Almost Arctic

Does clearing and cleaning a house ever go fully to plan? It never has for me, and this time was no exception. Having loaded most of our worldly goods into the moving van the day before, we realised that we had wildly overestimated how many things we could fit in the car alongside a large dog cage and a guinea pig hutch. Not only that, but in a moment of wide-eyed horror, we discovered we had forgotten to empty the tumble drier. Inventive as ever, John piled the clothes into boxes, and the guinea pigs ended up on a pedestal. Unbowed and undeterred by the lateness of the hour, we set out at seven o’clock on Friday evening and drove to Flekkefjord.

We had stayed there back in February, with no idea that the world was about to be turned upside down. I also had no idea then that almost six months later we would use our knowledge of all the local back roads to find a place to camp.

Despite the long hours of daylight, it was well and truly dark before we began to set up our tents. Feeling our way around in the light of the car headlamps, we bent our tempers and several tent pegs, but finally everything was complete.

 

 

The green tent in the front housed me, my son John, and Triar the dog. He slept remarkably well. The blue tent housed… the guinea pigs, Kiwi and Susie. Clearly we were intent on camping decadence (although John’s allergy to hay might have played a small part in the decision). Washing hanging in the background gives a homely feel… but reflects the disorganisation that occurred when I put the washing machine onto a short cycle after work… quite forgetting the (still accidentally full) tumble drier took four hours and seven minutes that we didn’t actually have.

Before going to sleep, I went outside. Looking up through summer trees, the sky was bright with stars. A soft breeze cooled my skin. Somewhere in the distance, the gentle clank of a sheep bell sounded. Retiring into the tent, I lay down and felt Triar slip into place beside my feet.

Day two began well, with a walk in the sunshine. We realised though, as we repacked, that the complex jigsaw we had created the night before, slotting a guinea pig cage on top of boxes, would rapidly become untenable. Rolling down the back windows and dropping things in as they were raised was not a great long-term solution. We drove on to Kristiansand, looking out for a pet shop.

Spotting one, we parked in the shade and took Triar out of the car. We needed someone to charm the staff, and he seemed the most likely. We bought a new, smaller travelling cage for Kiwi and Susie, and with Triar’s inspirational waggyness, managed to persuade the staff to dispose of the old one.

It was something of a relief to find that Kiwi and Susie seemed perfectly happy in their new cage, as well as in the car. Indeed I can recommend a cavy road trip. Sitting at head height behind us has finally convinced them that we are mostly harmless.

I don’t have many photos of the early days of the trip. We made it as far as Oslo on Saturday, and found a place at a campsite. Although the lack of bedrocks was an advantage, there were far too many people around for my liking, not to mention a plague… of mosquitos. Eaten, but not discouraged, we drove on the next day to Trondheim, stopping only for some pastries, and then later to look at Ringebu Stave Church.

Unfortunately on Sunday evening, the fine weather began to break up. Clear skies were replaced with ominous clouds. Abandoning the tents seemed a good idea, but as we were turned down by potential rental hosts, one after the other, we began to despair of finding a roof over our heads to shelter from the impending storm.

We were rescued by a local schoolteacher. Sending us his phone number in a clandestine code (private lettings being forbidden by the website we were using) he offered us the use of his family hytte. Lots of Norwegians very sensibly have a weekend retreat situated less than an hour from home. We were a little nervous as we followed his car up the longest unmade track in the universe… after all, who knew if he was actually an axe-murderer? Scandinavian horror films must surely be based on something or other…

We needn’t have worried. He took us to the most wonderful cabin, complete with a turf roof, candles and a wood stove.

There was running water and electricity too… not always guaranteed. The composting toilet in the little shed out the back only added a little aromatice piquancy to the situation… but at least it was painted a very calming blue.

And Triar very much enjoyed the garden, even though it was still very wet by the next morning.

Though we were reluctant to leave, we dragged ourselves away this morning and turned back onto the E6 northwards. The southern farmlands gave way to tall pine trees. We spent the day driving through a forest that spread in every direction as far as they eye could see. The mountains grew higher too, wild and rocky as we drove up to Mo i Rana, where we are staying tonight in another rented house.

I’m not sure when I will be able to write again. I had hoped to update a little more often, but this evening is the first time I have had the magic combination of simultaneous electricity and internet.

It’s been a wonderful trip so far, and as we go further north, and the motorways near Oslo become a distant memory, we plan to take our time a bit more. After all, I don’t start work for a week… and there’s so much more to see. It all depends on the weather.

Tomorrow morning, we will reach the Arctic Circle. It’s all very exciting! But for now I have to go to bed.

Night all!

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