Yesterday, I decided to find a kayak and paddle the Oslo fjord. I had read that there’s a kayak rental place and a kayak club in the port area.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote to the kayak club fishing for an invitation, but they told me that only members can paddle with them and it would cost me much too much to become a member. I hoped that if I showed up in person they would be nicer.
I packed my daypack with lunch, a life jacket and bilge pump, took my storm paddle in hand, and set out.
A few blocks out a tall white haired paunchy wrinkly fellow approached me and began speaking excitedly.
““↻↩↭ ՓԾ փտԺՃՉ ሶመ ሚቌቢڅ ݭ.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Norwegian.” I told him.
He pointed at my paddle, still wrapped in blue airplane plastic.
“It’s a kayak paddle.” I told him.
He nodded enthusiastically. I demonstrated a few strokes. WIth grunts and gestures he explained to me that he was an avid paddler.
“Do you know a lot of people in the area who kayak?”
He sure does, he gestured. He was happy to meet an American paddler here in Oslo.
“Can you help me?” I asked.
He shook his head “no” and walked away.
I walked for about 40 minutes to get to the area identified on my hostel provided map as the port and began asking around the touristy piers if there was anywhere I could rent or borrow a kayak. The answer I got was “Not here, maybe at the marina.” I began walking to the marina.
On the way I passed a museum. I went in and asked if I could use their restroom. “No, it’s only for guests.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City lets me use their restrooms.
I was at the marina in half and hour and found a very helpful fellow in a small fishing and boat supply shop. He showed me a “lake” on my map where he thought there was a kayaking club. So I walked for a ways longer, until I found a sufficiently secluded spot to admire the scenery behind a dumpster, and then a ways longer still and after half an hour was at the lake which was a cul de sac of the fjord and there was a kayaker on the water! I asked around and discovered that kayaks were for rent there the previous year but no more. I moved on.
“You see that building there in the distance?”
I looked, it was far away, but sure, I saw it.
“I think that’s where the kayaking club is.” A fellow told me.
So I walked another ten minutes, went down a small road, and found myself next to the building in a parking lot, at the edge of the city, looking at four plastic yellow kayaks on a rack. There were sprayskirts on them.
A woman was working in a walkin container nearby. I asked her if I could borrow or rent a kayak, and she told me to talk to her boss.
I held the proffered phone to my ear. It rang.
“Hello?” The voice at the other end asked me.
I felt very unsure of myself. I did not speak Norwegian and over the phone the kayak owner could not see my gear or take me for anything other than a bothersome freeloading tourist.
“Hi, I’m a kayaker. I’m in Oslo for the week. I was hoping I could borrow or rent one of your boats?”
“I’m an instructor. I teach rolling and surfing and all sorts of skills. Maybe I could give a free lesson later.”
“Sorry, there is no room.”
“Oh. Okay. Thanks anyways.” I hung up and gave the lady her phone back.
There was no more Oslo. I had walked far enough.
I sat down on a grassy spot near the water. I ate my lunch and watched the kayaker do laps too far away to call out to.
I was ready to go home. I left the parking lot, and there were some English speakers standing around a trailer with a bunch very fast fiberglass kayaks on it.
They were nice and they were helpful and they gave me a phone number and told me there was a kayak club one town over. I should call the number. The club was too far to walk to.
So I walked back to the hostel, going a different way than I had come and taking pictures on the way. Waiting for me there was an email from a friend of a friend who’s a Norwegian kayaker. She told me two things: Yes, she could probably help me get a job as a kayak guide in the Norwegian fjords next summer and she knew a guy one town over from Oslo that I could go kayaking with. It was the same place I had the phone number for.
I’m going to go kayaking.
As for the fjords, I decided not to go to them this trip. Just getting out there would cost me a couple hundred dollars for transportation. Another paddler friend of a friend who works out there told me that I could hitchhike. I like the idea, but I would want at least a couple days to give it a shot and there’s not enough time. One day, I hope, I’ll get out there on the water, paddle between snow crested mountains, and find the small plaque where Slartibartfast signed his name.