Monday, 19 July 2010

The Scandinavian Expedition 2010 - Diary Day 19c

Actic Cathedral, Tromso. Click for more pics.
Previously on GameStorm... Storm crossed the Arctic Circle in Sweden, went 1km underground in the biggest European iron-ore mine, stared into a huge pit where giant machinery looks like ants, hitch-hiked to Abisko, saw the Midnight Sun, made a new friend, took amazing photos... and now the conclusion of the "laundry room tale".

Fan talk
I've really written a lot in the laundry room described in Day 19a. Here's the third and last part of that text. It's about how the The Bad Weather Week, which caught me between Narvik and Nordkapp, begun. After day 17, the weather went downhill (more precisely downsky, if you get the meaning) and today (19th) the shit really hit the fan (if you get the meaning).

When I woke up on Sunday morning after the Midnight Sun experience, it was raining, so I decided to pack my roof and though with remorse, skip the Kungsleden and head straight to Narvik. Narvik's where the aforementioned excremental matter connected with the aforementioned rotating blades of the aforementioned air cooling device (if you get the meaning).

 Weather in Narvik. Sweet, isn't it?

Narvik - a city built by morons
First an introductory statement about Narvik, so you understand the upcoming remarks: Narvik is an idiotically designed city.

Whoever built it must've had rotten tomatoes instead of brains and held a serious grudge against pedestrians carrying heavy bags. Anything one may need (train station, bus station, hotels, tourist office...) is by rule on the opposite side of town than the pedestrian. The town is a long noodle stretching on two flanks of a valley that can only be crossed via two distant bridges. The combination of an anti-intuitive layout, a total lack of directional sings, the heavy bag on my shoulders and the heavy rain coming down on me made me want to be as far away from Narvik as possible. Since hitch-hiking with buckets of water coming down wasn't an option, I hastily decided to take the only available bus to Tromso (but first I had to walk back and forth like a bloody yo-yo to find the damn bus station).

Someone really didn't want this iron ore to be delivered...
A bit of Narvikal history
I would have hated Narvik fully and completely if it weren't for the World War 2 museum (pictures), which was worth visiting (it was dry inside) and it was my first contact with Scandinavian war history. Being of crucial strategic importance as the only port from where Swedish iron ore was supplied to the Allies, Narvik was first invaded by the Germans in 1940 and subsequently claimed by the Allies. Both naval and inland fights took place in what is known as the Battles of Narvik, seeing troops from several countries, including Poland, as protagonists. The museum illustrates that part of history quite well.

Grim welcome to Tromso
The bus journey to Tromso was a dry heaven for four hours, but it would've been nicer if the driver turned on the heating. Anyway, at 23:00 I was standing in the middle of Tromso - where I hadn't planned to go in the first place - with wet bags, hostels fully booked and the 3km distant campsite being the only option. I eventually walked to the campsite and since it had mercifully stopped raining, I managed to pitch the tent in peace (except for omnipresent mosquitoes, including some stowaways from Sweden that survived inside the packed tent). I was rather disappointed by the campiste, 50% more expensive than all Norwegian camps together, 3km from the city, with unfriendly staff and non functional facilities. Well, at least I could finally dry my boots (never trust a seller when they say "fully waterproof"...).

Mack brewery's motto.

To give up or not to give up: that is the question
My thoughts were quite grim and I won't deny that giving up crossed my mind. After several people told me "it's gonna rain the whole week in Tromso", I seriously considered booking a flight back home and trimming my holiday short, instead of being stuck there for a week, even if it would have meant missing some of the main reasons I'm up here in Lapland - the North Cape and the Treriksroset (Three Borders).

Wanting to give up at the first sign of trouble is my normal reaction to such situations, but luckily it never takes long to get hold of myself. In fact, my despair soon turned into a resolution not to give up under for anything and carry my goals out fully and completely. After all, I had known long before undertaking this adventure that Scandinavia is a rainy place, and that the previous three weeks of sunshine were sheer luck, which I started taking for granted. If yesterday's bucket tipping continued even today, I might have indeed changed my travel plans, but things looked much brighter in the morning light and I actually enjoyed strolling in the streets of Tromso. It wasn't until evening came that excrements hit the fan again.

A really distressing walk over that bridge...
The sky was pissing down once more, nobody had any intention to give me a ride and I was starting to freeze. Hence the decision to warm up by walking further out of town, with a bus at 21:00 as backup plan. Bad decision...

The road from Tromso runs along the fjord, just a few metres from the water, and there's no place for a car to stop, let alone for a pedestrian to walk. However, I walked. Somehow I managed to miss the bus stop and ended up some 4km from Tromso, with no prospect of reaching the next bus stop on time, nor to backtrack effectively. In the meantime, bucketfuls of water kept hitting me from all sides (the sky, the sea, the heavily trafficked road). Not knowing what to do, I just kept on walking and at one point, completely at random, I put my thumb up to some passing cars. The last one stopped!

Mercifully, some good people took a totally wet, hooded stranger, late at night and in the middle of nowhere, and gave him a ride. What's more, they went 30km out of their way to take me to my final destination for the day – to this Nordskojsbotn whatever place whose name I can't even pronounce, let alone spell. It's an important transport hub between North, South and West and has a nice campsite with a cosy laundry room in which I am currently sitting and writing these lines, using a wash-machine as desk. I should really get some sleep now though, so that's it for the moment and I'm heading back to my nicely soaked tent. Hopefully, tomorrow I'll be hiking in Finland.

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