Troll’s Pass, my birthday and the Arctic Circle


6/6
After a phenomenal train ride (actually classed as one of the finest in Europe), I got to join my passengers in Andalsnes. I got off after 6 hours on the train and in the car park a big old guy came up to me calling ‘Topdeck!'( a surprisingly regular occurrence). I said ‘yes’ and walked towards him as he then asked ‘Hospital?’ again I said ‘yes?’ and he beckoned me to a van with another man in it and I got in. As we drove off I asked ‘are you from the campsite?’ and they responded affirmatively. Note to self, next time check before getting in the van.

Cook tent set up in Andalsnes

At camp the group had only just arrived (around 8pm) as there had been quite some traffic. Dinner had only just begun being cooked which I was glad for because I wanted to be there to help. However Monika refused my help and said she wanted to finish what she had begun. Which was nice although I found it hard to stay out of the tent! The campsite was right on a rushing river and had large snowcapped mountains surrounding it so distractions were found in the form of just taking in my surroundings. Dinner was mince stuffed potatoes with corn on the cob and salad and the group did a great job with the cooking and the shopping for the day. Mick didn’t get in until about 10pm and we played cards in one of the cabins until about midnight when it was still pleasantly light outside, in fact I haven’t seen the dark for ages now. I like it because it means that I am less tired but it is also harder to drag yourself away from the fun because it really doesn’t feel like sleep time!

Coming in to the valley

The next morning I was able to handle preparing porridge by myself. No pain in my hand to speak of. And although I cant lift heavy things now (which is good for my back) the hardest thing I have been doing is actually just taking a shower, because it is the one thing that there is no one there to help me with! This was one of the days that I had been looking forward to the most, if not THE one. We were setting off to drive the trolls pass and go to the Geiranger ferry. Off on the bus with Mick back driving again and it wasn’t long at all before we were on the pass. Imagine yourself driving up into a valley. When you start, the meadows on each side curve very slowly up, merging gently into a smattering of trees and finally the half pipe blends into rocky, snow spattered mountain tops. The further into the valley we drove, the tighter the mountains closed in on us, rising steeper and steeper until at the end we hit a wall of solid rock where the mountains joined to form a barrier that would seem to be impassible. Multiple waterfalls threw themselves from the peaks and as they broke themselves against the walls their ice blue hue turned into a wild froth of pure white. Snaking its way up this barrier made from the forces of nature is a thin road. It turns back on itself about 11 times and crosses back and forth across many bridges that run over the frothing water. This is the Troll’s Pass. As we drove up the coach was filled with oohs and aahs and also many ‘Blood hell’s!’  Up the top there was a dramatic lookout that we raced to with excitement and for which the allowed time was ignored because people were having too much fun.

The Troll’s Pass
At the lookout

We had 3 ferries to catch that day. 2 were only short but one on the Geiranger fjord lasted an hour and a half and we sat on the top deck, rugged up with our feet propped up on the rails shooting the breeze and exclaiming at the scenery. We passed more waterfalls than I could count, and just a few secluded houses, out in the wild, no electricity and no way to them except by boat. It was a calm but breathtaking day. Lunch was just after that ferry on the side of the fjord and quite beautiful. Really the whole day was just spectacular view after spectacular view and we didn’t get back into camp until about 3pm after leaving at 7am.  This meant that Mick and I had time to go to the shops up the road. There are 3 small supermarkets and I ran around them all trying to find plastics and UHT milk (not a thing in Norway) For dinner we had ricotta and paprika dip, pork chops with apple sauce and vegies and then cinnamon buns and cream for dessert. Mmmmmm. The rain was just sprinkling down and so the pax ate on a few of their verandahs by the river. They set their little restaurants up with candles and music and everything. A good starting point for the Viking Olympics.

Stunning water along the way

We began our Olympics that night (it stopped raining) with an opening ceremony. Each team had to introduce themselves by telling us who they were, how they were training, why they would win and what their day to day life was like. Each team had been established for a while as a team that helped me with cooking and putting up and down the tent. The teams were Wolverines, Lynx, Moose, Reindeer, Polar Bears and Arctic Foxes. The performances were great, some had made PowerPoints, some had theme music, some had team calls and the Arctic Foxes had even made their performance in to a pub quiz , handing around paper and pens to all the teams and asking questions about themselves personally as well as some actual Arctic Fox questions and some which involved drawing and making the foxes mating call (hilarious results). They even had prizes at the end. Amazing! They were the ones that won the introduction phase and it was well deserved. Although there was also a stand out quote from the Wolverines who told us that the sun doesn’t set in Norway because the night is afraid of the Wolverine.

The first game was a hilarious one where the teams had a relay of filling up beer bottles with water from a tub, putting them between their legs, running to the next lot of tubs and emptying them without touching them. Great pictures ensued. The second game was the funniest though. On a field of the caravan site, with many caravans around us, we gave the teams a certain amount of time to dress one member in their team in as many clothes as they could, they would get a point for each item of clothing. And they were not allowed to leave to field, they had to use only the clothes that they were currently wearing.

