This weekend I went on my first Norwegian camping trip. This weekend was also marked the first snowfall in Norway. It was adventuresome (which is actually a word, I looked it up) to say the least, and not just because of the snow.
Despite the warnings of snow and the few flurries we saw on the drive down, the weather was nice when we arrived at our launch point. It was the coldest it had been since my arrival in Norway (about 32 or 33 F) but I was dressed warmly. I also had a dry bag packed with just about every piece of non-cotton clothing I brought with me here.
There were six of us. Two in these interesting inflatable kayak-like rafts, 2 in a folding canoe, and then 2 (including myself) in a “regular” canoe. As we set off, I thought I was in the most stable and secure of the boat options. Oh little did I know…
We started out on a flat lake, taking pictures and taking in the scenery. But before long we entered into a river and hit the first set of rapid. Or the only set of rapids in my case. Without time to make any sort of plan of attack, we just went for it. The water was moving fast but it was low and there were rocks sticking up everywhere. I was sitting in the front, paddling as hard as I could, and trying not to freak out each time we dropped over a big rock. My friend Anders was sitting in the back and trying to navigate us around the rocks the best he could.
It all happened pretty fast. We got stuck on top on top of a rock and then the canoe began to twist and tip. There was nothing we could do to stop it. And then we were in the water. I was still holding onto the side of the canoe (and my paddle, which I never let go of it during the entire ordeal!) but the water was pushing me into the canoe and not giving me much of a chance to breathe without taking in a lot of water. I remember thinking this is how you drown before letting go. Once I started drifting, it took me awhile to figure out what to do next. I remember thinking that I should put my feet downstream so I didn’t bang my head (easier said than done), and then I realized that I should try to head to the shore instead of floating aimlessly down the middle of the river. At one point, Anders (who landed on top of the rock that capsized us and never got wet above his waist) threw me a rope to hold on to, but the current was too strong for me to move up on the rope and I just ended up swallowing more water so I gave up on it. Finally, completely soaked from head to toe, I crawled onto the shore. I don’t think I was in the water for much more than a minute or two, which was good because the water was really cold!
Sounds terrifying right? The weird thing is that it wasn’t. I think I was in a bit of shock that we capsized and that I was so wet, but I never felt scared or desperate. I was lucky to be confident in my swimming ability, because when I wasn’t able to breathe, I knew that I would be better off letting go of what what keeping me afloat. I was most scared of having to walk on wet rocks, so I think I felt safer “swimming” to the shore than trying to stand up and then make my way to shore on foot. I don’t think I even tried to stand up right when it happened and when Anders was trying to pull me in with the rope, it never occurred to me to try and get my footing.
The pair in the inflatable canoe were close enough to see the aftermath. The other 2 were out of sight when the capsize happened but realized something went wrong when our water bottles and the bit of firewood we had floated past them. Everything else was tied to the boat. Guro (the other female on the trip) was quick to make me take off all my wet clothes and put on some of her dry ones. I was freezing, but dry except for my feet. It was a catch 22, I knew I needed to keep moving to stay warm but Guro’s extra shoes were too small for me, I ended up putting mine back on and hoping the the wool socks would do their job.
To be continued…
Note: For all you worriers out there (Mom…) I didn’t freeze to death and I’ve still got all 20 fingers and toes.