Once a year there is a 'work week' where everyone gets involved in building, painting & cleaning. I was asked to head up the painting crew. It's been fun and after slapping one of the core team in the face with a loaded paintbrush and having a full on fight through the coffee bar and reception with 'grown ups' telling us to stop, I now have an H painted on the back of my t-shirt. Thanks Hugo!
Have tried so many times to write this then had it deleted that you're getting it like a telegram! Climbed out of cave at 4:30 a.m. Pitch black still hammering down with rain. Half of group went to the 'bothy' (look it up!) and rest of us went to Rhossili Bay to abseil, rock climb and smash our knees up on rocks. Oh. No. That was just me. Wet, tired, in pain and cold. Drove to somewhere in Black Mountains. No real idea where in our staggering, aimless state of exhaustion, brought on by one hour of sleep.
(20m down in the cave) Walked a couple of km to bothy where we were due to spend the night. It was flooded. Rain torrential. Feet cold. Mood diabolical. Ate meal. Threatened with hike. Took group decision to get back to North Dock (home) and finish off our tasks early in the morning. There is so much more to say but it will have to wait.
We had been due to have a morning of climbing on the Wednesday but plans changed. Part of what we have to do was to complete voluntary tasks that would us 'money' which could then be spent in the 'shop' to buy things such as waterproof clothes, climbing gear and safety equipment. Although we had completed enough tasks to afford all of this we unfortunately misread the brief that said out order needed to be in half an hour before the shop opened rather than half an hour before shop shut. This meant we were heavily penalised and had to make new plans. We rescheduled the climbing for another day and were taken out on an expedition.
All I remember from this stage was wading through bogs and seeing the other trainees sinking into muddy water. No that's not true I also remember the rain! We had to walk from one point to another passing several places marked on the OS map. This was a pretty upbeat exercise.
In the evening we were led up the side of a hill in horizontal rain and pitch black. We had a head torch, belt and battery pack each and had to carry out 45 minutes of sweep searching the hillside looking for a cave opening. Eventually we found it though it was barely visible and looked rather like a hole in the ground. While most of us, with sodden feet, huddled under a parachute 'kisu' trying to keep the wind from ripping it out of our hands, a small group were led into the cave and taught how to get the rest of the group down. I had visions of a cave with a narrow entrance that I would have to wriggle through so was pretty nervous, being a little claustrophobic. In fact the 20m entrance was vertical rather than horizontal so I was upright the whole way down. Some amazing guys in the team talked me through everything I had to do; where to put my feet, where to slide and what to hang on to. Once at the bottom we settled, shivering and having the compulsory 30 minute team debrief. Nowhere was even and most of the cave floor was a bunch of rocks. Wet too, obviously.
I had an hour's sleep before getting up at 4:30 to make it to.....well, that's another day!
Already I feel like I have forgotten the order in which we did things. But you are none the wiser so here goes.
This date was called vice versa. Our team of 10 was split in two and each team performed a morning task that needed to be explained to the other team over lunch so they could perform it. The team I was on had to construct a raft. It involved learning a series of knots and strict rules regarding safety. We then had to take it out on the dock and paddle it to a pontoon. After a couple of manoeuvers we returned to disassemble the raft. In the 30 minutes lunch break we had to pass on a huge volume of information to the other team. They in turn has learnt how to conduct a search and rescue mission and needed to give us copious amounts of information. Time restrictions made it an interesting lunch break!
Our team had to carry out a sweep search and find a member of staff acting as an injured person. We then needed to carry out first aid, make a hot drink and return them to the vehicle on a bivvy bag acting as a stretcher. It was exhausting and funny, particularly when I lent over the injured person and accidentally poured milk all over his face as it taken out of my bag!!
Let's see how DT week ended then go back to the beginning;
(2 ANE visits, 1 broken arm, 1 acute eye inflammation, 2 bruised knees, 1 banged head, 1 painful ankle, more bruises than we could count, coughs, colds, sneezes, sore throat, nearly lost voice & 2 people sent back to bed with ill health.)
Now, how did all this happen, why did everyone agree to it, why did we agree to pay for this and why did we feel guilty when we weren't doing it well enough? What just happened?!
On the first day, my assistant leader and I were briefed with a colossal amount of information and given a short turnaround to pass on everything to the group and get everyone involved in a thoroughly comprehensive presentation of the information. Our first disappointment was having to repeat this task as it fulfilled the requirements of being interesting and well put together but lacking some key information. The trainers are deliberately punishing to get you to face negative emotions.
The afternoon's task, at which we excelled, gained bonus points and all had as a high of the week, was to prepare a V. I. P meal for our group and 8 others. We put together a candle-lit, 3-course meal and provided a jazz band as entertainment.
The main event wasn't to start until Wednesday morning and Tuesday would be a warm up day.
Not to be confused with 'delirium tremens', our DT week is a time of being pushed to our limits so we display some 'unfiltered behaviour'. Hopefully we can go more Coral Island than Lord of the Flies'.
Today we built a raft from wood, Aston barrels and rope, learning different knots on the way. We then paddled it out onto North Dock to complete a couple of manoeuvres. In the afternoon we carried out a search & rescue mission in the woods which involved sweep searching, performing first aid, making a hot drink and carrying a man with an injury (staged) on a bivvy bag stretcher.