It was not long before we had most of the passengers standing in their underwear in a field. Julz 🙂 was even totally naked, his boxers looped over his dressed team members arm and him just holding himself (not the first time this had happened with Julz :)). Then one by one the dressed team members came into the center of the circle and we all counted as they stripped off for us. With each team the points climbed until teams were urging their stripper in the middle to take off just one more piece to get them just a little higher. Notable moments were when Mel was standing in a bra and jeans, she contemplated, measured her hair, held it over her chest and stripped off her bra. Sarah told her brother to leave the field whilst she got down to her underwear and Jillian ended up with only one item of clothing on but with a tree branch helpfully offered by Colin. Such a hilarious night. It ended up with inappropriate chats in a cabin until early.

Cathedral in Trondheim

The next day we drove off, stopping at Trondheim, a pretty average little town with a nice church on the river and then we had a photo stop in Hell. Interestingly in Norwegian ‘Hell’ means, ‘luck’. There was also a sign at the station that said ‘Hell – gods expedition’ which apparently means something like ‘cargo freight’.

After being stuck in stand still traffic for about 2 hours we were in Stienkjer which was another nothing kind of area. I made Boscaiola pasta in a tent that threatened to blow over every other minute whilst others played soccer on the pitch next door. Luckily it cleared up for actually eating and again, chats on the cabin verandahs were the theme of the night.

Verandah party!

Skiboten to Bjerka was the drive on the 6th. Apart from having beautiful scenery the whole time our only real stop was to walk around to some 4000 year old rock carvings. The moose one was good but the others were a little obscure. It was a lovely walk though the woods though, down to the lake and then up to the top of the hill for views of the area. We played a game which we called bus cricket. The teams came to sit in the jump seat and got points for the cars that we crossed and were out when a red car passed by us. It was quite fun and took up a lot of the day. We have also been watching a tv series called ‘Vikings’ well I haven’t been watching it fully, its mostly on when I’m working on accounts or shopping lists or I fall asleep to it… But everyone seems to be enjoying it, its very gruesome, what with all the raiding, raping and pillaging and also sacrificing. We have been shopping every day which I love and the pax have just started  coming in and helping out which makes my job so much easier but also funner! I’m loving this trip so much, and its a mix of the trip itself, the pax and the crew. I don’t want it to stop!

Moose carvings

When we got to our camp, it turns out that they have set up an outdoor barbeque area for us so that we don’t need to set up the cook tents which suited me just fine! Lots of work space and seating for the pax. They also had a kayak, paddles and life vests for us as we were just a few meters from a beautiful wide river. I say had, because they don’t have them any more… They also had a trailer full of wood ready for us and a fire bowl out on a island arm.

Heading off to our bonfire location

Dinner was Rome chicken with Bruscetta to start and went down well. I showered and cleaned crates whilst passengers did Viking Olympics, and then we all gathered armfuls of wood and headed to the island. I had a great night of kayaking, singing, fire watching and just general banter. The pax all sung happy birthday to me at midnight and the sun had no intentions of setting all night so I had to tear myself away to get some sleep.

 

Probably taken around midnight

This morning I got hugs, a pot of African violets from Mick and Mon and lots of happy birthdays. Today we had a few dissapointed passengers for starters because we were supposed to go to a glacier but it is still closed due to weather which we had been warned could happen. Luckily it was only a few hours of driving (and watching vikings) before we had hit the arctic circle and the world around us was unlike any we had ever seen before. Large and blank with only low scrub but mostly covered with pristine snow, the scrub making black holes every here and there. We went in to little kid mode. I ran straight in to the snow laughing and quickly sunk mid shin in it. The temperature was fine for t-shirts and shorts, but the snow was obviously freezing and many of the passengers were wearing thongs, but they went for it anyway. I ran from scrub patch to scrub patch laughing, eating snow, making snow angels and taking pictures. When Tom and I reached the top of a small mound puffing, and heard the sound of rushing water, we looked at each other, saw each others eyes light up and ran straight to the stream, no words needed. Just laughing again over our find. We drank from its cold cold water, had snowball fights and eventually, after about an hour, gathered for a lunch of fajitas. At lunch I was sung happy birthday and presented with a sweet card from everyone.

Welcome!

Now we have just had our second stop to shop. a little bit stressful becuase tomorow is Sunday, the next day is a public holiday and the day after that has a crappy supermarket so I have to shop for quite a few days and hope that I remember everything… Should be good. Again Moose and Tom helped me out and those boys are amazing 🙂 Almost at Tysfijord now. Everyone is pretty much sleeping and missing the amazing sceanery. The mountains are huge, black, snowcapped and just ringed at the base by dark pines and dark lakes. I’m loving life. Shoes off, drying next to me, flowers sticky taped to the wall and fun times ahead.

The Trolls Pass
The valley we came in through
This seemed to be a function center, wedding location anyone?
Mick’s office for the day
First ferry of the day
Huge gasps happened when we came around a corner and the earth plummeted into this fjord.
Lauren and Mon with a Troll
The seven sisters waterfall
Lunch by the fjord
Lunch by the fjord
One crazy walkway through the forest
Throwing a few signs of the devil in Hell
On the  walk to look for carvings
Stop it Norway, just stop it.
Mel, Jake, Mick, Amy, Bojana and Natasha
Just another day at work
Boys club by the coach in Bjerka
Colin builds a fire
Others stand around to watch
Coming up to the Arctic Circle
Snow angels!
Snow men!
We found a stream
Moose struggling in the snow with thongs
Mick lets rip (note thongs on snow next to him)
A battle
Moose having more than a drink
Me having a much more gentle drink
Lunch in the snow
My flowers at my ‘desk’
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