My first real ferry travel in Norway, the one-hour harbor tour in Oslo doesn’t count. To Sauda and the northern edge of my fylke this rove, Rogaland. My time in Rogaland has been like a siege. I have been in one hotel in Stavanger for 10 nights. Now I have made a quick strike to a town almost three hours north for a day of teaching on Friday and same day retreat.
The 510 ferry, “the Fjorddrott,” was scheduled to leave the port dock of the ferry terminal in Stavanger at 15:30; it did. There was an anxious que to board a locals’ only boat, no pushing and shoving but plenty of aggressive bumping and abrading. Exaggerated sighs added to the tension.
At 15:32, the Fjorddrott passed under the Bybrua (large cable bridge between Stavanger and Hundvåg island). The powerful motors quickly pushed the craft from idle to cruising speed. A catamaran hull soaked up the waves. We were insulated from the waves and spray just out the window, the wind was of no concern.
Rogaland is the home to the Viking king who is given credit for unifying Norway. The monument of three swords attests to that past. To think that 1,144 years later, as a descendent of those hardy seafarers, like the rest of the passengers, we cruised in such comfort. We were dry, tapping away on our little screens or chatting. This was no longboat. The romance is for the museuems, today’s vikings cruise boats burning dinosaur bones.
The ship was full. I sat along the window, amidships and starboard. Two women sat next to me, senior citizens. They paid cash when the agent came. The way to pay is with a debit card at the terminal desk or by smartphone. Cash socialized seniors pay a penalty of 25%, they trust what they can feel.
The Fjorddrott cruised north. I looked out the windows or at the other passengers. The other passengers were on their phones and computers, free Wifi aboard – a necessity in Norway, or chatted with companions, immune to the beauty of the bay and mountains on a gray day after work.
The sea temperature was 12 degrees Celsius, plenty cold to kill. At this latitude the sea should freeze but it doesn’t; the miracle of the Gulf Stream washes the coast of the Norway with temperate water. For Stavanger the low temperature for the water is about 5 degrees, the high is 15. Never warm, never frozen, and never safe.
This cruise will take me into the fjords, the dramatic fjords. I want to take pictures, good pictures. But the odds are stacked against me. The cabin windows are tinted and streaked with grime and sea-spray. I need to be on the deck, but I am trapped by my row-mates. It would be selfish to bother them. And with my light jacket, I don’t think I would last too long outside.
Four fish-farm pens are to the starboard, there is a boat in attendance, 15:48. We are just east of Brimse island. A bright gray catches my eye, the Nosefo Tau quarry. In a jagged landscape, the sharp unnatural edges and lines of the quarry clash. Both the mountains and quarry are jagged, it’s close but not the same; navy slacks and a black blazer, 15:51.
Unintelligible Norwegian garbles through the intercom, it is brief and perfunctory. Nobody on board needs to be told where we are, except me. I wonder (and worry a little – it’s what I do). My wondering stops as soon as the Fjorddrott makes a sharp turn to the port-side and slows. First stop: Talgje, 15:54: bump and go.
Tires of all sizes line the concrete pier. The Fjorddrott did not stop to let off passengers as much make contact with the pier while four people crossed the gangplank that was already down while we were yet to make contact. Three men walked away together on the pier, a woman on a bicycle gathered steam for her push up the hill. The Fjorddrott was already backed away and turning, she has no sentimentality.
I am now officially antsy to take pictures outside. It’s something I can’t do, therefore it’s what I really want to do. The ladies begin to put on their coats. Joy! The Fjorddrott is doing a serpentine approach to the dock at Fogn. 16:01, bump and hold. The thrusters of the boat push and hold the boat against the pier. There are about 20 disembarking, the ship sways in her own wake. We are away, 16:02
The cabin still has quite the crowd. There is a couple in the family area. They have an infant. The mother is nursing, the father has a beard, and they are all dressed in black. No women were knitting, I looked. Two young women – girls talk excitedly. They look like they are from Southeast Asia, their dialects say they are from here: modern Norway. To my left are some tables. Friends chat, this is their normal. On the table nearest to me there is a chocolate bar broken up for sharing, a tin of snuff and two coffee cups. One cup is for spit.
Wild fish cruise these water too. The wild fish sustained and then supported a florish in archaic Norwegian society. The Vikings are gone, the fish remain. Some of the fish are Torsk (cod), Sei (pollock), Makrell and trout. Some are iconic, and some are mundane. Wild fish were the identify and economic engine of southwestern Norway, until the oil began to flow. The wild fish are fewer now, more are cultivated, harvested, like the oil. That’s not so romantic, but people need to eat.
I’m still trapped. While one woman left, her friend slid next to me so a middle-aged man could sit next to her. I feel trapped – I don’t like feeling trapped, do you?
