We had This Opportunity…

12/05/2010

»They say that when you travel by plane your soul gets left behind.«
»Before considering if there’s actually a soul to leave behind, the statement’s at least aesthetically pleasing«
»Yeah, obviously. I’m just thinking that I love road trips; you see everything, you know where you’re going and where you came from…«
»You just stare, you don’t get bored; there are no boring things in nature and your constantly surrounded by friends. It’s always amazing«
We’re slowly making our way over the icy roads and through the sea bound mountains; eyes perpetually drawn into the untouched layers of pure white covering the rocky slopes in which no living creature dare lay tracks for fear of disturbing some latent entity borne of nature and laying – lurking – within the slothly legs of the glaciers its chosen to protect, breaking our trance Syn says she can feel regret creeping in for choosing to drive over Finland and through Sweden, »I always miss the mountains; as soon as we leave Norway everything is straight and flat.« I ask her if she has pride in Norway »Not of the state, but of the country. I don’t think many Norwegians are patriotic in the American sense, but we love the land; we love where we’re from and what we have in front of us«, it’s not a difficult position to understand as I’m enchanted by views of the clear icy waters fronted by the snow-covered beach and sunbathing flora sitting atop the high reaching arms of the fjords; exposing us to the world beyond land. The sky is clear and the sun is warming our path through the country to -2º , so we three in our car; our warm bubble and new home are almost ready to consider turning the heating down to the second highest setting, almost.
The GPS guides us further inland and our approach to the Finnish border is becoming noticeable; the temperature’s slowly dropping and the mountains becoming less dominant. Crossing the border a single unimpressive hill and my first Finnish lake is visible; the temperature hangs on -7º, and like our crossing invokes a welcoming party we’re overcome by a swarm of snow mobiles locomoting their way around the countryside, »We’re in Finland now«, »This is Finland, this is how you do it in Finland!« and we laugh but speak no more of the Finnish people and their customs and with only 15 minutes here before jumping the border into Sweden we stop at a petrol station to obtain the sugary sustenance we’ll need for the countless roads ahead and there we are; motionless, confronted and almost assaulted with 1 litre beer cans — we’re standing, staring and laughing; the attendants too are standing and staring directly at us while we’re attempting to overcome the absurdity displayed before us, but we manage and with candy in hand we venture out of the station out of the country and with a new affection for speed afforded to us by the straight Swedish highways we’re racing towards the almost discernible line through the world representing the separation of spring and winter but before hitting this attractive mark the temperature manages -22º and somehow the Norwegians are holding back their excitement while my eyes are sitting open as wide as my mouth in exclamation, it’s around here camping loses its appeal and we find the closest hotel and let sleep take us in. The next day Sweden shows us her small country towns; all mimicking each other in planning and aesthetics, all holding nothing but a supermarket and petrol station, leaving us wondering why these minimalistic towns are even here and to where the daily commute transports her dwellers.
We’re granted asylum from Oslo’s crime stamped streets by the sisters’ aunt. Our acquaintance is brief as Syn and I are meeting her friend from Oslo, which like any Scandinavian night starts with vorspeil, tonight at Anne’s apartment before moving to a local bar where we manage to position ourselves next to a local finding a new level of one-sided intoxication with Syn and after failing on multiple occasions to construct a conversation begins staring at her before loudly declaring that she makes him sick but »whats wrong with me, why wont you come with me« and with this as our cue we leave to find ourselves at the part of our homeward journey where we’re leaving Anne at her front door and why I’m not staying is the question in her eyes but the sorry showing in mine fails to answer and she’ll never know why I walk away to fall in separate beds and in what feels like seconds later Syn and I are meeting each other in living room, hands covering raw eyes, Birgit is already awake — finding rousing easier without the added weight of alcohol and the unrelenting grip only our mattresses seem to poses over our ill rested bodies which are quickly vacating the apartment to the small port of Oslo, there they find themselves parked with other motorists waiting to board the cruise ship transporting us to Kiel, Germany, but the wait isn’t getting shorter and the ship’s now moving and everyone is leaving their vehicles to get closer to the action and we’re left sitting inside our own world, wondering if all these fucking elderly tourists decked out in prescription sunglasses and wearing pants barley meeting the municipal’s legal