Thursday, April 17, 2008

Grimstad and the house of Thor

"What are you doing here in Norway Mr Ryan?" The pasty faced Norwegian immigration officer asked.
"I'm here to learn how to drive small boats." I replied jetlagged and really not enjoying the chit chat.
"You don't have small boats in Australia?"

That pretty much summed up most of my conversations with the locals on my latest trip over to Norway. My company had enrolled me on a small boat driving course in a little coastal village named Grimstad on the southern coast of Norway. Over the next few days we would familiarise ourselves with our 'Workboats' and procedures that would enable us to work on our deployed gear while out at sea saving the company tones of $$$.

Grimstad we were told by our excellent instructors at SafeMar was the home of champion bike rider Thor Hushovd. Being a fan of The Tour de France I was over the moon and was seriously considering going around to his place, a well maintained, typically Norwegian fashioned house facing the fjord. I was told later that he was skipping the Norwegian winter to train in a warmer climate elsewhere. Being Australian it would have been criminal for me not to go over and at least sabotage his bike in some way giving our man Robbie McEwan another minor but helpfull head start for the Tour. Tommy the instructor went on to explain that Grimstad was a mecca for sun depraved Scandwegians in the summer. The story goes that thousands flock to their summer houses, deploy their boats into the fjord and go zipping around the islands occasionally crashing into each other. It was hard to imagine this sleepy village ever being the center of activity at any time of the year.

We spent 4 days out on the Grimstad fjord dressed in our protective orange survival suits. A colleague of mine had been so lucky as to join me for the course all the way from New Zealand. An Australian and a Kiwi in Grimstad proved to be all too much for the local news station who immediately dispatched a news crew down to the training centre to see what our deal was?

The weather turned it on for it's foreign visitors whilst there. We experienced 3 out of 4 really fine days out on the fjord witnessing Grimstad at its best. When I wasn't eating kababs or Dolly Dimples pizza I was admiring Grimstads rustic, small town character. If only beer were cheaper in this country it would be so much more of a pleasure to visit.

Saturday came and my visit to Grimstad was over for now. I had organised a HUET course (Helicopter Underwater Escape Training) the next week on Wednesday. This gave me ample time to hit the slopes of southern Norway. After harassing every local Scandwegian on all the immediate skiing resorts I had built a consensus, that all roads led to Hovden.