Trolls and Glaciers

When we woke up this morning, once again to a glorious day, we were just about to dock in Olden.  This was another new port to us and we looked forward to seeing what it had to offer.

As ever, the scenery was spectacular; towering snow-capped peaks, waterfalls and the beautiful clear water of the flat-calm Nordfjord.

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast then just spent the morning pottering around the ship and exchanging pleasantries with other familiar faces.  Sitting outside in the sun, we passed another ship and we saw that it was the Arcadia, a lovely P&O ship we’ve been on three times before.  The Arcadia gave a loud blast of her foghorn as we passed, and the Balmoral responded with an even louder blast which made a lot of the people on deck (including me) jump out of their skins.  🙂

Then, at about 11.00am, it was time to go to the Neptune Lounge to meet the group for our excursion today, which was to the see the well-known Briksdal Glacier by Troll Car, whatever that was.

There was none of the carry on with disembarkation that we experienced yesterday, and once our bus number was called we were able to disembark and go straight to our bus.  🙂

Off we went through Olden village, enjoying the sights on the way.  We passed old churches, small isolated hamlets and farms with sheep grazing peacefully.  Some of the houses were set quite steeply up in the mountains, and we wondered how their occupants coped in the winter.  We saw many more waterfalls as a result of the snow melting from the mountain peaks.

Passing through some gorgeous woodlands containing more sheep and some recumbent cows, we arrived at the Briksdal Inn, from where we would join our Troll Cars for the ride to the glacier.  The more energetic were meeting here to hike to the top, and we saw many walkers complete with boots and walking poles.

The Troll Cars looked like oversized golf buggies and had room for seven passengers as well as the driver.  As they were quite high off the ground, you had to stand on a wooden platform so you could climb into the vehicle easily.  One person sat alongside the driver, then there were two rows of three seats.  Blankets were thoughtfully provided in the event of chilly weather, but today the sun blazed down from the steel blue sky, and what breeze there was was very welcome and ruffled our hair playfully.

Off we went in the Troll Car up the zigzagging mountain path.  We passed a roaring waterfall from which the spray fell like rain over us.  It was all very exhilarating.  As we climbed higher, the views spread out before us and we could see the footpath the hikers had taken.  We had about a 10 minute walk once we’d alighted from our unusual vehicle, and we made our way along the gravelly path up towards our goal, the Briksdal Glacier.

A glacier is, as you know, a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight; it forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation (melting and sublimation) over many years, often centuries. Glaciers slowly deform and flow due to stresses induced by their weight, creating crevasses and other distinguishing features. Briksdalbreen (to give it its Norwegian name) has changed in size over the decades due not only to temperature, but is also strongly affected by precipitation. Measurements since 1900 show small changes in the first decades, with advances in the glacier front in 1910 and 1929. In the period from 1934 to 1951 the glacier receded by 800 metres (2,600 ft), exposing the glacial lake. In the period from 1967 until 1997 the glacier expanded by 465 metres (1,526 ft) and covered the whole lake, with the glacier front ending at the lake outlet. The glacier attracted international attention in the 1990s, as it was growing at a time when other European glaciers were in decline.

After the year 2000, the glacier once again receded. In 2004 it had receded to 230 metres (750 ft) behind the lake outlet and in 2007 the glacier front was on dry land behind the lake. In this regard, its position approximated the situation in the 1960s. However, glaciologists speculate that the size of the glacier was at its smallest since the 13th century.  The recession of the glacier did mean, however, that we were able to view the lake flowing and cascading over the rocks and boulders below the glacier.