requirements for indecent exposure are here just to watch the ship turn around, ’cause were hung over and edgy and want to be on this damned boat that apparently enjoys freely rotating in the ocean before our unamused and very impatient persons, but lest our irritation grows to consume the world some heavenly entity intervenes and the ship completes her maneuvers to begin boarding passengers. The main population of the ship are wealthy, elderly and German or Norwegian holiday makers and the stewards appear to be meeting some requirement for minimal crowd participation ’cause every hour we’re witnessing the less apathetic – or more empathetic – of the human cargo swaying to the loud, cheesy music and worn shouts of encouragement from the forcefully enthusiastic cabin crew. We walk the halls, we gamble, we sleep, we eat and we cross the paths of a group camouflaging themselves in polar bear suits sitting on the polished decks outside; drinking beer and staring at the zoo parading itself within the self-contained glass walls.
Its midday and we’re let loose from the ships fumy hull with the GPS set to our camping spot in Fontainebleau, an hour under Paris. The car’s asked to do speeds it hadn’t thought possible as we fly past Germany on her autobahn then via a rain-soaked Belgium, our entrance to France is with cheers, but it’s as we’re passing the sign indicating we’ve hit Fontainebleau that the excitement grows measurably; this is why they’re here — a month away from everything to climb and only climb. We track down the final road to our camp-site and pursue it with absolute intent; the car shakes in rhythm to our pendular swaying and where our chatter usually possess a prepubescent like ability to instantly drop attention and switch topics these last moments hold no words and with our music players powerless from the long haul we’re left only with the sound of bitumen under our worn tyres and the occasional clap from Synnoves direction. Arrival is less excited than I assumed — the others we’re joining are already sleeping and there’s the apparently obvious reason that we’re rising early to climb so whats left but to assemble the tent, create mattresses from the crash-pads and slip into our own dream worlds.
The first day finishes and its clear my lack of experience climbing and slippery rent-a-shoes are forcing me into a different game than the others, and I don’t want to play a different game; so then I’m not playing any games and forsake myself to be the equipment carrier. The night reveals itself to epitomise my love for camping — stintly cooked meals eaten around a carefully crafted fire with alcohol induced conversation about all matters life. Night outweighs day and I skip my train for Toulouse the following morning. I attempt to boulder on one more occasion before my resolve again loses its grip and I’m admitting a broken spirit and complete mental psyhe-out to continue sitting on the crash-pads staring into rocks I cannot hope to master. I try to find interest in their climbing, and I can for a while: its their passion; I’m watching people perform their passion. I find out why they climb and it »isnt really about standing on the rock with your arms in the sky… it’s the time you take to solve the problem, it’s how you find your way up«, and »it’s just you and the rock — you don’t rely on anyone else«, but as the days wear on I find it harder and harder to stay interested — it’s only the afternoon onwards that keeps me here; after the muscles get sore and the problems too demanding we venture to the supermarket to buy the cheapest possible items for dinner and alcohol to fill the night.

It’s some days later and I’m considering leaving for the organic farm further south when on schedule Easter arrives and the camping grounds are overcome by a global community of climbers. The carefully crafted fires turn large-scale and as the night goes on and the number of fires wane the people still standing wander to the biggest and warmest of the remaining until there are only a few left going, all conversations are in English and it’s an odd feeling to experience a large multi ethnic group – 12 different countries at one count – all communicating in a tongue that none hold as their primary — it’s witnessing a group of people connect. The easter-weekend rush vacates just as rapidly as it appeared and I too decide it’s time for the next part of my journey; it’s been fun but I feel an urge to move, so it’s early morning when our tent fills with the synthetic chorus of blips and beeps directed by my unfortunately punctual phone and as we’re rushing outside everyone is holding some unique item documenting my departure; my backpack, my laptop and my journals, and with almost no time to walk we’re instantly in the car traveling towards the station. The car is again in silence; it’s too early really and nothing needs to be forced, but good timing allows us a brief conversation as we sit in the car park. With the train approaching we jump out to say farewell and I’m informed with a smile that »Your zip is undone«, »What a perfect way to end the trip«, we laugh then we hug and say see you in summer.
Goodbye.

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