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Posted on Sep 08, 2017

Tasmania to Norway

Waking up to a message to say that your flights have been cancelled is a little concerning, particularly when you are meant to embark on a journey to live on the other side of the world for 3 months. After an hour or two, I had my flights sorted again, minus one stop over. With a send-off from my father and sister at the airport, I was on my way to Melbourne and after a short changeover, I boarded my flight to Dubai.

I now have a greater understanding of the term “cattle class”, as we were loaded into our seats four across, shoulder to shoulder and rows deep. I am never a good sleeper on long journeys, so there was only one thing to do….. make friends with the hostess on the plane.  A few hours of conversation and extra food didn’t go astray. Finally, after 22hrs of flight and 5hrs of stop overs, I was finally on the tarmac in Oslo. I joined the long line in the international passport control, as I watch all the EU passport holders just walk through an electronic gate. After a few minutes of waiting, a young woman in the line behind me spoke up and asked me “by any chance are you Australian?” Honestly, I could have believed that she was a mind reader or something, until she told me that she saw my Akubra hat and had to ask. Turns out I was standing next to a Queenslander! After some Auzzie chit-chat, we were through the check point and down waiting for our baggage. Outside I met the mother of my first host family, Beate Eriksen

After throwing my pack and backpack in the boot of the car, I automatically turned on autopilot and went get into the “passenger side” of the car, which is obviously the wrong side. It was a half hour drive to my new home for the next couple of days. As we cruised along the highway, I had a quick tour and explanation of the landscape/city, arriving to a picturesque white vertical weatherboard house, nestled in between small crop fields. Although they owned the land, the family leased out the land to the nearby farmer to grow his crops. Overwhelmed with jetlag, it was a struggle to keep my eyes open; just waiting till it was bedtime. Shortly after we arrived home, the rest of the family soon followed, Eline, Ingrid and Anne the three daughters of Beate and Ørjan Erikson.

The next day I had a lazy tour…. well adventure, to the local agricultural school. Both Eline and I had little knowledge about the school, never-the-less, Eline was able to read the Norwegian signs, as we made our way around the campus.

Over the next couple of days, I adventured through the city of Oslo with Eline and Ingrid, seeing places like the main theatre and the royal palace. The girls described the national day of celebration, held on 17th of May each year, where the main street in front of the palace is packed full of people, watching a large military display as well as school kids marching, celebrating the day that the Norwegian constitution was signed in 1814.

One evening, I had the pleasure of joining Ørjan to shoot clay targets at his local gun club. We were joined by Ørjan’s shooting partner, Arvid Agnor and shot in a combination competition setup. After a few practice rounds, tricky shots and coaching from Ørjan and Arvid, we were straight into round one of the five spot combination. As each round progressed, I got better and better, to the amazement of my Norwegian coaches. To complete the night, we had to stop and refuel with a kebab.

It was time to pack my bags up for the first move, to stay with my fellow IFYE exchanges in city-centre Oslo hotel. Ingrid was kind enough to help me find my hotel.  As we were a few hours early we did some more exploring of the city, with a quick tour of the wharf side area (a popular restaurant strip) and the seaside fort, before meeting some of my fellow exchangees in Oslo central station. Altogether we had five new IFYE’s; Alistair (English), Pauline (German), Kaho-Shin (Taiwanese), Jasmin (Swiss), myself (Australian), as well as our two IFYE hosts Tone Margaret Ødegård and Isak Jerpstad.

With everyone settled into our accommodation, we set out to tour Oslo, visiting the Oslo Opera House as well as the Royal Palace. We all met for dinner at a restaurant (Olivia’s) on the water-front strip, where we meet Jon Kåre Solås, another former IFYE. Dinner conversation varied from counties to work. After dinner we toured a little further into the upmarket waterfront district.

The next day we went to the Holmenkollen Oslo ski jump and watched people training on their roller skis as well as shooting, target practice for the Biathlon. We finished the day with a “barbecue” in the Vigeland Park, the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist and one of Norway's most popular tourist attractions. 

Oslo to Kolvereid

Yet again I stuffed everything into my pack, ready to jet to the other side of the country and after a short flight from Oslo to Trondheim, I was met by Peter Fischer, his partner Stine Holms and their daughter Annabelle. With some quick introductions out of the way, we loaded into Pete’s new Hyundai Ioniq, a fully electric car, one of many in Norway. The Norwegian government are subsidising electric transport to make a cleaner and greener future for Norway. Four hours driving and two stops for charging, we arrived at Lundseng Vestre, the family farm on which Stine had grown up. The farm had only just closed its dairy in the December of 2016.

