Off the schneid! Leave it to Lister to give me another surprise. I came to the Lister area to teach. But I also got to see a couple of new birds. The Lister area is one of the top birding areas in Norway – lucky me. However it’s off season, Lister has it magic during migration season. Perhaps I’ll find a reason to return.
New birds: 2*
*Sothøne, seen 20 October in Stavanger, finally got around to reviewing the picture
We Go Up, We Go Down, Very Nice!
“Jesus!” my mind screamed and I felt like I lept five feet into the air. What was that? That sound, it tore the peace of the misty forest apart. “There, ghosts!” my eyes gathered in all the intell. No, wooly sheep. “Oh,” and my focus returned to the soggy trail and my guide, stay with my guide because I am somewhere in Norway but exactly where?
I was running in the Lister area, Farsund was my base for the week; consult the map and then return to this blog. Good.
Norway has two envious paradigms. One, a person is able to walk-hike-run just about anywhere the heart desires, Allemannsrett (“Everyman’s Right” in english). Two, personal health is a national imperative, that is, eat well, exercise, and don’t become a burden.
Following my Tuesday lesson at Lister VgS – Eilert Sundt, there was the important time to socialize with the other teachers in the Personal Room (teachers’ lounge…in Norway they really know how to do the teachers’ lounge. Note, must be part of the social connections at school, it is just expected. Plus Norwegian teachers don’t have their own classrooms so the lounge really is an important home base).
I was introduced to Vidar (psydonemn) while having a cup of coffee, from their custom dinner service #pride. My host for the day told him that I liked to run on my travel. She told me that Vidar was a local running guide. At first glance you may not think that he was a gonzo athlete but you’d be wrong, very wrong. He reminded me of a favorite teacher from days of high school past.
“Can you be ready by 12:20?” he asked. “Yes,” was my immediate response, I didn’t want to even bother to consider having a conflict. Now I just had to get to my hotel ASAP and change.
I was late but he was forgiving. I’ve alway appreciated the kindness of strangers. With a hairy black dog in the back of the van we had a quick drive to the coast. I planned on running the length of the beach and back – my tactic to avoid getting lost – he was going to run with the dog to the top of a local promontory.
I have right to traverse the beach, throw shells back into the sea, watch for birds, and to dream. This community has some of the better beaches in Norway. They will create a trail, most with handicap accessibility, some 40 kilometers long up the coast. Room for anyone to wander, a destination for the wellness of body and soul, a place not for sale.
Any thoughts I had about running in a steady manner ground to a halt as soon as I got the beach: the gentle lap of waves, the force of the wind, and the vision out into the abyss stopped me. Pictures, an attempt to do a Periscope (live-streaming app) and a quick video for my family turned the run into an intermittent stroll.
It was late December but the Gulf Stream gives this coast a gift of warmth, it was about 5 degrees centigrade. Overcast skies were a leaden dome but they couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm. After enough pics I needed to get running or I’d would run out of daylight. The sunset was at 3:42.
And just when I got a good pace, my run was stopped again; birds on the water. Several dark and large duck-like birds, and a couple of petite and light grey feathered swimmers. The low light, my eyeballs, and little iPhone thwarted any definitive observations. Okay, keep running.
Another good pace, an even rhythm on the firm sand, righteous running. The shoreline here has lovely stones and rocky outcroppings like most of Norway, but also sandy dunes with swaying grasses. The roots fight with the waves for the sand, they have for 10,000 years.
Here comes Vidar and the dog. He said the path was hard to follow because of all of the rain so he came back to guide me, stout fellow! Farewell shoreline safety, good. Vidar and the dog alternated being the leader, I followed.
We passed through a gate to control the sheep. A long dark bird was on water like before, but this one was close. Vidar said something was amiss, it didn’t try to flee. I got a good picture and then spotted a corpse of a recently deceased of the species. Maybe they were companions?
Now we’re through the dunes and marshes. Just off the beach the wind disappeared and all sorts of new sounds invaded. During the occupation, the Germans fortified this part of the Norwegian coast with an intensity. We ran past numerous ruins of bunkers, pillboxes, and fortifications. I was reminded of my visit to Normandy. Sheep grazed a distant hill, they are used as natural vegetation management. The dog pulled, Vidar pulled back, victory to the biped.
Across a road we scrambled up Skjolnesveten. This was adventure running: novel, a little risky, imperfect weather, camaraderie, and a goal. A bird exploded away to our left. I asked if it was a grouse, Vidar said it was a Rugde, he made a motion with his fingers about his nose to explain that it had a long thin bill. At 15:18 we reached the summit. The view was thoroughly modern: reclaimed natural areas, the timeless sea, and a massive Aloca smelting plant. And down we went.
