Part 4 of 5. Written while the vacation was underway.

Woke up, tossed back the drapes:



FLAM. Or the place where access to FLAM begins. FLAM is not a dessert; if it was it would be made of rocks. Rocks dipped in water.

This is the Cruising the Fjords Cruise, so we are doing just that, steaming out of Flan with these enormous slumbering mountains on either side. They don’t brood or loom or veer imperiously; they just exist in repose. The sun slices through, brightens a rock face; the sun sides away and the shadows roll over again. Nothing bothers them but they are not indifferent. It’s hard to describe. There’s something almost personal about their appeal.

You realize, in an academic sense, the quantity of stone on the planet, the unimaginable amount of rock; it would take the labors of a multitude with pickaxes a lifetime years to level one of them, and the roll on and on in endless number, all connected, each somehow standing apart. As I said: you don’t feel humbled. Quiet, joyous awe.

But I also said FLAM.

So: we got off the ship this morning and headed to a train, which had been sent high up into the mountains for some reason I’ll have to google. (UPDATE: here.) It’s 20 km through tunnels and across bridges and through gorges whose vistas strike you dumb - the vast expanse of wood, the raw scraped stone cleaved by glaciers (which seems wrong, somehow; in the war of ice and stone, it’s odd to think of ice as the victor, no matter how long it grinds against the adamantine shield of rock), the clean line of water falling from the peak in a quicksilver stream.

It's extraordinary.



When we reached the end we found a small hotel with pigs in the back and a table heaped with Stroopwaffle inside. They probably don't get a lot of walk-in traffic.



After an hour of walking around and looking and gawking and snapping . .






. . . we got back on and screeched our way back down. The noise of the brakes and the dark thunder of the tunnels scared a little boy, who cried in fear; perhaps he’d been told of trolls, and believed we were about to be delivered unto them. Don’t worry! That’s silly. Legends. Like the legend they told us of the maidens in the mountains who sang songs to bewitch men and lead them up into the craigs, where they would be devoured. Nonsense!

We stopped at a particularly vigorous waterfall, and got out for pictures.

After a few minutes I swore I heard music.

And then I saw something. Herewith a short video about the trip.



The view back was just as good as the way up:



Once back in FLAM, my wife suggested we walk to see a waterfall. She does this sort of thing. It’s only 20 minutes away! the tour guide said. Thirty at the most. Oh, all right. We walked and saw nothing; wife asked someone coming from the other direction, who said it was but five minutes away. Well, piece of pie, as the dying Russian submariner said. Except it seemed to be on the other side of the river. We took a right turn through a village, thinking it would lead to a bridge; the road led to a field. It was also starting to rain. Daughter was unhappy about tromping around other people’s property; she has her father’s sense of not-wanting-to-intrude, and also his desire to be back on the warm ship, having seen waterfalls today thank you. We started back from the dead end; when we looked back my wife was nowhere in sight.

So she’d gone on ahead, or had fallen in, or been waylaid by those two characters standing by a tree down in the field. Sigh. So we turned around, and went through the field, following a faint trail, and I’m thinking I was on a ship this morning and now I am walking through a field of grass in Norway looking for my wife. Well. Found a bridge; crossed over; looked ahead and saw nothing resembling my wife. Kept going until we saw people coming out of a gate, with a path leading up into the woods. This was the gateway to the waterfall, then. In we went, and up.

And up.

And up.

And up and up, across rocks and mud and over fallen trees; the surest-footed goat would have balked. A red T spray-painted here and there told you how to go. I had to pause halfway up the mountain, because I was dead beat. We rested. Pushed on. No sign of her, either on the path ahead or in the form of someone who’d tumbled off a stone and rolled down insensate into the woods and rocks. Finally I stopped and yelled her name into the void. She replied from above, and said it was a long way up. She’d be back in 15 minutes. So we paused and waited, and eventually she came back, surprised we’d made it up this far. If we hadn’t, I wouldn’t have seen . . . this.



Once down on the land again we walked through a road that wound through farms, drinking in beauty of it all. Just perfect.



Back to the ship, late for trivia; we got there on question 5. The quizmaster came over and gave me the first four questions, and I nodded: Elton John, ABBA, Spruce Goose, something else. We tied with 14 out of 15 against a larger team, and lost because I miscalculated the weight of the Hope Diamond in carats.

And now to dinner, again. Cigar and cognac night tonight on the aft deck, and more fjords tomorrow. An extraordinary trip so far, but nothing I suspect will top today.


NEXT: that assertion is proved when the ship docks in Dumpen, Norway.




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