The Icelandic sagas; part two: Long Range camp

The weekend promised a leisurely lie in and a cooked breakfast, more time to sit in the hut chatting over coffee, and an expedition to Husadalur to indulge in chocolate muffins and get over competitive with board games. On Sunday a new influx of two week volunteers joined us and after a welcome meal were split between us and the ‘rival’ camp B’asar who had become the joke scapegoat for any problems we encountered in the week. In all honesty though it was lovely to spend the weekends with the others from B’asar and compare log lugging experiences. 
By Monday morning it felt like we had had a long break and we’re looking forward to getting stuck into some work. Maria and I were on breakfast duty and both rushed in late to start the porridge. We had a morning visitor, an Arctic fox who was out foraging close to camp. The arctic fox is Icelands only native mammal and the small creature adapts his colour to the season meaning he was shedding his winter fur. We had heard them calling to each other through the week but it was lovely to glimpse them close to camp. We have also been getting used to having a lot of bird life near to camp. With the light nights they make noisy neighbours, the red wings swooping overhead. The bird enthusiasts amongst the group have shared their excitement of snipes, Tarmagons and Harlequin ducks nearby. We have even had exciting encounters as a hungry Tarmagon swooped on an inhabited nest of newly born red wings much to the vocal disgust of the parents.  

It was a hot morning as we set to our various tasks, sawing stobs for steps, painting wood, widening paths and landscaping reconvening at lunchtime to reallocate tasks. I spent most of the day starting to build a flight of steps up the hill. Similar to log drains it required digging, sawing, hammering, drilling but to make an even flight we first had to take the slope to an even gradient and then regularly check how they sat into the hill to keep them neat. It was a satisfying project and I felt more and more I was being given the opportunity to live out the den life of my childhood. 

A Langidalur first was an hour of TV on Monday night. As Cal and Kylie washed dishes after dinner I appeared the other side of the open window and recited a fictional international news, a few adverts before moving on to re runs of X factor, Eastenders, Top Gear and a few interactive quiz shows to keep them entertained whilst they scrubbed. 

This week, the group would be splitting so some would be going long range for some work on the Landmannalangaur trail. Cal, Kylie, Jake, Scott, Anna and I were the group who whittled our stuff down to the basics and stuffed our packs with survival foods for the first week. After divvying up gas, pots and pans and meals we then moved on to divide the tools, grass seed and fertiliser and secure a homemade rock carrier to Scotts pack so he resembled a ninja turtle. 

At 11am we set off, heavily laden to a 10km walk to our new base. It was quite an uphill slog as we rose from 180 metres to 410 over a few hours. Calf burn in full force and a glacial river crossing that gave us the same sensation as brain freeze in our feet, the challenge was eased with laughter at how ridiculous Scott looked with his laden pack. 

Our new base was high in a mossy cliff side of a valley, a basic little spot where we had a stream of fresh water and dug a long drop loo. After setting up tents and a welcome cup of coffee we went on a site walk to look at the areas we would be working on for the next few days. We had a view from the other side of the park, Langidalur in the distance, Rujupnafell tucked behind and we faced the other side of the strange horn shaped hump we had looked out on which from this side looked decidedly like a Rhino. 

The meals were basic. A pasta for dinner and a porridge awaited us in the morning. Split into our new work teams, Scott and Jake were on stone drains, Anna and Cal on fence repair and Kylie and I set about neatening paths and seeding banks with Rye seeds to help prevent soil erosion on the banks. While we ate packs of noodles and quick fix meals, we spoke hungrily about pizzas, gorging ourselves on chocolate and other alien items. We had to remind ourselves we had only been ‘out in the bush’ 24 hours. As we were all so set into our commune way of life that the four remaining snack sized snickers bars into three bits each so we could each take two sections.  

We have slowly been composing a song about our time in Thorsmark to the tune of ‘There she goes…’ by the La’s;

Inspired by the first week we have;

Up we go

Up Valahnukur again

I just can’t explain 

How much I love log drains

Obviously long range has given us a lot of material;

Burger flippers and mash

Come and save us Chas

Two thirds of a snickers bar

Doesn’t go very far

The slow boil of water over a gas cooker inspired the lines;

If you want to have morning tea

You’ll have to get up at three
After work we walked to the canyon which was just beyond our view. As we got closer the small trickle waterfall grew and grew into a colossal channel of water, only given scale by the birds flying past it. 

The next day we were scattered across two sites making stone drains. They were chosen for long range as they were less tool intensive, but definitely more labour intensive as we set about getting flat faced tessellating boulders of a fair old size from all over the mound. Digging the trench was trouble free but piecing together a flat surface on top and front proved more troublesome. It was a full day’s work per pair to construct a drain and pave it to take excess water off the hill. 

48 hours in the food fantasies has reached an uncontrollable level, plate scraping was commonplace and division of every scrap was mandatory however we were becoming a tight knit group, laughing at ourselves regularly and embracing the indignities of no facilities camping which meant we were all starting to smell, sharing too much and living in close proximity in a beautiful spot on the mountainside.  

The walk home minus food and tools was practically a skip across the moonlike landscape and back into the tree cover of Thorsmark. Approaching home, showers and the promise of a Friday night BBQ helped to encourage the walking pace and tackle the river crossing.

Come 7pm, clean and replanted in the valley our weeks dreams came true as platters of cheese were refilled in front of us, Beer club opened with the addition of cider and wine and we were able to gorge on fresh food and tasty treats. Over a glass of wine the weeks experiences were fondly remembered. 


  1. This is right up your street. A childhood of den building and long walks has prepared you well. I’m trying to sing the song with your words to the tune of There She Goes. Not sure I’ve done it justice. xxx

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