søndag 16. juli 2017

An Odd Experience Without the Nordstoga - Telemark

We took upon ourselves to extend what for many is a day tour to Bo Sommarland, a water-fun-park in the midst of Telemark. Boe as I have no oe with a strike through on this keyboard to try and be more precise. A place to live you can translate it as.

Being DNT members only every other year, it fell this year to join up and do something with our limited budget for holiday,  with long standing credit card debts and that other D of cost, decorating, getting in the way of a trip abroad or even a Hardangarvidde cabin tour again. Bo Sommarland however did a very decent package including hotel and breakfast for about 250 euros for all four of us, so that fitted in with budget, but not quite with our style. So a cabin, a hut, a basic over nighting premises was sought.

Like Scottish Youth Hostels, the Tour Society's "huts" in Norway range from shacks and even open lean to's all the way to fully fledged mountain hotels with full board if you so desire. After you join you find out also by experience that in fact the huts out in the sticks are not all that cheap to live in actually per night for a family of four, especially once you've paid for hermetic and dessicated food and drinks. Our last trip I worked out was about the same as shopping around for a hotel or 'pensjonat' with breakfast included, given you can either quite legally make a packed lunch from the 'smorgasbord' of bread slices and various goodies or just pinch one anyway.

So far with our iPad-android kids it has been hard to get them to do any serious cabin trips, They love the cabin experience but motivating them for a 17km hike in, which seems to be a rough average to the first hut in a tour of cabins, is just too difficult. Last time 10km into Kildebu ( Bu being the same meaning as Boe, kilde meaning spring or source) on Hardangarvidde. A spectacular high plateau with glacier in distance experience it was, the unusually high termperatures made for a hot afternoon and evening's tour in over the moor. We had cheated even more the previous days by staying at Hallingskeid which is a DNT hut right at the station. The only other partakers of such idleness were older ladies with bad joints and some Romanian beggars who werent allowed in to help themselves to the over priced larder. It gave them a good feel for the "Hytte" and high mountain experience, but it was only myself who actually made it up to the top of the peak, at 1500m, a cheat too, higher than Ben Nevis but only like a walk in the Pentlands to conquer from the Bergensbane station roof.

This time we cheated even morre just to give the kids a reminder tasting of the finer things of cabin life. Mosquitos and a bad night's sleep in a room with curtains which seem to be phosphorescant is par for the course. 'Kjerringa" my dear other half of the Norsk persuasion,  planned one hut on the Bo side of things, which we could really cheat with by driving up to and then only having a half hour to get to the amusement  park next day. That one was booked, for obvious reason, it is near a lot of good places to walk and visit in a car. The next one looked very near in fact on the map when  at large scale, but we were about to discover some of the ins-and-outs of Telemark and this type of easy access hut.

FIrstly we had to pick up the keys at the region's office in Skien and not out at some petrol station or the likes in the sticks. This however did not look like much of any a diversion, and in fact could be put on the way. Delivering the keys back was then an issue, because it was about 120 degrees and 60 km the wrong direction for Boe. Ok, we could post them. Ah, nope, they were down to emergency last chance key sets because it was high season for their own local members. I didnt even need to bite my lip for once and just went with the flow, the kids had said they love car tours, as indeed I did when I was wee, just give us the chance to run around every couple of hours outside and play a while, plus  some picnicing and chocolates.

Next thing was that no matter the need to deliver keys, our Hut of choice was bound in by the valley system which you find along the whole south of Norway, The valleys run with the direction of the ice from that age which ended 10,000 years ago of course,. That is North-South. Where valleys give way to higher ground, usually there are large barren areas, VIddas, like the famous one in the Hardangar area and east over. which ends incidentally in Telemark. Our Cabin was about as far up the valley as you can get before it is just lakes , stoney outcrops and bogs. Now in places like Hardangarvidde or Dovrefjell and so on, the need to get twixt main cities has driven rail and then road over the tops, akin to Rannoch Moor in dear green Caledonia.  Not for darkest Telemark. A mere 30 km as the crow flies with about an extra 100 to actually get down the valleys and up them again to reach Bo. Keys out of the picture  there was a very slight short cut which follows the Grenlandsbane up the east side of the innappropos 'North Sea: lake up towards Bo.

