Friday, 13 February 2015
On the plane I had a look at some of the billions photos we took. There are obviously heaps I didn't post, here are a few of them..
Jett at the Maritime Museum in Oslo
Me in Ålesund
Zali as a polar explorer at the Fram museum
and last but not least (and probably not even last really).. proving that even rubbish bins look kind of pretty with snow on top..
Rubbish bins on the Lofotun Islands
Drammen suffers from temperatures fluctuating above and below zero more often than say Lillehammer so it gets very slippery and icy. We experienced this when we walked the 15 minutes down to the shops one of the days we were here. I'm surprised we made it down and back with no broken bones - many of the locals have special rubber straps with spikes they can attach to any pare of shoes.
On the topic of ice, I've been looking at this chain on each visit to the Drammen house- it acts as a down pipe and is always in various states of ice-coverage - it wasn't so spectacular this last time but previously there has been inches of ice around it all.
On one of our visits to Drammen we also walked down to and alongside the river - and came across this cool sphere sculpture.
Jonno was fascinated by it but I'm only posting a couple of his gadzillion photos of it..
Also we found a fair bit of cool graffiti (contrasting nicely with the white snow) during our various trips about town.
So our last morning in Drammen dawned foggy and sad looking, in-keeping with our moods..
but maybe not Putin's:
I'm closing my eyes and imagining you humans are all dead. I find it relaxing..
Thursday, 12 February 2015
Ahh, an empty seat. hmm.. that looks delicious but there's none on my plate, where's the waiter?
Good, here you are.. yes two pieces of your finest salmon please:
I said, TWO PIECES OF YOUR FINEST SALMON OR I TAKE YOUR EYES OUT WITH MY BARE CLAWS...
while you are sleeping..
As always, the weather on the day you leave any sort of ski resort is always beautiful and clear and windless. Luckily for us we still had our cross country skis, so nothing could stop us getting out and enjoying the morning before our afternoon train. The tracks had been freshly groomed and were just waiting for us...
Each day I've skied past this shed on the right. It makes me smile as it's such a scandinavian looking colour...
with such a scandinavian name, graffittied on the side...
As the full lap would have been too long for Jett, we crossed the lake partway up, on a precariously icy bridge.
… then we continued on to the troll we'd been passing each day on our loop. The troll points across at the Hallingskarvet (glowing white beyond Jon there).
Now just to illustrate the weirdness of finishing our ski trips in the supermarket, here's Jon demonstrating how we get home...
into the supermarket… past the people wearing the crazy uniforms who look like they are going curling straight after their shift...
and where you can buy merino base-layers, just in the shampoo aisle.
Then up to the forth floor, where our apartment was...
and if it just been me and Jon out skiing, this is the normal sight when we get home...
Goodbye Geilo, it's been fun!
Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Tomorrow we leave Geilo and on Thursday we leave Norway - which means it's time to see how we are going against our wish list we wrote in Lillehammer..
For anyone who can't read our writing, this is the list, and the status of the items:
and last but not least..
I never did Ice Fishing when I lived in Lillehammer, we didn't really know anyone who fished, and I don't love fishing (or fish) so it wasn't on my list of priorities but the kids were very keen to try it while we were here.
Now our family couldn't be certain of catching a fish in a fish market so we didn't have high hopes of hauling in a bucket full of them or anything, but we were looking forward to an experience a bit like this: (the photo is taken from the ice-fishing website…)
Note the sunny skies, comfortable looking customer, haul of fish to the right, kick sled (to while away the hours) and generally relaxed manner - ah ice-fishing, you look so relaxing and pleasant..
In order for you to really get a feel for our actual ice-fishing experience, I'd like you to ask someone nearby to rub your face with coarse sandpaper whilst continuously dumping slushy ice down the back of your trousers, Yep, it was that fun. We were picked up at 7.45am by our lovely guide and driven to the lake were we then had to walk ten minutes straight into a howling gale with ice pellets thrashing against us. Every third step had us up to our thighs in snow, and the picture below is of Jon hanging onto Jett in so he doesn't just blow away like a piece of tumbleweed.
