Our first journey with our van, 5 months through a wintry Norway
That first real week in the van did not go smoothly. Pretty soon, starting the van became more difficult. Every day the temperature seemed to drop a few degrees and by the end of the week, it was -25 C. The landscapes became more impressive, thick blankets of snow glittered in the sunlight, medieval wooden churches stood facing wildly frozen rivers and the forests looked like they had walked right out of Narnia. Every bend was like an entrance gate to a new mountain range, one even higher than the other.
The diesel heater ran day and night (successfully) to keep our van somewhat warm and in the morning we shot out of bed and into our snow-pants. The floor was permanently covered with all the rugs we brought with us. Eyelashes, boogers ín your nose, scarves, and the insides of the windows froze - but we ourselves weren't really that cold. Every day we asked strangers for help to start the van and it often took hours to get the engine running again. We didn't use the sliding door anymore. We learned a few tricks from the Norwegians and left the engine running whilst we had to go to the store or just wanted to take a walk. Towards the end of the week, after a long drive (and thus a warm engine), we thought we could spend half an hour looking at a cliff - and turned off the engine.
But we were soo wrong.
There, next to a beautiful frozen gorge where deer walked on the river at night, our first real week of 'vanlife' stranded
We could also call this blog a love letter to our insurance, the NKC. We soon found out how fantastic they are. The next morning the bus was towed to a garage (because of corona we had to sit in the cabin of our van whilst getting towed - certainly the coldest 45 minutes of our lives) and there, on the parking lot of the garage, we were allowed to keep on living in the van until they found the time fix it. But it apparently -25 wasn't cold enough, and temperatures dropped even more. That was it for the diesel heater. While everything inside froze before our eyes, we arranged with the insurance company for a hotel, and not much later we dragged (after shedding some tears) all our freeze-sensitive household goods on foot to the hotel down the road.
It took a bit over a week for our van to be repaired - a week in which we recovered in the warmth of the hotel, where the very first art subscriptions were prepared for shipment, where we explored Vågåmo (for always a very special place in our hearts, haha) and where I found peace in my creative process.
With new wiring (a lot of things were broken (frozen?)) the new tactic was: to head to 'warmer' areas ASAP. And so that day, from the garage in Vågåmo, we drove quite a while up north - following the dancing green lights. We contacted a new HelpX.net address and, due to the influence of the sea, it was remarkably fifteen degrees less cold there. Deep into the night we found our next white, wooden house and let the engine fall quiet. A lovely bed was made for us and soon the days were stringing together at this man's house and his husky in Namsos.
After two weeks of a lot of cleaning, a lot of walking, and loooads of cuddles with the dog, we were itching to get back on the road again. We had just tasted a week of vanlife and longed for more. To wander into the mountains, to feel at home on the road. So we said goodbye, packed up, and drove off into the wide world again. We had not even left the town before an ominous red light appeared on the dashboard.
A week later, a new dynamo richer and a lot of money lighter, we finally left Namsos for the '17'. A beautiful route up north, along the coast, through mountains, and with many ferries. What a wonderful time that was. The mist was back and gave the landscape a touch of mystery. We drove from fjord to fjord, walked our calves tired, and slowly began to get used to the vanlife. With every creak or stutter of the engine, I saw a flash of fear in Harri's eyes - but all seemed well.
Daylight was almost sacred to us and true to a Norwegian proverb, bad weather did not exist because we dressed for it. The wind blew knots in our hair and our hearts lighter. I loved capturing all the beautiful places we discovered in paint. My heart was beating faster, seeing the sun and the snow playing and creating áll the colors together. We started to enjoy ourselves, became a little more carefree, and hopped through the snow like crazy goats. And what a great camper country Norway is too - we found so many wonderful places where we parked our van for a night in 'the wild'.
One of the places that still puts a smile on my face is Torghatten. A giant hole, or tunnel actually, through a granite mountain. Legend has it, the hole was created when the troll Hestmannen shot his arrow at the woman who rejected his love. SØmna, the troll king, luckily threw his hat between them and so the mountain with the hole was created.
On Google, it looked not thát magical: we actually found mostly pictures teeming with tourists. Yet the path started out surprisingly nice. Between large, mossy rocks and trees with pointy branches, we clambered our way up. And what reinforced the whimsical, mythical atmosphere: except for the whooshing of the wind, it was quiet. There. was. nobody.
Slowly the tunnel came into sight and while we carefully made our descent through the tunnel I felt tinier than ever. Once we entered the tunnel, the world on the other side became visible - a world of turquoise sea and warm-colored grasses - and while we were standing there feeling small, loud cries suddenly echoed through the tunnel. My heart skipped a beat and our gazes shot to the sky. One sea eagle after another glided by, sailing on the air currents.
And so we stood there for minutes, just the two of us, heads in our necks, goosebumps on our backs. The eagles, like us, headed out to sea, and for a moment we felt part of this traveling party. I thought a lot about synchronicity that time and felt so strongly for a moment that this, here small in the grandeur, was what we were doing it all for.
Next week: 'Cathastrophic failure' and up to the hips in snow - the last two months in Norway.