Sustained by Surplus, Sun, and Songs in Stamsund, Part I

The morning I left Bergen (7.13.10), it was pouring. I stayed up the whole night getting things in order, writing some posts, watching Stardust and I managed to pack a couple of sandwiches and some crackers. The bus was to stop outside at 7:10, so I planned to head out to be at the stop at 7:05. I was set to reach the stop with time to spare but just as I was walking up to the shelter, the bus sped by. Ragnvald had told me earlier that if I missed this one I was screwed – it was the only one that would ensure I made my 7:55 train. I tried hitching – and was patently ignored – but happily, once I’d given up around 7:25, I saw an old lady emerge and sit at the next bus stop (where I’d wandered to by then). A minute or so later a young man and then a young lady joined us and I calmed down. I ended up having to do a quick transfer but I made it with time to spare.

Having seen the trainride to Oslo on the way to Bergen, I took the six hours to sleep. I figured I’d see nothing anyways as it was raining quite drearily. I sent some letters off in Oslo and then jumped onto the train to Trondheim. Again I slept for over half the journey, though I’d intended to stay awake: rain and grey days do something to me such that I lose all my energy. What I was awake to witness was largely the same: lakes and mountains in the distance that would have been epic, I’m sure, if I could have seen then through the mist.

I had an hour in Trondheim and I wandered a bit before bringing out my guitar to while away the time. A set of girls and guys stopped and listened while I played and invited me to join their cabin later as they were also traveling to Bodø. After checking with the controller, I joined them.

We’d found quite a nice, unoccupied cabin for ourselves and set about with a speaker set, some food, etc. I took out my guitar and we sang Save Tonight: an appropriate song in retrospect, because as soon as I finished the controller came by and insisted we move to Car No. 5. This was to become a theme. Everyone in Car 5 was asleep (and smelling horribly) and it would of course be impossible to sit and chat there – so we returned to the cabin, having moved our things to the other car in hopes that it would placate the controller. It didn’t. He ushered us out, angrily, so we wandered the train until we found refuge at the very rear of the car, in one of those inbetween sections by the exit doors. Sandwiches were made, alchohol passed around (I did not partake due to my absurdly low tolerance), conversation flowed, and the tension abated.

Until the controller found us, by this time extremely irate. This time, though, I think I discovered the reason for his frustration. He simply repeated Car No. 5 over and over again, offering us no alternative or listening to our explanations, and it occured to me perhaps his English wasn’t so good. Here a side note: The girls came from Zürich and the guys from Paris, but despite having French as a common language spoke English among themselves and German/French in pairs. This suited me fine :). We had nowhere to go so we remained – the others even having the audacity to go to another between car space and smoke.

The controller returned again and threatened to throw us off the train at the next stop. He started to pull at Olivier and Miran’s arms and looked absolutely flustered. I’d just emerged from the bathroom and somehow I managed to take the controller aside (the conversation had reached nearly shouting levels, comical really, with the controller screaming “I am the chief” and Miran telling him – half amused and half annoyed – that he wasn’t the chief of us, of our persons). I spoke very calmly and slowly to him, explaining and repeating myself multiple times to make sure he understood, and asked if we could situate ourselves between a different set of cars. He brightened instantly, I’m supposing all the quick exchanges had simply made him feel like the situation was spiraling out of his control, and acquiesced. He even made it seem like it was his idea.

At this point (around four in the morning) we sat between Car 5 and 6, barely fitting all of us in the tiny space and played what seems to be an international card game: Asshole. Every time someone needed to go to the loo we had to stand up as a body – Miran was amused by this and acted like an usher of sorts, motioning with his hands and bowing towards the goer. I got sleepy all of a sudden shortly after and woke in grey and rainy Bodø. We parted ways here: I headed to the library and in the afternoon to the ferry.

Mercifully, the ferry crossing was greeted by significantly brighter weather. I was well north of the Arctic circle at this point and after a two hour nap (yes, a lot of sleep: I’d spent half of the past 36 hours of traveling asleep) enjoyed the jagged spikes of the Lofoten slowly gaining detail before us. They’re an unfathomable lot, those islands, mountains growing directly out of the sea, jagged as the tops of the rockies but covered in green, with beautiful harbors and tiny fishing villiages strewn all about. Due to the rain the ferry was a couple hours behind schedule and thus skipped my stop, Stamsund, but this was a happy accident. I got a free bus ride from Svolvær from it. I’ve never wanted to try big wall or alpine as much as on that short ride, and though I knew every millimeter of those peaks had probably been traversed (a roadside boulder we passed even had chalk on the holds), they still gave off this aura of mystery and explorability. A magnificent ride.

The light phenomena I’ve only seen in Norway

Lofoten Looming

Song of the Day: Save Tonight – Eagle Eye Cherry

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