever you like during the evening and then just as you are about to leave you return to the bar, list what you have had and settle your bill. How very civilised…
As we wander back up the main street to bed at something past midnight, the local population begin to head out for their night on the town … we can only think of sleep, and the six hour bus journey along Iceland’s south coast that will deliver us sometime tomorrow afternoon at Skaftafell National Park.
Day Two: Glaciers, big rocks, footpaths and Snipes…