Saturday, 6 August 2011

Every cloud has a lead lining

A week of rest at the summer house and my shin was feeling good. Repacked, re-energised and ready to hit the trails that snaked through the Rondane mountains for a week. We were given a lift through the mountains and after tending the graves of M's relatives, driving through intense thunderstorms and several stops for waffles, coffee, rommegrot and spekemat we were dumped on the side of the road. It was raining right from the start but we started hiking into the greyness, full of good cheer and promises. Our plan was simple. Hike a couple of hours off the road, in the direction of one of the DNT huts, spend the night in the tent and then start the trail properly in the morning, back at the road.

The rain didn't last long and we were soon walking through rugged scenery, lit by intense low evening sunshine and framed by blackening skies. You could see the weather systems rolling in and count down the arrival of the next shower. Rainbows, thunder, roiling mists from the valleys below and wheeling tentacles of dark cloud above. Lemmings and ptarmigans scattered in our wake.

The evening light show was truly mesmerising. I sat and watched the sky change colour and shape constantly. The sun was painting pictures across the sky and the cloud was the ever morphing canvas. Dark and menacing one moment then, in the time it took to look down and squash an attacking mosquito, light and playful the next.

Then a weather system fanned in from the east, dumping rain, and we got into the DuoMid to wait it out. We had dinner and shared a book, taking it in turns to read to each other. The rain continued and we realised that we were in for the night now. We squared away all our gear and hunkered down. Foam ear plugs dulled the tempest and I drifted off, glad to be back outdoors.

I awoke to the sound of driving rain. Had it rained all night? Did the seams hold out? Oh wait, no, they hadn't. Gazing up at the yellow apex I could see several streaks of water down the side of the inner net. I should have resealed the seams at some point. It had been fine during the thunderstorms on the Jotunheimstien but up here, above the tree line, the constant rain was ably assisted by the wind into exploiting any weakness. M's sleeping bag was damp on one side. She purred in her sleep and rolled over while I lay wide awake fretting about the weather, our route and those pesky seams.

When we were both awake we discussed our options. Keep going on our planned itinerary or bail to a lower route, possibly somewhere where I could reseal the shelter's seams, until tomorrow where we could rejoin the Rondanestien further into the park. Opening the DuoMid's door another factor revealed itself. Visibility was minimal. Instead of watching the clouds, we were IN a cloud. OK, more organic scheduling. Get up. Pack everything inside the shelter. Hit the trail. Eat breakfast next to the hut at the trailhead that lead towards the interior of the park. There we would make a decision about the safety of going over the 1300m+ pass that would take us towards the next hut or camp site.

On the morning march into the wind and rain our decision making process followed our agreed plan but kept coming up with different solutions. The weather was bad, but the trails are well marked. Keep going. The weather was bad and we didn't have a fully waterproof shelter any longer. Go lower. The weather was bad, but we could always stay at the next hut to dry out. Keep going.

My mind swung back and forth as we walked through the swirling damp. The rain was easing. Muen, a constant over our shoulder yesterday was still absolutely absent. Not even a faint outline of it's bulk could be discerned. Similarly the mountain road, which could be seen from parts of the trail as a thin shiny ribbon yesterday, was totally missing. We just had to keep walking west, following the red T's and we would get to the road. I recognised bits of the trail from yesterday. All was ok.

Then 'thump'. My shin. Was it just a bad step that caused me to notice the site of my old injury? No, there it was again. Hmmm, maybe it's just a bit of a hangover from when I injured it. "It would be shit to have to call an end to the trip because of that flaring up again!" I laughed to myself. "Ha ha!". Owww! No, there it was again. It wasn't fine after all. M strolled up behind me, in the middle of one of those positive mood swings that said the trail was well marked and we should probably head for the next hut. I told her that my shin was playing up again. We continued in disappointed silence.

We didn't even see the road until we were practically standing on it. We had a fairly tense and silent breakfast in the lee of the hut at the trailhead. It looked like we required a third option for the day. Immediate retreat from the mountains to one of the valley roads and hopefully a bus to Ringebu and the train station. And that's what we did. We followed the mountain road down into the valley. The walking was painful for me and saddening for the pair of us. We talked a lot on that walk. I really felt that I was letting M down. At first she was understandably upset, these were her final days in Norway. Then the acceptance from both of us that these things happen. We weren't having to put our plans on hold due to stupidity, or lack of planning. We'd done the best we could with the situation we had. We made our way to a hotel. While we dried our gear and I rested my leg M went off and explored the local trails by herself. In the evening we had dinner sat down by the trout-stuffed river, heating food over our gas stove and quaffing red wine from my Kupilka kuksa.

The next day we rose at a reasonable hour and wolfed down a breakfast that was fit more for people heading off into the mountains, not those of us heading to the parking lot and waiting for the rural bus that plied it's trade down this valley just once a day. The bus cruelly wound it's way back over the mountain pass we had driven up, walked away from, walked back towards and ultimately walked all the way down, yesterday. The visibility was better but the mountain tops were still hidden under their wigs of cloud. Ball-ups with the rail network and hangovers from yesterday's disappointment and frustration bubbled over at Ringebu station. The rain fell and the mood darkened.

And then I noticed this bit of graffiti on the train station wall:

And it got me thinking. You know what? I shouldn't be really angry. Anger is wasted on situations like this. Sure things didn't pan out the way we'd hoped and planned. I was sad that I was unable to give M the kind of farewell to Norway that we had hoped for. I was sad that I hadn't been able to complete the Jotunheinstien trail with Thomas. But Norway isn't going anywhere. The mountains aren't going anywhere. And neither is M's connection to this part of the world. There would be other times.

And with that I decided to look forward. Let's get this injury issue sorted, work out what I need to do to prevent it reoccurring and start thinking about the next adventure. After a protracted journey by bus, taxi and car back to the summer house we had the dismal task of unpacking backpacks that we had meticulously packed, with a supplies for a week, just 48 hours earlier. With that task out of the way we sat down to a relaxed supper and the sound of the iron stove crackling away. Home-made jam and brown cheese. Smiles returned. Our train tickets to our respective homes were not valid for another week. So we eased seamlessly again into summer house time. The summer house where the big clock no longer ticks or tocks and only chimes when you close the bedroom door too hard. Where the kitchen clock requires constant winding to keep going, a task which often gets forgotten because... is it really that important? There summer house where I remove my wrist watch, set it down on the dressing table and let time stand still. Just for a while.

(more photos can be viewed by clicking here)

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