Tripping around my mind

Who would have guessed?

Fate brought me back to Norway two weeks after my little adventure on the frozen icewalls. Well, to be honest fate had nothing to do with it. Or who the fuck knows what fate is. Me and one of my  friends I haven’t seen in ages decided to get together after Christmas and spend a few days in a landscape full of snowy mountains. Well, that’s not entirely true either. We wanted to catch up and spend some time together but rather than just drinking in a ruin pub in Budapest we wanted to spend some quality time together. I hate that expression. Quality time. Also the whole trip was a surprise. Or at least I tried to keep it   secret as long as I could. She only found out that we were going to Norway a few days before departure. Fortunately, I know Nóra enough to know that if there is snow or mountain around she is happy. If the two of these are presented at the same time she is really really happy.

I booked everything in advance so we only had to get on the plane and enjoy the time together. Although I had booked everything before I went  ice-climbing two weeks before not knowing anything about Rjukan, I was sure it would not be a shithole. It turned out to be convenient as well as I had to go back to Jacob’s to pick up my camera. We did not really choose the best time to travel as booking last minute around Christmas is plain stupid not only because it’s expensive but also because of the limited number of accommodation. But it worked out just fine.

I spent Christmas with my parents so I jumped on a train on 28th of December with my bag full of Christmas gifts which I didn’t want to take to Norway so instead of going straight to the airport I went to Nora’s place to unpack and pack only the necessary stuff for a Norwegian trip. Due to lack of time I took a cab from the train station to Nora’s as our flight was leaving the same day. I love taxi rides. And I love cab drivers too. Every trip is an adventure. The driver, called Zsolt, inquired whether I just arrived or I was about to travel somewhere with that huge pack. I told him I was going to my friend’s place to pick her up and then we would get back to the airport right away as we would fly out for a few days. ‘, that’s cool,’ he said.  ‘Somewhere nice?” Yepp, we’re going to the mountains in Norway for two days’ . He made no comment or asked any questions in the next few minutes. I thought our chat was over. Nope.

His brain just stopped working. He just couldn’t understand why we would travel to Norway for only two days or why we would want to travel to a place where it’s -10C in the winter.

Why would we not go some place warm? I said she wanted to go to a place where it would be colder than in Hungary. ‘We just love cold’, I answered. He just couldn’t get it. ‘Was it your idea to go to Norway in the winter?’ he asked. ‘Yes, and it’s going to be a surprise.’ Zsolt lost it. He burst into laughter. ‘Well, I’m sure she’s going to be fucking surprised when she finds out where she wis going’ said Zsolt  still laughing. ‘She also likes cold and she knows where we are off to so it won’t be a problem’ I replied. Zsolt’s mind just gave up. Two idiots who travel to a cold place in winter. And for only two days. Idiots. We didn’t talk much after that. At the end of the journey he offered to wait for us and take us back to the airport as he needed to refuel the car and he also wanted to eat something too. Fine by me!

At Nóra’s we repacked the stuff needed repacking and within 20 minutes we were ready to leave. Zsolt as promised waited patiently. We got into the car and we were on our way to the airport. It took only 24 seconds for Zsolt to ask why the hell we were going to Norway? He seemed unable to process the information. We could only repeat what was said before. We love cold. We love snow. We love the mountains. We travelled to the aiport in silence. I hope we didn’t cause him permanent brain damage.

There wasn’t any problem at the airport except for a little hiccup. The pilot kindly informed us that we wouldn’t fly anytime soon as all the airports in Oslo were closed due to the fog. And he couldn’t even tell us when we would take off. Or if we would take off at all for that matter. At least he could have given us a rough estimate. Does it mean 10 minutes or tomorrow? Fuck. I ran all the viable options through my mind. If we don’t fly out today there is no point in leaving at all for only 1 day. We could stay in Hungary instead and I only need to find a mountain with snow. Nóra found the best possible solution for such stressful situation. She fell asleep. When she woke up some 1 hour later we were already on the runway. Great! One hour delay is nothing. We would be in Oslo that night! Just to ease the pain I quickly drank a shot of some special Norwegian gin.

