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NORWAY - THE LONLIEST PART OF THE PLANET?
The Wandering Welshman Dai Clyant

'I then realised that I hadn't introduced myself to the mountain.
This is very important, and as soon as I did, I was welcomed'.


So, as the ferry moved up the West coast of Norway from Sogndal, I had the chance to see the fjords. And what a sight. The mountains, lakes and waterfalls were stunning. The sun was shining (again), the sky was blue and the sea was smooth and clear. I'd highly recommend this as the way to get up North from Bergen. Many tourists on the ferry, mainly Americans. It was funny how they all wanted to capture the best shot on their cameras. Something about capturing Norway and taking a bit home? But it then came to me that pictures, no matter how good, will never capture the moment of taking the picture. On film there are no smells, tastes or feelings. So pictures just an aide memoire to help re-enact the moment. So that would explain why seing someone else's holiday snaps, no matter how well took, will never be the same as seing your own. (And will probably explain why it can be boring.)

After a few hours we arrived in Sogndal. First moment of panic, where's the bloody bus station? And of course I then asked someone who pointed to the other side of the road. Blind as a bat sometimes. Better start wearing my glasses. Phoned onto my destination for the night, a lovely hotel (according to the Lonely Planet guide) set up in the West side of the Jotenheimen national Park, in Turtagro. (I hope I've still got some money on my Visa card after using the phone). Got the bus only as far as Gaupne as no last bus to Fortun to meet my lift. Brilliant. So bus driver, good man, sorted me out a taxi for the last bit. Bus 45 Krona, taxi 500 Krona! Never mind, good to get to a bed. So I arrived at the designated spot, at the right time. And waited, and waited............
One hour later, thought they must have forgotten. A local man stopped and asked if I needed help and a place to crash. But I though I'd wait (mad) and see what happened. Some nice cats in Fortun if you're ever there, very friendly, but NO TELEPHONE BOXES!!!! You have been warned. The nearest was 3km away.

So with aheavy heart (and heavier rucksack) I started walking towards the phone, whilst checking out possible places to crash in a field or bus shelter. Funny place to be I was thinking, it's past midnight, I'm in a mountain village in the middle of nowhere with two cats for company and I'm happy!

So I walked for about two minutes and Tonja, my lift, turns up. "Why didn't you call, I've been worried?" It's then I pointed out the lack of phone boxes. "Why didn't you use the taxi drivers?" Bugger, never thought of that. So if you are anywhere out in the country in Norway, in a taxi, ask the driver if you can use their phone.

Funny how mis-understandings are cross languages. But also how not speaking the language can lead to the clearest of situations. So, after a breakneck drive to the hotel (Tonja is a class downhill skier I found out later) found out that the old hotel, the home of Norwegian mountaineering, had sadly burnt down. It's interesting that many of the places I want to visit this year are starting to disappear. All things change, nothing is permanent. Had a beer with some other guests who were still up and finally crashed out. Interesting the feeling I have when walking into a room of unknown people, who I assume know each other. The 'unknown' is always uncomfortable, but also makes me feel 'alive' at the same time. Outside of comfort zone I suppose.

Next day got up at the crack of 11 or 12, staggered downstairs had good hot shower and some coffee. Very friendly people running the place, Tonja (a good cook as well as mad driver and good backgammon player) and Wilhelm (solid bloke). In the day I had a wander around the mountains. The sun was still shining (and of course I didn't bring sun screen, hat etc... thinking that "It's Norway, it'll be cold". Yeah right. And then I realised why people where snow shoes/skis to get around, I was upto my thighs in snow a couple of times, but good fun. Finally scrambled back down to the hotel via a scree slope, and then shower, food and BEER!

Funny how people change when their other half turns up, images of self and other again?
J. Krishnamurti has written some excellent thoughts on relationships. Very good. And one of the many books I've taken with me. As the evening progressed lots of local workers turn up and it`s time to play, How loud can you talk in your mother tongue! So not speaking Norwegian (Eg snakker insher Norshka - useful phrase) I went outside and sat with the mountains and stars. And it was bloody freezing! But gorgeous. People who leave parties to sit on their own, do they really want company or not? Still haven't come to the bottom of that one. Finally hit the sack (lovely rooms) and then awoke the next day at the ungodly hour of 10:30 (yes I like my sleep). Shower, breakfast and coffee x 3.

Aha, woken up. What shall I do today? It's raining outside, but no snow treks this time.
Tonja and Wilhelm seemed a bit more relaxed together this morning, or was it me. Sorted out a sarnie and some local sugary drink and ventured out. Ended up on a very quiet mountain road that went up about 4,000 ft. Gorgeous mountains, snow and waterfalls. As I neared the top of the mountain I felt as though I was not wanted there. I then realised that I hadn't introduced myself to the mountain. This is very important, and as soon as I did, I was welcomed. Funny feeling. All the while the clouds had been piling up and it was getting a bit cold, but at the top the clouds broke, the sun shone and there was a wonderful view across the valley. What a place to be.

As I stopped to take some drink, a bloke stopped in a car "....... hike...... ?" I assumed that he was saying it was a good day for a hike, but rather than tell him I couldn't speak Norwegian, I mumbled something like "Ja, good day" looked longingly at the clouds and waited for him to make the next move. He then mumbled something and drove off. At which point I felt like a pillock. Why didn't I tell him I couldn't speak Norwegian? Tourist/local thing again? Self image of being capable, reliable? Acting from the ego I think and not my centre. Easy feeling coming from centre when on my own, but real insight comes when talking with people. "...

And let your heart be the anchor, And the beat of your own song..."

© Dai Clyant 2001

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