Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Norway Post 6

I headed back to the dock from the hostel.  Two Lithuanian fishermen stood silently on the dock with lines in the water.  I introduced myself, "catch anything?" which I think is what you're supposed to ask fishermen.

"Yah, want to see?"

"No thanks, it'd make me hungry."  I might have been fishing myself, I'm not sure.

"No worries, we've got a bunch.  Have some."  He opened up his bucket.  Three big fish, mostly dead, looked up at us.  The mackerel was for me.  I thanked them profusely, assured them that I had enough food and that they should enjoy the fruits of their labor.

I cooked the fish with my rice and Norwegian peas.

Day 4

I woke up feeling sick to the stomach.  Maybe it was the stream water.  Maybe it was the peas.  Peas in Norway need to be soaked and then cooked for a long time.  So far I've skimped on the cooking to save fuel.  I don't know if this is the nature of Norway, or just its peas.  For example, had I brought peas from the states with me, would I have needed to cook them longer?  I don't know.  Perhaps no one ever will.

I can't kayak if I'm nauseated and need to go to the bathroom every few minutes, so I decided I'd take the morning off and see how I'd feel later

I launched at 14:00.  I paddled from Bjorke at the southernmost end of the Fjord to Hundeid-vika at the mouth.  The distance was about 18 Nautical miles and similar to my trip south except I paddled on the east side of the Fjord  instead of the west.  The mountains seemed to have less snow on them, maybe because the south east direction of the Fjord exposed them to more sunlight.

Towards the end of my day I passed something that looked a little like a red rock with hair.  I backed up to get a closer look.  The body of a deer floated in the water at the bottom of a steep incline.

I tired.  I had about a mile to go when I passed a stony beach beside a rushing snow stream pouring into the fjord.  Lidun, who had lent me the kayak, gave me a hard time when I suggested that I much preferred the creature comforts of a marina to wilderness camping.*  Perhaps this was the opportunity to get back to the wilderness.  I decided to make camp.

Hauling my boat above what I was sure was the high tide line was no easy task.  Made out of plastic, it's a heavy boat when empty.  When it's full of gear I can barely lift it.  I got it as high on the beach as I could and wasn't sure that was high enough, so I tied it to a tree.

I'd have to sleep up by the rocks near the stream.  The woods were much too thick.  I climbed up and the stream blasted me with frigid air . I couldn't camp in an ice wind tunnel.  My boat was mostly still packed, so I closed it up, untied it, brought it down the beach, and resumed what was now an evening paddle by the light of day.

I saw black dolphins.  There were three of them, two seemed small and the third clearly a baby.  Teen pregnancy, nobody's immune, not even the stately dolphin.  Do you know where your children are?

I arrived in the marina in Hundeidvik at 21:00.  It was pretty dilapidated.  There was no building or running water, just a hand full of crooked tilting docks and a few tied up motor boats.  Still, it was better than the woods.  I didn't have to haul my boat anywhere or endure freezing wind tunnels.

Some folk disembarking their small motor yacht told me to ask at the houses above for water.  When I did I was also invited in for a shower.

*for a night or two camping is great.   For months or a year? If it's not necessary to the mission I'll pass, thanks.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Norway Post 5

Day 3
Bjorke Bjorke!

I looked over a pamphlet that I took from the hostel in Alesund.  It told me that I would find another hostel in Bjorke.*  So I changed my route a little because I was chafing and needed a shower.

I'm not in the kind of shape I was towards the end of my last expedition, and today was hard.  I took a break next to a waterfall and made myself some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which helped a little.

The largest eagle I have ever seen swooped over me like some prehistoric raptor.  Later I found it perched in a tree and took pictures, though it's hard to convey it's size from so far away.

The mountains grew taller and the gushing waterfalls pouring out of them more frequent and intense.  The enormity of the landscape and the tininess of Bjork bring all sorts of philosophical thoughts to mind, for which this author is unaccustomed.

The hostel wanted 650 NOK a night, which is more than twice what the last one wanted.  But they let me shower and use their wifi for free.

