Monday, 11 July 2011

Norway- the land of Vikings, rivers and reindeer

So where did I leave off... Just got into Norway and had some serious whiplash from bobsledding.

The next day (we're now looking at  Thursday) was one of the most beautiful drives. We stopped in a quaint little town called Lom, where stands the oldest stave church in Europe. It was a wicked old wooden building shaped like an overturned Viking ship. The town was situated in picturesque rolling hills and had a beautiful waterfall right "downtown". After Lom we drove on through the centre of Norway (similar to the drive up to Banff) and then the fjords were upon us! Picture the canoe scene from lord of the rings but instead of one Orlando Bloom, the whole population was beautiful blonde Vikings. So anyways, I have seen some beautiful lakes in my life, but never anything like this. Green water with hundreds of meters of straight up and down cliffs and waterfalls. The fjord we sailed down was Geiranger, the longest in Norway. In Aussie speak rang-er means ginger and this was pronounced gay-rang-er so you can only imagine the immaturity and hilarity that resulted from the day. After our sail we settled in the town of Hellsynt for our first experience of the nearly 24 daylight. The picture of the fjord below was taken at 11pm without a flash.

The next morning was another gorgeous drive through to the town of Voss - one of the extreme sport capitals of the world. Voss was amazing - one of my highlights for sure! When we arrived we participated in the Scandinavian tradition of a polar dip. This means sauna first then 7 degree water then sauna again. If that doesn't get your heart going, I don't know what does! Our first night out in Voss was hilarious. In case anyone was thinking about it, do not try to get drunk on a German apéritif. There was a lot of mingling with the locals many of whom looked a bit like drunken trolls and acted like them too (like Simon in the plaid pants). Our group was pretty much the entire bar. Needless to say, the early morning wake up for extreme sports the next day came a little early and painfully.

Despite being ridiculously hungover, the Saturday was probably my favorite day on the tour. This was the white water rafting day, a sport that is extreme enough without the glacial waters. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun!  Everything from the freezing swim test to the free float "local" style to the wetsuit shuffle (see party rock anthem for reference, except mum and dad, please don't), it was an amazing time! The rest of the night was spent relaxing, chatting and napping. 

Sunday was the long haul back to Oslo. The highlight of the trip was a stop in the troll graveyard. This is what the Norse call a beach full of inukshuks as told by their folklore. In Oslo we hiked up a ski jump and got to spend some time down by the harbour people watching. In case you didn't know, Oslo has been voted the most beautiful city (people wise) in the world. We were also there during the gay pride parade so the quality of style and good looking people was even better than usual. 

The next morning was an early start as we had to catch our flight up north to Alta. This airport was actually smaller than the Saskatoon airport. After the flight we caught another coach up to the town of Honingsvarg and on the way, stopped at a diner that served Rudolph pizza. I'll let you take a wild guess what kind of meat that was. The town of Honninsvarg is definitely in the boons. It also smells like fish - dried fish being a local specialty, they leave it outside for a year to dry, and even the birds don't want it. The first day in Honingsvarg we wandered around, had amazing reindeer stew, went to the local ice bar, then headed up to Nordkapp, the most northern point in Europe. Nordkapp consists of a cliff, two statues and an information centre with a huge gift shop. Unfortunately it was a cloudy evening (and freezing) so when midnight rolled around, even though it was super bright out, we didn't get to see the sun bounce off the horizon. My favourite part of the evening was the drive back to the hostel because the clouds broke and we got a full-on sunrise at 12:15am, it was unreal. By the time we got back to the hostel, it was just as bright as high noon. 

Tuesday was another favourite day. This was Nordic adventure day. We started with the usual (huge) Scandinavian breakfast consisting of breads, cheeses, eggs, pastes, fish, cereal, yogurt and so much more. After breakfast we rolled ourselves down into town where we donned really good looking orange parka onezees and jumped onto a pontoon boat into the Arctic ocean. This wasn't just a rinky-dink raft, it could haul! So we sped off out through the bay into the ocean and had a forty minute speed-tour about. The thing about pontoon boats is that the sides are bouncy, which makes holding on quite difficult. I ended up holding a deep-lunge for a solid three quarters of an hour, ie could not walk for 3 days. Another fun thing about the boat was the fact that during the holding-on for dear life, the driver had failed to mention that our wonderful orange parka-suits were not just stylish, but floatation devises. Good to know once you're safe on land. Anyways, the whole point of the boat tour was to fish for King Crab. We got some, and by some I mean enough to feed 50 people breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have never seen crabs this huge (hardy har). The feast was amazing and we all came out sufficiently stuffed that we had to waddle in our parka-suits. To get back to base, we drove ATVs. This was rather exciting as we were going 60km/hr on the highway and through a 4km long tunnel. On the way out of the tunnel we all got pulled over by the police, which was an ordeal, but smart little Gen had brought her license with her. The guy had more fun just looking at it and admiring the pretty pictures of a bc license, that he forgot to ask what class 5 meant. After the cop incident and some bad registration delays, we went up to a lookout point where the cheeky Norwegians used to spy on the Russians. The guides got a kick out of me as I was being extra intense and using my whole body to turn the quad. Truth is my arms were to short to use them alone. That night was a chill out and grumble about the aches and pains type, followed by another 4am wakeup to catch one of the three flights that leaves from Alta per week. 

After another 4hour coach ride, we caught the flight down and had a free day in Oslo. We wandered about (staring) and had a really nice dinner. On the way back to the hostel, we stopped in Frogner park which is known for it's unusual statues. They were hilarious and naked - giggle. So again, only very mature pictures were taken. I would highly recommend google-ing the park then use your imagination for potential pictures. 

And with those images, so concludes my tour of Norway. Onto Sweden in the morning and onto writing another day.

Tak (this means thanks but is the only Norwegian word I know)

Picture: me looking particularly classy at the top of the world according to Europe

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