After rafting the pack last time, the next step in this packrafting malarky was packing the raft. Blue is the colour of my byeways now and I soon found an nice little route linking a few lakes with some potential moving water connecting them. Bergen may be basking in rare sunshine but it's not warm yet. Lunch with good friends made for a late start and I was racing the daylight as I disembarked from the bus and trotted down the lanes to the water's edge. I inflated my little boat, much to the amusement of a passing family and paddled my way down the length of the first lake while sun's rays highlighted the snow streaked hills. The first portage was short and required nothing more than shouldering the boat and taking a dozen steps across a grassy peninsula.
Skirting the end of the second lake, with the sun dipping and the alpenglow fading fast, I spied two stumps on the shore. Not the jagged crown of naturally felled timber but the clinical straight edge of man's endeavors. I spun slowly to the bank and saw the tell-tale signs of a suitable stop. Fire ring complete with seating and a flat area beneath the trees for me to put up the Duomid. Hesitantly I pushed three sections of my paddle into the reinforced apex and was pleased to discover that it worked as a support. It sat a little high, especially at the front where the ground sloped away to the lake, but with tonights forecast it would be fine, possibly even beneficial with a view to ventilation.
I squeezed the boat into the Duomid next, easing her past the paddle shaft and praying she would fit. Once the stern cleared the wall I flipped the Llama over and was tickled pink that it fit. Like a glove. I put my damp sleeping pad on top for added insulation. By now it was dark and I boiled water for a poor Real Turmat dinner by the light of my head torch and rustled up three or four hot chocolate drinks with slugs of warming Minttu added to each one.
During the night I had to pull a couple of sets of crunches to ward off the chill from the frigid air, stalled over the lake under a clear, starry sky. Just too early for the summer quilt maybe. My keychain thermometer hovered around freezing. By morning I was warm again and it was the need to piss that dragged me from my comfortable bed into a dreary morning.
After a breakfast of cake and coffee I broke camp and consulted the map. The next lake was just a couple of kilometres away but despite what the map told me I knew from past experience that it was all off-trail and boggy. There would be some light buswhacking too so I decided to break the boat down but leave the cockpit in place, strapping the resultant package to the rear of my pack. After getting the required daily detour out of the way within the first fifteen minutes I was soon ploughing through shin deep bogs and side-stepping tussocks and dwarf birch.
Back on trail, then off trail, then on trail again I pieced together my own route to the next lake. A quick peek down the connecting creek and I decided to miss out the roiling stream and head to the quieter water below the rapids. Boat inflated again and back on calm water I settled down into a steady rhythm. There were few signs of fish but the ducks were paired off and vociferous in the defence of their chosen nesting sites.
A lunch stop was required so I pulled into a quiet bay where we had stopped last summer on a canoe trip and found someone had erected a Robinson Crusoe-esque shelter on the beach. I sat beneath it's leaning structure and brewed more coffee and soup. The last of the cake consumed it was time for the final push to the end of the lake where it swings south. Gliding across the mirrored surface I watched the reflection of the trees on the bank, still nude and thin from winter, slide past, occasionally glimpsing life beneath the water. Fronds of aquatic plants waved gently in the direction of the imperceptible flow towards the fjord. A child's plastic toy boat shimmered from the lake bed, laying on her port side, lost to the waves.
Another portage is required, this time to navigate past the only rapid on this stretch, where one lake funnels into a drop of several metres. Chicken-shit is the better part of valour. Two trips required this time and I wish for brightly coloured blades as I search the densely wooded shore for my paddle on my return trip.
Around the final corner and civilisation rears into view. The road home carves its way towards the water, its hard, unnatural surface invisible to me but it's course made plain by the humming cars and snaking armco barrier. At the same time, a slight head wind picks up as a notice a small blister on the inside of my left thumb. Small inconveniences that slow my final approach but not as much as the sun that decides to give me a farewell smile. I stop paddling, turn my face skywards and drift into the shore.
Climbing out of my boat for the last time I noticed a tiny snail in the detritus between the jetty and the gravel path to the car park. I marveled at the intricate spiraling of her shell, the shelter she carries on her back, just like me sometimes. Unmoving, while I busy myself with the transformation from water-borne transport to the public variety. I reach down to see if I can encourage her to squirm slowly away before a hungry bird finds her but the minute force of my gentle finger meets no resistance as the empty shell topples over. Hollow but exquisite.