Thank you so much Hjorundfjord Vandrerhjem Bjorke!

A large part of keeping the chafing at bay is cleanliness.  I won't be able to shower as much on this trip as I did on the last one and I have to wear more cold weather paddling clothing than I did, which makes it worse.  I can't shower in the snow melt streams since they are painfully bitingly cold.  But maybe I'll maybe I'll develop the fortitude to sponge bathe.

*Yes, like the Swedish chef but more Norwegian.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Norway Post 4

Into a Fjord
Day 2

I spent the Sabbath in Alesund.  The sky was full of sunlight and everyone celebrated the first real day of summer with outdoor activities.  I walked a trail atop a wooded ridge in the center of town and looked out over the islands, snowy mountains, and fjords on all sides. The town also spread out below me with canals and high angle roofs.

A tall blond fellow started talking with me on account of my shoelessness and how he thought that was great.  He told me that seal hunting was part of Norwegian culture.  Their skins were great for warm clothing and their meat tasty.  It was only on account of modern international pressure that Norwegians were being deprived of their birthright.

This morning I paddled away from Alesund.  The first two kayakers I met weren't leaving the bay because they lacked the experience to handle the wind.  The next two were a couple of Norwegian middle aged women with pretty boats and smiles.  They were drinking coffee and as they finished I joined them for about a kilometer.  We talked.  I'm a teacher, so am I!  I teach math.  I teach health; I'm just starting.  I've been a midwife for the last seven years and am ready for something new.  

The women wore T-shirts under their life jackets, so hopefully they wouldn't fall in; the water was cold.  I wore my dry top and shorts which worked well in the sunlight.

I only went a bit out of my way for their company.  The sun shone and the world sang.

I passed a beach where a little girl swam.  She wore only a bathing suit.  For all that the morning was warm and the sun bright, it's amazing to me that she didn't freeze solid.  Apparently Norwegians are built for cold.

I paddled a heavily trafficked channel between two islands.  It was narrow enough to throw a fish across and the length of several football fields, which one could not throw a fish across unless it were a flying fish ready to do a good deal of work on its own.

I crossed a major thruway to today's fjord, Hjorundfjorden, which apparently used to be the vacation spot of choice for British royalty.  Dark clouds took the sky.  As I progressed into the fjord, mindbogglingly tall, fantastically steep, snow clad slopes towered into the clouds above.  Gushing streams cascaded down sheer cliffs rushing from snow to sea in seconds.

Again and again I was blown away by the immensity of creation around me.

When I opened up my skirt to get at my chia juice the cold air came in and I was cold.  Once I got moving I warmed up.  The difference between sunny and cloudy is day and night.

I had a tail wind.  In my sluggish boat this meant that I made mediocre time.  I hope I don't have to fight that wind coming out of the fjord.

I pulled my boat up to the small floating dock in Indre Standal.  I don't think there are more than ten houses here.  Walking around the only person I saw was a teenager doing tricks on a skateboard.

I asked the teenager "Where can I get drinking water?" I held up my water bag and hoped my story would earn me an invitation.

"The water in that stream is from the mountain." He pointed. My eyes followed the stream up to the snowy peaks. I could use my filter to take water from the stream, but really I wanted hospitality.

"Yah, but this close to a town I'm worried that it may go near a leaching field or a farm. Pesticides, poop, insecticides, and Giardia are all kind of bad."  

He wasn't impressed by my knowledge of the dangers of crystal clear ice cold mountain water. "The sewage comes out over there." He pointed away from the stream. He didn't want to help me.  

I retrieved my Katadyn filter and pumped water from a raging stream.  The water was painfully cold to touch.  My filter turned the water brown and made it taste like rot.  I haven't used it in a few years, I guess it could use a sterilization.  In the mean time, I refilled my water bottled directly from the stream.  The mountain that it came from looked clean and I only half believed the things I said about it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Norway Post 3

Day 1

I customized my deck lines, applied goo to the hatch covers so they'd behave better, and made a number of final adjustments to my gear.  I said goodbye to Liddun.

