June 20, 2013
The beach at the campsite turned out to be a beautiful place with fantastic views of the fjord. I had a cup of hot tea with the same crackers and went for a walk. A massive storm was rolling in, and the owner advised to wait for a bus at the campsite. Anyway, I would not have been able to go on my bike: there was another tunnel on the way.
The owner gave me a brochure with all the Norwegian campsites, he sat with me over the map for a while, helping to make up further route. He in was very kind to me. Like a big tough viking, calm and strong. But it’s time to be leave, I thanked him for, gave his children a handful of barbaris sweets and drove in the rain to catch the bus.
I came by a tunnel entry, already wet a little bit. It was better to wait under the roof, the rain intensified, but my bike and I were in the shelter. Then I saw the old man to whose house I had accidentally broke in the night before. He was coming out of his village. I did my best to show him my friendliest smile. He sat glumly on the bench, probably to wait out the rain. Embarrassedly, I was smoking aside. Then he started talking to me in Norwegian. I managed to understand that he was asking if I had found a campsite. I happily nodded, thanked him for the concern, said I was going further and was waiting for the bus. I accompanied the speech with what seemed to be appropriate gestures. He understood and nodded. A few minutes later he got up and went back to the village, without saying a word.
The bus arrived when it was showering like hell. The driver got out and helped to put the bike to the luggage space. He did not offer any discounts, behaved in a businesslike manner, took the fare and asked my destination. I chose the one I could I afford. I was hoping to get to the ferry port of Ålesund, but it was not to be, not with the Norwegian prices for public transportation.
After a certain number of hours of zero visibility in the rain, a couple of ferries and ferry sandwiches, we outran the rain and I got off the bus in the town called Volda. It was evening. It was much drier there, the sun peeped out. It was Sunday evening, the streets were remarkably empty, rare cars, no one near the boats. I was wondering, what the Norwegians usually did on Sundays?
I had to overcome about 50 kilometers to get to a ferry in Festoya. I was surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and I got tired of trying to take a picture of them all. I could not see the end of them. After Orsta I finally put my camera in the case and rode to the ferry. I had no intention to stop overnight, despite the fact that I had no one to go to in Alesund (I had written to several couchsurfers, but no one had answered so far). I was driven by some sort of impatience, driven to the north. I felt that something very special was supposed to happen there. Moreover, I had spent most of the day asleep in the bus, so I had a lot of energy to go the 50 km.
It was dark when I came to the crossing. I did not know if ferries operated at night, so I assumed I would have to spend the night on a bench waiting for the first morning ferry. But then I saw cars lining up on the pier, which meant the ferry was to arrive. That’s when I suddenly received a text message from Eric offering a stay. I asked one of the car drivers, how far Solavagen, the ferry destination point, was from Ålesund. He told me it was about 25-30 km. So I wrote to Eric that I would arrive late at night. He replied that it was OK, he was not going to go to bed early.
It took15 minutes to get to Solavogen. Black clouds were hovering over the port. The weather was worse than in Larvik the night before. I saw silent flashes of lightning illuminating the dock. “No, no, what is wrong with the weather – I thought- what a swot? Not now!” I was getting used to talk to inanimate objects, like weather and my bicycle.
But I turned on the player and cheerfully raced down the remaining kilometers to the center of Alesund. I found Eric’s house by GPS, which consumed almost all the money on the phone, but I had to get there as soon as possible. The city was empty, of course. Only road workers and a company of merry-makers. I mistook several roads, once drove off in the wrong direction, but soon realized it was wrong and turned left. Almost all the time I was going down, so it was rather easy since I did not feel the load.
I came to Eric about three in the morning and, of course, woke him up. Eric was a truly Norwegian man with movie star looks and very good temper. He went to bed, saying that I could use anything I found, take a shower and sleep all the time I wanted, because he would leave me the key and would not wake me up in the morning. Happy with everything at once, I fell asleep after a shower and two large crackers with cheese and tomatoes.
Even when I was standing on the doorstep in St. Petersburg with all the equipment and determination to do this, I was not quite sure what I was looking for in that trip. On the road, there is always a lot of different stuff to enjoy – the euphoria of being lost, rollicking delight, anger, uncertainty, nirvana. There is something great in coming to an unknown place in the night, trying to find a place to stay in Norwegian “prairies”, hoping you would find shelter just around the corner, just another pass away. When I reached Alesund, I was quite exhausted after all that rain, gloomy clouds, physical stress and the overabundance of impressions. And when I say “impressions” I do not mean “wow, what a scene!”, but more of an internal reaction to any external change.
