I’m standing by the road. The weather is nice, the place is quite scenic, so I’m in a good mood. After about an hour of waiting, an old car pulls over. A young kid asks me: ‘Where are you going?’
He smiles and says: ‘Hop in’.
It turned out he was going to Narvik, about 700 km or 10 hours drive down the road. Sweet! And on top of that, I had heard some nice things about Narvik when I was in Kiruna, Sweden last winter.
The kid said he would always pick up hitchhikers, mostly because he enjoyed listening to their stories. Our ride would be the longest lift he gave to anyone and he seemed quite happy about it. Unfortunately, he also seemed a bit disappointed to learn that I had had a few longer rides before.
It was a magnificent ride. That day I saw my first fjords, entered the Arctic and observed the landscape completely change. The views were absolutely mindblowing. Sadly, after few hours the driver seemed to grow a bit annoyed by my presence in his car. I was not surprised by that, knowing his young age. At some point I mentioned being interested in magic. After I showed him a few tricks when he wasn’t driving, he got happy again. I guess he considered me cool again.
An interesting thing happened when we were waiting for a ferry. He insisted that I pay for myself. Of course, I was grateful for the ride and would pay for myself even if he didn’t mention it. But I found the way he told me to pay quite amusing. He did it not only in a very assertive way, but his tone might be considered a bit hostile in most societies. And the funny part is, the price was very low – 35 NOK, i.e. what you normally pay in Norway for a loaf of bread or a kilo of apples. My impression is that Norwegians in general are extremely assertive and never feel intimidated to settle up, even when it comes to silly small amounts.
I asked the driver to drop me off just before Narvik, so that I could set up my camp. I guess we didn’t understand each other, since he left me in a middle of a town. I tried to hitchhike from there, but I knew I didn’t have much chance. And after hour or two of futile waiting, I made up my mind: I would spend the next day in Narvik, use the time to relax and explore and get back on the road the day after. To my surprise (and relief) it took only 3 or 4 km walk to get to the far end of the town, where I set up my camp:
I also learned how trusting Norwegians can be. When I asked two ladies who apparently owned a garage near my campsite, they not only had no problem with me camping there (and seemed surprised that I had taken the trouble to ask), but even suggested a spot that might be more convenient. Neither of them seemed to be bothered by my presence at all.