It's getting well on towards evening before the train pulls to a stop at Holyhead station, in the same building as the ferry terminal. The first thing I do is walk over to the lady at the ferry counter to confirm that the ferry isn't leaving because, apparently, I do not trust anyone. But, indeed, I'm here for the night. A food counter nearby provides a map, and I step out of the terminal.
The hostel's somewhere between a half-mile and a mile out of town. I debate taking a taxi and finally just end up walking out there. Even before I've left the town there's a certain kind of desolate feeling about the place. The houses on the street abruptly end in a rocky outcropping.
The uncertainty in where the hostel is stems from a problem with map scales. I've been looking at a lot of 1:250,000 and 1:500,000 scales recently. So, when you look at a satellite map of the Holyhead area and see the Ferry Terminal at E and the hostel at A, you begin to wonder: should I walk that?
When I get to the last house I look out along the road, through the twilight, and don't see a sign of the hostel anywhere. Could it be this building on my right? I go and knock on the door and they tell me its down the road.
My backpack's heavy and awkward, but I keep going and, in time, see what's unmistakably the Anglesey Outdoor Centre. I've made it! And just in time. I'd called ahead to reserve a bed, since I'm used to hostels filling up… and they'd told me that the staff would be leaving around five. I found that unusual as well, being used to hostel staff being around all the time.
The office we're in is lined with wood on all the walls with the usual assortment of pamphlets and adverts for local attractions. There's a dog. It smells pretty bad. And the staff don't seem to know any of the answers to simple questions like the location of grocery stores and hiking trails. They show me up to my room and then leave for the evening.
I have a wee room with a bed, desk, and chair. A window looks out at what appear to be sand dunes with a coarse grass growing on top. The wind howls. It's chilly. I turn on the heater and sit down on the edge of the bed and stare at the wall for a little while. I'm alone in Anglesey. Part of me is lonely, part of me feels a rush of excitement, another part is a bit tired and cursing my big backpack.
Or at least, I think I'm alone. From downstairs, I hear the murmur of voices.
I open the door to the common area to find two men sitting and watching the telly. We talk for a little while before I mention that I'm going back into town. One of them, Trav, offers to give me a lift. Outside, the wind moans about the eves; I accept.
We climb into Trav's truck and drive away from the Centre, the lights flashing ghost-like on the dunes. I ask, and Trav tells me, about his work. He's spent his life in civil aviation, traveling from one remote airport to another keeping things going. He lived in Siberia for seven or eight years working in the extreme cold and dark of winter to keep planes in the air, learned Russian, hung with a variety of interesting characters. Then he moved to Fairbanks for a while. Now he's spent the past few winters out on Anglesey, keeping the runway open. He hostel's begun giving him a discount because he's one of the few people to come and stay out here this time of year.
I reflect that I'm really enjoying this ride with him. Interesting stories continue to come out in a kind of matter-of-fact way, “Then we had to enclose the engine in a tent and replace the engine at -10°.” “The Russian General didn't think…” &c. Of course, what doesn't show up in the stories are all the duller periods which intersperse them. Of course, that isn't that different from this blog! Trav doesn't think of having lived in these places as glamorous, but he seems content with what he's done and is doing. A repeating motif of his stories is his attention to detail, fore-planning, and getting things done right.
At the grocery store I buy more food than I need to: oatmeals, pastas, a yoghurt for tonight and tomorrow.
Trav acquires a few items and we drive back out. I make my food and the three of us watch the telly a little longer. Trav explains that he'll be up at 5AM, so we bid farewell. And then he walks to his bed and out of my life.
Outside, the wind continues to moan.