Norway 2014: PART ONE - Team Special Baggage (the return of Larry Steakman)

Wifebuddy and I hit Norway!


As with all my scuba adventures, i had very little to with the decision to visit Norway. I have a vague recollection involving Wifebuddy showing me a picture of a humongous shipwreck in gin-clear water, stating; "This looks good. We should go." I most likely nodded agreement over a beer, or bacon sandwich, culminating in a fairly large dent in ye olde bank account.

Unlike Scapa Flow we averted chartering a boat ourselves, and instead jumped on a pre-arranged trip via tech diving superstar Kieran Hatton. I didn't know Kieran, but Wifebuddy met him at TekCamp 2012 and assured me he was a bearable chap; we've since become bestest buds of course, despite his constant advances to make me buy a JJ from him. The plan was simple; get to Norway, meet Kieran, mutiny aboard Bob Anderson's ship - MV Halton, and dive some enormous ship wrecks.

Having cast in stone our decision to visit the home of shipwrecks, Krone, expensive beer, and our favourite genre of the rock world - black metal, we felt it necessary to recruit some team members. Wifebuddy worked on our GUE chum Steph (The SOV), whom we had become friendly with during our Scapa Flow trip, and i attempted to instigate the return of Larry Steakman; aka Liam Bateman from our GUE Tech 1 class. Needless to say the offer was much too grandiose to reject and our GUE team was complete.



THE PREP

The thing about diving Norway was the cold. I knew Norway was cold, not only due to a mediocre grade in geography class, but also as the majority of Black Metal album covers depict young heavy metal heads sporting corpse paint, running through a snow capped forest. 

Said metal maniacs often breathe fire too; for warmth i presume. The trend these days for diving sub 6C water is the heated vest; which was alas a luxury i couldn't afford. 




Undeterred, i opted for my current many layers and the addition of a Santi 400g warming vest to the diving wardrobe. Merino base layer, plus Fourth Element Xerotherms, plus Whites Thermal Fusion, plus Santi Warming Vest, equaled job done.

Heating sorted, it was the usual Krypton Factor of squeezing two sets of tech gear into the limited luggage allowance, for which Liam provided a genius solution. Liam established if we flew one way business class, the aeroplane people would increase our baggage allowance both ways, for no extra charge; nice one Larry. I was looking forward to flying posh class, and knew i'd fit in well.

120Kg of dive kit in 6 bags



DEPART NI

The airport was the standard affair; Wifebuddy took care of all the important stuff, while i annoyed her, taking pictures in a high security area. The aeroplane security people were as confused as usual, the queues were as long as usual, the fry-up was as expensive as usual, and i drank more beer than usual. 


In no time we were aboard the Belfast to England leg of the trip; in not posh class.




ARRIVAL UK

As expected, we couldn't fly directly to Norway from Ireland, which resulted in an overnight stay in Eng-er-land. Previous overnight stops on the mainland included cardboard mattresses, and lugging the kit along vacant corridors at stupid o'clock at night, but not this time. Liam proved to be useful for a second instance, due to the geographical location of his house; i.e. beside the airport. Liam had kindly offered to collect us from the aeroplane station, stay with him for the night, and catch the Norway flight in the morning together. It was an excellent arrangement.

We landed, collected the many, many bags and headed out the arrivals bit. Liam's silly big face was waiting for us, along with his much better half, Becky; although I admit i was a little disappointed he wasn't sporting a placard. 

Liam & Becky pensively awaiting our arrival
It was great to see Liam again; we shared man hugs, and I fondled Becky somewhat. It was then off to Liam's posh car, which we crammed with scuba kit, and helped him kerb a few alloy wheels as we left the multi story car park.

We dumped the gear at Liam's place, checked how much alloy had been removed from his cartwheels, then headed out for a curry. Curry isn't such a big thing in Northern Ireland, and i felt slightly out of my depth in the 'curry house' as i scanned a menu that made as much sense as Ikea furniture instructions. Undeterred, i successfully got beer, and permitted the English folk to order my dinner.

I enjoyed a few more beers, my first 'barry-annie,' or something, and witnessed Liam trick Kerri into eating a meat nan bread, despite her commitment to vegetarianism some time ago.

Liam, Me and a 'Barry-Annie"

All in all, it was a great success; and Kerri has re-engaged a meat free diet.


DEPART UK

It never fails to amaze me that i consistently have to get up ludicrously early to go on holiday. I figured the whole point of a 'holiday' was to chill and relax, not get up at sick o'clock in the morning, nevertheless after Wifebuddy's third attempt to rouse me i trailed myself from bed and lugged 120kg of gear into Liam's posh jeep for the second time. Becky was kind enough to drop us to the airport where we met up with our final team member, Steph, and headed for Norway in posh class. I fitted in very well, and particularly enjoyed when the air-hostess-man closed the curtain to protect me from poor class. That said, i'm still not 100% sure what to with a hot face-cloth; i just wiped the place down a bit.

