“I am a broken woman! Norway, you have finally done it!” There is video evidence of me saying these words.
I consider myself a tough person, not someone who easily gives up on the task at hand. I am not a quitter and not afraid of a challenge, so the fact that I said these words and that there is documentation of me saying these words, is not ideal.
The words were said in a moment of melodrama but came from a real feeling of total annihilation. What brought me to this figurative precipice you ask? Well that would be a literal precipice, or rather the mountain that was high enough.
My two years in Norway thus far, I would say, have been rather smooth.
OK, so learning a new language and getting a job was not the most enjoyable of experiences but also not something that I felt was truly insurmountable. Even the skiing, which has involved A LOT of crashing and burning has been, upon reflection, manageable. But after two years I must say that I finally found my breaking point a few weeks ago in Rondane National Park.
I went on a hiking trip with some work colleagues.
Excellent, I thought. Right up my street, I love a good hike.
There were a couple of options over the course of the weekend. One group of people were going to take the tough ten-hour, four-top trip with a guide, others decided to take some shorter hiking trips around the area. I, of course, opted for the tough trip. Yes, because I suffer from overachiever syndrome.
We arrived on a Friday, a group of about 20 of us. The first challenge of the weekend was that we were going to cycle from where the taxi dropped us off to the cabin we were staying at. It is much faster to cycle than walk I was told and yes we have to do it with our backpacks full of gear for the whole weekend. This was a little concerning. I have been in Norway long enough to know the place is not very flat, there are always hills.
“How tough is the cycle ride? Is there lots of uphill?” I asked.
A word of advice; always be suspicious of Norwegians when they say nonchalantly, “nahhh it´s mostly flat.”
It NEVER is!
And of course it wasn’t. With my 65-litre backpack I huffed, puffed and spluttered the whole 5km bike ride to the cabin, sweating profusely and effing and blinding the whole way.
This, however, did not spoil my mood.
I have learnt that Norwegian flat is not my flat. Having not been dragged up mountains as a child every weekend, I am just a tad more sensitive to elevation than your average Norwegian. But this, is totally normal. This I have learnt to expect.
Saturday comes and it is time to go on the hardcore hike. I heard from others it was going to be quite windy but I didn´t bother checking the weather. We have a guide, I thought, no problem. I have done Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China – I got this.
I did NOT got this!
The whole hike is a bit of a blur of grey skies, incessant fog, rain and gale force winds. The first couple of hours were not too bad I seem to remember, but then we started the steep incline upwards – literally walking into the bad weather. All in the name of being outdoors.
This brings to mind a Norwegian saying, “Ut på tur, aldri sur” – my best translation would be: Never a pout when you´re out and about. Well that could not be further from the truth. I spent the best part of a ten-hour hike in a horrendously foul mood. Pouting doesn’t quite grasp the intensity of the cloud of negativity hanging over me that day.
My fellow hiking companions were in what I can only describe as dumbfounding good cheer. They were like North Face clad super-humans breezing up the face of the mountain whilst I lagged at the back of the group in a deep ravine of pure misery.
I was sweaty when in motion and cold when standing still. My level of grumpiness was immeasurably high and at one moment I shouted out “Dette er IKKE gøy!” (This is NOT fun!)
I just wanted to be somewhere else – preferably somewhere warm where I could lie down, completely motionless. I could not understand how I could be having one of the worst hiking experiences ever whilst other people were so cheerful. There was no silver lining in my cloud.
When we finally got to the first top of the day, the wind was raging and the fog was thick. Not even the reward of a nice view to calm me down. It turned out at this point that we could not traverse across to the other three mountain tops due to the weather conditions.
“What a shame!”
Despite my severe, irreversible miserableness I recall feeling a slight pang of joy. The day could not be over quick enough for me. All I could think about was taking a hot shower and being indoors.
Here, at this moment in time, whilst wallowing in my misery, I finally felt the cultural divide. I am Cypriot at the core. Yes, there are mountains in Cyprus, but we don’t walk up them. We drive. We are fair weather people. I am a fair weather hiking trip kinda gal. There is no part of me that enjoys being outdoors in rain and fog and wind. Not even the tiniest fraction.
I have found the line. The line my efforts to embrace Norwegian culture simply cannot cross.
No thanks, not for me!
Next time I’ll check the weather.