"Poorly Planned... Badly Executed"

Thursday, 26 July 2007

We Found the Sunshine

Little Huka on the upper Rauma

When I first told people I was heading to Norway it was always met with “Why Norway?!?” Abruptly followed by “It’s really cold there!” More often than not this was from people who had never been near Scandinavia so at first I didn’t give there comments much concern. Then slowly the growing number of people who delighted in telling me I was going to freeze started to worry me a little and I splashed out and bought a dry suit. Still I though to myself ‘it’s going to be summer… the weather is warm in summer’
The first rapid... a cool wee mini gorge with a juicy hole in the middle

We arrived in Telemark to be greeted by temperatures in the high twenties/low thirties with non-stop sunshine and I started to think I had wasted my money… it wasn’t to last however. A week later and we were huddled up cooking tea with our down jackets zipped tight and several thermals on underneath!! The change in temperatures took less than a day and wasn’t forewarned by an increase in wind or even the presence of rain. It simply happened and with it everyone who had warned me about the temperatures was proven correct whether they were guessing or not.

Multi-angled picture taking... a new technique I have been working on involving mirrors

Rolf paddling the drop above little Huka

And that is really how the weather has been for us in Norway. When the sun is out, it’s warm… when it is not it’s cold. As you might have guessed by the title, or for the more observant of you the lack of vibrancy in many of the photos posted here, that for the last week or so we haven’t seen much of the sun. Only fleeting glimpses in fact… we weren’t put off kayaking but it is never as good when you are cold (thank god for my dry suit or I would have had to type freezing instead)

Me running little Huka... named after its larger New Zealand counterpart

The other curious thing about the weather in Norway is that it changes from cold to hot almost as seamlessly as it gets cold. One afternoon the skies steadily cleared and the temperature increased. The next day was glorious without a cloud in the sky!! Down jackets and thermals were replaced with tee-shirts. Bare feet were replaced with… ok so bare feet remained but the point I’m making is that it got warm so let’s not get too distracted by my non-sensible ramblings. Where was I… ah yes, it was going to be a good day on the Rauma (our river of choice) and I had my camera at the ready

Lookout for the rock in the bottom... Rolf and I paddled the run twice. The second time there was an extra serving of water in the river and Rolf was able to precision locate the rock using the latest in underwater kayak exploration techniques.

That’s the other great thing about good weather, you are able to take great photos. Many of you know that photography is a passion of mine and just as you might jump with delight at seeing a foot of untracked powder on a deserted ski field, the bright sun put a grin on my face from ear to ear as I glanced to the drops on the river I would soon get a chance to shot.

Rolf paddling Flemming Fossen... no camera tricks here what you see is what Rolf got

Well the river didn’t disappoint and the photos came out very well indeed but you are looking at them so I’ll let you be the judge. The second to last photo is of Rolf paddling Flemming Fossen, an 18 metre waterfall which has a reputation for breaking people. Rolf did well but still was not without injury. Click on the last photo, taken just after he got off the river, and have a closer look at his right eye… the early signs of bright black and blue shiner are already visible!
How's the eye buddy?

Thee Epic Game of Cards

The put-in for the upper Valldøla

For about a week and a half we have been travelling with Clare and Greg (our friends from New Zealand… oh also Dad, Clare is Murray Hawk’s niece which I found out randomly the other day – small world ay). To pass the time in the evenings, games of five hundreds become standard and the invincible team of Clare and I almost always won… well Greg either doesn’t like to stop on a losing hand or really likes playing cards because he often dealt the next round before anyone had a chance to realise how late it was and make their escape to bed.

Anyhow the other day we started a game at around eleven, after we had finished cooking/eating/cleaning/and putting wee Rolfy to bed. The first two hands took about an hour with Clare and me easily dispatching our inferior opponents… not much competition at all really. But then on the third hand Clare decided to make things a little more interesting and reneged effectively handicapping us 500 points – ‘cheers Clare!’

At one stage things were not looking good. Around two hours into the hand the result looked a forgone conclusion with the scores at 540 to -460 (we play you have to make it to go out). Greg’s confidence was showing as he casually replied “too low to matter” when we asked what our score was. Nothing for it… it’s time to bid big and dance with the backdoor. “Let’s go down in flames Clare, there’s no point in being cautious!”

Rolf 'the bear' Kelly looking ready to pounce

Maybe some Gin and Tonic will help our performance… “Yes please, make mine a big one… and easy on the tonic!!” I tell you that we haven’t drunken much in Norway as it is cost prohibitive so a couple of G&T’s nearly put me on my arse. Perfect… now if I can just focus on the cards we might have a chance.

Rolf styling the hardest rapid on the run
(unfortunately the crux can not be seen in this photo)

Our big break come as the light outside was rapidly brightening and Eden got tired of being out bid. We pushed him up from Misere to Open Misere and took him down. The next two hands hand saw us climb nearly 500 points and the scores were all but tied… game on! With Eden and Greg looking a little bewildered at how they could have blown a 1000 point lead it was time to bury the sword a little deeper and we dispensed with the formalities to finished things off quickly. The hand still lasted well over three hours!!!