I pulled, heaved, carried and dragged my loaded boat down a short white sandy beach to the empty marina's calm waters.  When I stepped in with my neoprene clad foot, the chilly water seeped through and stung before I could get in the boat.

When I rolled in the gray water, I felt Norway in my bones.  I flung my energy into launching my quest and cast aside the chill.  

My new boat is slower than I hoped, and it'll affect my progress.  

It also doesn't have a skeg.  Liddun didn't seem to think that was important.  It's not if I'm only going a short distance or there's no wind.  But if I'm going a long distance, and if the wind is from behind or either side, then a skeg could help me control my boat and leave me more energy for thinking.  Without that energy, I'll be more likely to make mistakes.  I need a skeg.

I paddled along a rocky shore and looked out to see mild waves roll in.  I crossed the mouth of a fjord.  At the end of it towered white snowy mountains.  Small puffy birds with orange beaks, that I later learned were puffins, bobbed up and down on the water beside me.  Large fishing boats that stank of diesel and ferries moved through the center of the channel, and threw their wakes at me from a mile away.

A furry cat-sized squirrel-like wet creature fiddled around on the rocks.  I saw it first, but the noise I made in grabbing for my camera scared it off before I could take a picture.  Maybe it was an mink?

I crossed another channel, looking around to make sure nobody planned on running me over.  The south side of the island of Alesund was lined with boat houses.  Pretty, tiered, suburban homes with large decks and an occasional grass roof climbed up the bottom of a steep hill.

I turned into the town's bay and and after a little bit of poking around found a marina.  This marina was different from every other marina I'd ever been in.  The gates were locked from the outside and the inside.  In order to leave with my weekend pack I had to jump from the private dock to the public.

I thought about parking on the public dock to begin with, but I'd be spending the Sabbath in a hostel and I've had too many bad experiences with people helping themselves to the contents of my boat.

I asked a mariner where the marina's offices were, and he said that on account of their 'no guests' policy, there weren't any.  He encouraged me to leave my boat on the public dock and wondered how I'd gotten passed the security gates.  He also admitted that I probably wouldn't run into any problems if I left my boat where it was, but maybe I should reconsider on account of their being a security camera.

The Sabbath starts at sunset, and sunset starts sometime in the middle of the night, even if it does rise again before it finishes properly setting.  

My first day was slow, cloudy, cold and absolutely wonderful.  Norwegian fjords are mindbogglingly beautiful.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Norway Post 2

Traveling to Flo

I took a train to Lillehammer and then a bus to Andalsnes.  Another bus took me from Andalsnes to Alesund.  Snowy mountains, raging rivers, and glassy fjords slid past.   The sky was overcast and and rain fell through cold air.  My concern that I brought too much warm clothing was alleviated.

The next step  of my journey was the ferry from Skateflukaia.   I had no idea where that was and the bus driver wouldn't drop me off there, though I had been led to believe he would. I asked at the central bus station, which was a Kwik-E-Mart next to a bus stop shelter, and the Indian behind the counter told me it was a block and a half away.  Walking a block and a half with all of my kayaking gear was hard.   I arrived at Skateflukaia, the ferry port, to see the diesel powered  catamaran depart.

While I waited two hours for the next ferry,  I admired the tall jagged islands towering over the fjord.  I put on my fleece and my sweater.  The man who sold me the charts and wished me luck on my trip told me that everyone in Norway is still waiting for summer.  Some years it doesn't really come.

The ferry took me to Harried with a stop at another island on the way.  Lidun, the English Professor and kayaker extraordinaire, met me at the ferry.  She lent me a boat, told me where to expect tidal races, and which islands had the best campsites.

The boat she had for me, a plastic valley aquanaut, was not one I would have chosen for myself, but the price was right and the notes on nearby paddling were priceless.

I made camp in an RV campground next to her house.   If the sun set, it didn't set for long and it certainly never got dark.  Grey light shone through the night, thoroughly illuminating the .tall green mountains and endless seascape that awaited me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Norway Post 1

This last summer I kayaked in Norway and wrote about it. Without further ado, I present my writing in blog format, one day at a time just as it was written, though several months late.