The cabin was seemingly a very traditional one with cream yellow walls, green beams and blood red edging like many a traditional farm house. One outhouse, the shitter and woodshed as it turned out, was at least a hundred years old, a log cabin, but it transpired from the concrete foundation and damp course that our cabin was in the cosmetic style of a trad hut but completed by Telemark Tour Society TTF in the nineties. Very nice though it was too, with a boat at hand to chill out on the little creek outside, and a morning bathe to be had there in too. The kids had drunken cola, diet variety and after 7pm. After a joyous arrival, fetching of pales of water from the brook, and chilling out with the mandatory installed board game, the kids did  not want to sleep. All the woes of the world and combinations of who would sleep where and get mummy and up bunk bed or down, side room or main 'stua' living area ensued until midnight, and us with a suppioosed 8am departure.

Now I had not mentioned that this road went mostly up from Skien and deterioated into gravel after 20 of its 70 or so km, and had a boom with when the going got really into the sticks. The hut turned out to be at around 1800 ft above sea level, and thus cool in the morning so dips in the creek were quickly forgotten, and good old Norwegain kettle cooked coffee ensued in great volumes. We went down a gear in both mentality and in the car to bring us back down from the high chaparal, and into the valley south. However fate would conspire to give us a yet longer tour back to Skien. For some unknown reason, I could blame 'kjerringa's navigation and presumption or route, we took a 90 cegree wrong turn and ended up bamboozled. The sun at one point seemed wrong to me, being on the right and not the left, but I put this town to the convoluted nature of the roads. Soon we found ourselves negotiating a one in six climb to what surely must be the way out, when we came to a dead end, and a real kind of banjo land feeling about the woodsmans houses we came across. We scurried down ,and retraced our tyre tracks, realising we had driven up a dead end, and had merely missed one crossing and one sign,

Soon it dawned on me that the sun was on the right side now that we had done a 180. We carried on with the name of one road secured as correct, and the solar compass telling me to carry on south., At some point we went over our mistaken 90 degree out junction without even noticing it, until the next junction seemed familiar and the sign to Sommarseter was confirmed as one of many we had really in actual fact seen, Refering to the map one more time at a subsequent junction, I could see we had driven a long way in the wrong direction, But we had a two day pass at the Sommarland and in any case it takes time for the air to warm up, with the mid afternoon being most comfortable for water shoots and river runs., Lost once again, we found ourselfves driving into yet another farm yard, with the prospect of shotguns casually over thighs on rocking chairs, cocked and ready though just in case. We were actually back in Christian civilisation had we cared to scan the tree line for Luksefjell church spire. The chapel could fit ooh maybe fifteen parishoners at a guess. The internet of its day for the remote valley.

The rest of the tour was just boring really with me driving as fast as I dared on gravel tracks down towards Skien and then remembering to keep my license by holding the snails pace town speed limits here. Key delivered, we turned another 180 approximately and headed off up the other side of the North Sea to Bo.

The water-park was really much more than we had expected, given we had two days to enjoy what we wanted there. The first series of flooms are built onto a handy hillside, making for a great deal of walking and indeed, eager running back up to the top., Queues were an issue on all the rides where you could either go with someone or compete against someone. and on the twisty classic floom, which slung a fatish, muscleyish middle aged man like me out of it at twice the speed and considerable more force than kiddie  winkies went on it. The scariest were the straight liners, either the big  drop man and madness test , a 20 meter near vert' drop into a trough with I guess about 50mph being achieved, and even the three lane racer was quite a scare. Corners slow you down, give you a centrifugal thrll and hide the obvious fall to death from your eyes, where as straight down is like a certain death, only like a parachute, the water arrests your descent safely, if a little violently,

Day one I had slept four hours and was not in the mood for much, think I went round the river too, but the long slide twice or three times otherwise was my lot, lacking the will to climb stairs and stand in qeues, I put my reflective sun glasses on and milf spotted away most of the afternoon. Overpriced junk food duly consumed, we started to plan day two with our own packed lunch, and getting a good pitch at the top round river section early.