I think it took us a bit more than ten minutes to walk to the most exposed part of the lake, in fact it felt like an entire polar expedition. Our guide went ahead and by the time we had struggled over he had re-drilled the holes that he had successfully caught fish from recently. So that meant we just had to sit down and relax, enjoying the nature and basking in the serenity.. this is me and Jett, enjoying the nature…(note the snow-drifts piling up behind me)
And this is Zali, really enjoying the nature..
Three of us, just enjoying the beautiful morning and just wishing it would never end…
The best part of ice fishing was when, after an hour of being blasted by ice pellets and freezing in the wind with the snow piling up on every part of us, was deciding we'd had enough and packing up and going. That's why we look so happy here ..
The whole experience was so awful that it was actually really funny, even in the middle of it! So I don't regret doing it, but I sure am glad it's done! Needless to say we didn't catch any fish, but we can at least cross it off our to do list (for all of eternity).
Funnily enough the lake seemed to be by far the most exposed part of this whole region as once we got home again (at around 10am) we were still able to go out and enjoy almost a full day's snowboarding - the tops of some of the lifts were pretty windy but nothing and I mean NOTHING like what we had experienced out on the lake - even when it got so windy they closed one of the lifts. Jon and I also did our 10km ski-skating lap of the lake once the lifts closed and that was totally fine too. Perhaps we're just cursed with anything to do with fishing.
Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Cyclone Ole took the day off today so we were able to spend a lot of the day snowboarding which was fun. In the morning Jon and I went out together for a few hours, ensuring we rode on every lift and tow available. The slopes feel very empty now it's Monday actually - which made for lots of riding and no waiting in queues. Then we returned home for lunch and prised the kids outdoors to practise their snowboarding for a few hours afterwards - I lasted about 10 minutes before I was sent away as I just didn't have the patience for the supervisory job. So then I had another pleasant hour or so of boarding whilst Jon had a very frustrating time by my reckoning. So by the time we met up back at the apartment again he (and the kids) weren't in the best of moods.
So to remedy the situation Jon and I went for a lovely cross country ski around the lake in the late afternoon to have a look at the remnants of the ice-igloo and amphitheatre that was built for the ice music festival.
We practised our skating x-country technique which Harald had coached us in a few days earlier. We were definitely faster but probably mostly because it had been a relatively warm day, so the trails were now icy and quite fast. Lots of fun though.
There wasn't too much left of the outdoor venue. The roof of the ice-igloo was gone and only a few icy sculptures remained. It was quite eerie and fitting for a viking graveyard in the fading light of day.
Then onwards around the lake we went, just as we were approaching town again the sunset was really beautiful..
And we arrived home feeling tired and happy. Another lovely day in Geilo. We have one more full day before we're on the train back to Oslo. Hopefully. There's been a derailment a few towns down the track but maybe it will be fixed in time, the kids will be devastated if they don't get another ride on a train!
Monday, 9 February 2015
After yesterday's x-country ski, Jon and Linn and I skied all the way back to our place at Geilo. It was quite an journey through strong winds and up and over hills, but it was fun. Well it was fun once we corrected the navigational mistake we made early on, and it was fun once my hands warmed up! It's very satisfying ski-ing all the way home even if is a bit weird that our route ends inside the local supermarket (where we catch the lift up to our apartment).
The Norwegian word for weather is 'vær', and the word for a storm or really bad weather is 'uvær', which I like to think is kind of like the opposite of good weather..it's un-weather.
Anyway - Norwegians don't let 'uvær' put them off doing things. They have a saying that 'there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes'. But of course when it's said in Norwegian it sounds a lot better as it rhymes (you'll have to take my word for it)..
Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dålige klær
So that means that even though it's blowing a gale and all the chair-lifts are closed and the roads nearby are closed that shouldn't put you off going out for a training x-country ski like Harald and Linda did yesterday..
And while they did that, Lars-Henrik, Bjørn and Linn were out on the downhill slopes the moment they opened, and they didn't leave them until they were thrown off at closing time (there were a few tows open despite the wind). Jon and I caught up with them for a few hours at either end of the day but we did stuff with the kids in the middle - I'm not sure we would have lasted the day in the wind in any case!..
And today we all went out for a mountain x-country trip. It was hard going because it was cold and windy and some of us were struggling with comfort and motivation. We didn't quite make it to the cafe we were aiming for (great disappointment for Jett) - but we got a good long trip out in different (and more exposed) conditions to Lillehammer.
