Monday, 6 July 2009

A trip to Never Never Land

When I'd landed in Bergen, just shy of 5 days ago now, it struck me as a fairly spectacular place. And I had barely scratched the surface! I'm not sure if I've done much more in the 5 days since, but it is fair to say that this has been one of those trips that strips off the sarcastic cynicism that we almost invariably pass off as 'growing up'. To put it simply, it made me feel like a happy kid. :)
The dunking in the water at the course went quite well, actually, which was a relief. As was the water temperature. Seeing how I was done by 3 pm the first day, leaving me another 8 hours till sunset, I went walking around the town on my own. Bergen is unmistakeably a city of the sea. The fjord has fingers stretching into every part of the land, and the salty tang in the air is hard to miss.Add to that the apparently unusually brilliant weather, and I was greeted by people trying to soak up the sun in every little stretch of open air possible :). Bergen sees so much rain usually, that whenever the weather is even close to nice, the inhabitants flock outdoors.
The next day I finished off with the helicopter underwater escape training, which involves, amongst other things, getting strapped into a frame, plunged underwater and turned upside down. Then it was time for the proper holiday to begin! My plan was to stay with a friend off the Trident who actually lives in Bergen. What followed has to be easily the easiest to plan, most action packed holiday I've had yet :D.
As it turns out, I've never sailed in the North Sea, and first of all we went about rectifying that, in my host's small out-board engined boat :). Once that was out of the way, I tried my hand at kayaking. It was a very good thing the water wasn't too cold, 'cos I'd already managed to capsize the boat within the first five minutes :P. Thereafter, thankfully, it went a lot better. I managed a roughly 6km trip in the fjord without further incident. Although negotiating the wakes from some of the larger boats speeding by took a little getting used to!After a quick dinner and a bit of warming up, it was time to go watch the sunset from one of the islands furthest into the sea. Amazing as the start was, the next day's plan was really the highlight. We planned to head down the Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) near Stavanger! Something I'd been hoping to do for years!
There had been a little back and forth about a couple of friends joining the trip from Asker, in the end we picked up one of them from Bergen train station at 7am, and off we went. Talk about last minute plans :D. It took about 5 hours of driving and ferries to get to the base of the hike. The signs all said so, but we couldn't see the famous ledge, nonetheless, we put on our hiking shoes and headed up.We were definitely lucky with the weather again. The views were getting progressively spectacular, with lakes hidden up high on hollows in hill tops and vistas of valleys below with a peak of the blue blue fjord down below every now and then. Yet, the ledge stayed hidden, so on we went.Then suddenly round a corner, there it was! The sheer drop to the water over 600m below!!! The word I'm looking for is breathtaking :). And maybe a little bit frightening :D. After the initial excited cautious looks over the edge, we settled down a little further in. Understandably, no one really wanted to leave :).It was pretty late by the time we got back to Bergen, in fact it was past midnight. We ended up missing out the entire morning after :). But the sleep was definitely much needed. And soon enough, we were off on yet another hike. To Lyderhorn this time, one of the mountain tops of the seven mountain walk. The view from the top was, as usual, spectacular.
We ended the day with a look at the guns on Kvarven fort and another walk around town. Ended up strolling through Bryggen, with the old, quaint, sometimes lopsided wooden buildings that make up one of the oldest parts of the city. The rows and rows of motor yatches and sail boats along the waterfront made for a characteristic picture of Bergen.
Finally on the last day, today, we went to have a look at one of the historical peculiarities of this area, stave churches. Made completely out of wood but for the foundation, we found one such, hidden away in the woods and the hills. Almost insulated from the hustle and bustle of city life that surrounds it. An island of quiet, dreaming away. Unfortunately, this one is a replica, the original was burnt down by a fanatic almost two decades ago.With a little time on our hands, we went off the have one last look at the city from above. The cable car took us to the highest hill in Bergen, Ulriken. Between Floyen on the first day, Lyderhorn and this, I think I've covered most views of Bergen from an elevation :).
Further proof of my perfect timing presented itself in these last two days. Yesterday it was sporadically overcast, but that helped by not making the hike too sweaty :). Today, however, the clouds were darker. And sure enough, as I settled down at my window seat on the train back to Asker, raindrops started streaking the glass.Of course since then, as we've sped on eastwards, the sun has come back out and the promised spectacular ride through the mountains has so far completely lived up to its fame :). With still lakes, steep moss covered slopes giving way to rivers and fast flowing streams and rapids, still steep slopes, but now covered with a patchwork of snow that has survived up to this, the middle of summer. And now we pass by lakes that haven't given up all the ice from the water and the feeling is almost as if summer never really touches this place.
Now it was just announced that we are about to pull into Finse, the highest station on the Bergen line at 1222.2 m above sea-level :). It is seriously cold outside and the sun seems to be fighting a losing battle with the clouds!! I guess right about now would be a good time to call it. The holiday is over. As I watch the wild trees, rocks, lakes, rivers, mountains and raindrops flying past, I am rushing further and further away from the joy of my days in Bergen.
I get back to work tomorrow, and then day after, it's back to the boat. But here is proof that a holiday doesn't have to be long to make you feel perfectly happy :).

Currently: staring out the window
Listening to: David Gray - Slow motion


Anu said...

Happy, happy days :-) I never went to Bergen, but that Pulpit rock sure is something!!
1758 is just... *no words*

kray said...

:) I'm just hoping one of these days I can head back and go to Kjeragbolten...

Maria said...

Bergen is nice, i've been there and i liked it a lot although i haven't been to all the places you roamed :)
And by the way, i know your Bergen friend, next time you see him, tell him that me and Chris Thompson are saying hi :)