Our very first big adventure, 5 months in a wintry Norway
We drove off my parent's driveway on the last, very rainy, Monday of November 2020. Nervous, more than a little bit naive, and filled with pride of our self converted tiny home on wheels - we set out on our first big adventure.
Our first destination and soon safe heaven was Naersnes. Through helpx.net we contacted Strandheim - after a few messages back and forth about chores, accommodation and animals - and after driving almost in one go (because pcr-tests validity for 72 hours) we suddenly stood there. In an open field, with a squirrel dancing from tree to tree as the only sign of life.
Soon we fell head over heels into the open arms of this place. The big white house with the double-bunk bed in the cozy room, the hill ending in the fjord, the goats 'Lillebei and Knerten', the cat, the dogs, and above all - the few people that lived/stayed there.
It was quiet though. Deafeningly quiet almost. A group accommodation without groups, a gigantic kitchen without eaters, a soccer field without kids.
Those first weeks were misty, grey, and mysterious. We did chores around the grounds, wandered through the forests, and found snow in higher altitudes. Over time glimpses of sun started to show and the mist started to fade - as if they wanted to ease us into the breathtaking beauty. Days were short, but the nights beside the fireplace were warm and cozy. I painted, soaked up all the new and astounding landscapes in the sponge of my heart, and painted more. Christmas was visibly nearing through the heavily decorated houses in 'our' small village.
On Christmas Day, the sun was bright and almost warm. So naturally, we didn't have time to sit inside to dine (or more importantly prepare), so everybody went out into nature. A few days later we enjoyed a traditional Norwegian Christmas dinner - a Christmas tree decorated with tiny Norwegian flags included. The end of the year neared, and we watched the new year arrive with a glass of Lidl wine beside the fjord, just the two of us. Fireworks erupted above Oslo, on the other side of the fjord, and I saw them sparkling in Harri's eyes.
The last weeks in Naersnes flew by. We enjoyed our favorite spots for last times, organized coffee moments for neighbors, and slowly but surely, started to say our goodbyes to the people who had nestled in our hearts. We packed our things and we saw the squirrel for the second and last time on our final day there.
And off we were! Euphoric of a new adventure beginning, overwhelmed by the grand beauty through which our road winded. We headed north, further inland. With each tunnel through the mountains, the amount of snow seemed to increase by a few inches. We drove through endless forests with branches heavy under the weight of glistening snow. Mountains and frozen waterfalls flashed by and for our first night of 'wild' camping, we had picked a beautiful spot in the mountains. With our little heater and an extra pair of socks on, we crawled into our cozy bed that night and I peered through the skylight at the Milky Way.
I woke up at 5 o'clock by an all-pervading silence. I love silence, really, but something was not right here. I shook Harri awake and felt it on my nose: the heater had gone out. Outside it was about -8 C and I panicked slightly at the idea of how quickly the temperature would drop inside. Not because I was afraid of being cold, but because I could already see our supplies (and paint tubes and equipment!) freeze to pieces.
With the sleepiness quickly gone, we went to investigate. Soon we found out: household battery dead. Cause? We had left the refrigerator on. The irony.
We decided to drive as quickly as possible, and after several attempts, the engine luckily started. I did a final check to see if everything was ready inside and closed the sliding door - or at least I tried to. The sliding door bounced open again immediately. The locking mechanism had frozen.
We tried everything, approached the first Norwegians who drove into the parking space and together we fiddled with the door - but to no avail. With a lashing strap tied through the handle of the front door and the sliding door, and wearing thick coats, we finally drove (slid) down the mountain. We parked the bus in the just-rising sun and with a plastic bag filled with hot water squeezed into the lock (thanks for the tip Uncle Gert!) there was finally a magical 'click' hearable.
We were euphoric! Unfortunately, this first night was just the beginning of a week full of bad luck - and spoiler: it only got worse (also more beautiful thankfully).