I had about 28 miles to Ornes, where I decided I would finish my trip. I kind of needed to go home and get a job before the upcoming school year. The school that I taught at last year closed and various promising opportunities that I had lined up fell through.
Twenty eight miles in one day was on the high side, so maybe I would finish early tomorrow. I wound through the tight archipelago and then crossed north east to an intermediary island between me and the mainland.
The wind from yesterday had only calmed slightly and I had to set my boat at a moderate ferry angle to compensate. At the northern end of the island was another archipelago though smaller than the first. By the time that I navigated out of that the wind turned into a solid tailwind and the sun warmed the world so much that for the first time in weeks I rolled to cool off. Those arctic waters did the job splendidly.
I caught a glimpse of Svartisen, an enormous glacier above me. Svartisen rose above the mountains like an ice dune and in the sunlight gleamed white as though it had never ever been peed on, which was quite impossible because that water had been frozen up there for a very long time. If there was any chance at all that it had actually never been peed on I would have landed my kayak then and there, climbed those mountains, and claimed that glacier for mankind. However, not being the first guy to lay eyes on one of god's most glorious gifts, I could paddle assured that some when someone had found a way.
Svartisen is a field of ice spanning 369 km^2 and for the rest of the day I reveled in amazing views of different angles and different parts of the enormous glacier.
I turned into a fjord and the tail wind I had enjoyed for most of the afternoon politely turned with me.
I slipped under a bridge, turned a corner, and after seven and a half hours on the water found a sign that said guest marina. Ornes was another seven and a half miles away, an easy jaunt for tomorrow morning and I would most likely arrive in time to catch the cruise ship to take me and my boat back to Alesund.
Children enjoyed the unusually warm day by swimming around the marina. None of them looked like they were about to die. Maybe Norwegian woman are so beautiful because they're have seal blood in them.
The shower in the gjest marina building was locked, but a sign advertised kayaking courses in the area and and I was given directions to the instructor's house up on the hill where I found a shower and an invitation to stay for dinner.
I found myself sitting at a table with three tall blond seal blooded lady kayakers, each one as bright as the glacier and as pretty as the sea. One of them wasn't seal blooded after all, she was from Upstate New York. I told them all sorts of kayaking stories in which I was the hero and they wanted to hear more. I may not have found Slartibartfast's plaque, but under a glacier in the Arctic circle I found heaven.
There was only one catch. It was Christian heaven. You see, all the young outdoors enthusiasts around me were the leadership of the bible school I sat in. The bible school had a strong outdoors program. Behind me a couple of guys shot a bb gun at a tree.
The thing is, in order to go to Christian heaven, you have to accept Jesus as your personal savior, and even for all the best kayaking seal blooded woman in the world, I wasn't ready to do that. I have Judaism, and while I wouldn't recommend it for everyone (anyone) I like it more than I do tall blond kayakers. Either that or I was so intoxicated by the dream I found myself in that I couldn't help but stumble away.
I got back in my kayak and paddled to Ornes. The wind had changed to blow against me, but I had the shiny bright strength of victory and paddled without weariness. All of my warm kayaking clothing was wet in my hatches from being rinsed down after the day's paddle so my bare shoulders felt the sun set and ignored the cold that came afterwards.
A porpoise surfaced and snorted. Maybe he was one of the three I'd seen the first week come to say goodbye.
In Ornes on the dock I met a man who opened up the marina's gjest house for me.
"Wish me congratulations," I told him.
He shook my hand and looked at me questioningly.
"I paddled here from Alesund. It's been about 640 nautical miles and I think it's time to go home. It's been spectacular."
"Congratulations," he said.
I caught the cruise ship the next morning at 7:15. The kayak was too heavy and I didn't want to drag it all that way on the asphalt. There was nowhere closer to the cruise ship's dock to make a landing. I borrowed an unhitched car wagon trailer from a parking space in the marina.
The ship took me back the way I came. In two days it rewound through seven weeks.
I didn't find Slartibartfast's plaque, but I did find one of the most amazing summer kayaking adventures I could hope to have. Perhaps I'll have to come back one day to keep on looking.