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Warm hearts in cold countries

ski adventure with pulk
The White Trail
September 24, 2020
skating in Sweden
A game of Hearts
October 9, 2020

Tuesday August 4th - Kongsberg

Relieved, we turn into a small dirt road and leave the busy road. It is sometimes inevitable to skate short stretches on busy roads. In the Netherlands, there would be a cycle path parallel to the busy road, but that cycling culture is missing here. On Google Street View we try to plan our routes on quiet roads, but sometimes a quiet road is anything but quiet. Conversely, a busy road on Google Street is sometimes completely deserted. If the road is really to busy, we try to find an alternative as soon as possible. We prefer a dirt road where skating is impossible, and we sometimes have to walk for miles, rather than a busy road where cars and trucks rush past us at 90 kilometers per hour. The Norwegians are respectful drivers, but we still feel rushed when a row of cars hangs behind us because they cannot overtake on a climb.

“Privat veg - Hundenpensionatet Eikedokk” is written on the wooden sign along the dirt road. In Norway, Sweden and Finland there is a allemannrett (right to roam - everyman’s right), which means that you can move freely over public and private land, if you follow a number of rules. For example, you are not allowed to walk on cultivated fields or through people's gardens. After a mile we arrive at the dog boarding house. A steel chain blocks the walkway that leads to the river to the right of the house. We can just get around it with our trailers without having to loosen our harness. We have already done 48 kilometers today, including a monster climb that took more than half of the day. Our hope for a nice camping spot lies by the river, but we don't get much time to look around. "Mosquitoes, lots of mosquitoes!" Olivier shouts, standing still just a little too long. Until two days ago we had hardly any mosquitoes. The coldest month of July in 40 years may be the cause, but the warm days in August bring the mosquitoes to life. We put on our wind jackets, Zoë wraps a cloth around her legs and Olivier smears mosquito repellent. To our right we see a tiny island with a large white chair in the middle of it, standing on the rocks. With some imagination, we see a flat spot where the tent could fit.

We quickly jump into the water to wash ourselves. After the rainy start (with wet feet) in Norway, the weather has been beautiful for the last few days.

Our end goal of the day is always a lake or a river where we can wash off the sweat before we put on clean clothes. Just as Olivier jumps naked into the water, a young lady walks past with a dog. She walks all the way to the dam further down the river and then returns. During the next hour she walked past several times, each time with a different dog. We have now set up the tent and wash our freshly picked chanterelles in the water. It is the only mushroom we recognize and dare to eat from the forest. In addition, blueberries, wild strawberries and raspberries are in abundance. Every morning we have fresh berries with the muesli and on top of the crackers. We usually scoop water straight from the river, but here we do not trust the water because there are a few villages upstream. Zoë walks to the dog boarding house with our water bag. Ana is home alone, her parents have a day off for the first time in the summer. She has seen our tent already and is happy that someone comes to talk. Because of corona, the university has not started yet. In the dog boarding house, she sees only her parents and a bunch of dogs, but she misses her peers. She hands Zoë the full water bag. “What else do you need? Food, electricity, a shower? ” she immediately asks. Zoë is overwhelmed by the enthusiastic help and says we'll come to charge our phone later. Back at the tent she says to Olivier "so special that she immediately offers everything, while her parents are not at home at all".

At half past seven in the morning we suddenly hear “good morning”. It seems a far sound in our dreams at first, until we realize that someone is calling to us. "Can we invite you for breakfast?" Ana asks. Her parents are back home and they invite us. She don’t have to ask that twice. Five minutes later we knock on the door for a real Norwegian breakfast. In fact, it hardly differs from a Dutch breakfast, although they smear their bread a lot thicker than we are used to. Ham, cheese, egg and vegetables go on the same sandwich. They also have a kind of brown, sweet cheese that tastes a bit strange the first time, but Olivier soon likes the new sweetness. It's rainy weather outside, anything but pleasant to skate. “Would you like to stay a day. We have a guest room above the dog boarding house” asks Björn, as if he could read our thoughts. He doesn't have to ask that a second time either. They say people are colder the more you go north in the world, but hospitality knows no bounds. People also have a warm heart in cold countries. The next morning, Björn sees Olivier making two sandwiched with the brown cheese and conjures up a new block. “I see you like it, so I bought you a present”.

The following days we go from one valley to another. Every time we have to cross a mountain, and these are incredibly steep in Norway. We often have to dig very deep, but we feel in top shape. “In Breda the bridge over the highway was almost impossible, but look what we are all doing now,” Zoë smiles after we have just conquered a few kilometers with an average of 12%. As we descend, we are finally in the valley of our first major destination, Lillehammer. Since the beginning of roller skiing, it was marked with a big dot on our map. Olivier saw a video on Youtube last year of a woman cross-country skiing in an enchanting white landscape. "We are going to live there," he said immediately. The landscape was the area around Lillehammer, although it looks completely different in summer. From far away we see a small town built against the eastern slope of the fjord. At the top is a large ski jump with Olympic rings on the, in summer, green artificial grass. In 1994, Lillehammer was the setting for the winter games, but unlike many Olympic facilities in other cities, it is widely used here. Several athletes pass us on roller skis, while a bright summer sun welcomes us. “Hello Lillehammer” laughs Olivier.


“We would like to explore Lillehammer. We skated 2,000 kilometers to get here. Could we perhaps temporarily put the trailers in your yard? " Zoë says to Even, who is having brunch in front of his house. "Of course!" he says and we get a personal key to the garage so we have access when they are not home. Just as we walk away towards the center, Even quickly comes out. "If you want to stay overnight, you can put the tent in our yard". A few hours later we sit on a bench under the large ski jump and look out over Lillehammer. "I would like to try to find work and live here," says Zoë with a smile. Zoë shouldn't say that twice either. Olivier was already convinced.

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