Google Analytics

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Walking In Iceland 7: to Strútslaug

links to: introduction and index - previous day - next day

Tuesday 30th August 1977

Yesterday, on our walking tour in southern Iceland, we reached the Álftavötn (Alftavatn) hut. It is another step up in the world, the biggest hut so far, with an upper storey where we can sleep on the wooden floor.

Álftavötn (Alftavatn) hut, Dick Phillips tour, Iceland, 1977
The Álftavötn hut

It must be a strange life for Paul, the leader. He spends his summers in Iceland, and, since finishing his degree at Keele, his winters working in the Staffordshire potteries. This is his fifth season with Dick Phillips and he hopes to be offered a partnership. His deadpan manner continues.
“Would someone please dig a rubbish hole?” he asks.
“Where shall I dig it?” responds Neville.
 “Preferably in the ground.”
“Where in the ground?”
“Preferably outside.”
“Where abouts?” asks Neville. “In front of the door?”

With that, Neville gets a serious answer. In 1977, most packaging would have been bio-degradable paper, so burying it would have been acceptable.

Paul then describes the next hut in the itinerary, Strútslaug, delivered as always in his inimitable, sentence-pause-sentence style.

“There are hot springs there – And pools in which you can bathe – Unfortunately, one has to cross a glacial river to get to the hot pools – There is, however, a bridge over this river – Unfortunately, it has been swept away – We are going to replace the bridge – Unfortunately, someone has to wade across the river to anchor the bridge at the far side…” 

And so on. He still “can’t guarantee” anything. 

Surprisingly, he does not have mountain leader qualifications. He got the job after visiting Iceland before university when he helped Dick Phillips build the Strútslaug hut. Dick then invited him back the following year as a walk leader.

Natural Bridge near the Alftavatn hut, Dick Phillips tour, Iceland 1977

We set off from Álftavötn to Strútslaug : from Swan Lake to Ostrich Pool as they implausibly translate. We begin by crossing the natural bridge again – the one that those who shot off in front yesterday did not know about, so had to wade the river. I’m glad I doubled back and didn’t need to. They were lucky to get away with it.

I am at the back from the start, abject and pathetic because of rubbed raw heels. The maddening thing is that it’s my own fault. If I hadn’t gone out in new boots before coming here I would have been all right. The others have to wait for me several times. It must be a change for Dennis, Debbie and Ed not to be back markers for once. I am told later that some of the bridge school “G.T. boys” are complaining about the frequent stops and implying that some of us are not fit to be there. 

Dick Phillips tour, Iceland 1977

Dick Phillips tour, Iceland 1977

There is persistent drizzle and it is boiling inside waterproofs, but I do feel better when I take off my overtrousers. Fortunately, the Strútslaug hut appears unexpectedly quickly, the walk today not being particularly arduous.  Even the river Sydri-Ófæra – the southern impassable – fails to live up to its name. In spring and early summer, the only way to cross would be all together, sideways, with linked arms, bare feet in boots to keep socks dry, and preferably wearing gaiters for protection against the sharp, painful, leg-abrading debris carried by the fast-flowing water.  

As soon as we arrive, everyone rushes off down the mountain to the hot pools, undresses and gets in. The friction between the fast and slow walkers is beginning to find expression in banter which has a rather nasty sounding edge to it. Debbie and Dennis are reluctant to get in. Dennis says he has not brought a towel. Tony says he can borrow his. Later, when Dennis gets out, he begins to dry his lower parts. A couple of the “G.T. boys” start up: 

“Hey, Tony, he’s drying his cock on your towel. When you said he could borrow your towel, you didn’t say he could dry his cock on it. And he’s got skid marks in his underpants. Does Debbie know he’s got skid marks in his underpants? I bet she wouldn’t let him unzip their sleeping bags at night if she knew he had skid marks in his underpants.”

Whether or not they do, I wouldn’t care to know, but Debbie did take off her clothes and get in the pools with everyone else.  


(next part)
Some names and personal details have been changed. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who was there.

22 comments:

  1. I suppose tensions are bound to arise in a group of strangers thrown together very closely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure that's right. The fast walkers were annoyed at having to wait for the slow ones, and the slow ones at feeling they were being rushed. Minor irritations then become major. I just tried to keep out of it.

      Delete
  2. People are people, even in the most majestic and beautiful surroundings they will find something to disagree with or wind up others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. It was spoken in jest and not everyone realised there was a bit more to it.

      Delete
  3. Your photos are wonderful and serve to illustrate this trip very well. It must have gotten difficult for you with such sore feet. I hope the hot pools helped. It's too bad there were some that had to pick on others. It seems like there's always one or two like that in a group.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The minerally hot pools really did, as later bits from the journal will reveal.

      Delete
  4. I think I would have snapped by now and committed an act of violence against one of those irritating creatures. Being driven mad by the pain of raw heels would have been a factor I am sure.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Like Jaycee I would have snapped as well. But they were young and 'schoolboy humour' is only to be expected.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Twenty something year old schoolboys. So far as I know, this was the worst it got. It calmed down later. It's difficult to know how nasty it was. I think some things were said just to amuse, but "many a true word ..."

      Delete
  6. There's no excuse for nastiness even in jest. It's a cheap attempt at humour and simply shows up all that is lacking in character of the 'jester'. On a lighter note the scenery looks like something to take your time over. What's to hurry for anyway? It's not like anyone had tickets to a symphonia performance that evening - and the hot pools didn't have a closing time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was nothing to hurry for at all other than the night time. It was the culmination of irritations over the previous week. Some people just get on each others' nerves. I'm thankful I have the ability to switch off.

      Delete
  7. I have been on several group holidays but not of this nature living quite so close together. I have never experienced any trouble and keep myself to myself most of the time except for group meals and walks. I got angry with a fellow group member on only one occasion. It was the last night and this was only because she had been persisitently rude to our hosts who were trying their utmost to make our trip enjoyable. I finally snapped when she criticised the leaving night hospitality that was offered in the form of special food and drinks for all of us. I let rip. She stood open-mouthed and said nothing. We then all carried on eating and drinking and she never said another word of criticism. If it had been complaints between ourselves about ourselves I would have said nothing but as it was against our hosts I couldn't bear it another minute.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think some enjoy moaning about things. It's really a basic rule of any group holiday not to because it upsets others. It's the same in some workplaces. I think this, however, started off as lads humour but began to go too far. It's only in retrospect I realised that it was quite offensive.

      Delete
    2. I could have ignored it if it had been moaning about ourselves but this woman was insulting our hosts so that they would hear. Her views did not reflect those of the group and were unfounded.

      Delete
    3. It sounds like you were right to shut her up. It's easy to say in retrospect that perhaps mentioning it sooner might have nipped it in the bud, but then I didn't say anything in Iceland.

      Delete
  8. Your pictures are beautiful, aged or not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. It can be quite tricky scanning in colour slides because they tend to be covered in dust and debris which needs a lot of photoshopping. There are tools that do it automatically but they can remove detail from the images too.

      Delete
  9. I have always disliked that sort of thing and in my early life was not well equipped to deal with it. Now I would generally just let it wash over me if it was directed at me. However if it was directed at weaker people or at me in a bad mood then I have learned how to deal with bullies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were a couple of later incidents of more vicious "piss-taking" which I'll omit. It was still mildy amusing at this stage. Fortunately, the recipient did let it wash over him.

      Delete

I welcome comments and usually respond the same day (unless it looks like you are trying to advertise something).