Of course Greg dealt another round and we played on until morning. Time to go kayaking I think… so that’s what we did which explains the photos you are looking at. Pictures of us playing cards would be a little boring now wouldn’t they!

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

The Finne – Go There (Don’t Listen To Pacman)

The perfect MacPac catalogue photo of us camping by the Skjørva... now if I can just get someone to give me some money for it.

The Finne is now one of my favourite Norway runs. We paddled it on what we though was the high side but it turned out that is what you want… more water the better (within reason of course). If you make the same mistake as Pacman and paddle it too low then you might end up hating your day and never go back - and you don’t want that now do you!

A drop on the upper Skjørva

Having already paddle the lower Skjørva and found it pretty cruisey we formed the ambitious plan to paddle the upper Skjørva, lower Skjørva, and then the Finne (which the Skjørva flows into about a kilometre after the takeout). Ok so Rolf formed the plan but he’s bigger than us so we have to do what he says. Clare and Greg were along for the ride with Clare to meet us at the start of the lower Skjørva.

Just after climbing out of the upper Skjørva

To give you some background the Skjørva lies deep in a valley with the road high above the river. It’s not much of a problem carrying the boats down but as we discovered carrying them up to the road is not much fun. The upper Skjørva is quite a bit trickier than the lower run with a few portages and not easy ones at that. We made it as far as the main portage about a kilometre form the lower put-in when we discovered the eddy we needed to catch to be able to portage on the left side of the river was not there! The river was on the high side and it had simply washed away. All we could do was try to portage on the side we were on… the result was that we bashed our way up the steep slope for a couple of hundred vertical metres and ended up on a farm not far from the road. Well that was us done - “we’ll do the rest tomorrow”.

Being stalked by Norwegian killer sheep... with bells on!!!

The next day we awoke to find ourselves being stalked by a mob of vicious Norwegian killer sheep with bells on!! Fortunately we noticed their advance and were able wave to our arms. Once more peace was restored to the camp… and the peasants rejoiced.

They surrounded Eden but he was up to the challenge

Right where was I… ah yes… kayaking. We put on the Skjørva in the morning and had a mostly sweet trip to the road bridge. There was one nervous moment when Clare decided to play chicken with a sieve… I call the result a draw as the sieve only claimed a paddle. Clare got the glory points and a story to scare her parents with.

Clare on the lower Skjørva

Clare figured she had had enough excitement for one day and drove our shuttle while the rest of us paddled on into the Finne. The Finne is basically bigger volume read and run with some steep sections thrown in for good measure. We paddled the nine kilometres in just over two hours with only one portage (although Rolf still paddled it).

Rolf paddling a must run rapid on the Finne

The finial rapid was probably my favourite. It starts deep inside a canyon with no portage or scouting options and a blind horizon line. There are three big rocks which form three distinctive channels and we could see that the canyon narrows for several hundred meters. Eden and I glanced at each other for a second and our faces said it all… “Down the middle don’t fiddle” Eden exclaimed with a cheeky smile on his face as he paddled off the horizon. ‘My thoughts exactly’ I said to myself as I followed him into a cauldron of white. The rapid was almost as big as the smiles on our faces and marked the finish of the run when we excited the canyon.

Eden on the Finne

Bloody good day I reckon.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Ok So We Are Still Tourist

Here is a collection of dreaded ‘tourist’ photos for you all to enjoy. The captions give the places (for the ones I can remember) and the pictures say the rest.

A dead tree I came across while walking up the Tora River. Not really anything special but an interesting photo never the less - hey these are 'tourist' photos you are looking at, you can't expect too much now can you!

This has a cool name but I forget what it is... but who needs to know the name when you can simply look at photo

Trees that look like trolls

First class lunch on one of the many ferry's in Norway

Playing cards while the pot of tea boils (Clare and me won if you are wondering)

Yet another fjord!! Scenes like this are all over Norway

Looking down into a valley from the road many hundreds of metres above

The road down Trollstigen. The wall opposite is vertical the side we are on is not that far from vertical either. The old pack horse trail still remains and is incredibly steep.

Clare being a rock-star

A partially frozen tarn on the walk up to Trollveggen, a 1500 metre vertical wall popular with base jumpers

Hanging out with some base jumpers we meet on the walk up to Trollstigen. It is illegal to jump off the wall so they normally do it at night!! However the weather had been a little average and they decided to take their chance while they could.

A base jumper with a wing-suite taking off from Trollstigen. He flew right next to the cliff until we couldn't see him any more... I guess he was ok?!?

Cooking tea in the golden evening light. This is definitely my favourite light for taking pictures in... you can see how everything seems to glow.

Show Us Your ‘O’ Face

At the put-in

My mystery illness has finally departed (hopefully never to return) and it’s time to get back on the river… destination the Skjørva. We heard rumours of the run being just like the kayaking in New Zealand – tight, technical boulder garden with slides. Slides?? We don’t have any or those back home but just the mention of New Zealand was enough for us and we were off.