We spent about an hour and a half up there in this gorgeous place, among the best Mother Nature had to offer.  Looking the glacier flowing over between the mountains filled me with a sort of insane joy; I can’t describe it any better than that.  If there is a Heaven, I can only imagine it looks how Norway looks.   🙂

Once again we walked down the gravelly path and waited in the sunshine for our Troll Car.  Then it was back down to the starting point at the Briksdal Inn, where we all assembled and went inside for some coffee and cakes.  Two cardboard signs, one reading “BALMORAL” and one reading “ARCADIA” showed us where our tour group was to sit.  We were given an hour to do our own thing, and after our coffee and delicious home-made cakes we had a wander around, looking at the souvenir shops and just enjoying being here.

Then it was back on the bus for the return journey to the Balmoral, after a really great trip.

Once everyone was back on board at around 3.15pm, Captain Bent Over announced we would sail again for Skjolden, our last port of call.  We sat out in the sun for a short while and marvelled at the scenery as we glided down the fjord – we have been doing a lot of that on this cruise!  Then it was time to go inside and have a wash and brush up, because at 5.15pm it was the Oceans Club cocktail party.

The Oceans Club is the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines loyalty club, and you are graded according to how many nights in total you spend on a FOCL ship.  1-30 nights is Blue, 31-100 nights is Silver and 101+ nights is Gold.  Each category allows certain privileges, such as discounts, priority boarding, welcome goody bag etc.  Trevor and I, after this cruise, will have 103 nights and we will therefore qualify as Gold Members, effective from our next FOCL cruise (which will be in August!)   🙂

We went along to the Lido Lounge, met some of the ship’s officers and enjoyed some canapés and some free glasses of fizz, and listened to the Rosario String Trio playing tasteful background tunes.  Then the Oceans representative thanked everyone for their loyalty and said that if you added up the total number of nights everyone in the room had spent on a Fred ship, it would come to over 47 years!  Amazing.  There was also a presentation to a couple (obviously retired) who have spent over 1000 nights on Fred ships, and then they read out the names of the couples who would be Gold after this cruise, so we heard our names read out.  🙂

We stayed in the Lido Lounge until around 6.00pm, then we shot back to cabin 4125 to get changed into our Red, White and Blue costumes, as tonight it was British Night.  I wore a pair of white trousers, a red top and a Union Jack jacket, and Trevor wore his Union Jack waistcoat and matching bow tie.  I finished my outfit off with a plastic mask of “The Queen”, which always gets a laugh.  Thus attired, we made our way to the Ballindalloch restaurant for dinner.

As we walked through the restaurant we (predictably) got much attention and we could see people pointing and laughing, some tables spontaneously applauding.  When we reached table #60 there was only us and Colin and Sue.  The other couple had never put in an appearance this cruise.  I was glad to take off the mask and it is difficult to see through the small eye holes and certainly impossible to eat.

Dinner was delicious as ever and Colin and Sue said they were very impressed with this cruise and would certainly cruise again although, like us, they didn’t think they’d ever want to go on the American mega-ships, which are just like floating blocks of flats or “Butlins-at-Sea”.  We enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and followed our dinner with a liqueur, then it was time to go and claim our seats in the show lounge, ready for tonight’s performance by the Balmoral Show Company called “British Invasion”.

The show started off by getting the audience flag-waving and singing a variety of patriotic songs.  Then they featured the best of British music over the decades, then finished off with a rousing “Land of Hope and Glory” that had everyone on their feet.  As ever, it was a great performance.

Then we went along to the Observatory to do the quiz as usual.  We couldn’t find our (winning!) team mates of last night, so we joined forces with the pleasant couple we’d quizzed with previously, but I think we’ve exhausted our winning streak this time because our score was nowhere near good enough to win.

Afterwards, it was along to the Morning Light pub and I put my Queen mask on before I went in.  My timing was perfect because the John Smithson, the resident musician, had just struck up with the National Anthem just as I walked in, to much laughter.  We joined Kath and Louise and I put the mask under my chair, out of the way.  For a plastic mask costing a couple of quid I’ve certainly had some laughs out of it over the years.  🙂

Once again we had a late night with far too much booze, but we went to bed reflecting on what a great day we had had.  🙂


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