02 August, 2008

Heaven and Hell in Scandinavia

I have been to paradise ... and it is in Norway.

From the wild and woolly north to the milder southern climes, this is a land which has been blessed with beauty.

Every corner you turn, your eyes are peeled back with the most wondrous sites - from a stag reindeer standing in the middle of the road with its massive antlers, to ominous dark clouds and foreboding skies with grey clouds moving past a light speed, to the howling gales at Nordkap - the northern most point in Europe with daylight at 2am, to mountain glaciers with clear bright snow, and pools of reflective ice, silver cold cascades tumbling hundreds of metres into clear mountain streams turning into rivers, and ending in Fjords with massively vertical sides and massively deep trenches. Even the lush verdant fields and pastures, and old cottage towns which usually do not interest me, are so perfect that it takes your breath away.

It is land of indescribable beauty, and you want to cry with joy as the winding roads show you yet another aspect of this land of the North.

There is no stopping it though, when you think you have seen the best, and it cannot get any more perfect, it does, and keeps on doing so. When Tolkien wrote the 'Rings' it is clear he based the geographic setting on Norway.

.... and I have not even begun to describe the motorcycling side of things. With my new Bridgestones installed the Burgie was literally gliding through the turns as if on a cushion of air (sorry if that sounds a bit magic carpetish guys!), whether on drenchingly wet roads in the mists of the mountains, or whether sweeping up and down fjords with 20 linked hairpin bends, the Burgie could not put a foot wrong. The roads are cambered precisely such that your body movement is sufficient to have the bike turn in exactly as needed for a flowing entry and exit.

Ah, paradise......

I have also been to Hell in Norway (it's around 20-30km north east of Trondheim on highway E6 if you wish to check your atlas), but my personal Hell was my experience with drinking the local water. Now Norway has some of the coolest, freshest, cleanest and tastiest mountain water I have ever tasted (yes folks, it's on a par with Siberia), however, I seemed to sample a bad batch of the stuff somewhere South of Narvik.

At first I had a little stabbing pain which I put down to having skipped lunch. On day 2 the pain persisted but was not particularly troubling. On day 3 I woke up at the youth hostel in Sogndal and went down to enjoy the usual marvellously fresh and wholesome Scandinavian breakfast which is included in the tariff. After finishing breakfast I went down to the Burgie to perform a little preventative maintenance (check oil levels etc.) before starting the day's ride to Oslo. I finished this, walked back to wash my hands and immediately vomited. I did so twice more before starting the ride but wasn't feeling that bad and put it down to maybe a reaction to the nip of vodka (from my stash from Russia) the previous evening.

I figured the fresh air on the ride would clear things up and managed around an hour in the saddle before I had to take my first break - well to use a 'Monty Python'ism, whatever was wrong with me had opened the sluice gates at both ends!

Back on the bike again, the day was getting warmer and I managed a further hour in the saddle before having to stop and lie down in the shade. I lay down and promptly fell asleep, only waking when the heat of the sun increased as the sun moved across the sky. I woke up and promptly vomited another 6 times (it was a real eye opener to see how little of my breakfast had been digested in any meaningful way).

I was totally and utterly nauseated by now and could do nothing but sleep a little longer finally waking to see how the sun had travelled significantly across the sky and I needed to get a move on if I was going to make the relatively short distance to Oslo before nightfall (which is around midnight this far North). I groggily roused myself, vomited 3 more times and crawled onto the Burgie. By this time I was feeling really ill and knew I was in no fit shape to ride, but hoped a bit of a cooling breeze could do me no harm. I rode 20 metres out of the roadside rest spot onto the highway and realised I was blacking out - all went dark and I had no control whatsoever. Thank goodness there was little other traffic around, as I wobbled sideways across the road before managing to get near the side of the road and barely hold the Burgie upright for the minute or so whilst my swoon passed.

Figuring I had sufficiently embarrassed myself in front of all onlookers I determined to keep on riding and made another 5km towards Oslo before pulling over, throwing up again and sleeping for a further period.

On awaking, I knew I wasn't going to throw up any more but the urgent feeling was now below the waist line.

Four days have passed since that dreadful day and I am only now starting to feel truly better. I visited the hospital the following day in Malmo Sweden and they were most reluctant to prescribe antibiotics to assist. My motions have improved from water (20 times a day) to soup (10 times a day) to porridge (5 times a day) and finally today to nothing, so I figure I'm over the worst of it.

The worst aspect though, and I put this down to my debilitated state and temporary loss of faculties, was losing my camera three days ago in Denmark. From what I can recollect, I left it sitting on my luggage when I left a rest spot on the freeway between Nyborg and Odense. The loss of the camera is not really a big deal but what is, is that the SD card in it contained all my photos for the last 3 weeks. :-(

Whilst I am hopeful of possibly recovering some of those taken in Russia, the Scandinavian shots, alas, are gone forever. I guess this shows the positives and negatives of digital camera ownership. In the past we could only take 36 shots on a roll of film, but if we lost a camera we only lost 36, instead of 360 photos.

The lesson is learnt, though, and I will ensure I regularly swap memory cards in situations where I cannot easily get Internet access for uploading.