Northwards we go. Although in Norway that actually means North a bit, East a bit to end of fjord, West a bit to mountain pass, North a bit till next fjord… On the third or fourth day I had the scariest day I have ever had behind the wheel of a vehicle (and I’ve lived in an alpine village for 5 years…). It started with a patch of black ice coming around a corner, I was driving slowly anyway but as I entered the corner a guy was waving his arms and I could see a crashed car, I slammed the brakes on, the van went sideways, I somehow managed to pull out of the skid and avoid the crashed car, the man, and everything else on the side of the road! A bit further along it started raining, but not normal rain, freezing rain. With my heater on full blast onto the windscreen it was still freezing, every few miles I had to stop, scrape the ice off the wipers and off the windscreen to be able to keep on going. Obviously then the road completely froze, traffic was almost at a stand-still so when I saw the road start to tend downhill I pulled over to put my snow chains on. As I stepped around to the passenger’s side wheel and my foot touched the road it was like stepping on to an ice rink. I had to grip hold of the van not to fall over! I was incredibly relieved to pull over that night safe and sound. Ready to adventure further North.
Once I reached Trondheim it was time to head inland. I’d decided to hop over the border in to Sweden and visit Åre for some skiing. I don’t know why but on reaching Åre I suddenly felt really unsure of myself and uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure where I should park, and I couldn’t decide what to do. I really wanted to go skiing but was aware that I didn’t have much money. I headed to the town centre to check out ski lift prices (expensive) and looked into getting a back-country guide (very very expensive, especially as there were no groups I could join), although I did find out that the current snow conditions were atrocious (read: ice). So, I headed to the supermarket and made the most of ‘cheap’ Swedish booze and stocked up on food supplies before heading out of town. There is a great app for finding out how low the Aura Borealis is sitting and it was supposed to be near me for the next few nights. It was also the winter solstice so I parked up in the mountains away from any street lighting and settled down with my fire for the night. Despite waking up several times to check out the window and despite my map assuring me I should see it there were no Northern lights for me. It was a glorious morning though and I went out for a hike on my skis. I managed to find some sunlight and after about a week with the sun hidden behind mountains on my drive North I revelled in the feeling of sun on my face.
I was then at a loss, the snow was terrible, I hadn’t seen the Aura Borealis and I was miles from anyone I knew (I hadn’t spoken to a human other than a check out attendant or service station employee in over 5 days). I just didn’t know what to do. I decided to head along the road into the next town, stock up on alcohol, and see if I could find a herbal remedy store that might have something to cheer me up a bit. I was in luck and I managed to improve moral enough to make a decision on my plans for the next couple of days. I spotted a lake on the map which I hoped to park by and keep my eyes peeled for those northern lights, and then I was going to head south down through Sweden. I parked up, side door facing North, lit the fire, snuggled down with a book and kept peeking out the window. All of a sudden, they were there, a soft dreamy green light in the sky. I opened the van door and jumped outside, transfixed by it. I spent all evening sat in front of my fire with the van door open gazing at the sky.
The next day, re-energised, mission accomplished, I headed south. Down through a beautiful national park where I saw moose and hit the lowest temperatures of my stay in Scandinavia (-20 o C), and then eventually back across the border into Norway. I had booked myself 2 nights at a hotel for Christmas.
I parked up in this tiny village (about 5 houses) and booked into my hotel. Shower! Running water! Flushing toilet! Heating!!!! I was in heaven. It was probably my best Christmas present ever. It was two nights of luxury, I revelled in it, but all too soon it was over, and I was back on the road, heading wherever the wind would take me. At one point in those next few days I hit a real low. I felt so lonely, deeply alone. I reached out on social media and had such overwhelming messages from friends it made me realise how lucky I am. I was adventuring: it’s not easy, it’s lonely, but it is also uplifting and invigorating. One of my favourite books has a beautiful passage in it which sums up the feeling beautifully: “No man is brave that has never walked a hundred miles. If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet” (The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss)
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