Another message crackles on the intercom. The TV monitor also displays the current dock, it reads “Unspecified.” We are at Judaberg. A crowds departs, this is a regular stop; how can it be “unspecified?” Maybe it’s an inside joke? Six came aboard, the Fjorddrott was away at 16:11
Little, er, tiny, farms climbed the hills on Finnøy. It was a view typical of the journey. There’s no reason they should exist other than the Norwegian people have decided they want to keep their tiny farms and instructed the government to craft policies towards that end. Norway is not in the E.U.
The voice of the engines are as loud as ever but my mind has let them fade into background noise. Clouds covered the sky, Stratocumulus opacus. I can still see well, I know my camera cannot. It is early afternoon. What is this journey like in December, in June?
From about 200 million years ago until yesterday, that is about 13,000 years ago, ice covered Norway. Norway had to wait. Sheets of ice in depths and breadths that are incomprehensible covered the land. The glaciers carved at mountains through brute force and patience. When exhausted, the glaciers retreated and the new valleys flooded with seawater. Glaciers have no sentimentality either.
“Standby for Helgøy,” ha, I got that message, I was ready. 16:19, bump and go. A knot of people left, one woman had a bouquet. The agent closed the gangway door and returned to my area, I caught her Attention. Her uniform was dark, like the NSB (railway) agents. On the epaulettes where a star or chevron would go, she had an anchor. Egalitarianism is omnipresent.
I showed her a google map on my iPad, where do I get off for Sauda? She pointed and said Ropeid. I asked her how long, and then in a nervous reaction added a number, “20 minutes?” “Kvart på seks,” she replied. I had 90 minutes to go, I already knew that. Nervous chatter, why do I do that?
Nesheim: 16:21. Two away, one aboard. Thrusters make the craft pirouette. The water boils. Cruising speed.
Distance ships have turned on their lights. Homes twinkle in the distance. I have lost my chance for pictures of merit, he who hesitates is lost. Or, do good things come to those who wait?
A postcard village appears. A modern arrangement of slips and boats is set against a cozy knot of homes hugging the harbor and climbing the hill. 16:39, we’re already away from Nedstrand. I see three cars taking on riders at the pier. There can’t be too many cars on this island.
Zero to cruising speed is a quick transition, like a Widerøe DeHaviland, this must be fun to pilot. Off the starboard we pass a raft of ducks, (Somateria mollissima). Jelsa at 16:54, bump and go. The guy in the back row is working on his fourth beer.
17:04, BUMP and go at Hebnes. No one aboard seemed surprised. Maybe that’s another inside joke.
I am checking my Google map a lot. I should just leave the screen open and watch it like an international flight. I think we’ve entered the tight squeeze to Sand. There are lights ahead on the starboard, a town? No, another quarry, Norsk Stein.
God, it feels so late, I just caught myself yawning: it’s only 17:14. Marvik, 1718. Now the walls of the mountains are higher and closer, they compound the darkness.
Approximately 200 million years ago, Norway was part of super continent, Laurasia. The Maritimes, the British Isles, and Scandinavia were conjoined in that distant epoch. They split and the the fracture was filled by the sea, ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. And from the equatorial warmth, a conveyor belt of water began to flow north. The harvest of the tropical sun made Norway a habitable land.
A bridge and tunnel? Where are we? The Google map doesn’t show them, new construction maybe? It’s 17:22 as well pass under, and slowly for some reason. Respect? The Fjorddrott is near Aasarødholmen. How much do these bridges and tunnels cost? How many cars will ever use them?
I claim full darkness outside, although I know the windows are tinted. The lights of Sand are glowing brightly on the starboard. I bet this village is really cute. 17:38, reverse thrusters and roar! Many people board, they say, “Stavanger,” to the agent as they pass the hatch. I think I am next.
I’m at the front of the cabin now. Holding onto a chrome rail and peering against the window to see the approach. In the distance are three greater lights and three lesser lights, the docking area for Ropeid: where I get off and the Fjorddrott turns around.
Gangway at Ropeid, 17:43. Maybe 12 of us disembark, the tattooed lady with the Pomeranian and the woman carrying a sleeve of 2 meter poles that look like something intended for interior decoration join me. Two buses await, most of us board the bus bound for Sauda. 17:45 the bus rolls, the Fjorddrott is already away, she doesn’t care.
The road hugs and winds along the fjord through granite cuts and forest, new and old tunnels. 18:13 is the first stop, the bus equivilent of a bump and go. A beacon appears, a towering blue flame. It is magnificent, what a welcome to Sauda. It looks like an industrial flare but it has a great off-the-books jobs as a signature welcome. 18:17, everybody off.