Friday, 30 September 2016

A preview of winter

It has been an amazingly warm September I must say! Till about the last week :). I've had this before, where the weather seems to flip a switch, and summer turns to full blown autumn in a couple of days. But let's look back at the sunnier days to start with!

The very first weekend, we decided to go for a hike! Not just any hike though, the hike to the top of the tallest mountain in Norway, Galdhøpiggen! And boy was I out of shape :(. It had taken a 6 hour drive on Friday evening to get us up to the pretty fantastic DNT lodge at the start of the hike. The last half hour being on gravel roads that seemed to go on forever, twisting in the dark through what felt like a deep forest :). More on that later.

The morning of the hike brought a bit of mixed weather, a few drops mixed with bits of sunshine. Having made short work of a sizeable breakfast, we set off! Up we went, and up and up and up! The hike isn't a particularly tricky one, it's just relentlessly uphill :). And starting from about 1000 m altitude, climbing up to the summit at 2469 m is a pretty long way!

I would have felt worse holding up my companions as I did with my frequent stops to let the pounding heart rate settle somewhat, but I was too busy feeling sorry for myself :P. And being entertained by the changing landscape! Where we started the hike, it was all green and summer flowers. As we climbed though, the trees then bushes disappeared and the rocks started getting a bit white. It was actually snowing! In September!

Once we made about half way up, there was proper snow on the ground and then finally, for the last few hundred metres of climb, it was as if we were back in winter! This was the land of permanent snow, a mountain surrounded by glaciers! To be fair, on the way up, the most awesome thing about getting to the top was gaining access to the covered hut :).

An hour or so later, having warmed up and recovered somewhat after a lunch consisting of injudicious amounts of Nutella, we emerged from the hut to find more swirling snow! Not long into the descent though, the sky started clearing up a bit around us! And then the views were truly majestic!

Eventually we did make it all the way back, and were extremely grateful that we had decided to spend another night at the lodge before heading back to Asker the next day. When we did finally drive back, the 'deep forest' turned out to be no more than a few trees here and there next to the deep gorge of a river :). Fantastic drive in the daylight though!

Since then I've been a bit more active, a bit of cycling, a bit of running. Some walking in the sunshine. But eventually a week or so back the trees finally started to change colour. A last hurrah for the summer before the evenings get too long :).

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Of rivers and ruins

August in Norway is a bit of a wildcard month. It could be one of the better months of the summer, with the long days still lasting past 9 pm and the warmth of the sunshine a practical rather than theoretical matter :). Or it could be well and truly into autumn. This year, as with the previous two seasons, it can't seem to make up its mind. There's been a bit of warm sunshine, a bit of cold winds and quite a lot of rain!

After a few months of lots of driving, there was a bit more of lazing about locally. Although there was the brief weekend trip to Fredrikstad. I'd never been there, but a friend was visiting Norway and flying in through Rygge, so it seemed prudent to explore that side of the fjord for a change. And it was totally worth it! The AirBnB flat we had for the weekend, though suspiciously low on lighting, was otherwise very nice and in a really nice location!

The weather was split, one day of overcast skies and rain, and another of bright blue skies and dazzling sunshine :). Definitely better than both days being rained out! We took the opportunity to explore the older parts of the city, especially the old fort surrounded by a real, proper moat! And many many cannons, that in some places looked like they were quite enjoying their retirement :).

I also finally managed to make use of my rather recently acquired UK visa with another trip to Bath, this time a short one just for a long weekend. And again, the weather was split :). We did manage a nice picnic, despite the overcast skies, and some amount of city exploration was done.

I find Bath quite amazing in its ability to confuse a casual acquaintance with its many alleys, lanes, bridges and tunnels! The trick, I think, is to use as many different paths as possible between the same two locations :). I did quite well on that front this time around, and there is a small part of the city where I'd be quite comfortable to walk around without being led by someone who actually knows their way around :D.

The thing is though, it's also one of those places where I'd probably be quite happy to be lost for a few hours. (Given decent weather!) The architecture is classically interesting and the streets and lanes busy and thrillingly twisty and disorganised. This isn't unusual for most European cities, but still makes me quite happy :).

There was also a new kitten in the house, which not only managed to drive the more senior feline lodger up the wall, but also thoroughly endeared herself to all who met her :). Except for the bit when she put massive scratches down my leg with her un-retracted claws.

Other than the travelling the month seems to have flown by in rather a tearing hurry. As a lot of this year seems to have done. I did finally manage to finish Shantaram! An exercise in perseverance that I wouldn't have believed myself capable of, except that about a third of the way through, the story finally got me interested enough to want to know quite what happens in the end.

I was not impressed. I mean, I will grant that the author does have a flair for the language and a remarkable eye for details that bring a lot of the places to life (or maybe it was just that I've spent time in Bombay myself), but near enough as makes no difference a thousand pages of listening to a protagonist who is just so full of himself can get trying. The sequel came out earlier this year. I believe I will pass on that one. 

As for the rest of it, I do feel I've let the sunnier days get away from me a bit. Not a lot by way of cycling to show for the summer. I suppose you can't have everything :). Have started running a bit earlier than usual. Normally I wait till the cold of September to get started. I guess I am a lot less bothered with the weather when running. If it rains, well, so be it :).

I guess, it would be nice to have a dry September, even though the days are beginning to shorten dramatically and the evening temperatures regularly dropping into single digits. It is still some way to winter :).

Sunday, 31 July 2016

A warmer sun!

Since I've moved to Norway the one summer road trip has pretty much been a thing. But three in three months is somewhat new :). Yup, after the western fjords in May and then the southern coast in June, it was time for a proper change of scenery and for July it was the middle of France!