The next day after my triumphant arrival to Alesund I did not get up till noon. Here in Norway I wake up the same as I go to sleep, as if somebody turns the switch. Anyway, as much as I would like to spend an entire day in bed, I had laundry and Аlesund waiting for me.
I tell you, waking up with a view on snow-capped mountains is absolutely fabulous. Sometimes I pass quiet pastoral bays with tiny houses, bikes parked at the door, flower pots and other sugary-sweet little items. But the dwellers of those little houses with little windows have an absolutely stunning view on the fjord and mountains tearing the horizon. I do not have many decent words to describe this amazing scene. I wonder, what it is like, to wake up like this and see it every day.
As for Alesund itself, it seemed very empty and tired, as if hung over. It was a Monday evening, there were few tourists on the streets, few locals in Rema. I was so bored I entertained myself eating candy at the supermarket.
I am lazy. After all that distance I’ve passed in the rain, by bike, ferries, buses and cars, all I want is to sit on a bench enjoying the smell of the sea. I do not want to climb up a mountain to check out some view. I buy a queer composition of products in Rema and get back to Eric.
Here at Eric’s we have some sort of business atmosphere. I am working up the photos taken on Preikestolen sipping local beer. Eric is also busy with something. Then we talk a little bit, laugh at something and go to bed. Although 1AM here is actually not different from 1PM, I can not bear staying awake any more.
We wake up simultaneously in the morning. I have to move on. I go to the central station and spend about 40 minutes walking about the pier till the arrival of my bus to Trondheim. Yes, I decided to go there by bus. Because I’m tired and I’m very anxious to move forward. The map of Norway on my knees is so huge, and I am so tiny, and I sooooo want to go north.
Somehow I fail to buy a ticket. My credit card won’t work. The bus driver, who, strangely, does not speak English, manages to explain that I can pay later, on another station, in another bus (it is normal to buy a ticket in one bus and then take another). An hour later the driver’s shift is over, and he is substituted by another one. This is a good one. He waits for me while I run about trying to find a cash machine, then he gives me a student discount for Alesund-Trondheim route, and he also does not count my bike, which usually costs about 40-70 NOK. I do not know how I deserved such a gift, may be this is because I look quite lost with all this credit card trouble. So I thank him, make myself comfortable, wrap in the sweater and pull in the earphones. Then I fall asleep.
So I ride around the streets without rush. After a couple of hours I’m supposed to meet my Norwegian host family. It takes about 15 minutes of riding along the E6 from the downtown. Trondheim is a mystery for me, I can neither feel the city, nor find a sensible description of it. On the plus side, everywhere I go I see my favorite GTs. I’ve never met them anywhere in Norway before.
I dropped by a hotel, asked them for a map of the city. Then I went to a marina cafe close to a fish market. The coffee perked me up, and the sun got me warm. Trondheim seemed very friendly, people were happy to give directions how to get to the old theater, where I was supposed to meet Torkel, my future host.
It is time to meet Turkel. We agree to meet at an intersection near a gas station. He drives, I follow him about 2 km till we arrive. I have a separate room with my own restroom! And we have a barbecue party!
The girls are very charismatic. Aila and Luna, they have so much energy, I even get jealous. I feel easy and relaxed in the company of these four, we chat around about everything, from the details of my trip to the peculiarities of Norwegian national food. I get merry, kind and unwilling to go anywhere else, the usual feeling when I find something this energizing and soothing.
In the end, as a desert, I find out a very curious detail. When I was little, and then got a teenager, I used to be deeply read in books by a Norwegian novelist Margit Sandemu. They were about love, adventure, wizards, witches and other obscenities against real historic events and harsh Scandinavian landscapes. So, when Turkel and Marta ask me about how I got so interested in Norway and chose it to be my first foreign trip, this was the first thing I could think of. They smile at me, say they actually know her saga. “Do you remember she wrote about Trondheim in the very beginning?..” Turns out, Turkel even met and talked with Margit Sandemu a few times! Then he shows me on the map the exact location of the saga’s introduction.
With this little detail, which is very big for me personally, I’m ending the first part of my Norwegian story. For Trondheim stands as a significant landmark for me dividing before it from after, south from north, the lyrically contemplative part from the furious one.
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