Mountain to Fjord
The activities we had set out for this trip were canoeing, rafting, climbing and cycling back from Evje to Kristiansand; so a very busy and exciting few days we had ahead! When we arrived at our destination, we unloaded the canoes and prepared for my first outing in the canoe. Firstly, some people had not canoed before and some people only canoed a couple of times which meant that a refresher lesson was required. Elouise and Kyle kindly volunteered to teach us basic paddle strokes because they have a lot of past experience kayaking and canoeing. I was paired up with Richard and because I had never canoed before he recommended me to start at the front so he was able to watch my technique and give me some general guidance. When we descended into the water, Kyle and Elouise had us practising basic forward and backward strokes to begin with, but at first on a reflection point of view my hand eye coordination was really poor as my paddle was following through straight. I was later told to have my bottom hand on the paddle lower down so I could grip it in the water better, this helped me a lot. They then moved onto the J stroke, which Richard initiated on a regular basis to allow the boat to stay straight.
Eventually we both got the hang of things and was working very well as a team, always communicating with other and enjoying the fantastic scenery. I felt as though there was a good amount of team morale amongst the whole team as everyone was paddling consistently which was increasing confidence levels and allowed us to make it to our first destination in great time! Along the way everyone was given the chance to navigate to a certain point on the map, which was viewed as very basic as we were just following the landscape. Richard was the navigator for that trip because he was at the rear of the canoe; Len advised us to keep our eye on a point in the distance that we want to navigate to, as this makes it easier to steer. We arrived at the island in really good time for lunch which was surprising and this showed us from a reflection point of view how quickly we were to adapt to the canoe with it being the first time for the majority of us, especially me !
Furthermore, when we stepped foot onto the island we wasted no time and made lunch and set up camp. Myself and Kyle decided on sharing a tarp and we set it up on a flat piece of rock overlooking the Fjords. When camp was set up and we al had some food Len asked us if we wanted to learn some more techniques, this was a perfect opportunity for personal development as we would go as a single. Len taught us some strokes which included the draw and pry strokes and bow rudder. This was very helpful and challenging as we did not have support from a second person in the canoe, but I can take a lot away from this experience that will help me in coming weeks. Once we all switched around so everyone had the chance to practice, we took out canoes in and put our heads down for the night. It was amazing sleeping open under the stars and waking up to the sun in the morning.
The next day we freshened up and was ready for another day of canoeing! We canoed down to Syrtveit dam where we took our canoes out and walked down to Troll active where we would spend the night in a cabin. Before the day ended we were offered the opportunity to go rafting, at first I was quite sceptical on the idea because I had seen it before in Canada and it looked really scary. But, I am always easily convinced by my peers and LEN!!! And I ended up taking part. I am glad to say the experience was incredible, and going out of my comfort zone really helped me with my confidence. Everyone had a great time and team bonding was great, trading jokes, laughing along with each other on the notion that everyone will get soaked and everyone seemed happy which was a great ending to a beautiful day.
The next morning, we got our bikes from Tim and we set off on a bike ride with a day rucksack to a crag which was approximately 20km from where we stayed. The bike ride itself was pretty slow, but we had to consider everyone’s cycling ability and go at the pace of the group. Once we made it to the crag we had lunch and began to rig up the climbing ropes and began climbing at four points. I felt as though I started to become a more competent climber, this was recognised by Len as he also referred to the first time I climbed in Spicheren. I was climbing with a bit more ease than the other times which mainly came down to my confidence levels knowing that I can do it, which made the climbs more enjoyable and feeling the internal relief and positive feedback from Len. We were climbing a a considerable amount and began to abseil for the first time with was constructively demonstrated by Len; Of course Len picked me as his puppet for the demonstration!!, which turned out to be very beneficial:D. We carried on climbing until late in the evening because we were enjoying it so much. I managed to complete a difficult climb which I was very impressed with. The next person who attempted this climb struggled when they got half way and could not find a route. I decided to try and help and give some pointers on where to place their feet which Len was particularly surprised with; which in essence on a reflection point of view is the first time on this exchange that I was giving instruction to someone, which made me feel good as these were good attributes to being a leader. We eventually relaxed for the evening, made tea and went to sleep ready for the next mornings activities.
On this final day we set off for our 60km bike ride back to Kristiansand. I felt really confident and comfortable cycling as I have performed this counters of times. The bike ride itself consisted of main road cycling but mainly dirt track riding, which was really fun! I found this bike ride relatively comfortable but towards the end I was getting slightly fatigued. I’m not sure this was due to trying to consistently keep up with the front runners of the group or not. But I have learnt now that you conserve more energy when you start riding at your own pace, but ensuring that the pace is alongside the group. I found at times that the pace was slow and people were wanting to take lunch early, which caused a slight conflict amongst my peers as the majority of the group wanted to keep going. In this case though you have to consider that you are cycling in a group and if one person gets hungry and they want to have a break and some food/drink you have to do this, even if they say ‘I should be fine’ because later on down the line it can cause complications. After a few stops we all gathered momentum as a group battled our way back home, I think its fair to say we were happy to be back!
I think in general the cohesion of the group was superb as everyone spent time with each other (no divides); laughed and joked and built a good bond. On a personal level I learnt a lot about the canoes which will allow me to feel confident perform this on my own sometime in the future. I also feel that I my attitude in general has improved, because originally on some trips I would just want to go home because of the lack of engagement and lack of confidence. Nevertheless, I want to engage a lot more and learn, and I am now really interested in climbing, where I have seen myself go out of my comfort zone and hit personal targets. I would like to pursue this further once I get back to England.