The route down was the hard part, caution being the better part of valor. Returning via a different route we spooked a Roe deer, and got our feet good and wet. At the car they drove off, I opted to run back to the hotel. It was a chance to extend the run and to see more of the industrial harbor where two ships were docked.
A couple of weeks ago a Norwegian friend related a story about some hill climbers. They were friends of his who were on holiday. The country in question had certain hills that were off limits or required a local guide, a concept not well accepted by the travels. The pair had bagged the peak and were on their way down when they were confronted by an officer demanding their papers and interrogating them about their poached climb. The duo played dumb and just kept repeating in a pigeon english, “We go up, we go down, very nice!” with toothy grins for added effect. The officer finally gave up and they all went on their way.
What rights do you have to enjoy God’s earth by your own power? In Iowa you are limited. On a few rivers you have the right to float but the shoreline is private. Wisconsinites are free to course any body of water, even if it’s only seasonal. Ola and Kari Nordmann enjoy almost total access to rivers, the exceptions are exceptional. Because of Allemannsrett they can walk the fields and forests, camp most anywhere they please, and not stress about fencerows or property lines. I am jealous.
Thursday was my second date with Vidar. He had shown me on Wednesday an internet map of the destination. “This is a special place,” he pointed to a part of the route. I have heard that a lot in Norway. Seems in every locale there is a hill, rivulet, or forested grove that is special. But the labels have been always pronounced with sincerity, bordering on reverence.
The fog and mist that greeted the sunrise Thursday decided to make a day of it. We ran anyways. Like Tuesday, it was a melange of modernity. We parked next to a new auto tunnel that ran 3 kilometers under the mountain, we ran next to the century old canal that linked the sea to Framvaren and then up the ancient Fossekleiven to the saturated meadows and forests of Raufjellt.
“Over there a German airplane crashed,” pointed Vidar. He said some people died. “Germans,” he added as almost an afterthought for clarity. It was a detail that only added to the contemplativeness of the place.
We were near the point of beginning our descent. We went down through a surprisingly all deciduous forest by way of a switchback trail. I got a lesson from Vidar about how the oak and good wood here was taken by the Danes, and then English to built their fleets. The Dutch built Amsterdam on oak pilings.
The surf, forests, and mountains are for play and pleasure but also history lessons. These sweeps of nature, in all their steep glory, are here to impart health and happiness. They are open to you and me to explore, enjoy, and embrace. And if you are really lucky, you can get an education and a new friend.
Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh
author’s note: landscape photos filtered “mono”, running photos filtered “chrome”
The Wheels on the Bus
9:38 “Now that’s a lovely sculpture for such a remote village,” I thought as my bus rounded yet another bend. “How many bends is that?” I lost track because I never bothered to start counting. Look there, another sculpture, big and grey…and a lot like that first one I saw. Pattern.
No, these were not isolated oddities of sculpture but part of a larger display. Now I wish I had taken a picture of the first one. Alas, an iPhone picture though the window of a moving bus is such a disappointing artifact. It’s much better to just watch and enjoy. Maybe on the return trip I can be better prepared.
Destination Farsund, about as far south in Norway as you can get. And it’s not too easy a trip for the carless. Monday afternoon was a 151 kilometer train ride from Drammen to the airport. A 280 kilometer flight to Kristiansand and then a 45 minute indirect route bus ride to the hotel. The route was my error, don’t diss the bus! Tuesday morning was #900 bus from Kristiansand to Farsund to teach at Lister Vigergaenda Skole – Eilert Sundt. Got all that?
7:56 I am out the door of the Thon Hotel Kristiansand. The air was crisp, the Christmas season lighting was ablaze, and a gaze of ice coated the walks and the streets. My destination was the transportation hub, just a couple of blocks. But new territory in the dark is a recipe for unplanned detours.
7:57 An old man is in a parking lot to my left. He has a cane and is testing the patch of ice he has found himself on. I wonder if he’s stuck. I walk and watch. He shuffles a little here and a little there. It’s not locomotion but he’s not static either. I’m getting to the point of losing sight and then he makes it to the handrail. I’m relieved. Do old men on the ice ever believe they were young?
7:58 The Color Line cruise ship is leaving port. As an inlander from America, the sight of large ocean-going vessels at all, let alone so close to shore is captivating. They light my imagination.
8:00 The depot. I didn’t walk the most direct route here but I made it and it wasn’t raining: victory. The depot is old and worn. It is not old and interesting, not historically old. Just old and run down. A city as beautiful as Kristiansand deserves better. An unpleasant companion in the depot is the sound of the floor sticking and then giving way to the soles of my shoes. I don’t want to sit and I can’t stand still. So I noisily pace.
The fellow inhabitants seem to be emotionally mediated by the depot, such a quiet and sullen group. The most disheveled among us intermittently sleeps on a bench. Others take turns going outside for a smoke.
