When the question is “Where should we go for a cheap holiday?”, the answer is rarely “Norway.”
We were two unemployed Australian journalists… or as the current job market might have it, “content copywriters looking for new opportunities”. And, an opportunity had just arisen, in the form of a free week between other holidays, to discover the riches of Norway.
Of course, a trip to the fjords isn’t without its own specific challenges.
The first problem with the fjords in Norway we discovered, is getting there. Quickly disabused we had the money to travel by cruise ship, we opted for more extravagant means…
Before looking into car rental, I’d just assumed the only car that would get you to West Norway was a Fjord Escort (boom boom!). As we sat in the rental agency in East Oslo, we contemplated the upcoming 1000km journey in the car I’d reserved: a Toyota Yaris…
“Lift up your spirit with a Yaris,” claims Toyota’s promotional material. Anywhere else but Norway are there better and cheaper pick-me-ups available on virtually any street.
Lucky then, the car rental agency came through with its first piece of luck: the Yaris was unavailable (a visiting Saudi royal perhaps?), and we would have to be upgraded to a BMW.
Set to go, with our bags in the boot, and a full cup of coffee forgotten on the roof, we encountered our second problem with Norway’s fjords – there’s a hell of a lot of them.
How do you know the best one to visit? I’d seen promotional material from Air France for Stavanger, but the risk of meeting someone French was too great for this to be a reliable holiday option.
What else then? Geiranger? This one stuck in my head…but again, that was mainly from cruise ship publicity, and my own love of reading articles that rubbish cruise ships (of which David Foster Wallace’s ‘A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again’, and Jon Ronson’s are two stand-out examples from a strong field).
On the ground, we heard that Geiranger was population 500 locals, 3000 tourists. Not to mention cruise ships so big that the ground deck is level with the shore, and the top pool deck and tennis court on par with the cliff top.
Kate though was an Instagram junkie, and through extensive research had come across a smaller, lesser-known fjord encircling lake Lovatnet.
While the sunlit instafilters painted a delightful picture of the place on social media for Kate, mine was a more macabre interest.
A few years earlier I had watched a Norwegian disaster film, The Wave, about a town on the fjords that was wiped out when a chunk of the mountain had collapsed into the water, created an enormous tidal wave. As it happened, two villages nearby, Bødal and Kjenndal suffered such a fate in 1905 and again in 1936. Building your village too close to the shore once could be considered unlucky. But for it to happen twice, that’s just tragic. (Here’s a succinct account of the story.)
Upon arriving however, it was clear the allure of building by the water. The Lovatnet and other lakes are filled with meltwater from the nearby glaciers, lending them a tropical emerald hue. Forgive me as I reach for my thesaurus to describe water of colours I’ve never before seen, but judging by the comments on Instagram I later received, I would now describe them as “envious green”.
The water was also delicious. To taste perfection, dip your bottle into the lake for some perfectly, icy pure water, the likes of which I’ve seen sell for 50 euros a bottle in Bon Marché.
Kate, a dab hand at social media, was quick to see the opportunity. She downloaded a series of photo filters specially designed for the Lovatnet area, which made the colours pop even more strikingly. And striking is the right word, as that also describes the approach we took to posing.
Barely a landscape could be appreciated without it being captured on screen from several angles (most of which were identical), given an even more dramatic filter, and uploaded for the envy and vicarious living of our stuck-at-home friends.
If Kate had a library of filters, she had global database of poses. All of these were variations on her walking, skipping or turning seductively in front of a 100,000 year-old geological wonder.
My favourite was the one I call “airing the armpits”. You walk 5 metres in front of the camera, and lift your arms up as if you need to aerate them surreptitiously (not far from the truth TBH – we were camping after all).
Another, self-explanatory post, is the “look-back turn”. It starts with a forward walk, then just as the camera is about to click (for the hundredth time), you suddenly turn as if someone had called your name (but who? Remember, the premise for social media is that you are all alone and at one with nature.)
Kate made it all seem easy enough, so I decided to give it a shot. But my forward walk looked like a cowboy learning to walk in high heels, and the ‘airing my pits’ made me look like a hypnotist had turned me into a chicken.
So instead I tried variations on a yoga pose. Having only done yoga a few times my references were meagre, so there ended up being a lot of downward dog on the rocks.
I combined these with some gym routines from my weekly circuit class. Some squats, a few pushups, and some planks with a leg in the air. The results on camera were instantly better than anything I’d achieved at the gym for the past 6 months.
The last difficulty we had with our road trip was accommodation. Prices in Norway, as most people not from Norway are aware, are enough to make your eyes water. So much so, that if I hadn’t read lake Lovatnet was filled with meltwater, then backpackers’ tears would be my second guess.
The solution was to camp. I had brought with me a two-person tent. Being 193cm tall, and Kate not far off that, we were going to be stretching its technical specifications.
The tent was lightweight, and so too it turned out, were we. I woke up alone in the tent on the Wednesday morning, Kate having bolted in the night for the relative comfort of the BMW where she wedged herself in like a banana (at last! Something resembling fruit in Norway!). We subsequently dubbed it the Bedroo-M-W, and Kate spent the remaining two nights there, while I slummed it in the tent.
Still, the photos reveal none of those stories. Sometimes, social media is best enjoyed like some of that cool glacier water. Unfiltered.