When we last left our hero(?) he was uncertain of his, and his friends, future. What could they, a group of New Zealanders possibly find to do in a snow covered land of darkness? Was there really any chance they were getting out alive?
All they could do is wrap up in merino, and hope someone didn’t get drunk and fall through a frozen lake.
We pick the story up again after work on the 23rd of December...
Getting to Sweden:
You know why Gatwick isn’t the best airport in London? Because you can’t get the tube there. This isn’t some special piece of news, but it is something I have to keep going on about. I know you don’t HAVE to get the Gatwick express out there, but for the most part it feels like the only option. In this case we caught the “30 minute non-stop journey” train on what could be the busiest day of the year for the airport. After stopping at two other stations we arrived at Gatwick an hour later.
(as I wrote this it became possible to use your Oyster card to get to Gatwick this doesn’t at all solve problems, but is at least a step in the direction of potentially thinking about sorting out the issues with getting to Gatwick)
Luckily I am an insane person and like being at airports, so an hour delay didn't really cause us any issues and we still had plenty of time to stock up on booze and get some Nandos.
[The next section of the story will be told in The Travel Chronicles at some point. Maybe because it was Christmas people were worse than normal at travelling, but I got several funny incidents during this trip]
The next morning most of us woke up alive (OK, all of us) and we went to pick up our rental cars. After a brief interlude, and a 15k detour (30k round trip, I think), my turn navigating was over, and instead we handed over to an absolute must for foreign road trips - a GPS with a New Zealand accent.
You don’t know how fun it is to go the wrong way until every time you do a voice from your dashboard says:
"Chuck a uwie right here bro. Choice."
He also said something about getting a steak and cheese pie at some point. After we discovered the joy that this could bring it was clear I wasn't going to have any more opportunities to takes us somewhere we weren't meant to be going.
I guess it would be remiss to not mention how nice Sweden looks. We saw loads of lakes and forest and stuff like that. All very pretty.
Sweden also gets dark really early (as I explained in “The Before”). To make it a civilised trip we had a rule that we shouldn’t drink during daylight hours. I decided to interpret this to mean that we should be drinking during all non-daylight hours. The only thing I could find the first night as we were still driving to our new accommodation was a bottle of scotch. Well, when in Rome?
Eventually we arrived at our home for 10 days in the snow. It was pretty similar to the picture I made beforehand.
We went to church on Christmas Eve. Not exactly something I would normally be into (you know, because it's dull). Another reason I tend not to go to church is the burning sensation I always feel. This time it was really intense. As it turns out everyone I was with felt the same and it was just the heating in the church was cranked up to a temperature lablled lower levels of hell. They even had heated seats!
This all didn’t sit totally well with me. Mainly, the heating made it really uncomfortable. But more than that, churches are big buildings, how much does it cost to heat a church? It has to be a lot, right? I mean, I know “the church” has loads of money, so they don’t care, but I do? It seemed a waste to be heating a huge room to uncomfortable temperatures, when all people wanted was "not freezing".
One last thing - I don’t know how clapping in church works. Sometimes people clapped for people singing solos, other times they didn’t. And they never seemed to clap the full choir for anything… I was confused (could have been the heat).
Actually - one more last thing(I need to get a better understanding of the word last) - the “carols” they sing in church aren’t any of the good ones you know as a kid - turns out they can’t sing about Santa or reindeer or anything like that, they have to just sing about Jesus. Guess there is a one fictional character limit?
One "night" we went snowmobiling in what we all deemed to be a blizzard(we hadn't been in much snow before, so any amount of snow falling was a lot). Other than driving home afterwards, I totally recommend it, lots of fun.
We also went husky sledding during the day, which was fun too, but, well, you will see plenty of dogs butts doing dog butt stuff.
Also, it got near -20c that day. No amount of socks can prepare you toes for that.
I am not sure what the over/under on trips to the emergency room was, but there was only one during our visit to Sweden.
The best bit was sitting in the waiting room watching Forrest Gump.
I take no responsibility for the injury.
You know the best bit about ice and snow? It isn’t driving on it, but it might relate to cars...
I guess skiing is good too?
We also saw the Northern Lights a few times. Unfortunately (I guess) I got over them pretty quickly. The problem I had is that what you can see in these terrible photos isn’t actually what they look like to your eyes. So, really I could have just taken a photo of anything and shopped the hell out of it - basically the same thing.
Another thing, you may have to go through a lot of effort to “see” them and get a good photo. Which when it is really cold doesn’t seem totally worth it to me.
Oh, and finally, I think that was our favourite electrical substation we took photos of.
As you might have gathered to this point were did a lot of activities. Sure, it was really cold outside, but it was slightly better to be outside than trapped in a small house with eight people who may have been trying to kill you (?).
To this end, one day we found ourselves ice fishing.
Now, if you know anything about TV (I guess), you would have at some point seen some guys go out onto the ice, sit in a tiny little wood shack, drill a hole in the ice and fish(drink). Well, ice fishing as we did it is nothing at all like that - other than the ice, the hole and the fish. Basically what I am trying to say is there was no little shack.
This is ice fishing:
The best bit of it is that ice is really cold, and you don’t catch fish, and it’s really cold.
After returning home the guy who took us out fishing mentioned that normally if it was that cold he might have gone out for an hour. We had been out there for three hours. I guess he thought we were having heaps of fun.
One other thing about activities - a big part of it is to get out of cramped spaces. The kicker is that you have to drive to places, so actually end up spending even more time in even more cramped spaces!
This didn't cause problems on our trip, but more a warning for others - know who you are traveling with.
Also, car beers are useful (not for the driver… if past experience counts, they drink vodka cruisers)
We also saw Mooses (in a farm thing), a “frozen” waterfall, and went to Stockholm, but I didn’t really write anything about that, so I guess you don’t get to hear about it. Stockholm is nice though. We had some shockingly good Mexican there (shocking because Sweden and Mexico are essentially the opposite of each other).