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Guest: Sledding in Stavanger
the port in Stavanger, Norway with cruise ship in the background

Tough Sledding in Stavanger
Story and Photos by Frank Mazer

he’s shouting into the night. She’s running downhill. Snow is falling gently. The only lights are those glowing in the wooden homes along the snow covered street which tips down and away steeply in front of her in the dark of the early evening. A Norwegian winter evening. In suburban Stavanger, on the South coast near the North Sea. I can see her dilemma. With urgency, I take off running from behind her. Slip sliding in the snow.

She’s chasing the little sled. On it is her little two year old son happily wrapped in a big snowsuit. He looks back over his shoulder smiling with a child’s delight in his eyes. I see beyond him as he picks up speed in a frightful demonstration of gravity, snow, and lack of friction. 200 meters beyond him sits the bottom of the dark, snow-covered street where there are boulders marking the end of the of the way and a dark ominous ocean fjord lying just beyond the boulders.

moored yachts in Stavanger with the Bybrua suspension bridge spanning the Stromsteinsundet in the background

I live here. I don’t know her. But I do now. So how did we both come to this place? I’m walking around the corner at the top of the hill taking deep breaths of the tasty fresh Norwegian air while I look down at the fjord lit up here and there by the lights of homes on its shore. Then I see a mom and child ahead of me at the hill top. No traffic anywhere around here. Just Norwegian delight.

Ahead of me she gives the sled a tiny nudge to get it going downhill. Clearly her intention is to walk downhill next to it. The best of intentions lost in a flurry. Such is life. The sled lurches forward and takes off downhill. Initially, it glides slowly enough that the mom can trot just a meter behind it. Then she slips, her feet spinning like a cartoon character, and next, the little sled is accelerating with amazing rapidity.

There are two cars parked at the bottom of the hill on the left side. The same side the sled is traveling on. We both can see that the sled is destined to engage the parked cars on its current course. I speed past her in a desperate downhill headlong dash while attempting to retain a semblance of balance. Her cries are muffled in the snow behind me, “Alf Jakob, Alf –Jakob,” her voice calls into the falling snow. I hear the baby giggling with glee. I am not gaining on him. The sled is fleeing farther from me.

Stokka lake in Stavanger

Stavanger has natural beauty beyond belief. It’s a gateway to the fjords. A city of culture. Home of one of the best schools in the world, as I can testify to for having taught at the international school there for years among its friendly, motivated students and staff from all over America and the world. Education as it should be. Could be. Here I am. One moment walking home from work. The next moment joining a scenario of gravity, sled and car, slowly unraveling like a bad dream.

I keep running and stumbling in the snow. He slides, lighting up the night with his spirited laugh. From behind the sled I can now see his head is on a level with the bumper of the first parked car and the sled is making a beeline for it. I prepare to make a head-long dive of desperation to grab the sled in a similar fashion to an NFL football defensive back making a dive of futility from behind the running back who is strutting into the end zone ahead of him. Then, a few meters away from the car, it happens.

The sled, for no apparent reason, veers to the right of the car, then straightens and goes right past it, carrying its joyful cargo on its back. The sled slows to a stop all on its own just before the boulders. With my feet churning and snow flying I come to an inglorious halt as the child turns around laughing with glee. Mother arrives breathless and sobbing. I stand dumb-founded.

She is thanking me in Norwegian for my attempt at a good deed. She is kneeling down cradling her smiling little one while speaking his name between tears. I wait a moment to make sure all is ok in this Norwegian night. I find myself wondering about the twists and turns of life beyond our control. Lesson learned as I walk the 50 meters along the path to the left which leads to the home where I live with my (wonderful) adopted Norwegian family.

I recall being told once to be aware of this “kinder, gentler” place. This place called Norway. This town called Stavanger. This was confirmed upon seeing the strollers with little children seated in them, parked outside of shops, unattended. No fear lurking. Only smiles from passersby. And humility, too, is a cherished commodity along with kindness.

a narrow street lined by shops in central Stavanger

As I sit down in the warmth of the family home I am reminded of a warmer running excursion. It’s summer. I am testing my fitness by running the five miles on the trail around the Stokka Lake near downtown. Through the woods. Up hills. Down hills. Past small waterfalls. Visions of glaciers in the distance. I am feeling fit and fast. My pace is rapid. Especially for an “old-fellow,” over 45 being “ancient” by most younger perspectives. Humility, Norwegian style, soon follows. I suddenly sense, here amid the forest path with the lake to my right, breathing coming from behind me. A pack of five women runners, clearly Norwegian by their look, some with grey hair, all wearing tights and moving fluidly, scoot past me and disappear ahead around the next twist in the path through the woods. I am feeling as if I should be wearing a tortoise costume. It occurs to me, are there tortoises in Norway?

Norway. A land of fitness, beauty, kindness, glaciers, old villages and modern cities. A land, from head to toe longer than the distance from Seattle to Los Angeles, filled with magnificent scenery all along the way. Winter nights and Northern Lights, and summer days for standing on the side of fjords at places such as Prekestolen near Stavanger. If you visit, be sure to greet the hills with a laugh, beware of snow, sleds, and gravity, and most of all, be ready to have your breath taken away by it all.

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FEEDBACK FOR PATTI

I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK

FEEDBACK FOR JULIO

The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.

Julio

* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!

Julio

FEEDBACK FOR WENDY

For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!

Cheers

--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in responding...you had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy

FEEDBACK FOR NINO

I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA

FEEDBACK FOR RUSH & CHUCK

Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA



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