I'm back... time to perfect my own brand of submarine boating

After nearly having a fist fight over where we should start walking down to the river from we followed Rolf and his straight down the mountain side approach… “Wasn’t there meant to be a trail somewhere Rolf?” We’re still alive so I guess it worked ok and we found the correct put in.

More river action action action

The river was an instant favourite and did indeed remind us very much of the Styx back home. The only complaint was that it was a bit short… the three to six hour run took us one hour twenty. Well that’s what you get when you paddle into class five rapids without scouting… aye Rolf. I guess he could ‘feel’ the line.

Onwards kiwi soldiers

In my break form boating I managed one productive thing – to ability to take my camera on the river. Unfortunately the lack of scouting meant no photo opps but at the bridge I got a great ‘O’ face shot of Eden and Rolf (but I think Rolf’s faking it)

Eden's 'O' face

Rolf faking it

Paddling into class five rapids without looking wasn’t Rolf’s only speciality… he had also told our shuttle driver to “take a hike”. So Fraenzi had a nice walk while we waited. Rolf idea to past time – “lets carry on down stream into the Finna”. That’s a great idea Rolf, it’s only flowing at twice the recommended flow and then I’m not sure how that will help us with our missing shuttle driver problem. Back to the drawing board buddy

Waiting at the take-out... for three hours!!

Sjoa Festival… Could Have Fooled Me!?!

The boys boating without me :-(

After the extreme sports festival in Voss we were amped to get to Sjoa for the Sjoa river festival… well that was a mistake. The east of Norway had received an unusual amount of rain with flooding all over the place. Sjoa didn’t miss out on its share either with all the river levels much higher than normal.


We figured the high river levels would make the action even better… the organisers figured it would be too dangerous and cancelled over half of the festival. About the only thing they didn’t alter was the price for participation… that remained – we didn’t!!

Look they're still doing it

Instead we spent our money on a log cabin and lived in style in spite of the persistent heavy rain. Good call team, which had grown to include Fraenzi as she had injured herself working in Switzerland and for some reason though Norway would be a good place to recover. Could Eden have had anything to do with that Fraenzi?!?

I hope you swim

Again this is about as interesting as this entry gets from my point of view because I was still recovering… but the others went kayaking so you can ask them all about it if you wish.


Into the Fields with You

Sunset over Rygg

The cheap immigrant work force was once again put to work by Rolf’s relatives. This time we were toiling in the fields and only allowed to use traditional implements. “What do you mean rake the hay and then collect it with a pitch fork?!?” Anyhow, because they fed and looked after us so well we didn’t mind.
Toiling in the fields

Unfortunately that was about as good as Rygg got for me, within a day of arriving (and after tolling in the fields) I acquired the most bazaar illness I have ever had. It felt like I had a bad cold without a blocked nose or cough and only very slight headache and sore throat. The most interesting thing about it was that I seemed to have no ability to regulate my own body temperature… it ranged between 35 and 38OC but it got as high as 38.4OC and as low as 33.2OC (oh and I didn’t feel cold either)!!! It was quite amusing really, if I eat tea just before going to bed I would heat up and start sweating heaps for half the night then I would start to get cold towards morning. Well it kept me amused as least while Rolf and Eden when kayaking.

Ahh... what a nice group photo

Anyhow Friday night rolled around and the boys decided to sample the night life in Sandane (the nearest town to Rygg). We had seen a lot of pretty girls around but we figured that most of them were either at school or had just left… perfect. In Norway you go to school until 19 so that last sentence is not quite as bat as it sounds but Rolf summed up how pointless the night out was going to be even better when telling Eden to shave his moustache off because “you don’t want to look like a dirty old man when your chasing 16 year olds!” Now that’s an oxymoron if ever I’ve heard one. Yes and as you guessed already town was a big disappointment. I dropped the boys off and hung out for about an hour (which was when they were ready to come home too). Hot tip everybody - if your in Norway don’t include Sandane in your list of must hit party spots.

Margret and Kristoffer Arnestad who own the collection of Old Norwegian relics

Rygg was not without an interesting side though. One cool thing we did was to have a look around the house of an older couple we met through Rolfs relatives. They had turned the place into a museum or sorts with a massive collection of Old Norwegian relics. The collection included a 4000 year old stone axe and some 1200 year old letters written on dear skin.

Kristoffer giving a history lesson. He didn't speak any English so I'm not sure how much we actually learnt

Rolf holding a 1200 year old letter

Their back yard was also the site of an ancient Indian burial ground… no wait I’m in Norway… Viking burial ground (which I think is even cooler anyway). The Vikings buried their leaders in an upturned ship with all the servants so they had them for assistance in the afterlife (seems like some good motivation to keep you master alive). “So how did they get the ship up here” was our first question as the fjord was about 50 meters below the house. “They didn’t” was the reply… “the sea level was higher back then”

Spot the Geologist... hundreds of things to look at and Eden picks up the one rock in the room

Rolf was well entertained though

I don't think this guy was so happy to be an exhibit however

Kristoffer is also a keen artist and was happy to show us his collection of paintings