And I am sure Harald has some better photos of the trip which I'll post another time but what I wanted to say is that despite it blowing a gale in some parts of the mountain, and being really cold, there were TONNES of people out for a ski trip. It's just what you do. And if the weather is crap, you do it anyway but with more clothes.
And here's a nice photo of Bjørn, who runs a military style alpine ski-ing operation. He's up early making breakfast for his crew and makes sure they are all out the door in time to be the first in line for the tows (which takes some doing). And needless to say, no-one leaves the mountain until the tows close or the mountain blows away.
For Bjørn and his kind, there is no such thing as 'uvaær'.
The other exciting thing about an ice music festival is that the instruments are susceptible to the weather. Yesterday cyclone Ole hit Norway causing havoc up and down the coast (for example all the Hurtigruten boats had to seek shelter), roads were closed all over the place and there were lots of evacuations and damage. Here in Geilo, we had snow and gale force winds but also some unusually warm weather. When I say 'warm' I just mean that it was slightly above zero until the evening. Enough to cause the first act's (Kings of Convenience) guitar to melt before his performance so he had to make another one just a couple of hours before the show. The new one seemed to work just fine though and I really enjoyed the set.
As I mentioned before, the shows can't be too long here as the musicians' fingers freeze, but again, that suits me as it's almost as cold for the audience!
The final show of the festival was the midnight concert. It was going to be a a viking graveyard and the plan was that everyone was going to ski there (it was 4k). Unfortunately, the gale force winds made that impossible so the concert was moved. As the organisers and artists had spent weeks building the arena out of snow and ice they put on shuttle buses so that we could go and have a look at the venue anyway, before going on to the the new windproof indoor venue at the local culture church.
And it was really awesome at the viking graveyard. It must have been devastating for them to have to move the venue. Aside from the fact they had built a large amphitheatre out of snow and ice, they had also built a large ice igloo thing (which is what I imagine an ice-bar is like inside) and they had created lots of ice installations around the place as well. Oh well.
It was hard to photograph it as it was dark and very snowy and very windy. Another 'hearts and minds' thing I guess. I'm really keen to go back out there during the day to have a good look - I think it will be there for a few more days before nature or the volunteers remove it all.
On the way to the shuttle bus we walked past the normal village amphitheatre where all the other shows had been and as there was no-one around we snuck onto stage (via the back-stage snow tunnel) and checked out some of the instruments including the guitar which was cooling off I guess…
We also had another look today - they are pretty free and easy with access to the instruments really - this is me playing the remains of the ice balafon...
and Jon on the ice sculpture...
The sound of the ice percussion instruments was really beautiful - they were my favourite part of the concerts really. The strings didn't sound too different from the real thing (to my untrained ear), but the percussion stuff was really lovely. The musicians also created a really nice sound by stepping on or pounding soft snow.
Anyway, after our 10pm visit to the outdoor arena we were just about ready to go to the relocated midnight concert. I wish I could say it was the perfect culmination of the festival and I'm sure it would have been had the weather not turned on us, but once the ice instruments were moved inside (and were melting away like crazy so that the stage assistant was constantly bringing them in and back out to the cold) it sort of lost it's magic. The weird dancer would have fitted right in out at the viking graveyard, but just looked slightly like someone dancing in pyjamas at the front of the church. Also it was so cold and windy outside and so warm inside with everyone wearing their thermals, it was actually hard to stay awake! Overall the festival was great though - some stuff I loved, and some I didn't but that's ok. The instruments were amazing, the sound and atmosphere was great. I'd recommend it to anyone.
This is us heading out to the midnight concert.. I can't adequately describe the wind and cold - but you get a sense from what we are wearing. I had to rush back in to get a key and when I came back out everyone waiting for me had formed a penguin huddle and were rotating around to take turns sheltering from the wind - it looked like one giant giggling, rotating puffer jacket!
These are the grown up Verde-Thon's jammed into the lift on the way down.
Saturday, 7 February 2015
Yesterday we got the kids a private snowboarding lesson as it's so quiet here that there aren't many group lessons going on and none for junior snowboarders. There's no way Jon and I would have been able to teach the children effectively especially as they weren't too keen on the whole thing anyway.
