Tomorrow I will be 31 years old. And not a bad way to spend it, all things considered.
After ten days on the trail and roughly a third of the journey from Oslo to Trondheim behind me, I’ve reached the Olympic city of Lillehammer. Sometime tomorrow afternoon, my old mate Dave Tett will hop off a train at the central station with his backpack and cameras, ready for a few adventures together over the next fifteen days.
I’m planning to celebrate my birthday with a day of rest (traditionally a Sunday, I know, but a Tuesday will do just as well) and have checked myself into a decent hotel as an extravagant present to myself. Camping in the woods is grand, of course – and there have been some wonderful spots on the way, whether snoozing in perfect quiet on a soft cushion of bilberry bushes or cocooned safely in my little shelter in the pine forest while a fierce thunderstorm raged down the valley outside – but it’s nice to scrub the dirt of the trail off, put on some clean clothes and light shoes, leave my pack and staff behind and walk a town without that at once strengthening but isolating feeling that seems to come with being so easily recognisable as a pilgrim tramper.
This morning I was remembering the last time I spent a birthday in Norway, which was nine years ago. We were in a hotel overlooking the spectacular expanse of Geirangerfjord, and Christian and I spent an inordinate amount of money propping up the hotel bar and watching the locals rolling in for the Saturday night disco, three sheets to the wind after their garage pre-party booze-ups.
That particular birthday was also the last one I ever spent with my father, and the whole trip was quite special in its way, being as it was his last venture abroad. I have an enduring memory of sitting with him on a rock by the edge of the fjord after dinner one night, not really saying much, but just enjoying the point in time for what it was. Eventually he headed inside into the warm of the hotel, and I watched him strolling back through the drizzle, hands clasped behind his back and nose in the air in his characteristic way. It was a pretty good time.
So here’s to birthdays and adventures, and whatever the next year has in store.