Another thousand odd kilometres, a week, this time, of fantastic weather and much bigger vistas of plains, hills, valleys and distant mountains. But it all started in Terminal 1 of Paris Charles DeGaulle airport with me getting handed the keys to a black Panda. Yeah, not the most fantastic of cars, however, one of the more entertaining ones I've ever driven :P.

The plan was to drive down to Limoges through Melun, Fontainebleau, Orleon and Vierzon, keeping off the big roads to enjoy the scenery along smaller windier roads. Armed with road maps instead of a GPS, that part of the plan worked out really well. Then, meaning to get to the airport at Limoges on time, we thought to take the fast motorway from Vierzon, only to realise that while the speed limit was 130 kmph and cars were going faster, the little Panda was magnificently unhappy at anything above 110. In fact 90 was the most you could reasonably expect it to do, especially heading uphill :).

We did make it to Cisternes (a village in the middle of the Millevaches natural park area that I'm sure not many people have ever heard of :D) eventually and so began a week of perfect holidaying! There was no wi-fi internet, no consistent phone coverage, (to be fair, who wants phone coverage on holiday anyway) no TV and basically no interruptions to the enjoyment of the weather, food and the surrounding nature :).

A succession of bright sunny days drove up the mercury all the way to 37 degrees Centigrade and there being many brilliant lakes within close driving distance, we made the most of the temperatures with frequent trips to go swimming! There was even a day when as I waded into the water I didn't even feel the slightest bit of cold! Not something I ever expect to happen in Norway :D.

There were walks in the woods to pick myrtles, early morning drives down into the town of Meymac to grab some fresh baked croissants and bread, trips to farmers markets for fresh fruits and vegetables as well as a mind blowing assortment of meats and cheeses. There was a rather lovely concert at a nunnery nearby on one of the evenings and even a wedding in the village, with trains of honking cars following the newlyweds.

All too soon however, it was time to head back, and knowing the Panda's aversion to high speeds and big motorways, we devised a route consisting entirely of smaller roads. A few stops on the way at small towns made it quite the ideal way of rounding off the whole trip. Although once we did get back home and I got to drive my own car, I was greatly relieved :).

Since then it has been a mixed week of rain and sun. Sadly not much cycling. Although I did manage a fair bit of cycling in the weeks leading up to the France trip. One hopes there will be some more sunny days before the days start shortening too much. I guess we shall see.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

All the instants between heartbeats

Another month, another road trip :). This summer is shaping up nicely for racking up the miles! Only this time it was with the parents and down along the coast south from here down to Kristiansand and past. And I took a whole two weeks off. Getting back to work this morning was, well, difficult :). A thoroughly enjoyable break was had.

And as I drove back from Gardermoen having dropped the parents off, I decided to actually go in and order the bike I've been planning to buy for about a month now :P. As it happens, they had the right size one in stock, so I ended up walking out of the Storesenter with a fantastically bright orange bike and then spent the next few minutes hoping and praying that it would fit in the car :P. (Given that this was a bit of a spur of the moment thing, I didn't have my bike rack mounted on the car.) Well, with no one else in the car and using every inch of space available, it did fit!! Barely :). After three years and over 3700 km, the good old Union 40 was getting a bit iffy on the gears.... But I'll still feel bad stripping all the bits off of it and moving them to the Range 50. Oh well, such is life :). First new bike since first year of uni though :).

Right, back to that road trip then :). The weather was appropriately mixed up this time! The day we went to Lindesnes Fyr, the southernmost point on mainland Norway, was so cloudy that we could barely see the water 20m from the lighthouse! But then the very next day when we drove along the small coastal roads down to Arendal, the skies were the bright bright blue of Norway in all it's summer splendour!

We stayed at a little rental apartment in Lillesand and made the most of the kitchen (and the supermarket practically next door :D) and had some fun cooking up. In fact, I think the last couple of weeks was the most cooking I've done in any shortish period of time :). The idea was to keep the parental units happy and simultaneously away from the cooking :D. It worked, mostly!

There are times when different parts of your life come together. They could collide, crash and burn in the aftermath. Or they could flow into each other like streams of bright colours. Mixing, strands curling around each other. Making patterns of such beauty that take your breath away. This was like that :). It's been a good couple of weeks. Scratch that. It's been an awesome couple of weeks! :)

Listening to: Feint & Veela - The Journey

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Space has a sense of warping itself around feelings, I find. Sometimes. The dark yet not completely lacking in colour midnight sky of Norway in summer. It seems to wind itself around a sense of timelessness I have, memories from different summer nights meshing together into something that's no longer quite a memory. But is in so many ways more.

It has been a lovely month of sunshine and almost unexpected warmth. Interspersed with rain, of course. You can't have it getting too awesome now can you? :-)

We continued the now almost traditional May road trip to the fjordlands. (Yes, I live practically a stones throw away from fjords, but these are tame and wide, almost benign fjords, here in the south east. Further west and northwards, they have those of the more wild and untamed variety.)

What weather! :-) Blazing sunshine every day! Perfect for a road trip along twisty narrow roads alongside the water, through valleys that kept switching between spring greens and winter whites. Fjords and lakes of such a variety of shapes and sizes as to constantly amaze!

There's also been a bit of cycling. And I've been feeling the off season. Not in a good way. But it seems the weather wants to cooperate somewhat, and lately I've been finding my pedalling legs again. :-) Since I managed to rather ruin my gears a bit over the last 3500 plus kilometres, I've even been considering a new bike. We shall see.

Time passes in the now familiar high-speed-slow-motion. Another month gone, the year almost half over. But the days seem full of... happenings? Not necessarily outside my head. But there we have it. :-) I mean this as a good thing in fact!

Life is beginning to feel more like itself rather than merely something like it.