Arriving in Norway

I spent the year teaching math to middle schoolers, and as a reward for my labors I get the summer to myself.  What to do?  What to do?

I want to paddle 10,000 Nautical miles before I die.*   If I put in 500 a summer, I'll be done in 14 years, with time off for good behavior like more serious expeditions.

I decided to start in Norway.  Of all the places on earth,  it was for his work here that Slartibartfast won his award.   It is while searching here that I hope to find his name etched into the side of a cliff.   I'm here to explore the fjords by kayak,  one of the most magnificent geological features on earth, and I'm really excited.

The plan was to arrive in Oslo on Wednesday, pick up a sim card, charts, and cooking gas.  Today I take a train up to Alesund and tomorrow, Friday, I begin paddling in the Valley Aquanaut that Lidun Hareide generously offered to lend me.

It's a tight schedule, but if I don't pick up the boat Friday morning than Lidun will be off to Spain and I'll be out of a boat.   But enough time for everything and everything has a time.

After flying over a vast field of summer snow mountains the plane landed in Oslo.  After a short conversation about the purpose of my stay, an officer stamped my passport and welcomed me to his country.   The next step was picking up my duffel bag.   I waited at the carousel until the belt stopped moving; my bag never came.

It wasn't at either of the two alternate locations for big bags either.  I filled out a form explaining where I’d be that night, and the night after that.   After that,  I didn't know where I'd be, especially without my gear.

In Norway you can take the train from the airport by swiping your credit card like you do a metrocard in NYC.

Once in Oslo,  I picked up the charts waiting for me at the chart shop.  They cost about $100 because Norway is expensive.  I began the half hour walk to the same hostel I stayed in before my last expedition.  I was proud that I remembered my way.

I needed a bathroom.  I stopped in a cafe and asked "Toilet?"   The woman behind the counter gave me a lengthy answer in Norwegian that had the ring of "Only if you order something"  to it.

I continued my walk and passed a hostel.   It wasn't the one I was staying in, but still worth a shot. 

 "Hi.  Can I use your bathroom?"

"Sure,  it's right over there."

I liked using the bathroom.  I did what I had to do and then walked another twenty minutes to my hostel.  I checked in, found my bed, and set my things down, my carry on pack and my map case.  Only I didn't have a map case.  I searched my jet lagged brain for an explanation and found one.

I walked back to the bathroom hostel, and sure enough my map case was next to the toilet where I left it.   I returned to my sleeping hostel.   On the way I passed two thin tall blond bicycle cops in bicycle shorts patting down a miscreant.

A day earlier I went through preflight security.  I declined to go through the machine that irradiates people to nudity. A heavy-set security guard informed me that he would pat me down.  When patting my genitals and buttocks he would use the back of his hand.

"Okay.  Just because you're using the back of your hand, doesn't mean I'll enjoy it any less,"  I didn't tell him.  I didn't enjoy it either, but I wish I had.

When I die, I want to go to Norway.

Later in the afternoon I bought fuel for my stove and food for a few days.

I tried to get a sim card for my phone.  The sales lady and I spent two hours failing to make it work.  A second card didn't work either.  My second hand phone is supposedly unlocked, and I didn't have any trouble slipping an American sim card into it.  But here in Norway, it didn't work.

My Logistical Support Coordinator (LSC) in New Jersey (NJ) called me. I wrote down his number as my home phone number on the lost luggage claim. The delivery man had my bag and was looking for me near the hostel. I should call him pronto.

I went down to the front desk and explained the situation to the receptionist. Yes, I could use their phone to direct the delivery man to me.

"Hi, I'm Neimand. Do you have my bag?"

"I left it at the reception," the delivery man told me.

I looked over the desk and saw my big blue duffel bag besides the receptionist.

* Jewish tradition says I max out at 120. I've got 89 years and counting.  So little time, so much to do.