I’m on a transoceanic jump from London to New York; the 75th and penultimate flight of my trip.
Virgin. Business class.
The flight was provided by my kind benefactors to get me into town a day earlier than originally planned. The reason for the date change: can’t quite say yet. Hopefully tomorrow.
This is it. All but done. My laptop is crammed full of dancing footage. I have but to dust it off and assemble it into something presentable.
I’m right at this moment transitioning from unwashed, penny-scraping backpacker to pampered media anomaly.
A flight attendant just gave me a relaxation kit with a sleeping mask, toothbrush, and socks.
19 days ago I was being kicked awake by a port officer on the floor of a Greek ferryboat.
My seat has a built-in inflatable back cushion and folds into a bed.
27 days ago I was watching Iraqis fire Kalashnikovs in a secured training facility.
I just ordered a spring herb salad with Scottish loch fyne salmon, smoke roasted in a hot kiln and then lightly chilled to give an oak-smoked flavor.
39 days ago I was stranded in the Namib desert with a broken down Isuzu, a spare tire, and a family of nine.
The "flight therapist" came by offering back and scalp massages while a stewardess took my order from the bar.
50 days ago I was trying to sleep amidst the noises of a Dubai brothel.
You get the idea.
The word is: adaptable.
Copenhagen has more sex shops than people. At least it seems that way. Walking the spotless, quiet streets around the train station reveals a panoply of raunch and salacity (Ding! Vocab quota reached).
We spent a night in town before continuing onward. I found a bar offering free wi-fi and exploited their generosity for eight hours.
Forgot to photograph the sex shops, but here are some pretty fields of flax.
Train to Hjorring, another train to Hirtshals, ferry across the Skagerrak strait to Norway. Finally, one last train to Stavanger.
Paid $17 for a burger with fries and soda. Norway is expensive.
We were met at the station by Joachim (pronounced like country singer Dwight). Joachim is a friend of Sophie’s. She told him of my quest while he visited her in Amsterdam. He said I needed to visit Norway and dance on the Kjeragbolten. He showed her this picture.
I get a lot of dance recommendations. The vast majority are peoples’ homes or backyards. Sometimes it’s a town center or church. On occasion I’m shown a location that’s actually unique and interesting, but rarely does it suit the particular constraints necessary for a really nifty dancing clip.
Reluctantly clicking on the picture link, I was struck dumb. Kjeragbolten is one such location. I didn’t know how I was going to fit it in, but I knew I had to get there.
Having made the initial suggestion, Joachim also offered to take Matt and I to the spot and let us stay at his place. This worked out well.
The morning after we arrived, we set off on the two hour drive into the fjords.
Once there, it’s another two hours on foot to Kjeragbolten.
The walk is difficult, but not a killer. Matt insisted on doing it in shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt.
Joachim worried intensely about Matt’s warmth. I explained that he wouldn’t hear a word of complaint even if Matt’s fingers were blue and snapping off.
"Well, as long as he isn’t complaining."
Joachim and Matt were way out front the entire time. See, aside from not being in marathon-shape, I’m just not very good at traversing up rocks. And dancing on them, well…
Believe it or not, I actually never considered whether I’d be physically and mentally capable of dancing on the Kjeragbolten — at least not until it was too late. I saw the picture and knew I had to do it. Only later did I recall that I’m not great with heights and I have terr ible balance.
Joachim and Matt would turn around from time to time and think but not say. Even they were reluctant to stand on the rock, much less dance on it. And they are far manlier men than I.
We reached the sheer face of the fjord.
1000 meters straight down.
A little bit further and we came upon the bolt.
By this point I had myself worked up into a quiet panic.
What am I thinking? I’m going to die here.
Matt shared his cousin’s philosophy that it’s okay to die as long as you don’t die doing something stupid. Death is natural, just don’t let it —
"Stop talking, Matt."
Around the back side is a sneaky little trail that makes the rock slightly easier to get onto.
You edge along that little patch of dirt. When you get close, there’s no other option but to leap.
And then I danced.
It’s no fooling around on that thing. The rock is maybe six feet in diameter and by no means flat. There’s minimal room to stand and rapidly shifting winds cut through the chasm. The drop is real. If you fall, you fall.
But there I was, dancing.
I couldn’t lift my feet very high. The movement is stiff and forced, which is, I think, forgivable. The point is I got the shot. And it’s incredible.
As Matt held the camera, he pondered his course of action should something happen. Release the footage? Give it to my family? Sell it?
"Dancing guy plummets to his death." Helluva viral video. It’s what everyone’s been waiting to see, isn’t it? That or me getting mauled by a bear.
In the last few minutes of the descent, with the car nearly in sight, I slid on a rock and fell. You know when you fall wrong and you feel the stuff inside your knee or ankle bend in a way it’s not supposed to bend? I got right to the threshold where my leg said "I’m about to snap in three different ways and give you pain that will stay with you until you die."
And in my mind I thought, "fair enough."
Didn’t quite cross the threshold, though. Stood up and kept walking.
For the last six months I’ve felt protected. It was suggested to me in Japan that something wants to see this video get made — that it’s helping me along, whatever it is. Clearing a path.
And I worry what happens when this thing gets its precious video and has no further need of me. Am I on my own?
Spent Friday stealing wi-fi from Joachim’s neighbor. Went out briefly to tour Stavanger.
Best name for a hair salon ever.
Went out drinking with Joachim and his friends.
Learned a bit about Norway. They found massive amounts of oil in the 60s, hence all the money.
"In Norway we have fish and we have oil…I prefer the fish."
Oil is also a lot of the reason why everyone in Norway speaks perfect English. It opened them up to the world market and created lots of jet-setting jobs. English has been mandatory in schools for generations.
Norway is a sharp contrast from other oil-rich nations in that the wealth really is spread around to all levels of society. There is virtually no poverty. The only folks living on the street are simply too strung out on drugs to get it together.
Granted, having a population under 5 million makes this less of an accomplishment.
The pitfalls of abundant natural resources are evident, however, in the lack of diversity in Norway’s economy. Sweden makes cars and furniture, Finland is known for cell phones — all profitable industries requiring a great deal of expertise — whereas Norway is like the kid with the rich parents, just sitting at home flipping channels, buying crap off eBay.
Eventually, as we all know, the wells run dry.
Hopped a flight to London on RyanAir. When bought well in advance, tickets on RyanAir can cost about $30 to anywhere in Europe. Subtracting various taxes, that comes to something like $2 per ticket. I don’t know how this is possible. It has something to do with selling lottery tickets in-flight and using ancient planes that are barely holding together.
The plan in London was to dance next to a guard at Buckingham Palace. Obvious, I know. Cliche, I know. But come on. It had to be done.
Turns out you can’t get anywhere near the guards at Buckingham Palace. They actually have guards protecting the guards.
I inquired with one of the guard guards if there was anywhere else I could go, struggling to avoid mention of the red jackets and tall, silly hats. He directed me to St. James’ Palace.
We walked by this guy the next morning and I had another sudden panic assault.
He’s got a big gun. He’s not wearing the silly hat and he doesn’t look friendly. He’s going to kill me.
I hid around the corner of the building gathering my nerves, then walked over, explained what I was about to do and that there was no harm or insult intended.
And then I danced.
He kept a stiff upper lip. All went well.
[Almost finished. More later.]