And it turned out to be totally worth it. They both really enjoyed it and progressed in leaps and bounds.
I should just say that we have now reached the expensive part of our holiday. And given we are holidaying in Norway, that's saying something! As anyone who has ever skied knows, going downhill is like ripping up cash at the best of times, and taking children multiplies that factor. It is still significantly cheaper than the same experience in Australia (for example lift passes are $60 for the day) but it's still roughly the equivalent of withdrawing all our remaining cash, dousing it in petrol and setting it alight! It's all good though - nothing we hadn't planned for or expected.
So after the kids had their lessons, Harald took us out for a x-country ski skating lesson which was great - Jon and I at least know what we are supposed to be doing now! yay!
The ice music really turned it on yesterday. There were two sessions on offer (8pm & 10pm) and although I only saw the 2nd one, Jon said the first one (icelandic music with 3 vocalists) was really good too. I'm liking the fact that each session is only about an hour or a bit less (because it's cold, and the musicians have to play with bare hands and mouths I guess), but my favourite thing about it so far, is that the instruments they are playing can suddenly shatter! Awesome!
Yesterday there was a fantastic xylophone player and singer from Africa whose xylophone bars began to break apart during his last song. That was followed by what seemed to be the equivalent of a garage band of older blokes with a sound desk guy jamming with all sorts of ice drums & horns & vocals. They also had two big ice bells which shattered as they banged them together during the finale. Very awesome.
They played with a bit of a sense of humour which was fun too - so as things broke they would grab new things or find ways to keep playing with their suddenly modified instruments.
So I'm really looking forward to tonights performances - although it seems like the weather might be against the organisers as cyclone Ole is hitting the coast of Norway today - it's already pretty windy here this morning - we'll have to wait and see what the day brings.
Today was the day Zali had been looking forward to since we first talked about going to Norway.
After about two minutes of instructions incorporating the following ground rules…1) 'NEVER let go of the sled', '2) Don't tail-gate', 3) Don't drive the dogs shoulder to shoulder (as the dogs get tangled). Then we had a quick introduction to the steering (there was none), and braking (there were two footbrakes - one of which was like an anchor in the snow whist the other was more like a speed reducer than a complete-stopper).
And then we were off. The expert leader was first, an english couple had the 2nd team (with the lady driving and her husband sitting), then was me with Zali, followed by Jon and Jett.
And when I say 'off', I mean OFF, it was like going from 0 to 100 in 1 second while trying to balance on skis without bindings. The moment the sled in front of you went, your own dogs could not be stopped unless you put all your weight full force on the equivalent of the anchor and leant backwards. Cornering was fun, you had to lean against the corner to stop the sled tipping over and when you added soft or slushy snow and lumps and bumps into the equation, it was crazy. Completely crazy. The dogs just wanted to run. In fact they wanted to race. I was constantly on the brake to stop them speeding past the sled in front.
After about 10 minutes the dogs settled down a bit and we all relaxed a little. In fact so much that the lady driving the sled in front of me took a corner a bit fast and ploughed into the bumpy soft snow, unceremoniously tipping her sled (and her husband) onto it's side. For a few moments the dogs sped on with the lady running pathetically behind it, but then either the dogs felt the tipped sled, or the expert driver of the first sled may have called them to stop I'm not sure which. In any case I dug into my brakes so my team didn't run over the sled of fools in front of me. The leader gave the lady a bit of a serve for not controlling her team and then helped her right the sled and her disgruntled husband. The leader was more of a dog person than a tourist guide !
Anyway while we were stopped I took the camera from Zali and turned to take a photo of Jon and Jett from the front. So I had one hand on the sled, one on the camera, and all my weight on the brake. Just as I held up the camera the lady in front got her sled going again which in turn caused my team to surge forward. Suddenly I was falling backwards off the sled (and the brake), while the camera was heading into orbit. Prioritising the sled ahead of my camera I lunged for the sled handrail -by some miracle I just managed to grab it and drag myself on board as it took of and as I heard the soft 'plonk' of the camera returning to earth behind me. What a chump's mistake - not seeing that the dogs were about to go I was totally caught out. Luckily Jon witnessed all of this just as his team started to move after mine and amazingly my camera wasn't trampled by his six dogs and then the remaining parts crushed under his sled. Instead, in a manoeuvre which would have made grandfather proud, he directed Jett to lean over the side of his sled as they went past and pluck it up out of the snow while he counterbalanced the sled on the other side. It was like a boaty plucking his favourite hat up out of the water with a boat hook. I was just able to glance back and see them do it as my sled skidded away (thankfully with me on it). Phew. Not only was I saved the humiliation of my team of dogs overtaking the leader without me on board (thus breaking ground-rule number one), but I also didn't have to admit that I only had one hand on the handlebars and we didn't have to go back for my camera.