We didn’t see much of Europe from above but during landing we could admire the snowy Oslo and its surroundings. I was a little bit worried as I was  expecting more snow but at least there was some.  Hopefully there would be more snow in the mountains. I had been up for almost 10 hours and Nóra had a tiny bit of hangover so waiting for nearly 47 minutes to get our bags made us a bit edgy. I managed to calm her down by telling her about the best cinnamon roll I had in my life the last time I was there at the airport. It soothed her nerves.And judging by her gentle chewing and moaning she really liked it.

Finding the car proved a bit tricky as we just couldn’t work out what the numbers on our booking meant. We headed straight to the car-park and I started pressing the buttons on the car key. We would take the car which makes a noise. We got a nice Volvo. I hate automatic cars but at least it’s the safest car on the planet. GPS on and off we go. Nóra was responsible for the navigation and music. I was more than happy with how she managed these tasks.

Before getting to our accommodation we took a detour to pick up my camera from Jacob. It was a coincidence but his place was only a 20km bypass. I couldn’t believe I was back at the same place with just two weeks apart. I  entered the Old School Hostel with confidence and went straight to the kitchen where we found Jacob. Nothing had changed. He still looked like a teddy bear with something dangling from his mouth. He greeted me as his old pal whom he hadn’t seen for two weeks. I got my camera back and we exchanged a few words. I asked if we could hire some equipment like snowboard, boots and crampons if we needed any. Sure, no problem. Obviously. Everything is possible. We only had one ‘adventure’ booked for the next day so we said we might come back.

We headed straight to a nearby shop as we didn’t have any food or alcohol and I remembered it was not possible to get beer after 10pm in Norway. We bought some basic food for the evening and a beer called ‘aass’. Now let’s find our little cottage. We had a gps data and a bit of a cryptic description of where we would  find the place. I knew the area roughly but knowing something roughly is sometimes not enough. The cottage was about 10kms from Rjukan somewhere on a hill along a big lake next to a forest. That description matched at least 34 cottages within 10kms. I took a left turn at some point relying on my 6th sense. We found a cottage and I knocked on the door confidently. It is 10pm. Pitch black. Someone is knocking on your door. What would you do? Luckily we weren’t in the USA so we didn’t get shot. It seemed that we were in the wrong place but I couldn’t say for sure. After realizing that the man who opened the door didn’t speak English at all and he had no idea what was going on I was sure it was the wrong place. He was smiling a lot though. We were also smiling a lot. He shouted a few words in Norwegian and his wife appeared right behind him. Her English was better. She clearly understood ‘AirBnB’. I showed our reservation and a photo of our host to her. Ah Thorunn. She said. Yes, Thorunn that was the name of our host. Fuck yeah, we were good! She kindly explained which way we should go. I didn’t get  half of what she said but the other half proved to be useful. We thanked the info and not getting shot and we left waving to each other. Norwegians are nice! Another 10 minutes in the car and we finally found our host.

Our accommodation was in a small annex about 100 meters from our hosts’ little Norwegian castle. They had a pretty cool house. A pure gem. Huge rooms, large glass windows, roofed terrace with all kinds of seatings and BBQ.  And those lights! In Norway the 2000W stadium style lighting is not fashionable. In Norway the rooms are lit by lots of tiny tiny lights, candles, Christmas lights and all sorts of other ambient lights. Really sweet.

Our little cute cottage, or shed to be precise, consisted of a small kitchen, a living room only a few square meters of living room and a bedroom big enough for a master bed. Kitchen, living room, bedroom. That was it. There was no running water hence no bathroom or toilet. Although there was a bio compost thingy toilet but we never dared to use it. Our bathroom was in the main building and to access it we had to walk a 100 metres in the dark . It wasn’t a big problem as we were aware of it when I booked. However, brushing your teeth needed a serious planning.

I can’t remember when was the last time I had to take on two coats, boots, a hat and a headlight to take a leek.

But at least there was a small fireplace which made the whole place cosy. And that’s why I chose the place in the first place. And the view wasn’t shitty either. Starry sky, a lake, mountains and a pine forest all around. There could have been a bit more snow but we had to wait for it for two days. Which we didn’t know at the time.

