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Monday, June 30, 2008

It’s been over 33 hours now since we arrived at the airport in Sydney to start our trip to the Fjords in Norway and we still have a further 13 or so hours to go on the train we are sitting in as I type this and that only gets us to Stavanger. Then we still have to get to Lyseboten by ferry. Hells bells, by the time we get where we need to get we are going to be busted. Absolutely busted. Reminds me of a song…. You look busted, your waist is hanging down to your ankles mama, you look busted… boom boom boom….. Ye ye, some of you know the rest :-). Not only have we had hardly any sleep but we have hopped a whole bunch of hours backwards meaning we actually gain a day somewhere along the line.

The plan was to get to Sweden so that we could do all our shopping there because everything in Norway is exaggeratedly expensive. A beer will set you back US$10. We were advised by quite a few people to do this in order to try and save a little cash. We are also going to Switzerland after Norway so the flights took us via Zurich in order for the return flights to match up. The flight plan has been as follows: OZ to Hong Kong, transfer, Hong Kong to Zurich, transfer, Zurich to Stockholm, Stockholm Airport to City Train Station by bus and now we are on the train to Norway-Oslo where we transfer onto another train which will take us to Norway-Stavanger. We have been running like crazy with the transfers and to make matters way worse we have had to do all this with seriously heavy bags. When we got to Stockholm City Train Station we had to purchase our tickets for the next leg and then come tearing out the train station into the city to try and find a supermarket where we could buy all our groceries for the next 10 days or so while we are in Norway. We found some lockers to stash our 6 bags and 2 helmets into and went off to buy the tickets. The tickets took a bunch of time but we found out that the reason for this is that everything is still done manually. The tickets are written by hand! While we hung around waiting for the ticketing queuing system to call up our number some poms befriended us and started going on about the crap ticketing system and how long this whole affair seemed to be taking and how they needed to get onto a train in the next 15 minutes. Then the fellow starts telling us that he is a train driver and he thinks he should get special concessions for him and his mates. Blaa blaa blaa blaa blaa blaa and he is going to Russian after this, blaa blaa blaa. What the freaking hell is written on my forehead in order for these guys to always feel compelled to tell me their life stories. It certainly can’t be my charming character or at least I hope not.

We get the tickets and make a bee line out the door into the city running wildly looking for a supermarket. No worries mate, we have had far too much Ozzie influence here. Eventually Lynda stops a lady and asks her where we can find a supermarket and she obviously sees that we are in a frantic panic and steers us the right way. We find the place and grab two baskets and proceed to look exactly like we know what we are doing and we shop in Swedish supermarkets often. From either end of the isle we shout out what we think we are looking at with absolutely no idea what the hell is going on. We grab things off the shelf and say things like, this must be pesto, it’s all mashed up green inside. Occasionally an innocent person standing by gets involved as they can see that the green mashed up stuff is actually a cabbage relish of sorts and he just can’t stand there as these two lost souls are trying so desperately to do their monthly shopping in a hand basket because you have to pay for a trolley. Next moment we have half the people in the store looking for things for us. We even taught some old lady that there is such a thing as long life milk, can you believe that. She didn’t have a clue the stuff existed but then again there was only one type with fat or no fat. Not much of a choice so I guess they don’t use that stuff here too often.

Time was running out swiftly and we still needed to get to a camping store in order to buy gas for our camping stove and Vodka so that we could at least have a few drinks in Norway without it costing us an arm and a leg. The extra 60L backpack that we brought along for the shopping was as heavy as an anvil and we didn’t manage to get all the shopping into it so there were extra shopping carry bags as well. While I buckled at the knees carrying the shopping back to the train station, Lynda took off in search of the camping shop and bottle store with only 20 minutes left before the train was scheduled to leave the platform on the way to Oslo. Lynda gets back with little time left so we stuff the rest of the shopping all over the place wherever there is some space left in the bags. I run off to track a trolley down which you have to use coins to dislodge and we pile this trolley so high that I thought we would be stopped by the station’s chief trolley watch dog for overloading and get 30 to life for serious trolley abuse with intent for grievous frame damage. I guess we managed to give him the slip because we made it to the train unnoticed. But before we did we stopped at a pizza stall in the station and bought some slices of already made pizza to eat on the train as we were starving by now. I begun the painful task of loading one bag at a time onto the train and up onto the overhead storage as Lynda guarded the remaining ones outside while those people sitting in the carriage looked on with awe as they guessed to themselves the number of wives and kids I must have if this is the volume of baggage I had. You can only imagine how surprised they were to only see Lynda. The lady sitting right across from us had a good chuckle to herself as we fell into our seats exhausted sending the pizza box flying and lucky for us she was a little more awake than us and caught it before there were tears. We were on the train! Thank goodness….. only another 14, 15, 16, 17 hours or so to go…. Not long now :-(.