And also if I hadn't managed to just grab the sled as it scootered away, I wonder how long it would have taken Zali to realise she was driverless… "mum, we're going a bit fast props we should slow down"… "mum?".. "MUM???" ..
After we finished we were treated to a fireplace, a warm drink and a debrief with the other team. It was lovely. So much fun.
Friday, 6 February 2015
After a very brief but nice stay back in Drammen, we reloaded the car with our luggage and some very useful borrowed ski gear and most useful of all, our very own handsome Norwegian chauffeur. Here he is helping Jon stuff the car..
Amazingly they were able to close the boot after all that..
Lars-Henrik has a lot of experience driving in ice and snow so he drove us up to Geilo while the other Verde-Thon car had to wait until after the passengers had completed their day jobs. We early-leavers arrived in the middle of the afternoon with the back of the car looking like this as a result of the last hour of wind and snow:
Funnily enough the sides and front were find but the back had more than an inch of snow attached!
Geilo is a fairly low key ski resort halfway between Bergen and Oslo. There are lots of cross country trails and downhill trails, but most excitingly, the Ice Music Festival is on this weekend which is what drew us here in the first place. We've hired a great and spacious apartment from airbnb for 1/4 of the cost it would be in an equivalent ski town in Australia so we're looking forward to relaxing and enjoying everything about this place and this event.
Our apartment is on the forth floor of a building with a supermarket in the bottom. So we could do this..
Yep, we bought stuff in the supermarket, then just took the trolley all the way home - it was more amusing than it was practical actually!
So after a cross country ski on skating skis around the local lake (about 10k), which nearly killed Jon and I who are really amateur ski-skaters at best. At the same time Lars Henrik had trouble going slow enough for us to keep up. In the end he just went ahead then turned back every now and again. I think on one of his trips ahead of us he had time to get a haircut and on the other he was able to sit down for a three course dinner before returning. Something like that anyway. Nevertheless we survived to make it home, have a quick dinner, then go out to our first official event of the Festival..
Some kind of weird singing and seemingly random instrument playing and a bit of growling as well. The instruments were really interesting and fun to watch and hear them be played - there were ice drums, xylophones, horns and a stringed ice instrument. However the music itself was really odd and I didn't love it. I'm hoping for something a bit more um..musical.. tomorrow night.
Thursday, 5 February 2015
But here you are - It can't be said I don't try to satisfy my readers... Here is another photo of Putin. With this expression, Putin is saying "back off human or I'm burning the house down next time you are out. Don't think I won't".
Amusingly Norwegian cats are called (phonetically) Cattapusses - i.e. the opposite of pussycats. heh heh
From being the worst dressed, chumpiest chumps out on the trails on our first day in Norway, we're now practically Norwegian, drinking hot chocolate and eating Kvikk Lunsj (norwegian kit-kats) by a river in the sunshine in minus 14. We are so Norwegian we even brought something to sit on so our butts didn't freeze.
Yep today it was minus 14 and the snow was sparkling in the sunshine. In fact the air was sparkling as if someone was scattering glitter from the sky. It's been around -5 or so until today so the almost 10 degree drop took some getting used to. I was afraid we'd freeze if we stopped moving but in the sunshine it was perfectly fine. Not having any wind makes a big difference.
It was our last morning in Lillehammer we just had to go our for one last ski. This week the kids (and the adults) have improved heaps - it's been great. We just need to convince them that downhill will be fun too as the next 6 days will be more focused on that.
After our morning trip we returned to Lillehammer and said goodbye to the lovely Korsæth family and the dog then headed back down to Drammen. It's amazing to think that we ski-ed one zillionth of the available trails. There's so much more to do - I hope it won't be so long before we are all back again.