There’s a sensation that every traveler is intimately familiar with. It’s that lump in your throat, that nagging dull roar in the back of your mind and the slight quickening of breath as stale adrenaline oozes out your pores. It’s the sensation of uncertainty…of adventure yet to be decided. Will I make my ferry? Do I know where I’m going? What if this Bus doesn’t come? Will my hostel booking still be good? It’s that rush of adventure that lets you know that you’re pushing yourself, that you’re exploring new things and that you’ve taken yet another fundamental step outside of your comfort zone.
As I sat reading my book in the crisp morning air at a bus stop in front of the Stavanger University Hospital I couldn’t help but nervously check my wristwatch. Despite the book, I still managed to squirm perched as I was sandwiched between two backpacks and clinging somewhat precariously to the side of the narrow bus bench. The bus was late which wasn’t an issue-if-I’d made the right guess on where my ferry was leaving from. If I’d gotten it wrong though? It was going to be a rough run down and around the old harbor and then up the coast to the industrial district. What would I do if I missed it? Bah. I had to be guessing right, it only made sense that the ferry would leave from the main Tide terminal…right?
Luckily, the bus eventually surfaced and spirited me down towards the city center. From there a brief half-walk half-sprint got me to the dock with plenty of time to confirm that I had indeed guessed right. Relieved I tracked down the ferry, then settled in – I was early. As I waited I chatted with a Dane who was somewhat lost and trying to figure out where to catch the ferry to Preikestolen. I offered up advice based on what I’d learned a day or two before before walking through a light sprinkle to the local SPAR minimarket where I picked up a healthy breakfast: A hotdog wrapped in bacon washed down with a Pepsi. Perfect food for 8:30 in the morning! Right?
The ferry was relatively small – a fast, jet powered boat that blasted across the water’s surface. It had all of the usual amenities; a snack bar, several rooms full of comfortable chairs, flat-screen TVs on the walls and a wealth of windows. The ferry ride was scheduled to last about 4 hours and would take me up through the inner fjords along Norway’s rugged western coast before dropping me off at Bergen. I’d planned it as much as a sightseeing tour as a necessary mode of transport.
The ferry was about 1/5th full leaving plenty of space to stretch out, though I’ll admit I spent most of the time wandering from deck to deck, reading or chatting in mixed English/Spanish with a group of Spanish travelers. To my disappointment the weather wasn’t in the mood to cooperate and while the water was fairly smooth the air was cold, windy, slightly rainy and at times doused in fog. It made it nearly impossible to stand outside unless you spent your time clustered with the smokers hiding in the bubble of calm air carved out at the stern of the boat by the ship’s cabin.
The ferry made a number of stops along the way offering an exciting view of some of Norway’s smaller communities. Some of the towns seemed mid-sized while others were little more than seaside villages. All had a distinctly picturesque feel to them. Luckily, as the trip progressed we gradually broke free of the fog, rain and wind which gave me the chance to see a bit more of the countryside.
Eventually we were informed that we’d be transferring to another high speed ferry – why? Who knows. Perhaps it was a regular part of the trip, or perhaps something had come up. Either way, it was nothing a few questions, friendly locals, and minute or two of absolute confusion couldn’t fix. I wasn’t in the mood to complain, after all it added to the sense of adventure.
As mid-afternoon approached we reached our final destination: The city of Bergen which serves as a picturesque gateway to the fjords. Able to service large cruise ships and home to a UNESCO heritage site the city has an undeniable charm and delightful beauty to it. As I stepped off the ferry and scratched my head trying to orient myself I instantly felt a smile spread across my face. This city had a fun energy to it and undeniable beauty. It was time to find my hostel, and then to begin exploring. New adventures and beauties waited. I could feel the tug as another chapter demanded to be written.