Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Norwegian Countryside

Well, it has been a while since I did anything out of the ordinary, but this weekend proved different. One of the owners, Per, was in town and he is always up for a good party. With very little twisting of our arms, we were convinced to head out to the local night spot down the road. Time flies when you are drinking $12 beers and it was 3am before we knew it. The group was divided, some were still awake and ready for more and others were more than ready for bed. Fortunately for Per and I, we had run into some people we knew and headed up the road for a Nachtspill. Well time flew at our after party too, and seemingly, even before Per could pass all the way out on the couch it was time to get up and head to work. Good thing I got those two hours of sleep.

I'll be the first to admit that the beer I finished at 6am might not have been the best thing to drink at that hour considering I had to be at work at nine. Fortunately for Per and I Sunday was different than most work days, and the first two and a half hours consisted of riding on a bus. By the time the headache began to subside, it was time to guide 6 family rafting trips back to back. The weather cooperated and all the little kids had a good time rafting down through the beautiful Hyen Valley.

Knut Arlid Flatjord taking care of the kiddies at the put in

The sun came out and made for some spectacular views

With all the family trip action on Sunday everyone was more than happy to have Monday off. Team America(Mefford, Liza, Julia(Liza's cousin), and I) decided to take a trip up the Stardalen Valley to check out the Haugabreen Glacier.

On the way up Haugadalen looking back down into the Stardalen

Although I have seen several glaciers from a distance I had not yet touched one in the flesh. Getting to Haugabreen is a really cool hike through one of the more spectacular valleys I have been to.

Heading up Haugadalen towards Haugabreen

The first good view of the Haugabreen

The hike continually provided amazing views, and a little excitement, in the form of me stepping in the creek. We eventually made it to the glacier and got to check out some ice, up close and personal.

The Haugabreen(breen means ice in Norwegian) is a branch of the Myklebust glacier. When you turn around from Haugabreen you are able to see a branch of the Jostadalsbreen. The Jostadalsbreen in the largest glacier in mainland Europe.

From Haugabreen towards Jostadalsbreen

On the way up to the glacier I spotted a route that I wanted to attempt on the way down. I separated from the group and headed out to the very top of the waterfall in route to the valley floor. From a distance I was told that I looked a bit like a mountain goat as I speedily made my way down the rocky landscape.

The view from the top of the waterfall back into the Haugadalen

A self portrait at the bottom of the waterfall

After the glacial exploration we made our way home and were back to work on the Jolstra today. Stay tuned for more Scandinavian adventures.

Don't forget a click on a picture will take you to a gallery with more pictures.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Time for Change... (Not the kind in your pocket)

Well, living in Norway has provided me with plenty of down time, to read, run, walk, kayak, and learn and think about the world as it is. I am in no way trying to declare my own innocence, rather spark intelligent discussion, and possibly inspire change.

Regardless of your political affiliations and loyalties there are a few things that are undeniable in todays world. The United States is the largest consumer of petroleum in the world and the country is in dire need of change on many levels. The economy has gone to shit, (pardon my French), I can personally attest to the fact that the dollar has weakened by nearly 20% from my arrival in Norway in 2007. There are many factors which can account for this decline, but our excessive consumption and costly campaigns over seas can not be helping.

Let's face the facts, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We have reached Peak Oil production. The fact of the matter is that gas prices, food costs, transportation, and the cheap plastic things you buy for kids are all going to cost more in the not so distant future.

Although I know the Climate Change issue is controversial in some regards, there are several truths, the planet is getting warmer, the ice caps and glaciers are melting, and weather patterns are changing in more extreme ways. Obviously the planet goes through natural cycles of change, but I would say the careless way which we have treated the planet for the past 50+ years(since we had a clue about finite resources) has not positively affected the planet, its ice caps, or its weather patterns.

At the root of nearly all issues of environmental abuse lies the fact that we have been completely reliant on cheap foreign oil, while neglecting to develop the proper infrastructure to deal with an ever changing world and finite fossil fuel resources.

A great deal of my inspiration for writing this came from a New York Times article on what was going to happen to General Motors Corporation. GM has been one of the biggest corporations in the United States for 90 years, but their future is bleak, and their 110th birthday may not come with the company in the same shape or form, if it exists at all. General Motors, in my opinion, has had nothing but opportunity to develop and change its vehicles and move towards efficiency and alternative fuels. The first fuel crisis happened nearly 30 years ago, but GM has continued to manufacture gas guzzling cars. As recently as the past 10 years, GM has continued its short sighted policy, in hopes of making the quick buck, probably at their own demise. The 1990's saw a huge push from domestic auto makers for the big SUV, with GM leading the way, Suburban, Denali, Tahoe, and the vile Hummer to name a few. Had GM taken a different approach, as few as 10 years ago, seeing the rising fuel costs, perhaps their future would look more promising. Like him or not Jimmy Carter was right on in his pushes for environmental reform, and his statements about the United States abundant oil consumption.

