Recently I managed to break my seasonal routine somewhat and headed to Scandinavia for my first Norwegian paddling season. What followed were three months of fantastic adventures on and off the water.
Here are a few observations after three months with the Viking nations:
Paddling in New Zealand (or California for that matter) you become accustomed to paddling steeper, low volume kayak runs with plenty of objective danger. Things like sieves (natures versions of a colander/ paster strainer), trees, inescapable gorges and the occasional West Coast/ American redneck. Norway is pretty much the same… except the rivers all have 10 times the flow.
The paddling is pushy, intimidating and literally in your face. The water is everywhere. As a result, I only saw half of the paddling I actually did. This rest of the time was spent under water or recovering from water being injected behind my eyeballs. Strange, but true.
|Fun boof with a bad history. Ridderspringet section of the Sjoa.|
|Racing for glory on the Brandseth. Ekstremsport Veko, Voss|
|When things were going well...|
|And then the wheels fell off... About to be surfed in the bottom hole. Bugger!|
|Number three on the Lower Rauma. Big ferry glide, run left and then hold on for the ride|
A few more observations:
You’ll need to either get a mortgage or to be heir to some oil fortune
You won’t need a beer fridge for two reasons. First, you won’t be able to afford to buy beer. My season record for 1 beer was $72 NOK or $NZ14. Needless to say a Norwegian hangover is full of physical (normal) and financial regret. Secondly, if you can actually afford beer, you just leave it outside.
Norwegian petrol is the most expensive in the world.
That being said, it takes a long time to use the gas you have. The speed limit is 80km/hr for pretty much the entire country. This means that you’re fuel economy goes through the roof. The downside being, you travel around the country at a glacial pace.
Skull vs Skål
An important distinction to make is as follows
Skål (cheers, clink glasses, sip your beer) and skull (cheers, clink glasses and see you at the bottom). Josh Neilson recalled me his first encounter with this. After finishing paddling for the day, their Norwegian acquaintance offered the kiwis a beer (a grand gesture considering the cost of a beer) and ‘skolled’ the group. At which point Mr Neilson did what all non Norwegian beers drinkers would do. He finished his beer on the spot much to the dismay of the Norwegian boater.
Kayakers are more responsible.
Go to any Norwegian bar on Friday or Saturday and the kayakers will be the least drunk. Norwegians are the ultimate binge drinkers. They won’t touch a drop of alcohol during the week. Come the weekend they make up for lost time. Never had I seen so many people barley able to stand up in one place. Maggot drunk!
If Chuck Norris was Norwegian he would still send a J in every text message. This can be said of all the Scandinavian countries. There seems to be a morbid fear that someone will misunderstand the implied tone of the message.
Things you won’t need in Norway
Sunscreen. Even if it’s sunny you’ll be covered in every fleece/ thermal item you own to ward of the arctic chill.
A paddlock for your bike. Norwegians are perhaps the most law abiding country on earth. Want to use a bike for your shuttle. Just leave it on the side of the road. No worries.
Police. See above. In almost three months in Sjoa Valley I saw two police cars.
Currency converter on your phone/ipod. It’s best you don’t work out what you’re actually spending.
A centre line on the road. It would seem there is some interpretation rule known only by local drivers. Left, right, it doesn’t matter. Just swerve out of the way at the last minute.
Things that will help your trip
Your Balls or Tits depending on your gender. If you’re going to make the most of the paddling on offer then it’s going to be staunch.
Combining guide book information. There are some sweet guides out but it worked best when combining info from the German guide and the ultra information intensive …… PDF guide.
Local knowledge on the ground. A perfect example of this is the German guide recommends 8-16 cumecs on the Lower Rauma. Whereas it’s actual optimal (and safer) flow is closer 50 cumecs.
A Stat Oil Service Station cup. For $200NOK you get free coffee, hot chocolate, or what ever for an entire year. Perhaps the only bargin in Norway. That and the hotdogs
Free food. Yep, some super markets will give you any food that is out of date. It sounds ghetto but is actually just awesome. I doubt I’ll meet a kayaker who’ll turn down a $20 steak because it expired yesterday.