After settling in and finishing a bottle of   ‘aass’ I was ready to make fire. I’m very proud of my fire making skills. I managed to make a really nice , warm fire. Every. Fucking. Time. Of course the dry wood and some kind of quick burning white shit really helped to burn everything in the fireplace, but still, I can be proud. One night I almost gave my life to warm up our little home. The wood burnt really quickly as it was dry so I had to go out and replenish our stock. Luckily I didn’t have to chop the wood but the hovel was full of traps. First of all the floor was really dodgy , looked half finished so I tripped a few times. Second of all the path around it was utterly icy and I managed to slip under the floorboard. Twice. But no one fucks with me! Not even a Norwegian hovel! Since I was already floor level I didn’t bother to get up just yet but casually packed my little bag with wood while seated under the floorboard. Apart from that little hiccup making a fire wasn’t that hard so it took only a few minutes to have dinner next to a crunchy fire. I can’t remember what we ate but I clearly remember drinking ‘aass’.  Not too many as we didn’t really want to get up to an urge for a wee pee during the night. We went to bed early as we had to get to a husky farm by 9 am the next day and it was a two hour drive from our place.

The next morning I had to defrost myself. I’d love to say that I was a gentleman and I offered Nora the warmer blanket but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We had two duvets. One of them was stuffed with down and the other one was some synthetic shit. Ducks are very close to my heart hence I don’t eat them. And obviously I don’t use their feather either. But it means you freeze to death very easily. Nóra was hot. Me? Not so much.

I don’t remember much about breakfast but I clearly remember we were sitting in the car again and it was still dark. When I normally get up in the morning it’s usually daylight. But that’s not the case in Norway. The Sun doesn’t get up until 9ish. I cannot imagine how the fuck it is possible to live in complete darkness for 6 months? It’s like the Sun never comes up. However, on the way to the farm we had the pleasure to witness a beautiful sunrise. The Sun was coming up really slowly. She was still sleepy I guess. Like we were. But we were getting closer and closer to fulfil one of Nora’s lifetime dreams. Dogsledding. Or whatever it’s called.

The farm was a little further from the middle of nowhere on a hillside. Not surprisingly I wasn’t sure that we were at the right place but seeing about 40 dogs around us my doubts disappeared. Our host was already  waiting for us. After the usual introduction he explained what we were about to experience. We signed up for a half-day tour. We would have the opportunity to lead a dogsled. Lunch included too. I thought we were dressed up for the occasion but we were told to get proper dogsledding gear as it’s going to be fucking freezing. We got to wear massive insulated overalls and some sort of shoes probably worn by astronauts. It was warm and a bit smelly but I guess it’s part of the package if you deal with shitload of dogs. Before we were ready to land on Moon we got to get to know the dogs. There were around 40 dogs all chained to a small doghouse with frozen food in metal bowls in front of them. It wasn’t a nice sight but who am I to tell how to keep dogs. The sledges were set and the owner harnessed the dogs one by one. We could tell the dogs were very keen to get going. But they also waited patiently while we got a comprehensive “dogsled for dummies” briefing. It lasted exactly four and a half minutes. ‘That’s the brake, that one is the handbrake, do not stand here but there, if the dogs go left then stand on the left side, if they go right then stand on the right side, do this and don’t do that, if the sledge is about to flip brake quickly and if you tip over, well, good luck!.’ I was more scared than the last time when I was ice-climbing. So who’s going to be the first?  I should have stepped up like a man and face the music but I was polite and scared like shit so I let Nora have the opportunity to go first. In a way I was very thoughtful. I imagined what would happen if I went first and we tipped over. Nora would fall out and I would run her over. That wouldn’t be nice of me. Also it would ruin the whole day and she wouldn’t be able to fulfil her dream. On top of that she didn’t even have insurance. So I made the right choice. If she leads and we tip over.. .well… I have insurance….

The real adventure begins in in my next post and I finally reveal the mistery of the yellow snow. Luke, I promise!

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