The hotel was at Akkerhaig in Gvarv, with names to places like Nordagutu it all seemed rather alien to standard Norsk, but of course Telemark is a reknowned source of the wildest of dialects. Our hotel had a lakeside view and you could see the Telemark canal section heading off north towards Notodden and Rjukan. A well kept secret internationally methinks, Norske motorboaters delight in this tour whcih rather like the Caledonian canal, sews together a series of lakes and slow flowing rivers with locks to take you to the finest inside fillet of Telemark and the famous lake where the Heroes of the film, no americans sorry Kirk, bombed the heavy water wagons into the deep., It must rank as amongst the most very scenic canal journeys in the world, and should I coil up my sheets and roll my sails, a stink boater I, those waters would be plied with a putt-putt diesel cabin cruiser.

Day two at the splashy fun park started actually almost as late as day one, a good lie in had until 0830 at the hotel followed by gernerous brekkie al. fresco. Wonderful stay, apart from some rudeness over DIY waffles.  I got rather agitated with a woman making it seemed a hundred of the, patiently and persistently and lying about more mix comng in the bowl. Park reached we felt like old hands, and got on the choo choo train to see the whole park all be it at a snails pace. Being 24 degrees forecast, and being very wet in the west of the country, it seemed half of Bergen had fled the rain there and sat themselves down in a camp for climate refugees, We did not get a decent place to sit, let alone any sun loungers, and ended up on a picnic lawn out of sight of any attractions. This being the missuses decision, instead of securing a as yet shadowy, but strategic sunny spot on the main slope, I buggered off with the kids for an hour, determined to take all the medium tough runs and see If I could build up to the big drop or rubber dinghy rollercoaster. We played and played and thrived in the joy of it all, witth the wee man bounding up a one  in six as if carried by the wind,.I had to 'paddle' ski technique to keep up with him.

:Laterr we try to encamp at the circular river attraction, and after some debate and a false start by the paddling pool, found a nice spot on some rocks which was like being on a the 'Svaberg' so many noggies love to escape to along the coast and rivers. We baked and enjoyed dips to cool down, before endulging in the wave dump they sent round the river on the hour, every hour or more often, Pretty cool it was too!  Clouds gathered, kicked up from the damp north sea westerly wind and the crowds started to thin out. We took a final few circuits  on what proived to be the kids favourie, a triple funnel drum affair with twon man figure of eight bathing rings to go two up in or single donuts to enjoy being slung into a conical flaks on its side, with fate and physics deciding if you would be slung out backwards or not. Time marrched on, with a five minute wait or so each time round, and soon the clouds rolled up more, threatening thunder, and we were a bit cool and ready for a warm car.

Final retail opportunity trap sprung with momentos made in China, we took off through southern Telemark to our next desitnation on the Aust Agder coast. A jig saw puzzle for me to fit the last bits into place, we wanted to avoid the boring main road and take a short cut over some hills, THis prove to have less straights than Bennets night club in Glasgow of a saturday eve. I kept the pace on without scaring the kids and ``
from Lunde over the top and down to Drangedal, The same was true of the road south of there, the 38, which must be frustrating for any 'muist get past' ego., A white van man appeared in my rear view, only to realise that my breaking at chevrons was good common sense and backing off, We missed our magical short cut through Gjerstad somehow. Everything in retrospevctive carotgrapchical review, works in diamonds in this part of the land, with us missing the jucntion on the second of two diamond road patterns, me looking for familiarities on the first. Soon though we were at the Kragero junction to the Main E18 southbound trunk route, and the smooth road and lack of 30mph corners made up for the lsightly longer route. White van man, who was creating paranoic feelings in my other half, backed off at his chance to whizzx pass us in a three lane section, and I hit the gas pedal there after maintaining a crafty 10 percent or so above the signage, my speedometer being oh so very over optimistic,. Home came in the late gloaming for us, a tired and  super satisfied little clan, mini break fully enjoyed,