Poor-class and Steph kept safely behind curtain

ARRIVAL NORWAY

It was surprisingly sunny in Norway. I was expecting the dull setting depicted on a Dark Throne album cover, but it was fantastic blue skies and warm sun. Our team of four collected our gear from the 'special baggage' area, and our team name was confirmed then and there. Team Special Baggage had arrived; and within minutes we had our first special moment. The plan was to catch the 'Flybussen' into Bergen and then find our ship. Kerri gave very succinct instructions to the team;

"There's the machine - go and buy a return ticket."

I learned a long time ago Wifebuddy knows way more than me when it comes to travelling, so i did exactly as instructed. The remaining team appeared to struggle. As we boarded the 'bussen i asked Liam:


"Did you get a return ticket?" 
"No." 
"Why?" 
"Honestly?... I don't know."


First point for special baggage went to Liam, closely followed by Steph who repeated the performance, and had an equally appalling defence.


BERGEN

The bus took about an hour, only stopping on two occasions; which sent Liam into a slight frenzy, checking no one was running off with our gear when the big bus boot/trunk opened. Kieran had kindly provided fool proof instructions when to get off - the last stop near the Ramada hotel, which worked well.

Kerri waiting for de Taxi

Bergen streets


We doffed the Flybussen and immediately spied Linda, Bruce and Robin; our buds from the Scapa Flow expedition. We had a quick catch up, then I set off in the wrong direction to find a taxi. Upon my return, Liam pointed to a taxi sign in the other direction, and I had been voted as the man to go get one. Ten minutes later I had successfully hijacked a taxi, made him put all the seats down, and loaded his nice Prius with 250kg of scuba equipment. Again i was voted to accompany the taxi, ensuring safe passage of the kit; the rest of Team Special Baggage would walk.


I introduced myself to Stefan the taxi man, and pointed to a black hulled boat on the far side of the port;

"We're for that black ship mate."

Stefan seemed fairly uncertain, but headed off regardless. A brief journey, 270 krone, and Stefan's marital history (which involved a thai bride) later, we located MV Halton. The bags were piled on the pier and i was formally introduced to Kieran Hatton. Kieran explained we'd wait until everyone arrived and have a brief.

MV Halton in Bergen, Norway

The remainder of Team Special Baggage arrived, along with a few others, and Kieran gave us the heads up for the week. We had a few hours before the ship departed to load our gear, set up kit, pick a room, and buy any luxuries; such as beer. We did all those things. Kieran had cylinders waiting, and we set to work assembling twinsets. Long benches either side of the bow provided ample room to kit up, and large plastic gear gulpers safely housed extra bits and pieces underneath.

Team Special Baggage
Wifebuddy & I Are Diver kit

Correctly marked stages


We visited the shop, bought beer and salami (the closest bacon alternative I could find), briefly scanned for black metal rock stars, and finally investigated the ship that would be home for the week.


MV HALTON

We met skipper Bob Anderson and had a good poke around his boat. Bob had successfully navigated the Halton 30 hours to Norway from the UK, so it was clear we were in a solid piece of sea worthy craft.

The forward deck catered for the scuba gear, along with a shower and WC.




Stepping inside the main bit allowed access to the wheelhouse, galley and dining area; which also doubled as a lounge. Descending a central ladder led us to the sleeping quarters. Six double bunk rooms and another shower/WC were situated below. Some guys had already arrived and various bags sat on top bunks in every room. A quick chat with the occupants allowed some relocation, and soon Wifebuddy and I had our own cabin. Liam and Steph grabbed another, and we were all set.

Dining area

Galley

Wheelhouse

Cabin

Shower / WC

Forward deck


DEPART BERGEN

As promised, by 14:00 Bob let off the hand brake, our ship headed out of the quay and up the Norwegian Fjords. The fjord was amazing. The water was incredibly calm, blue and very inviting; I prayed the conditions would be maintained for the diving.

Fjord

Minutes after losing sight of the pier we were treated to immense scenery. Norway was mind blowing-ly beautiful. When I was a wee lad I listened to my parents discussing how lovely the scenery was as we cruised through various mountains in search of a miserable camping area, and think to myself - eh? I never understood 'nice scenery,' until i looked over the bow of the Halton across a stunning Norwegian Fjord.

The still blue water met solid blue sky, and brightly coloured wooden houses dotted the shore, along with a scattering of tiny islands. I found myself pondering how those inhabitants got to work in the morning, and their Ford Boring was most likely a boat; my mind boggled.

House in the middle of the fjord

Houses & Boats


I stared forward, taking picture after picture, which failed to capture the continuous serenity, over the several hour long journey to port. Bob parked the ship at a small pier where we had dinner (and dessert), courtesy of our live in chef Elisabeth. A post dinner walk revealed a Norwegian Forest Cat, similar to our own, more cracking scenery and interesting dwellings.



The sun fell lower on the horizon as we meandered back to the ship and we called it quits for the night. Norway didn't really get dark, ever, so it was essential to make a definite decision to go to bed.







I crawled into the top bunk and looked forward to the dives that would follow.

Norway at 00:00








4 comments:

  1. So, part 2? Or did you lost the return ticket and are still stuck in Norway? ;)
    Regards,
    Bit of a fan

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey buddy - did you come back from Norway alive? :p

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excited trip of under water. The chauffeurs of Toronto taxi services are well manner and well dressed and make a decision on the spot. You can find us on the Rear Left Hand side Door panel.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

Safe diving buddy.