Wednesday, May 16, 2007


The middle of the night wasn't spiced up with sunlit jollity today. Instead, from about 3am, I cycled through 7 hours of diarrhoea and attempts to sleep, until I felt I was able to unleash myself from the cabin's loo to get everything we needed done before ship departure.

First up was to find a doctor for me, as my supply of Imodium had dried up or disappeared. The local maps didn't mark any medical facilities, but I did know where the pharmacy was. So I waddled in there, breathlessly asking for a doctor ( I had very little energy left ), and was told to take a number. Then, after enough pimple creams had been dispensed, a couple of staff tried to indicate on the map where the medical centre was located. They agreed on a location a few blocks north on the quay, so I waddled back to the car and sped up the road - no that's just a vacant block under construction. I found the information centre down at the dock and they indicated a building just around the corner, which still took a bit of locating as it didn't have any familiar livery of a medical facility. The lift was broken (very good for the diarrhoea sufferer) and so I poked my head in at a few physiotherapy clinics before finding the top-floor general practice.

After some time a doctor came out, bellowing my name, then extended his hand and said "g'day mate!". He had studied for a year in Melbourne, giving his English a very familiar ring. He inspected my "tummy" and asked a few questions before prescribing Imodium, and I departed quickly ... the Hurtigruten was already in town. BTW Australia has mutual agreements with a handful of European countries for medical assistance as though you were a national health patient. In the UK it doesn't really work inside London area, as the doctor's oaths don't extend to employing compassionate reception staff.

I grabbed Bondi from the back of the car, who was making some rotten-egg gas smells of his own, having declined to do a poo all morning while sitting outside the cabin. Dragging him up the road to the pharmacy "apotek" had the desired effect, checking off chore #2 for the morning.
I drove the car onto the Hurtigruten ferry MS Polarlys and checked in upstairs. Check #3.
With time to spare, I visited the local Telenor office to get some top-up vouchers for my UK 02 phone (something called the starmap alliance allows you to do this at about 6-8 countries), since they don't allow Visa cards from scummy Australian banks to be used to top-up online. Check #4.

Now back onboard with a huge supply of mineral water and apple-juice to keep me soppy and sweet for the 11 hour voyage to Tromsø. Excuse me while I go scout for lavs.

Most of this trip has been spent rather uncomfortably trying to catch-up with with sleep on various lounges around the boat*, swigging liquids whenever I was woken by a breeze from a deck-door, a blast of unexpected sunshine or an ooh-ah from someone spotting a nice bit of fjord. * Because this was a same-day voyage, I didn't book a cabin.

Half an hour was spent watching a promo DVD of the Hurtigruten voyage in the ship's auditorium. It took some while for them to get it going due to audio problems. One might have hoped that the opportunity for improvisation would have won over, with one crew member supplying narration and the other sea-bird noises. In fact, as beautiful as the Norwegian seacoast is, there are long stretches of rent-a-backdrop with the same snow-encrusted black monoliths offered up for hours at a time. Rather than a DVD, one could have had some overhead projector slides, with a little boat being pushed across a cycling strip of fjord, or island passage much like in a Roadrunner cartoon.

Towards the end though, I was feeling well enough to venture up on deck to admire the red-tipped peaks catching the sun as rolled into Tromsø harbour near midnight.

All the pictures above (except for the first) were taken between 11pm and midnight, on the final approach to Tromsø.

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