Trip Start Jun 14, 2008
Trip End Aug 22, 2008

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Flag of Norway  ,
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Unsurprisingly, it has been pretty cold while out at Sea considering we're traveling to Norway in the upper half of the globe.  Life at sea still involves meeting new people every day, some that will become friends, and others that will be forgotten within the hour.  I've kept to my promise of hitting up the gym at least everyday, and have even started to frequent at least twice a day to keep up with cardio in the morning and weight lifting in the evening. 
6-27-08 Norway is XTREME(ly expensive)!
It's amazing what the lack of darkness can do to your mind when the clock says its 1am and it's still light out.  Not sure I could ever get used to that to be honest.  Your mind starts playing tricks on you and there's never enough time in a day, so when in doubt, stay awake so that you never miss a moment.  Welcome to Norway, land of the never setting summer sun and the keeper of many hours of lost sleep. 
We ported in Bergen and after managing to sleep through three wakeup phone calls, I finally got up to make the rounds and take pictures of our entrance to Norway.  Of course, immediately after we couldn't take it anymore from 6-7am and after a full breakfast, we snoozed until ten and were quite possibly the last few individuals off of the ship.  A small group of us headed through Bergen, visited Bryggen, an old fishing community that looks like a wooden shanty town from a Wild West flick and then made our way through to the fish market to try some whale meat, craw daddy's, and reindeer.  I feel like we saw the entirety of Bergen after the first five hours because after the fish market, we traveled up the funicular (think "flying elevator") to the top of the local mountain and hiked down, which offered a picturesque view of the entire city, including many trolls to take pictures of (which happen to be a staple of Norway, since rumors breed during the winter weeks where there was more "night" than "day").  We returned to the ship for a cheap dinner since everything is super expensive in Norway, including $10 beers and $25 meals (so much for the 5:1 conversion rate for Kroner).  After dinner, we went to an Irish pub, walked the strip to a local church, and went to a pub modeled after office cubicles before entering the SAS bar called the "Garage" which offered $8 beers (cheapest around).  We hung out there for a while, shot the shit with a few groups, and then Bobby and I walked home and had some delicious drunchies, including an entire chocolate waffle.
The next day, we were up bright and early at 7am for our 8am train to Voss.  After an hour train ride, we set off for Nordic ventures and were immediately thrust into a group for sea kayaking.  We took a van an hour north somewhat close to Deerdah, Norway, didn't get so much as a lesson from our tour guide, and set off paddling through the fjords.  At lunch after paddling for hours on end, we walked amongst some local sheep and grilled our lunches (delicious on the river!), and then paddled back in a double kayak and posed for some more candid shots.  The beauty of the area is amazing, with waterfalls appearing around every turn from the cliffs.  When we got back to the city of Voss, we explored the tiny city and headed up the mountain to our hostel.  Unfortunately I didn't realize the mountain side hostel was two miles away (my eyes betray me) so we napped during sunset in an open grass field as locals gave us awkward looks.  This week in Voss was the extreme sports festival, so they were having a live concert and each day skydivers and paragliders would be seen racing down toward the ground with smoke trails coming from canisters for effect.  The concert was pretty tame with local bands and a poor showing, but we met up with a bunch of friends at their hotel and drank a bit and had a blast listening to music and just hanging out by the lake side.  Voss is an absolutely gorgeous city, and while it doesn't offer much to do after a few days, its scenery can be enjoyed from any point in the city with mountains towering over each section of the village.  We walked the half hour back to our hostel extremely late and concluded that it was best not to sleep outside under the stars (mainly because it was still so light out that there were NO stars)
The 3am bedtime essentially ensured that we didn't wake up until about noonish, but I had to hurry back to the city so that I could go paragliding.  Originally I thought we would be running off of a cliff to go, but instead we were towed up by boat which allowed us to breach the mountain top skyline and get an amazing view of the area.  I was one of the first to go and after Jan the leader strapped me in to the line, the boat was off without so much as a five minute instructional training.  The entire flight lasted about twenty minutes, five of which was spent parasailing until we released the tow rope to go solo.  Jan let me fly the paraglider for a bit and then nose dived us towards the ground with some spectacular 180 degree spins as we approached for landing.  Unfortunately, after I landed, the boat broke down and therefore everyone after me including Bobbi was left in the lurch as the paragliding was done for the day.  Oh, did I mention it was raining the entire time I was in the sky and he kept having to do special maneuvers to clear the chute from the excess water all the while mumbling obscenities in Norwegian? 
Though paragliding was done for the day, the rest of the group managed a refund for paragliding and instead hiked up to a museum on the edge of the city, made our way to a local pizza parlor for the second deal of the day (up to this point, we had only eaten pita bread and water for breakfast, at a grand total of $3, possibly the cheapest deal ever) and took it to go to eat it by the lake.  We headed to the extreme concert series and half of the group snuck in for a bit since our hippie friend Fox seems like a pro at breaking through concert fences, then we headed off to the local after party bar where it was packed with locals for the Xtreme sports week, and eventually made our way back to the hotel.  Earlier Bobbi and I had planned on leaving that night at 9:30pm, but we rescheduled to leave the next day since the concert and bars were open until 3am.  I finally found myself asleep around 4am, but my train was at 5:15am, so I hopped on that since nobody was awake, and arrived back in Bergen for 630am, finally made it to the ship at 7am, showered and had breakfast, and then hopped back on a bus BACK to Voss at 8am to go white water rafting.  Seem odd to you that I had to travel from Voss, to Bergen, and then BACK to Voss to go on this trip?  Yeah, thank you SAS policy of enforcing that all trips meet at the ship.
Anyway, we loaded up, made fools of ourselves in our wetsuits, and combined into groups to head out.  Luckily I was wearing under armor because I would have been freezing in the ice cold Norwegian water and the rain.  The river was about a class 3-4, so a little weaker than what the Maine Three Rivers Whitewater group would be used to, but it was still a blast.  At this point I hadn't slept for two days though, so after an amazing 4 course dinner provided by SAS on the return trip home, I passed out on the bus and I'm pretty sure pictures were taken of me snoring with mouth open, drool and all.
Norway is an absolutely beautiful, expensive, relaxed, peaceful, rural, scenic, outdoorsy, rainy every other twenty minutes, Xtreme sport hosting, fun loving country, and I'm very happy with the time I spent here.  Look out for our next stop, which involves making peaceful relations with Russian Vodka in St. Petersburg and Moscow. 
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