As I look across from me now, Lynda has stretched out across two seats and is passed out completely. I can see she has hit deep sleep by the REM as her eyeballs flicker around under her eyelids. One of us needs to stay awake in case we get to Norway and we don’t have BASE rigs because someone liked the look of our spiffy looking BASE stash bags. That would be one sad day as we would have put in 56 or so hours to get all the way there and we have no toys to play with.

It’s been huge fun so far and we haven’t actually got to the fun part yet. Can’t wait.

Continued….

The Heli Boogie is done and so are we. What a BASE trip! It’s been an absolute blast. We didn’t quite jump as much as planned but we did a fair bit. We unfortunately got there during a spell of shitty weather so the rain has been pounding us almost every day. The trip that took 56 hours or so took it out of me and I got slammed with a cold and flu. I was man down on day one. Didn’t know whether I was coming or going. Everything ached, sinuses were exploding and all I could do was sleep. Lynda managed to organize some cold and flu tabs from the lady running the camp site and we also had some herbal stuff. I took anything I could get my hands on. Luckily the first day was pouring with rain so there wasn’t much going on except the hardcore guys that were hiking in the rain. The Heli Boogie was only going to start the following week Thursday so we had a few days to hike to the top and get familiar with the place and also pay homage to the mountain. On the second day I was still man down and Lynda went off and did a late afternoon jump with the other guys. By the third day, lying in the tent was no longer going to cut it. I was back and there was no stopping me now. Although I was not quite right yet I was simply going to walk this cold out of me. The walk to the top consists of three hills before you get to the summit and then depending on the exit point, you can walk a further hour or so. The three hills have been respectively named, Wake Up Hill, Warm Up Hill and then Hell Hill. No guesses to what this means. We didn’t get too fazed because we are quite used to lugging around in the Drakensburg for BASE. Walking these hills three times a day might hit you in the beginning but I guess after a few days you will be right in there.

There are many exit point along these Fjords but the most famous and used one is exit 6 off Kjerag. The vertical height here or height to impact is somewhere in the region of 1800 feet but I stand to be corrected. If you can track well or you are flying a wingsuit then you can take advantage of the talus below and your full height would be over 3000 feet. That is almost 1km of freefall! Not many places like this in the world that are so easily accessible. Everything becomes too big here for the eyes to take in and you lose concept of height or depth. Lynda and I have never really done any tracking so it was time to start doing some in order to firstly be safe because you can get far away from the mountain and also add more freefall time. So Lynda’s first jumps were simply tracking to get the hang of it. No sweat here, she tracked like a demon like I thought she would. I wanted to fly my wingsuit while Lynda was honing her tracking. The cliffs here mostly go straight down into the water at the bottom of the Fjord except for Kjerag where there is a talus that eventually ends with a little grassy patch at the very end. This grassy patch sticks out into the Fjord and is a perfect landing area about the size of two or three tennis courts. Along the left side a rocky beach stretches all the way from the cliff out to this grassy patch. God made this place just for BASE jumping. Why else would he have created the highest vertical cliff right there and made a grass landing at the base and nowhere else in the entire Fjord exists the same phenomena? It was Gods will that we find this place and play there like we play.