The fact that I am living in a country that still produces enough oil for its own consumption is another inspiration for this article. Despite the fact that gas should be abundant and cheap here, it costs nearly $3 a liter, that is about $11 a gallon. As well, you surely don't see, save for the very rare, Hummer riding down the road. The SUV is replaced with the spacious station wagon, or van. As well, I imagine more than 70% of the vehicles here run on diesel. Now throw away your previous notions about diesel vehicles, because a modern diesel engines are quiet, relatively clean, and incredibly efficient engines. For example, the 1.8T Gas powered Volkswagen Passat gets maybe 29mpg on the highway, while the 1.9L Passat Turbo Diesel gets upwards of 40mpg. This is not a new thing, but the American auto industry, petroleum companies, and federal government(who have been in bed together for a very long time) have refused to bring these efficient engines to market in the US.

Essentially the point I am trying to get at is that the United States, and the world as a whole, are in desperate need of change. If we refuse to change, as James Howard Kunstler says, "It is at our own peril."

Al Gore gave an incredibly poignant, inspirational, and powerful speech July 17, 2008 on the imperative need for change, check it out here (Watch it whether you agree or not)


Now I may not agree exactly with everything that Mr. Gore has to say, but I do think that he more than has the right idea. In addition, I think that in order to appeal to a broader audience Mr. Gore has sugar coated part of his challenge. I believe that if we are not energy independent by 2018, our country will not exist as we know it today. If we can change and build this infrastructure all the jobs in these renewable energy industries, in regards to creation, installation and maintenance, by their very nature can not be outsourced to foreign countries.

All of my recent readings, and experiences abroad have really gotten the wheels turning. As a result, I have committed to personally reducing my fossil fuel consumption. I hope this synopsis can inspire thought, discussion, and most importantly change.

For those of you who absolutely have to have some eye candy, here ya go...

An old fashioned American Meal(Meatloaf, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and delicious Norwegian grown carrots...Thanks for the tips Mom

Coming out of the Pearly Gates

Cruising the flats...

"The Government today announced that it is changing its national symbol to a CONDOM because it more accurately reflects the government's political stance. A condom allows for inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you are actually being screwed."

Thanks for reading,

Don't be Scared to leave Comments

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Extreme: Like Smoky and the Bandit

Shaving in the State Trooper Dew... (Photo MW)

Over the years my tastes in music, books, hobbies, and movies have changed. One of several constants throughout these fluctuations has been an admiration for Burt Reynolds. Laugh if you will: but whether staring in the ultra classic comedy "Smoky and the Bandit," or playing the rugged survivalist in the academy award nominated film "Deliverance" one thing is certainly true...Burt grows the best mustache.

So despite the laughable nature of having just a mustache, particularly amongst my age group, I decided that there could be no substitute facial hair style for the Ekstremsportveko- Voss' very own Extreme sports festival. For those that are able, have a Banquet Beer for me and the Bandit

Although last year was a great week of paddling and partying, I felt this year topped it. As some of you may know, I placed 10th place in the extreme Kayak race last year, and was on a team that placed 2nd in the rafting competition.

The author on a successful run of the infamous Nosebreaker Drop, Upper Raundalselva. (Photo by Philbert Williams)

This year, I opted out of the rafting, due to time conflicts, and the fact that I guide rafts nearly every day. Instead, I replaced the rafting comp with another kayak competition, the Team Race. Mefford, Greg Dashper (A Canadian friend, from my BC adventures, who now works in Voss), and myself competed and finished 4th. Unfortunately, I did not fare so well in the individual event, and finished 19th. The field was tough this year, and the water was low, making any mistake very costly.

Finishing the Team Race

Considering my dismal finish in the individual race, which was the highlight of my week last year, how is it that I would consider this year better than last? Well the answers are... Lot's of kayaking, new rivers, big waterfalls, good friends, great mustaches, expensive, but bountiful, beer, good music, crazy paragliders, and beautiful women, not to mention my first days off in 22. All this in six quick days of fun, in one of the coolest towns anywhere.

Top Picture- The author racing down the Brandseth (photo Liza D.)

Bottom Picture- The author on the Reimegrend Section of the Raundalselva (photo MW)

One thing is certain about kayaking, is that it is a tight knit and friendly community. As well, once you reach a certain level, you know damn near everyone...even if you are 3000+ miles from home. If you don't know people, they are friends of your friends, and thereby instantly friends of yours. The week in Voss, reconnected me with both types of friends and really reminded me of one of my favorite things about kayaking.

Zach, a newly made friend, met through mutual friends, getting it done on the Upper Raundal

Max, yet another new friend previously known only by reputation, punching a hole with enthusiasm on the Lower Myrkdal

Unfortunately, the week ended all too quickly. Before the team race was even over, it was back to the Salt Mines at Jolster Rafting for more work and less play, but much better pay. Mefford, Liza, and I, made it back to the base just barely in time for an evening rafting trip, and BBQ, which was followed by another crazy busy day of rafting, rappelling, BBQ, and paintball on my Birthday.
Fellow North American Mark Basso, on the Lower Myrkdal

Now that I am back at work, I am eagerly anticipating a visit from my Dad, and hope that we stay plenty busy at work for the rest of the season.

Did I mention it is kind of beautiful here?

To see more pictures-check out the new web gallery by clicking any picture on the blog.

For stories from different perspectives check over on Mefford's Blog, www.paralafamilia.blogspot.com

The Author on the biggest slide on the Brandseth. (Photo by MW)

All Photos by Amos Shuman, unless otherwise noted.

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