Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fiord sailing, Day 1 August 2nd

Well! I am writing from my berth, on my ship, sailing like mad north of Bergen towards the first port of call, at 2 am, which is .... We managed to get on board with only a small hiccup - we took this laptop to the magically open Apfel-Mac huset and got some software installed, while we had lunch (Norwegian smørre
brød). Then a quick trip to the post office, but alas it closes at 3 pm and we got there a mere 2 minutes early. So we had to schlep THAT bag all the rest of the way around.. although we tried to catch the drop in, drop off city tour bus, it sailed past us and we realised the stop was around the corner. So we went down past the Fish Market (sorry, no tasting of matselfiltes or whatever it was - I DID have herring, and salmon, and witness shamelessly public signs for Whale Steaks!) to the Funicular up to the Funicular Station! It takes a mere minute or two to climb, oh... 300-350 metres? And of course the view from the top is just amazing, the whole town spread out before you, twinkling against the water which winds all around, and looking very toy-town because of the intense orderliness and sameness (heritage style or strong nods to) of all the buildings. And these are surmounted by the dark pine forests, so all the contrasts are dramatic.

I had a good souvenir shop up there, but finally we had to leave, to retrieve our 11 (ELEVEN) pieces of luggage (dad, count like this: 4 suitcases, 2 backpacks, my handbag, my cloth ‘day’ bag, M’s bag of posting, a bundle of coats etc on hangars which we (misguidedly) thought might be easier to manage like that instead of shoving them into a case, and ... erm... another one - perhaps the computer bag, altho I thought I’d shoved that into the cloth bag. Anyway, you get the idea. We are theoretically capable of packing all of this into our 2 cases plus backpack plus hand/day bag each. Somehow, plastic and/or paper bags of extras ALWAYS HAPPEN. Me no understand.

The Hurtigruten shipping company has a good method of dealing with overburdened passengers, they disappear your cases along a moving belt - the same as when you check into an airport - except there is NO malarkey about weight. Or security. Wonderful. We dump the 4 cases. We go up the escalator to ship-boarding level. We pass the ‘show yer boarding pass’ station although we are informed that, even though we’ve only had them for like, two minutes, them for like 2 minutes, computer says NO and we are told we’ll have to get them fixed/replaced on board. Oh well..

Then we have to get past the Statione Sanitaire - it is mandatory and strictly enforced that everyone has to wash their hands in antibacterial solution (probably Aqium) before embarking, AND, we discovered, before every meal. This is to try to halt the spread of the dreaded ‘Norvo virus’, an evil stomach bug which has afflicted the Hurtigruten line since last year. But, the nice female purser said in our instructional lecture as we sailed out (through a view you really didn’t want to leave), “not on this boat ever, and not this year”. Right.

I am pretty fazed, moved to tears of a mixture of disbelief, delight, and perhaps a bit of anxiety - who can picture a B on a boat, sailing fee-ords and being a fancy tourist like this? Not little moi. I’ve had a bit of a snap at M, a bit of valium, a bit of teariness, and am now writing it out of my system like always. Tomorrow I will investigate the Internet centre on board and see what miracles can be achieved from there.

Meantime we have unpacked into our cabin - it’s amazing what can be made to disappear. The room is smaller than our hotel room, the bathroom only marginally so (and in fact altho the shower is tiny, it is so well designed it feels bigger than the last 2 very boutique shower stalls we’ve experienced). We have possessions not strewn but neatly stowed (sorry, can’t resist the vernacular), and in our little space (about the size of a normal Australian smallish children’s bedroom), we have enough little shelves, boxes, cupboards and lights, to hide everything away but in accessible places, and to light any kind of reading, typing, beautifying, etc. Really rather fun, living in miniature.

We enjoyed the hee-yoooge buffet dinner - masses of food, all sorts of hot and cold things, catering from the most protein-dependent Norsk heffalump, to the aesthetic elderly English woman nearby, who chose only boiled potatoes and carrots. SHE’S not gonna have trouble resisting the slabs of chocolate mousse, or waffles, or cheesecakepavlovacreamchocolatefruitjusgoo is she. But no, I didn’t succumb tonight. Whom nose if T and S will prove to be truly a sailor? So far so good, but we are told that the bit of open ocean we are crossing through the night is one of the windiest, and that kind of wind (up and down wind, not side to side, for resisting which the boat has stabilisers) is the kind which unpersons persons. So I have asked M to produce the Travacalm, and we have both read the bit about how it makes you sleepy, and with luck the gentle swaying motion and the constant white noise of ship engine/aircon/general boat moving and operating machinery, is enough to send us into peaceful slumber. If not, I guess we’ll have the midnight sun to help us enjoy the spectacular views.

And btw, there are tours we can join including one tomorrow to go up the ‘Troll Road’, and across two ferries, to see fiords from spectacular mountain views, travel hair-raising narrow mountain roads etc etc. But the extra cost is hefty, so we’ve decided we’ll make do with mere sailing. Call us stingy if you will. But, ya know, THIS is what we came for. And M has found a tour in a couple of days, which visits an ancient cathedral and goes to a music centre where students demonstrate ancient instruments. Much more our sort of thing.

Speaking of which, when we were stamping around the other day trying to find the laundry, we passed a building from which came the unmistakeable sounds of a choir warming up - hoya-hoya-hoya-hoya-hoooooh; hoya-hoya-hoya-hooooooh, up the scale. We both wanted to run up the stairs and join in. Aching with familiarity.

Today brought to you by nothing much until we boarded, and we got our bags, and I could unpack some purrfume. Because we got up for brekkie, I ate, and then I firmly resumed slumbers. And then I got busy packing (and forgetting to look properly around the room, so I think I left my warmest polar fleece on top of a cupboard dammit. The ship’s reception desk sailor rang the hotel to see if they have it and if it can be express posted to us oop north),anyway, I applied some Ange ou Demon to get me through dinner and departure. AND, also btw, I asked for a gin and tonic at dinner time. I was brought one, but our friendly service person Friday said it was not normally served with dinner. WHAT? Jeez theses Norsk types have an interestingly demarcated sense of grog. On one hand, you can see punters drinking two pint glasses of beer at the pub at 9 am; otoh you have to walk the streets of Bergen for days to find bottles of wine that are not only on the shelves but for sale as well; AND you can’t get a spirit to save your life. Unless it is a pesky Viking Norsk god playing funny buggers.

And now, to see about this sleeping business. I am hungry, of COURSE I am hungry, but I shall resist. Because if I once give in, I will eat my face off on this boat. I’ve never seen a hot and cold running temptation display like it. Oh, one final thing, dad I had fresh red currants with dinner. They were FAB.

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