This place was found by a BASE jumper, Stein, many years ago. Stein formed the BASE club which operates from this tiny little town called Lysebotn. Lysebotn only exists because of the hydroelectric power stations located here. Norway produces more electricity than anyone else in Europe. No surprise when you look around and see the amount of water just pouring down the mountains into the fjord. They use all this free running water and channel it to produce electricity. Cheap electricity and environmentally friendly as well. Since the old days with improvements on infrastructure the little town has not needed as much workers anymore for the power plants and so the place took a turn for the worst until the tourism industry took off and this little place took its stand on the tourist map. Stein formed the BASE club to formalize BASE a little in Lysebotn and to facilitate BASE jumping in the Fjord. They run a great operation which has busses that run to the top that drop you off and then you walk the rest of the way to the exit points. They also operate the boats that drag your adrenalin induced ass back to shore once you have jumped the mountain and landed on the little grassy patch. Remember, this grassy patch is out in the Fjord more than a kilometer from the Lysebotn shore. There is no way of getting off that little “island” unless by boat. Either side are sheer rock walls going straight into the water and they go in deep, up to 350 meters. You buy a punch card from the BASE club and that gives you 10 rides which you can use for the bus and the boat. The BASE operation here works really well and if it wasn’t for these guys it would mean a lot of organizing and running around everyday where now you know that there are three loads going a day at 8am and 3pm and 8pm. Organize yourself and get on a load. The bus takes about 20 minutes to the top of the mountain and then you walk from there for about 2 hours to exit point 6. Then it takes about an hour before stragglers arrive and everyone gets kitted up and is ready to start going. Everyone then jumps in turns and people wait around at the bottom for the boat to go back. At the same time there is also a little boat in the water with someone ready and waiting to pull you out the drink if you flew too far into the Fjord or you missed on your landing. If you end up in the water any longer than 2 minutes, I’m sure you will get instant hypothermia. The dude in the boat will certainly save your life. There were a few water landings during the time we where there.

The South African contingency joined us on the afternoon before the Heli Boogie. Fritz arrived at the same time as we did so he was already there. Gloei and Arie arrived the Wednesday afternoon and so the Boogie was going to be one huge blast with 5 South Africans running amok. So the first day of the Boogie had to start in style and we thought it appropriate to do a five way with Lynda doing a double front somersault and Gloei doing a gainer (running forward and doing a back somersault), Arie and Fritz just jumped while I followed the four closely behind so I could film this fiasco. Lynda did a perfect double front and was still doing her second while everyone else was preparing to track off into the distance. What a wicked jump and when we landed many high fives went around. I got some good footage and photos. Check out the photo gallery. The last jump of the boogie was also a five way with Gloei, Fritz and Lynda swinging around to face me while falling on their backs to give the camera a sign or two. On this jump we had two people filming from the sides so at least you get to see me running off after the others. Mostly it rained throughout the boogie and the 15 jumps we both planned to do out the heli turned out to be 8 jumps. Bummer but at least we saved a load of money. It was always a miss and go with the rain and if you were unlucky you would end up at the top just as the next wall of rain hit. We had that bad luck on the one jump.

The heli touches down at the top and Lynda and I jump out straight into the rain. We join a few people that have gone up before us that are waiting around. We take out our ponchos and squat on the rock so that it goes over our legs and keeps most of us dry. The icy wind pelting us together with the rain and all we can do is face our backs into it and hold out. We hear the heli coming up for another load and when I look around all I see is white and the sound of a chopper close by. It hovers around but then you hear it dive away down the mountain again. This tells me that the heli couldn’t land and the conditions were only going to get worse. The winds had been blowing quite hard all day and no-one really wanted to get off this mountain in case the wind blew you into the talus and the rocks below. Some people had been stuck up there for a couple of hours already and they were soaked to the bone with no ponchos or rain gear. Their parachutes absolutely drenched. A very small break came in and Lynda and I took the opportunity to get into our wingsuits as fast as possible before all hell broke loose again and we were under the ponchos once more. At least the wingsuits added another layer of warmth. By now my hands were beginning to stiffen and I could no longer feel my fingers. I had three jackets on with a beanie on my head and a wingsuit over it all but it still didn’t seem like enough. I was dry under the poncho so I could only faintly imagine what the others that were drenched to the bone must have been feeling like. Gaps in the cloud hovering around us came in very short bursts and we could briefly see the little grassy patch far below but the ground crew kept giving us the wind speeds below and it still looked sketchy to jump. At one brief clearing we had our ponchos off and were getting ready to get off this rock when the next cloud and heavy rain swiftly pulled in. Our fingers not working too well at this point, I took the ponchos out of my moonbag and as I gave one to Lynda. She didn’t manage to hold onto it to well and it flew off the side of the mountain with the wind. Shit, now one of us was going to get real wet. The exit coordinator seeing everyone turning blue, tells us that there are photographers staying on the mountain about 200 meters away. We all scramble off to look for the photographers. We find a little two man tent in the fog and cloud and by this time everyone is in there hiding from the rain, wind and cold. Lynda shouts out from outside asking if there is space for two more and a roar of laughter erupts from the inside as if to say, “ye, for a mouse”. I took the poncho and told Lynda to climb inside. These poor photographers, we were invading their little home. There were two of them. One climbed out the tent and took all his bags out in order for us to climb in. I stayed outside and had a chat to the chap that climbed out to make space. Norwegians are really friendly and welcoming people. They were saving our bacon.