Tonight our phones will be taken from us for the rest of the week as we head into more outdoor craziness with dark rumours of sleeping in caves, abseiling, hiking through the night and caving. Unconfirmed rumours but whatever the rest of the week holds we are fairly well guaranteed that cold and wet will be the main protagonists.
We'd just eaten an enormous roast beef & Yorkshire pudding dinner, seconds and all when someone said; 'I'll give anyone a fiver if they'll jump in North Dock, RIGHT NOW, with all their clothes on. This is how it looks;
I leant forward; 'Really?' I exchanged glances across the table with a girl who'd just been saying that sometimes girls can be more adventurous than boys.
My phone was out of my pocket, my rings on the table and i was haring out the door to try and be the first off and the first in.
Three of us were running. Just as we were about to jump, some others ran up yelling not to jump because we would kill ourselves. Apparently the water's about 2 ft deep at that point. So, narrowly escaping 2 broken legs and a shattered spine, we bombed it into the water, me shouting 'Im not feeling the cold! I'm not feeling the cold!'
Brace! Brace! The following image may be unsuitable for readers with a weak stomach.
The green things are cockles & the black stuff is lavabread. Both tasted very wrong. Cold cockles are like snorting sea water. Lavabread is cold, mushy seaweed. I tried both but it had me longing for the sheep's head jelly of Iceland!
I was excited to be offered Finley the chihuahua for a walk and though he was initially nervous, he soon skipped along beside me and we headed to the beach which is just 3 or 4 minutes walk.
He is a super cute dog and speedy legs-a-blur at full tilt. We went a good distance along the beach then turned round to come back. Fin is a very social dog and bounced up to any other dog that came his way.
The only problem arose when he needed to be put back on the lead..! He would not come anywhere near me! Treats made no difference, his ball (which as I write, I realise got left on the beach!) didn't distract him and even three different families trying didn't work. We walked on a bit further then suddenly he bolted. I followed him over the hill and saw him ripping up the turf (exaggeration? Ed.) as he streaked round a corner some 150m in the distance. That was when I started both praying & running. I got to the corner and saw a dog-void path ahead of me. I decided this had to be some part of the training programme, ya know like, how far will you let yourself get out of your depth before you'll have the humility to ask for help. I called straight away...and got an ansaphone. Twice. A lifetime later (possibly a full minute) I had a call from the centre and a few seconds later I could hear; "what a good boy for finding your way home!"
Well quite! It's a good job he's cute but really, recall skills - nul points!
So I've been here a little under 24 hours and I have established that my three main addictions are fully catered for and provision has been seamless.
They have wi-fi. There is a dog (Finn) who comes to work. They have coffee on tap.
I was the first to arrive and to my unspeakably huge relief, I found there are only two other girls who will be sharing my dorm. I bagsied a bunk and began the process of fitting my life into an under-the-bed drawer, a drawer in a unit, two baskets on a shelf and 2 coat hangers! My books are on a shelf and I have a bedside cabinet stuffed with cakes, cereal bars, yoghurt raisins and M&M's from Ted!
Minky is hanging from the monkey bars and his picture will shortly appear on his Facebook! I strung up lights under the top bunk so I have a cosy glow that is oddly comforting. Of course the mad-lurcher-lady cushion made the cut and is there too!
It's been a surreal few weeks and I expect I will need to put in some deliberate cave time for a while but with the beach very close, a tank full of petrol in the ped & all my addictions being fed, it's all looking good.
After a lazy day with both of us inexplicably shattered, we made an impressive comeback the next day by visiting the Blue Lagoon.
No photo will really do justice to the opaque, powder blue water, rocks whitened by silica mud and the surrounding black lava rocks. It was the best day, weather wise, and we went in for the full experience of plastering our faces with mud and swimming up to the pool bar for Icelandic beer.
The water was beautifully hot, even too hot in places where it bubbled, scalding from rocks and it was easy to lounge in the water for two hours before dragging our heavy with heat bodies out.
Have enjoyed ticking some things off that 'must do before you die' list. Since the end of the cold war, settled here in Iceland's capital, I've thought Reykjavik should be somewhere to go. I don't know that even 'Ray gun' & Gorbachev could have had as amazing a time as I'm having. Watching Strokker, the most active geyser on the island, erupting every few minutes was mind-boggling even when you have understood the science behind it. Watching the cold pool water heave and sigh then lift up to form a large half globe before the hot water pushes through and jets high above my head will stay with me forever.
The steam rising from the earth as you're stood in the cold and pouring rain makes for a very alien landscape.
I bought a waterproof case for my phone and headed to the local-must-experience hot pools in the outdoor, public baths.
I feel like a degree in geology would help me really appreciate this place but even without that I was awed by seeing the North American and European tectonic plates (slowly) ripping up the earth and creating deep gashes in the landscape.
Visited Gulfoss which is a huge two-tier waterfall with spray that rushes up in clouds as the water thunders underneath.
I am here with my fellow adventurer, Kirste. We are staying in an über cool hostel where everything is in a pleasing shabby-chic style and eclectic mix of industrial lights, retro tiles, well stocked library of photographic books and antique bird cages!
The weather is mostly lousy but as I have noted from previous holidays, when I look back on them a few months afterwards, I remember the experiences but rarely the rain. So I'm here, cold & wet but soaking up every moment of relaxation, adventure & discovery.