9:45am. Crap. I’m awake and not in time for breakfast. Dumb ass. It’s free, and you missed it. You either go hungry or pay the price. Do NOT do this again – sleep is for wusses – as they say here “You can sleep when you go south.” I decide to look at what the view is on my first morning here, via the porthole. Pleased that I chose an outside cabin (why wouldn’t you?) I was delighted to see a snowy mountain in front of me drift past. This is proper Norway, I think. I shower and dress.
I need food. I go to the all-day café and order an American breakfast and two drinks. It costs me the best part of a flight home, but it’s the best on offer at the moment. I sit down and watch the blue sky and white-capped hills and feel the building desire to get out there. My camera trigger finger is getting itchy. I finish, change and dash outside.
Click, click, click, zoom, zoom, click. So…many…opportunities…can’t…stop…taking…photos! Wow, this is amazing. My Canon now knows why it was made, and is happy focussing me on anything I point at it. There! Click. Over here! Click! Oohhh – look at the light at this! Click. I can’t wait for the next bit – a guided walked tour of Alesund, a picturesque town famed for its Art Noveau architecture. I leave the ship and wait for the guide to appear while snapping away at the ship and anything with snow on it.
We have an elderly Norwegian guide who tells us he was born in a fjord not far from here. Before they had roads, he had to row every day to school for four years. No Chelsea tractors, either, in them days, I bet. He’s a jolly chap, and has great knowledge of the area and its history. We step through the thick snow and slush, giving thanks to my boots. He takes us through the streets and explains how the architectural style came about after the great fire in 1904 that devastated hundreds of homes here. Lots of buildings are brightly coloured, some a mustard yellow, some a dark red, others, green. All are decorated in one way or another with flowers, dragons, an owl, and the odd ugly face. My camera takes up this new challenge and performs admirably, capturing every detail. He regales us with stories of how life used to be here, particularly the hard work required to be a fisherman. Statues of the common folk are widespread, recognising the people who really make the town. We go into a museum, and watch a well-made presentation about the fire and how it was built up again. A tour of the building and various paintings, wooden furniture and artefacts complete this part. We cross the road and almost fall over two swans washing themselves on the pavement. It’s now bright blue sky and sunshine, and this is a very pleasant walk around. I chat to the English around me, making friends. The guide crams in as much as he can, before leaving us to board, as the ship is about to sail. Alesund is very beautiful, I think, and I continue snapping away from on board.
I’m really enjoying life on this ship, I decide. Great decision to come here, and being on my own is fun as I can do damn well what I want, when I want. I spend some time writing up yesterday (these blogs don’t just write themselves, you know!) and hit the wifi spot to download as much as I can before my 1 hour limit runs out. Facebook never seemed so slow, but at least it’s all done now. Quick look at the time and I rush downstairs to get ready for dinner.
Table 59…table 59…where is it? Have they put me next to a load of Germans? Norwegians? Americans? Looking at the tables for two around the 50s, I suddenly wonder if I’m about to be paired up with someone. “You must be room 760!” a northern English voice booms out. Obviously I looked like a lost Englishman, destined to be the third person on this table. I sit down and talk to a couple – Rob and Chris – from the North West. They seem really nice people, and we chat about our trip so far, before the inevitable credit crunch talk that everyone gets onto at some point. We soon move on to other holidays, and talk about various destinations.
It was good food: clip fish salad, lovage chicken followed by cheesecake. Afterwards, they go off to play dominoes, and I soon go back to the cabin for a bit. It’s an early start tomorrow, so won’t stay up too late. However, the ship starts to go up and down, rolling on the waves. I’m not sure I like this. It’s ok, it’ll pass, I’m sure.
It doesn’t. I’m full of dinner and my stomach’s going up and down, up and down. I can’t help but think of one of my last trips on a boat – a catamaran trip back from France many years ago in rough waters. I recall how I loved it so much I was so confident I even ordered sandwiches. I also recall regretting that move when my girlfriend at the time kept insisting she was going to be sick, whilst one by one everyone threw up around me. I survived, right up until the sound of the couple in front of me throwing up in a comical OTT “heeeuuuuuueeeyyy” style got too much. Minutes from the dock, I caved. (She didn’t throw up in the end, however, much to my annoyance) So with all that in mind, I decided to go out before things get worse.
It’s dark, freezing, and I’m on the top deck. A few lights appear, and all you can hear are the waves at the back of the ship. A woman in a white coat floats nearby, and soon it’s just the two of us out here crazily in the wild. Odds are she’s German, but I decide to try to talk to her.
“Do you speak English?”
She looks at me blankly for a second. This is not good. I’m just trying to be friendly! Suddenly, she responds with a smile.
“Yes, yes I do”
We chat about the trip and our mutual wish to see the Northern Lights. We gaze up at the break in the clouds to see a few stars. For some reason, there’s hardly any – maybe due to the bright moon? There is a bit of a language barrier, but we talk for a bit. I’ve no idea if she’s with anyone, but it’s nice to chat to a stranger for a while, despite challenging conditions. Eventually, we have to move out of the cold so we go our separate ways. We’re docking soon at Kristiansund anyway.
I disembark just to see somewhere different. I meet Chris and she seems content to explore the place without her husband, Rob. The harbour looks nice, and I scan for potential photo points. We don’t have a lot of time, so soon we’re heading back to the ship. Determined to nail a nice night harbour scene, I leave her to continue back whilst I plod through several feet of snow to set up a shot. It’s nearly 11pm, not many people about, and here’s me half covered in snow, crouching down with camera on its bag, trigger out trying to get the right height and shutter speed to what I want. Finally, I see that one or two photos look good, and contented I trudge back I the slush, via a shop to buy some cheap(er) water.
Back in my cabin, I’m about to go to bed when I take a final glance out of the porthole an discover that the bright moon is causing a nice effect when it is evading the clouds. Half an hour of setting up a shot and failing finally concludes with a half-decent night shot of the moon’s refection on the water. Hey, I’m not too bad at this SLR lark.