The Exchange IX. The Long Way Home (Part I)
With my life in Sweden packed up I had one last adventure planned, I’d be taking the long way home. I due to fly to Ålesund via Oslo on the 6th of June, where I would stay at Ingeborg’s family’s house (same Ingeborg that got lost with me in the Takitimus in 2018). From there I would go on to Trondheim to see Ingeborg, then onto the St Olavsledden trail that would take me back to Sweden. I had a rendezvous with my German friend Carolin on the 13th on the Swedish-Norwegian border, and we would work out a plan from there.
Things started to go wrong as soon as I left. My flight hit a thunderstorm around Oslo, which caused major disruption with all the flight handling in the airport. It was a very stressful 15 minutes of running around an airport before I was safely seated on my flight to Ålesund, relaxing unaware of the shit-storm that lay ahead. I stood at the luggage carousel in Ålesund, watching it revolve endlessly as the rest of the passengers filtered out of the airport. A very friendly Norwegian woman approached me and it turned out to be Ingeborg’s mum. Together we discovered that my backpack had been lost by SAS… shit. At least I had somewhere to go and I had my journal, camera and passport on my person. It was midnight but the sun still hovered on the horizon, casting the fiords into an unfamiliar twilight. Ingeborg’s step-dad was in the car and enthusiastically discussed New Zealand with me, along with all things related to trains. This was a great surprise to me as few kiwis I know have ever been on a train in New Zealand, yet he had. Numerous tunnels under the water later we pulled up to their impressive house. It was arranged like an IKEA showroom, with thought put into every detail. Ingeborg’s mother offered me salmon on homemade bread, if I had any doubts that I was in Norway this put them to rest.
The next morning Ingeborg’s step-dad drove me to the bus station in Moa (the name made me laugh) and I caught a bus to the centre of Ålesund. Being surrounded by mountains I felt a sense of homeliness that any Kiwi in Norway will know. The place feels about as close to home as you can get in Europe, except it is full of beautiful vikings who speak Norsk.
After exploring (and trying to find a free toilet) I made my way to the bus depot. Ingeborg had called me to say there was a chance my bag would get dropped off here but alas it was not to be, apparently it had been accidentally sent to Bergen. Bugger. Anyway from the depot I caught another bus to Åndalsnes, which is the terminus of the Rauma Railway. I could have taken a bus all the way to Trondheim but this was my special treat. The easiest way to describe the railway would be to imagine a railway winding its way through Fiordland. For good reason this is dubbed one of the most spectacular rail journeys in the world.
The weather wasn’t perfect but had cleared up by the time I reached the far terminus in Dombås, a junction town in the heart of Norway. I could write droves about the WWII significance of this town but I’ll spare you the details. With several hours to kill before my connecting train to Trondheim I decided to go find a hill to walk up. Armed with my plastic bag of belongings, my swandri and not much else I started to walk without much of an idea where I was going. My eye caught a bare slope, what must be a ski slope in the winter, hidden behind a fence. I couldn’t help but investigate, thinking of the views from the top. Gingerly I snuck under the fence and began the climb. The views were indeed expansive, although I was rather worried I would get thoroughly lost.
Luckily I avoided this fate and found my way back to the railway station. I spent the remaining hour in the empty building trying to have a snooze given the rather stressful series of events I had encountered up till that point. My train pulled into Trondheim around midnight. The streets were littered by drunk students celebrating their exams and heading out to town. This looked a little strange as the streets were still illuminated by the midnight sun. I managed to find Ingeborg’s flat and let myself in with the key she left out with me. Then I drifted off into a deep sleep.
The following day sick of wearing the same clothes for three days straight I went on a spending spree buying clothes and saving the receipts for the airline. This proved to be extremely stressful for me, given the high Norwegian prices and my low propensity to spend. $850 NZD later and a dead phone I began to try navigate my way back towards Ingeborg’s flat.
My feet led me through the waterfront district, which was alive with people out enjoying the summer sun. I did somehow find the flat, by which time Ingeborg had actually returned so we had a bit of a catch up. Fast-forward through a lot of chat and a nap, it was time for a walk around the surrounds including a local fort.
By I returned it was late and time to hit the sack. However at 11:30pm I received a call from Bergen airport asking if I would like my luggage in delivered in Trondheim? I said YES PLEASE.
The only problem was, when it arrived at my doorstep it wasn’t my luggage, it was someone elses… Soon I recieved a phone call that my ACTUAL luggage could be delievered in the afternoon. I made the call to pick it up myself instead. I thanked Ingeborg for all she had done for me and jumped on the first bus heading towards the airport. Finally, finally, I was reunited with my luggage, safe with the exception of a sunscreen explosion in the front pocket. Next stop, Sweden.