After a while the exit coordinators’ radio crackles into life and the ground crew is telling him that the winds on the ground are a little better. We should consider jumping now. We thank the photographers and run off to the exit point again. We are still in the cloud but it’s no longer pelting rain, only a drizzle. You still can’t see anything and there is only white over the edge but I’ve had enough and I’m cold, wet and tired after 4 hours of waiting. The ground crew tells us that the cloud is a thin layer and we will pop out the bottom before we need to deploy our chutes. That’s good enough for me. Lynda and I get ready and we fly off the rock into the white cloud together. She disappears in front of me and after a few seconds we pop out the bottom of the cloud. What a great flight but it’s not over as we deploy our chutes the winds are blowing strong and we begin to fly backwards. Not great when the landings are not really big with rocks all over. I don’t want to land in the water as I’ve got thousands of dollars of camera equipment strapped to my head and I don’t want to drown it. I manage to steer it in backwards onto the grass area but Lynda didn’t get as far forward in front of the wind with her wingsuit flight and therefore she was going over the rocks. She managed to swing out right and fly it backwards into the water on the other side avoiding a nasty rock landing. The saying in Norway goes, “You Dry Faster Than You Heal”, so head for the water when it’s looking dodge. The guy in the boat got to her really fast and she was plucked out the water immediately. Wicked jump nonetheless even though I was nearly hypothermic but then again this skin and bone does not take long before it freezes. Other than the little epic above the rest of the event went rather well. We did a few more and the boogie ended on a high note with the SA contingency doing a 5 way and Arie and Fritz giving me the finger for the photo.

The Norway boogie over and the rain still pouring down, Lynda and I climb onto the ferry on our way back to Stavanger to make our way by train to Stockholm and then a flight to Zurich and a few trains again to Lauterbrunnen which is deep down some valley in Switzerland. We arrived today after travelling for two days or so and what a beautiful valley. Lauterbrunnen is one magical place and all I can think of is Heidi and Peter running down the hill side and the famous Heidi, Heidi…. and so on… Something like that, can’t remember the song :-). Lynda and I have been eating dried food for the last two weeks because the owner of the camp ground in Norway told us that there was no refrigerator in the camp kitchen. Therefore we didn’t buy any fresh food or fruit. The last couple of weeks have consisted of mainly beans and rice. When we strolled into Lauterbrunnen all we could see is shops of wicked looking food and it was simply belly twisting. After pushing our trolley from the train station through the whole town, we eventually found a place to stay. No more tent for us. We have got a little sick of the tent now. The guest house we found is perfect. Not too expensive and it has everything one can possibly want. We have a double room with more than enough space. There is a very well equipped kitchen and dinning room. Both our room and the dining room look straight out onto the cliffs we will be jumping. Perfect setting. Like Norway, this place is so BASE friendly. Everyone knows about the BASE jumpers and our host at the guest house has shown us all the special things she has set aside just for jumpers like the big spare room in the back where we can pack our canopies once we come back from a jump. We are looking forward to getting our teeth into BASE here. It seems like this place just swarms with BASE jumpers. As I write this another two BASE Jumpers have just arrived and booked in.

Love and Peace,
Eddy & Lynda