Distance 22km | Time 5hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m
It was easy to get up on this last day. The light was streaming into the small cabin and I could see it was a beautiful day outside as per the forecast. When I opened the door and looked across Sandspollen it was mirror calm. There were about 40-50 boats moored here on this Saturday night with most of them being yachts. All was very quiet and the boats were still and motionless on top of their reflections.
I had a small breakfast, swept out the lovely old cabin and then packed up the boat and launched it. Before I started paddling for the day I capsized a couple of times to practice my roll with the laden kayak. I had not had the need or desire to roll at anytime during the trip although was prepared on a few occasions. I just did a Pawlata roll as the kayak had about 70 kilos in it. One could roll an oil tanker with the Pawlata technique.
With the only ripples in Sandspollen being from my rolls I set of at 0800 for the short paddle up the fjord. It was a perfect day with a few clouds in the otherwise blue skies. Pretty soon I had paddled up Vestfjord on the west side of Haoya island and was level with the north of it. Occasionally where there was a stake in the water I could see there was a very slight tide against me as the large basin of Inner Oslofjord was falling about 50 cm to equalize with the level in the Outer Oslofjord.
I carried on up with the large peninsula of Nesodden on the east and the small rural towns in Royken and Asker on the west. Once I had paddled for a couple of hours I could pick out the dark green pine clad islands in the north of the Oslofjord, and soon after some of Oslo city started to unfold from behind Nesodden. It was now about 1100 and the fjord was coming to life with sailing boats emerging from many marinas around the coastline to take advantage of one of the last of the summer days to enjoy the weather.
There can be few cities in the world which have the same situation as Oslo. It is situated in a big arch around the north of the fjord. In front of it is this vast basin of inner Oslofjord with its peninsulas and islands many of which are still quite rural. It is an aquatic paradise for sailors and leisure boats. If this was not enough then beyond the arc of the city to the west, north and east are rolling hills and crags covered in pine and spruce. These forests extend for many tens of kilometers in each direction and are peppered with lakes. There are networks of paths through these forests with cabins for summer walking and winter skiing. It is a terrestrial paradise for ramblers, fisherman and berry pickers.
I paddled passed the cement towers at Slemmerstad and then the quaint town of Vollen. I passed a couple of boats fishing and chatted with them with them for a while before finally coming to Bjerkoya island. This island lies just to the south of Konglung peninsula and it remains very rural with a scattering of cabins through the pine clad island. I still had an hour and a half until 1400, with just 10 minutes to paddle.
I had some lunch in the kayak in the glourious sunshine on this still virtually wind still day. I then practiced a few more rolls. On the first my hand and paddle got caught in the control rope for the Smarttrack rudder. Yet another design flaw. The roll failed but the next succeeded. With about half an hour to go the phone went. It was Hartmut and Oyvind on the hunt for me.
I paddled up to the east end of Bjerkoya when a boat appeared with about 6 people on it. It was the advance party of the welcome committee and the support team of Oyvind and Hartmut. There was even Josie and husband Hjalti on the boat. There was a bit of banter and I showed off with a roll before the boat disappeared north to Konglungbrua.
I then waited for 10 minutes. I was a bit nervous as I knew there was a crowd at the bridge and a reporter and some photographers. I was used to a life of watching the winter snows accumulate and melt, a spring of observing the leaves unfold and a summer of watching the eider ducklings grow. I would be sad to leave it. I would soon pass to a totally different busy, fast moving, metropolitan life where I would probably not be as content. The welcome committee, where I would initially be the centre of attention, and the symbolic Konglungbrua bridge, would be the rite de passage.
At 1355 with half a km to go I braced myself and took the first paddle strokes towards the final paddle strokes. With about 250 metres to go I heard something familiar yet inexplicable. It was my favourite bagpipe tune which my friend on the Isle of Skye, Johnathan Macdonald, used to play on many a rowdy night when I lived there some 15-18 years ago. It was being played as expertly as Johnathan would play it so I thought it was a recording and then I saw a piper. I was sure it was Johnathan.
Here is a video of me approaching the bridge
Thanks to Roy Myrlund of http://paaneset.no/ for this video
I could see about 30 people on the bridge and a large Scots flags and the piper standing nearby. I took a photo and paddled on. I did not feel emotional but a bit nervous. I paddled up to the bridge paused a bit and then went under. There was a kayaker waiting here, Knut Jorfald, who was Oyvinds’ brother. I chatted with him and then with the crowd on the bridge cheering I prepared to roll. I had to get it out of the way and it would have been embarrassing to fail. It went smoothly and soon the 70 kg ballast in the boat was settled back below the waterline.
I then chatted with a few people from below the bridge. There was an extraordinary coincidence when I was reunited with my hat I lost yesterday on the wave washed beach near Tofte yesterday. The guy I chatted with on the beach yesterday and gave my website address to dropped it from the parapet. It had washed up later in the afternoon yesterday and he had looked at my website and found I was finishing here. He then drove up to deliver it. Such is Norway.
I then went back under the bridge again and had more time and composure to recognize many of the faces. James and Karoline and family, Ole Bjorasen, Roy Myrlund from Nevlunghavn a week ago and about 25 people I did not recognize.
Suddenly there was a lady barking questions from the bank. They were the caricature questions a journalist would ask. What are you feeling right now? What was the most dangerous moment? I was quite short with her and paddled off at the first opportunity.
I went under the bridge, chatted with Knut again and then paddled off and beached the kayak 100 metres north of the bridge on Hartmuts’ very narrow strip of shore. I then went back up to chat to everyone on the bridge and put familiar names to the faces like Ragnvald Jacobsen whom I had heard so much about. There was champagne in flutes, more bagpipes and cameras galore. I felt a bit self conscious. Luckily nobody shouted ‘speech’. I had a go on the bagpipes and managed to get the right sound out of them but no tune on the chanter.
After a good 20 minutes everybody slowly started to drift up the lane to Hartmuts’ old and traditional wooden house where there was more champagne and food. Hartmut is an excellent cook and a charming host. As everybody mingled around he took the onus off me to be the introducing host by serving large bowls of couscous salads, curried meatballs and cocktail items. Soon everybody was eating and mingling while the 10 odd kids looked after themselves.
Everybody had cars parked as Konglung is not served well by buses and with Norway’s strong drink and drive regulations the champagne was soon replaced by mineral water. Most people stayed until 1700 when kids needed to go home and there was my son Kenneth, his girlfriend Annette, Hartmut and I left. Kenneth and Annette left around 2000 and there was just Hartmut and I left. I was exhausted by the occasion.
Hartmut and I go back some 30 odd years so in the evening I lay on the sofa while we chatted into the evening while the kayak lay fully laden in the dark garden waiting for another day to be unpacked.
It had been an extraordinary day with many mixed emotions. It was the end of a fantastic adventure which I will surely cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you for following it over the last 6213 km.