I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Fauske and fjordius

I'm in bed earlier than either of the previous two nights. Still a bunk, but in a non-moving building. It's only 3 nights since I slept at home but already it feels like an eternity. As I type it's 0137, broad daylight, and I'm in a cabin in a campsite in a town 140 miles inside the Arctic Circle. What the living fuck is going on?

Let's rewind to where I left off. I bought no ├ůss beer. In fact, I ended up being the last of the drinkers to partake of sauce, fuelled as I was by laziness and no huge desire for spirits or wine. Beer is staggeringly expensive, and pound for pound a ridiculous thing to carry large quantites of. Vodka, rum, grappa, etc have a better weight/effect ratio, but I just wasn't that arsed. Truth told, I could really do with a Guinness.

I made do with water and coke light, until finally snapping and heading off to the buffet car. Taking coffee orders too, I asked if that was free as it had been on the previous service: "No sir, it is in fact surprisingly expensive" came the response. Mike had to ferry them back while I sat there wirh my Nordland pilsner, having been told it was not allowed to take alcohol back to my seat. What?

With the NSB providing wifi, the journey to Fauske was largely punctuated by narcissistically checking the GCERC facebook page, while continually keeping as close a tab as I could on our precise location, especially for Google latitude terms. Sadly within the carriage GPS accuracy varied betwen +/-5km and +/-140km. Think we could get closer than that by playing pin the tail on the donkey shaped like a map of Norway, tbh. It must have been a lead lined carriage, 'cos in the vestibule I'd catch a 5 metre fix almost instantaneously.

As previously reported, no state borders were crossed on day 3. The important frontier of the day was entering the Arctic Circle at 66°33'44". Due to guesswork, a rogue station stop, and the ropey GPS, we toasted too soon, but only by a couple of minutes. I was actually surprised to see the "birder" officially marked with a line of stone pyramids and other signage.

The trees disappeared.

We were pretty high up. 500m or so. Ears had been popping and each station had reported their altitude, prompting Albert to ask how we were 110m above sea level while next to the sea. (It was a lake, but later on my phone reported 27m below... while we were on a boat on the sea. Huh.)

Er, but yeah. Trees. Suddenky, none. Very weird. After a while the rocky escarpments gave way to more fertile land, and the circle felt a little less alien. But not much.

At Fauske, we had 8 minutes to catch a bus. 12 reservations had been hard to come by, but eeserved we were, as shown by the driver having a print out of Mark's email on his lap. We still had to pay though. Thank goodness for rural bus services accepting MasterCard, and for MBNA not refusing my transactions like they did in the USA in May.

Oops. Fell asleep while writing there. Sorry.

The bus left Fauske in pouring rain. The town was nondescript, but in no time at all we were hugging fjords, heading through 2km tunnels, and winding up and down mountains. The bus was required because the terrain is unsuitable for building a railway. It was spectacular. Largely white and grey clouds in the sky made for some angry, imposing mountains of pure rock. The coastline continued to eke oohs and aahs from us as each new turn revealed another wonderful view. Occasionally we were treated to sunshine, which only served to make the place even more beautiful. Time flew by.

There was a stop. Actually there were a few stops, but one in particular was important: we had 13 minutes opposite a supermarket. Cue a Bulgarian, an Irishman and 10 Englishmen having a mad supermarket sweep style rush to buy water, squeezy cheese, bread, cold meats, crisps, chocolate, ... back on the bus 90-odd quid poorer and 2 minutes to spare, never had food shopping been so exhilarating.

The scenery just kept coming. After a couple of hundred km we came to a ferry crossing at Bognes, and were first in the queue. Jumped out of the bus, bought hot dogs, and sat looking out the window until the last few minutes, when we stood upstairs staring at the panorama of mountains. Back on land, the sights continued to be relentlessly impressive right up until we hit the somewhat bleak and industrial town of Narvik, our destination for the day.

Some consternation was expressed as the railways appeared to be being dug up. But we weren't particularly near the station. We did get kicked off at the bus station though, a few kilometres from the campsite where our cabins hopefully were ready.

The kindness of strangers can be remarkably handy sometimes. We didn't walk those kilometres.

People need to man up. The aren't you cold brigade were 10 or 11 strong in Narvik. Yes, I'm still in shorts and short sleeves. I don't give a fuck about where we actually are, it simply wasn't cold enough to warrant coats and trousers. The only reason I've any long trousers with me is because the Vatican City has a dress code.

Ahem. I digress.

Cabins 11-13 were ours, three 4-person dorms with such things as a roof, a shower, toilets which don't bounce, a kitchen, ... amazing stuff. Showers were had and tap water drunk. Cabin 11 decided to head into town and I agreed to follow them soon. Then the rails came off a little.

Where was the meat? Where was the bread knife? Cabin 11. They swore otherwise but Lester was about to set off after them. Like a martyr, I did the deed myself. Actually I phoned Albert, twice, to try and get them to stop, but he didn't bloody answer. I had been wondering if I'd get any exercise on this trip, but what I hadn't expected was a 2.5km run, in sandals, at 2230, 5 minutes after a whisky which had itself chased a rum, in order to retrieve a cabin key. But it's not like anything about this trip is particularly normal, is it?

I was a bit of a panting and pissed off mess when I got back. The 11s swore blind they did not have the knife or meat but gave me their key anyway, and was glad to discover that the bastards did have it, so at least my grief wasn't in vain.

A feast was prepared. Squeezy pepperoni cheese, salmon, bread, apples, whisky, grappa, pastries, salami, rum, I'm sure there was more too. Cabin 13 accepted our cordial invite.

It didn't get dark. I mean we knew this would(n't) happen. It's called the land of the midnight sun for a reason. But, at midnight, it wasn't sunny. Lots and lots of grey and white cloud. But it wasn't remotely dark. Just remote. Despite knowing it would be the case, and being a rational bunch, we all seemed staggeringly ill-prepared for the reality of it not getting fucking dark.

Two of cabin 11 had returned in time to witness the border crossing from Monday to Tuesday with no visual cues. The others strolled back just after 0100. Tales of surly pizza service, giant soft drinks, and age-segregated drinking holes were told. It still wasn't dark. I had to take another photo just to confirm this fact.

Thank goodness for curtains.

1 comment:

auswomble said...

starting to sound a bit like the Great European squeezy cheese trip. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Quite jealous bro...