I spend my time walking amongst the self-promotional posters for the bus service and anxiously awaiting the 900 bus. It leaves from station #1. Nothing yet, I walk back into the depot.
Ah, there it is. I see it approach the other side of depot so I gather my things and head out into the chill. Nothing. It doesn’t come. Pangs of panic begin; I go back into the depot.
The bus is parked. The driver is taking a break before his scheduled time to arrive.
8:24 The driver exits the restroom and heads to the bus. I hear it rumble to life, on my way to station #1.
8:25 My debit card is good. 186 crowns and I take my seat, port side and amidships.
8:30 Without fanfare or really even a warning, we are off.
8:32 First stop, “Bellevue.”
8:37 We are eight passengers and the driver. Highway E39 winds through the west of Kristiansand. The road lies between sharp cuts in the rock. It is really like most any divided, two-lane highway in the Midwest. The bus stops that line the road are the difference.
8:39 The guy behind me moved to the back. Good. I can’t understand why he’d sit RIGHT BEHIND me in the first place.
8:40 Entering Songdalen Kommune. In America when you enter a new town you get a sign with letters. In Norway you get the letters plus a large picture of community’s symbol. It is more inviting and memorable. You can look up Songdalen’s symbol on the internet, I’m not going to tell.
8:45 Three middle school-aged kids get off. The local bus also serves as the school bus, seems like a pretty efficient system.
8:50 Pockets of flat land parallel the highway here and there. Reclaimed from road building, now repurposed as hay and grain fields. The bounty lies wrapped in white.
8:57 A saltwater inlet, deep into the forest. Cottages and boathouses are speckled about the shores. It is the quiet season, the boats wait. People have lived here for a hundreds of years. Are they ready for the sea level to rise?
8:59 Mandal Kommune, another sign, another pretty picture. The speed limit is 70 km/h. The road is a serpentine ribbon. I bet in America you could drive faster. To date, there have been no, none, ZERO child fatalities in automobiles. I’m not sure what’s more amazing: zero in Norway, or that we accept that “x” children in America will die in cars.
9:04 A raft of ducks on the small lake to the left. They are dark blobs on the water. The grey skies deny me identification. A Goldeneye duck is alone in the water near the road. A brace of swans flies overhead.
9:06 Pop radio is ubiquitous. The driver is in his 60s, does he like it or does he use it for noise? Something is playing that sounds like a bad copy of Rhiana. Maybe its just actually her without the autotuning.
9:13 A city, Mandal. We pass a car dealership, it looks like any such place in the States. The rectangular building, glass walls, agents at desks under very bright lights trying to look busy.
9:15 We are actually stopped in Mandal, I guess this is evidence of the city’s status. We are parked outside the knitting shop, “nille.”
9:18 Rolling, farewell to the bundles of yarn arrayed on the walls. So many colors, so many possibilities. I don’t have a real Norwegian sweater, but I don’t want to buy one of the commercially-made ones. I need to find a little old lady.
It should be sunrise by now. It is light enough now that you can see pretty clearly. But there is a heavy overcast. It is dim and there are no shadows.
9:29 Tiny farms, homes and cottages here and there, the work of a surveyor must be steady employment.
9:34 We pass “Tredal” factory, a manufacturer of trailer for cars. Here they are called hangers.
9:36 Hokkah Minnesota? Was that the Root River? And all these statues, clearly there’s a theme. Eureka! I spy a name on a building, Vigeland. Ah, one-in-the-same no doubt. But that’s it and we are through the town, back on E39.
9:44 A hint of blue in the sky. The overcast is thinning in spots.
9:50 A slow climb up a steep hill. More signs warning of moose, still no sign of moose.
9:53 Picked up an older lady, now we are four and the driver. We all sit in the front half. Our location is just east of Rom, along a little branch of the Lygna River.
9:56 We added a father and a young daughter at the stop in Rom. She might be four; she wants to sit ALONE!
9:58 Check, a young boy with ginger hair.
10:03 “Yeah,” yells the boy when the bus stops, they exit. Lyngdal, a big stop and exchange. We are 10 now and I’m the oldest person on the bus. The driver is new too, clearly younger than me. We pass a sculpture, a grey concrete-like rectangle, open with silhouettes for sides. What is it? I first saw this sculpture in Stavanger, then other places, now here. Do you have an answer? The road crosses an expanse of flats, atypical. An ancient flood plain?
10:09 I now imagine I’m on the road from Centerville to Arcadia Wisconsin, Highway 93.
10:10 A tunnel, 940 meters.
10:12 Tunnel number three, this one is short. Signs for Farsund camping and Farsund resorts dot the road, not long now.
10:15 Farsund, I leave the bus. The buildings are mostly white, the clouds have reclaimed the sky. Now I drag my luggage to the school. I’ll try this street.