On my first day in the Kolvereid region, both of my hosts were off to work and I was home alone. With nothing better to do than adventure, I headed out on a few small walks and eventually ended up saying g’day to the dairy farmer next door, Kurt Lundseng. Kurt had taken over the family dairy from his father 15 years ago. Previous to that he was a teacher, so his English was quite good for the area. We spoke for a few hours about his farm with its 25 milking cows, an average farm size in Norway. Kurt’s dairy still operated on the older manual system, where cows were locked into stalls and had to be manually attached to the milking gear. With only 25 cows to milk, there was a lot of down time; well time for another round of straight black coffee and more conversation. Kurt was quite proud of his newest tractor, a 175hp Valtra with all the bells and whistles; so proud I was sent on a drive down the road.

With the hours of light lasting all night, it allowed us to do all sorts of activities after Peter and Stine returned from work, a few hikes as well as going fishing till the point we forgot to check the time. One of the day trips we took was to Torghatten, known as “the Rock with the hole in it”. The hole in the rock was a giant cavern, measuring 160m long, 35m high and 20m wide. The sheer scale was shown when people were walking around at the bottom, next to rocks the size of a small cars.

“According to the legend of the Helgeland mountains, Torghatten was formed when the troll Hestmannen, disappointed in love, shot an arrow after the young girl Lekamøya who ran away from him. The Troll-King in Mount Sømnafjellet saw this and threw his hat between them; the arrow went straight through the hat and formed the hole. The sun rose, and everyone was turned into stone.”

I was lucky enough to join the county camp for Nord-trøndelag on the island of Jøa, a great display of how the 4H group works with kids, ranging from 14-18yrs. The camps were all about coming together and making new friends, as well as seeing the friends that you haven’t seen since last year. As I found out very quickly, the national sport for 4H is volleyball and I was out of my depth! It wasn’t long after I arrived there was a call for “dinner time” but it was 4pm?! Well to my shock dinner is now at 4pm, which is quite standard for Norway. At dinner, I had the pleasure to meet the Alumni members for the region and who briefed me on some of the norms of Norway. The camps run from a Thursday to a Saturday during the school holidays and similar to the American summer camps, they involve the kids in many different activities, some off-site as elected by the kids and others are just standard on-site activities.

Each night the Alumni run a canteen inside a hall, where there is often a band, quiz or music playing. The hall was a place to eat as well as play card games. Nightly, the clubs played off in a round-robin of volleyball. With four courts playing and not enough umpires, I was contracted to fill in, having hardly any knowledge of the rules.

We spent the last day of the camp down by the water, where there was fishing, canoing, kayaking and an old fishing boat to go out on. There were also small challenges, like who can peel two potatoes the quickest. After a good day in the sun, we returned home.

I was lucky enough to join a crew from Midt Norsk Havbruk, working on a salmon farm lease. It was quickly evident how different it was to home, with the farm using an incredible amount of hands-on manual labour. It was incredible to see how advanced Huon Aquaculture was to the Norwegian fish-farming style. While I was on site, a beautiful big blue ship glided into the fish cages. I couldn’t believe my luck! It was the new sister ship

to Huon Aquaculture’s Ronja Huon. Ronja Ocean is only 3 months old, with the paint still gleaming like it had only just been painted the day before. It was great to see the improvements that the ship design team at Sølvtrans had come up, which will be included on the new vessel to be built for Tasmania, the Ronja Storm.

Just down the road from my host family, there was another dairy with 26 cows, however, the dairy was a little different to the normal dairy. It had a robotic milker, saving the farmer time every day, enabling him to lease more land and expand, building a bigger and better farm.

Stine took me on a short hike to the top of the hill behind the house, to where their family cabin was built. The cabin was nestled into the woods next to a highland lake stocked with trout. Nearby there was a little trout hut with a spot for a fire, with a wire grill to cook fish how it should be, fresh!

On my last day in the Kolvereid kommune it had been organised for me to see the local school farm VAL VGS. The farm was situated on a coastal property, with an ever increasing area, as the surrounding farms are closed. Val was a fully functioning farm, but with the added bonus that students could help and learn about the animals and the systems involved with farming in the modern world. I spent the day with the manager of the cow-house, helping with jobs like organising the feed to be placed into the allocated spots for the auto feeder and preparing the stall for a calf to be born in the days to come. The VAL cow-house used Lely dairy systems for both the robotic milker and the auto feeder.