Friday, 11 May 2012

Indefensible position

I left under a cloud. Two in fact. One physical. Lead grey and pregnant with promise. The other was metaphysical. Deliveries undelivered by the continually disappointing Norge Posten (or more precisely the shadowy vultures circling parcels of joy at customs). My friend gently chided me humorously online. If I was packed, why was I still sitting in front of the computer? An indefensible position. I headed to the bus station armed with only with a backpack and the plan to spend 24 hours in the hills and valleys, with an incoming weather forecast that bordered on 'interesting'. It was more of a conditioning trip than any need to commune with nature or reset the bullshit meter. I took the boat just in case and also to remind my paddling muscles that they will be needed this summer. Unfortunately it seems that I have to start afresh with the calluses every time.

In my mind I flipped between a circular route and an out-and-back. The wind couldn't make it's mind up and each lake and valley seemed to be enjoying a different season. Alighting at Søfteland I walked down to the waters edge to confirm what my internal compass was already telling me. A mean wind was cutting straight down this valley and not inconsiderable waves lapped at the gravel under my toes.

Plan on the fly. I marched off down the cycle lane that escorts the ribbon of tarmac bearing south from the city of Bergen. The next valley wasn't so bad but required more marching down lanes and tracks, past farms and remote houses. Underfoot that gravel trail faded out as I launched into the swamps. In the sky it was either sunbeams or hail that fell on me as Summer and Winter played out their flirtatious parting. You hang up. No, you hang up.

In the evening I used an Alaska-style lighter (a.k.a a gas stove...) to torch the damp tinder at my disposal and I managed to keep a soporific warming fire going until yet another hail storm had me scampering to the confines of the SL3 as the sun started to dip behind the forested ridge. Learning to cheat at fire starting when I don't really have to, so I can when I need to, is another skill I'm keen to learn. 

Morning brought stillness and mist at first but a chameleonic transformation was under way that morphed the benign conditions into a winter storm, literally behind my back, while I was gooning about with my camera, decked in my belay jacket, fleece tights and waterproof socks. Hail chased me under cover. Cocooned in my sleeping bag again, I ate breakfast, packed up methodically and drank copious cups of coffee. Wintery weather finally squared away I unpegged the shelter, draped it over my pack to dry and headed back down the valley, floating above the bogs on a cushion of softening snow. Sometimes. Sometimes my shoes just broke clean through to the black mud. Out on a headland and below pine boughs dripping with rapidly melting snow I blew up the boat and paddled off across two sun dappled lakes. The wind had shifted again and this time it poured up the valley, creating waves that lapped at my upturned bow. The regular slapping against the tubes was as good as any Roman pausarius and I soon shifted into a rhythm. 

Once again I timed my arrival at the road perfectly to just miss a bus. Instead of waiting around on the sparse Sunday service timetable I simply waited out another hail shower and then marched off down the road, back towards the city. It took me a couple of hours of fairly monotonous tarmac and my pack felt hot and heavy by the time I picked up the light rail service across suburbia. Glowing in my apartment, under the influence of endorphins, I chugged a jug of isotonic sports drink. Stretching out on the yoga mat, watching movies, I noticed the hard rain of the past 24 hours hours softening and pooling below my randomly piled gear.

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