The dogs were ready, our leader was ready, Nora was ready and I was silently freaking out. While I crawled into the sledge and wrapped myself around with some sort of dead animal skin Nora found her position on the back of the sledge and off we went. The owner was in front of us leading the whole group so we only had to follow them, turn the right way the right time and not bump into them. Sounds simple enough. But it was also plenty enough. I can’t really describe what Nora must have felt but seeing her big smile and judging by her grin she did really enjoy the adventure. She probably used the brake more often than needed but better be safe than sorry. Thanks Nora! I spent the first 15 minutes of the ride gripping the edge of the sledge as hard as I could but as Nora was getting more confident and better with the bends I eased myself into the ride. The route was pretty much through flat ground, the only challenge was to brake and turn at the right time. The surface wasn’t the best as it was more icy than snowy so it made breaking and turning more adventurous. Basically we were sledging left and right like crazy. We also ran into a couple of uphills where the dogs weren’t able to pull our asses up so Nora had to get off and push the sledge a bit to help the dogs. The dogs were pulling so hard like their life depended on it. Like they would never get tired. I later found out that they are able to run like hell up to a 100-120km a day. They have enormous power and stamina. They were pulling so hard sometimes, even when Nora was stood on the handbrake they just kept running and we were literally ploughing the ground. They just kept on running.
Nóra got better and better so I had the chance to enjoy the scenery instead of praying for my life. We went up, down, right and left. Sometimes I felt we were travelling to all of these directions at the same time. Which I know is physically impossible but still it felt like that. The sledge is not a Range Rover with heated leather seats. It cracks, crackles and stretches. Human ass doesn’t really like sitting on hard surface while travelling on uneven terrain. And we shouldn’t forget about the balming Norwegian wind. But all in all I really enjoyed travelling through the magnificent Norwegian landscape while the Norwegian landscape was travelling by at the same speed around us.
I don’t remember for how long we were sledging but it could have been an hour. A little hut was growing bigger and bigger in the distance so I guessed that was where we were heading to and stopping for lunch. The dogs stopped and I literally crawled out of the sledge. I was happy to be alive. I made it so far at least. We stepped into the hut where our driver was busy cooking our lunch. I was a bit worried that if he was to start cooking we wouldn’t make it home before sunset. Obviously it wasn’t his first time cooking for guests so everything was prepared in advance and he only had to boil some water and mix the whole thing together. We had a really hot vegetable soup in a warm tent surrounded by real huskies, snow and mountains. I must add that my wooden bowl was slightly cracked so the soup was slowly dripping all over me. I had to eat fast if I wanted to get more soup into my mouth rather than on my trousers. It was delicious so I asked for more. If I remember correctly there was a Norwegian couple in the tent with us too. I mean I remember them being there I just don’t remember if they were from Norway. I lost the plot half way through as I was more occupied with my broken bowl and the soup all around my clothes.
We quickly ran out of soup and the dogs were anxious to run again so we set off afresh for another round. I thought I would offer Nora to go first again. I’m sure she would have loved it but I had to step up and give it a go. I must do it. I’m not a chicken. I tried to remember which end of the sledge I should stand on and I also asked for a few tips and tricks from Nora. I didn’t get wiser but after all what could go wrong? Worst case scenario is we tip over. We didn’t tip over. The other couple did. Luckily they didn’t get hurt and by seeing that I became so brave I wanted to go faster. Let’s just fucking tear up this place! I was doing good and Nora enjoyed the ride too. I guess. Maybe she didn’t like it when we were sledging left and right while avoiding big junks of rocks by only an inch. Dogsleding is fuckin fun! It would have been better if we’d had more snow and possibly a forest along the way but heyy you can’t get everything right for the first time.
We got back in one piece and with big smiles on our face. Let’s say with smiles frozen onto our face as it was miserably cold. Unfortunately, Nora came down with a cold for a week after out little trip in Norway. We said goodbye to the dogs and to our guide and we returned our lovely pieces of clothing in one of which I left a very delicious chocolate. It wasn’t my intention to leave it for the next guest and Nora gave me the looks when she realised that a bar of chocolate was gone forever. After that little incident she didn’t really trust me. That I completely understand. It happened many times over the two days that she kept reminding me not to lose my stuff around wherever we went. She made a mental note about not giving me anything. Me. Nothing. Even when I asked for another piece of chocolate she only gave me a size I could eat right away.
Only a few hours left before sunset so we headed back to Rjukan as there wasn’t much left to do around there. On the way back we stopped at a few places I had been the last time just to wander around and admire the frozen ice-walls. We didn’t have much time to hike so we headed back to Rjukan.
In Rjukan we found a place where we could have something to eat. It wasn’t the best idea of the day. I ordered a yellow looking cake. I stupidly asked what that was. They didn’t know. I was pretty sure it was made out of something but we didn’t get any answer. It turned out it was made out of every non natural origin ingredient possible. It was half way between tar and some sort of lemony flavour. That’s all I remember of that place. We might have had coffee and very icy water. Nora might have had chocolate cake. Of some sort .
