It’s today. The journey that I had been putting blood, sweat, tears and tenners into was about to start. Although my trip had technically already begun for me this felt more real, probably since early wake up calls remind me of travelling! I crawled into the shower before realising that it was in-fact my last warm shower for about four weeks. When each of the four explorers were just emerging from their last night in a “real” bed Gabby’s boyfriend, Josh had already managed to cycle over from his house to say goodbye to her and her mum also managed to feed us up by supplying industrial amounts of cheese on toast, she truely surrounds herself with amazing people! As the clock ticked past five we headed to the car and got our bags thrown into the boot then Gabby said her goodbyes to Josh and her family before we headed off to the airport.
I spent the journey watching and admiring the red sun rise up over the dew filled fields, got me all nostalgic I contemplated how alien the next few weeks are going to be, although I am used to being away from my family and friends for periods of time, the fact that we will be stuck in the wilderness living on the bare minimum and where nature has control of you and you have to try and adapt to what it throws at you is something that has become foreign thanks to modern living.
When you go to airports you always loose track of time because they are constantly buzzing with people no matter how early or late it is, they never seem to stop. However the hustle and bustle didn't stop us from spotting the rest of our team who were going to Norway since everyone was in matching T-shirts and looked rather dishevelled. It was weird that we were comfortable and there was no awkwardness considering we had all only met once before. It was actually great to see everyone again, especially Tasha who I had bonded with before the briefing weekend over facebook and when we actually met it was scary how similar we were, something told me she would love Gabby too...
Our kit list was extensive and involved holdalls, rucksacks and day sacks and getting this all under 20kg was a challenge but the moment of truth arrived when I placed my bag on the conveyor belt; 15.9kg! The last minute ditch of toiletries seemed to have done the trick! Since there was in the region of forty of us altogether, check in meant more sitting around than usual before heading to security. At eight thirty everybody went to the gate and got ready to the board but leader Tim seemed quite oblivious to the fact the screen was flashing 09:10 Oslo BOARDING and just as we notified him the voice came over the tanoy asking us politely to board. And so the adventure officially begins...
The whole BSES team were seated together alphebetically and I was next Lizzy, however most of the plane was spent catching up on the sleep we lost this morning. I found myself engrossed in the free Norwegian Airlines magazine, especially the article on the famous Norwegians printed on the tails of certain planes in their fleet, combining two great loves of mine. Arriving at Oslo was very exciting, we appreciated the architecture of Gardermoen as soon as we arrived into to the baggage hall via a glass walkway looking down into the departure lounge, which gave us an insight to where we wanted to go for lunch, even the toilets were special. Alex managed to use this time to catch up with his Dad who lives in Oslo, who many of the leaders thought was just a random stranger. This was also the only time I would be able to get near somewhere to get postcards so I siezed the chance and got 17, which is pretty normal for me!
It wasn’t long before we had to get ready to board the next flight and it was already very apparent that we were not sitting next to each other this time. This plane was smaller and I was in between a rather tough looking Norwegian man and a pregnant Norwegian woman which, as you can imagine, further reduced my space. Plus as the flight went on we all became more aware of the lack of air conditioning, or perhaps it was the five layers, but either way it was best if we slept through the flight rather than feeling ill.
The view out the plane window as we approached Alta was spectacular. It was a the typical Norwegian landscape of snow-capped mountains that dip into the sea fjords filling vast valleys below. Immediately on landing there was an obvious change in temperature as there was that familiar bitter wind I would have hoped to have left behind, thankfully I had at least left the rain and clouds back in Orkney. We investigated the airport, which admittedly wouldn't take anyone very long, and had our last real experience of "real food" for a long time. We were served by Deg, who knew a fair bit of English, and Randi, a women in her forties who did not know much English. You felt sorry for her when twenty British youths started asking for sausages and chips in very loud English rahter than pølse og chips.
Running to the bus with chips in hand, we all climbed aboard and got comfy ready for a two hour bus journey. Every corner we turned on the winding roads, a new photographic opportunity appeared and a chance to demonstrate our skills as British tourists by scrambling for the best shot from the window. When a herd of reindeer appeared at the side of the road we took as many photos as we could with the idea that we would not be seeing any more reindeer, could we have been any more wrong?
We had a suitable break at a Sami camp which had some stalls selling traditional Sami souvenirs such as Antlers and hides and have our first taste of culture. Although we were all having fun and games looking at the strange gifts I couldn't help but notice the poverty of the camp opposite. It may have been to look authentic to their traditional lifestyle but it was still lacking in basic amenities, which was ironic since the stalls took Visa.
A tunnel or so later we arrived at Oksfjord which looked like your typical fishing town with traditional fishing huts and drying racks mixed with modernised ferries and fish factories. The ferry we were going to catch was not one of the modern, large ferries but a much smaller one, a much smaller one.
Across the fjord we were dumped off at a jetty and then, in groups, we were shuttled off to the elusive base-camp. Gabby, Tasha, Alex, James and I decided(as an unofficial fire - the groups on the expedition were reffered to as "fires") that we would wait until the last run, as we were living it up down the pier.
The road was right on a cliff edge but what more do you expect from an expedition and when we arrived we were greeted by one of the steepest hills we would encounter on the whole trip and good old Rob, who gave us more to carry. So after plenty of stops, a ripped holdall and two puffs of my inhaler we arrived at "Basecamp," hopefully by the end of the trip this will feel like a breeze. A mysterious man under the nickname of "Pirate" greeted us and guided us to our spot which, as far as we knew, was our home for tonight but would change tomorrow. Putting the tent up didn't go as planned and we needed Pirate's help, he assisted and gave us some quotes to play with ("Be gentle to the poles! Treat it like it were a man") and some facts, such as one person exhales three litres of water at night so we will exhale six litres between us. The moral of the story: it is important to make sure your outer is not touching the inner, or it will get wet.
It was after midnight before we had the tent up and ready but we had barely noticed as we had our casual first encounter with the midnight sun. Before we knew it we were dying for the toilet and the time had come to test out the infamous Shewee. Gabby went first but we heard nothing back but she seemed to have just disappeared. So Tasha and I had a shot, not at the same time obviously, one of us HAD to be a look out. No complaints from Tasha, but then I tried. It seemed I needed just a bit too much, lets just say the pressure was too much and gravity took it's toll...
Mortified I ran back to the tent only to find out that Gabby had had a much more public display of shewee malfunction involving getting her knickers in a twist, literally, and an involuntary trip in the stream. I think it was safe to say that we were both glad we weren't lone members of the Shewee Hatred Society.