The Sun had enough for the day so she thought ‘fuck it I’m done’ and decided to go to bed. We didn’t have any other option so we returned home. We did some grocery shopping as I was to cook that night. I cooked beef Stroganoff without the beef. But I fried some bacon just to have some meat in it. We didn’t have many spices at our disposal so to compensate for the lack of it I cooked shit loads of rice. It didn’t really make any difference as it was a bit bland but we ate most of it as we were hungry as hell. After dinner I showed Nora how to play ‘shithead’. Shithead is a very shitty card game as the name also suggests. It takes about 3 minutes to learn it and also the same amount of time to enjoy it. Real simple shitty game. We played a few hands just to kill some time. As I’m a pro shithead player Nora didn’t have a chance. But who cares? And if I remember correctly we had a second dinner later that night while watching some American adventure movie with Jennifer somebody playing in it.
The only thing left to do was sleeping. For me it proved a bit of a challenge as I drank too many beers so I had to get up every half hour to take a piss. I wasn’t really in the mood to walk 100 meters in the dark with head-torch and 4 layers on so I chose to check out the toilet next to our cottage. And I mean the forest by that. Every time I pee in the snow I remember the famous saying: Never eat yellow snow. I’m curious to know if the guy who came up with it first actually ate yellow snow or it only occurred to him while he was painting the snow yellow. I (luckily)never had the chance to try that delicacy but I guess I never even want to.
By morning, like the previous day, I was mildly frozen. As we didn’t plan anything for the day we didn’t have to rush anywhere particular so I prepared a proper breakfast. Ok, I didn’t have the time and means to make a real American breakfast but I was happy to make ham and eggs. And it looked beautiful. If I make ham and eggs for someone else it always stays together and looks beautiful. But if I make it for myself it always looks shit. I guess it represents my love towards other people. I should love myself more.
We had one more day to kill in Rjukan. Nora found a few leaflets in the house and it turned out there is a really nice place on top of Gaustatoppen (highest mountain in the region) where they make excellent waffles. We like mountains and waffles so it seemed like a good choice. There are two ways to get up to the top. Either on foot or you can take a funicular which runs inside the mountain. As the snow conditions weren’t great we went for the second option. We should have walked. First of all it was expensive and secondly it was also tiny. I mean we could fit in but it was a bit scary sitting in a little metal thing while travelling up inside a mountain. I guess they wanted to cut back on costs so they made it small or as it was built by Nepalese engineers who as we know are small people compared to the Norwegian giants they just messed up the measurements. It felt like being in a video-game. Metal clanking, doors opening and closing in front of us and behind us and a weird looking guy pushing buttons and doing other stuff. It felt really weird.
At 1800 meters the weather is as shit as it gets. I could only distinguish Nora by her nose. She was covered by every possible clothes she had with her on this trip. After getting out of the tiny train we still had to walk a bit to get to the top which later turned out wasn’t the top as advertised. The top of the mountain was inaccessible. There was no way we could get there. The other disappointment was the waffle. The problem with the waffle was that it was simply non-existent. I would rather have eaten a shitty waffle in -10C on top of the world than not eat at all. There was nothing on the top. Only a few frozen tourists wandering around like us and a toilet covered in snow. But the view was amazing. You could see one third of Norway. At least we were told…
Before getting bitten by the cold we decided it was time to bounce. We went back to the video game set and travelled down. And honestly there is not much to do around Rjukan if you are not skiing or ice-climbing. You can’t really wander around in the mountains as you need proper skills and equipment. The hiking trails are only open during the summer. There are a few museums about hydroelectric power stations as the world’s largest hydroelectric power station was built here about 60 years ago. I mean it was the biggest back then. So kinda that’s it. Or at least we couldn’t find anything else interesting.
In the evening we had dinner at the one and only Huset Pub. Which I know very well by now. We ordered a huge pizza, we were greedy and hungry. While being served we were told that they could wrap it for us if we were not able to finish it. We couldn’t . Naturally. We had a few beers and a good chat about life and other stuff, no Brexit this time, and went to bed early as we had to catch an early flight the next day and the airport was still a 3 hour drive from Rjukan. It didn’t get any closer while we were there. And of course it started snowing and kept snowing all night just to piss us off and make our journey a tiny bit longer than expected.
And I think that’s it about my Norwegian trips. Well, maybe a few more things. At the airport we really wanted to have another cinnamon wonder but the bakery wasn’t open. We waited about half an hour and I asked every 5 minutes if we can get two cinnamon rolls. Just two. Nothing else. They didn’t really give a shit about us. To compensate my disappointment I bought proper Norwegian gin on the plane which I drank with my friends in Budapest. And as it was New Year’s Eve I had a great night with them and I managed to get back home around 8am in the morning just in time to catch my flight back to London. Unfortunately, by the time we got back to Budapest Nora became so ill she celebrated New Year’s by taking pills and drinking plenty of Lemsip.
Items left behind
- nothing! (Thanks to Nora!)
- Plane ticket: £400 (Budapest-Oslo, Norwegian Air)
- Car rental, petrol: £220
- Accommodation: £80
- Food & fun: 1600 NOK (£145)
- Tickets: 780 NOK (£70)
- Kutyafuttatás: €250 (£220)