I look like the Michelin Man at a rave.
I’m stood on a jetty in Skjolden, a tiny town that sits at the very head of Sognefjord – the longest navigable fjord in the world – and I cannot think of a better way to describe my look.
I’m wearing a pair of neon yellow and black overalls that are padded in such a way as to create an extra chin or two and force my arms out to the sides like a baby in an overstuffed sleepsuit. Whilst this isn’t my most fashionable moment (I think even the purple flared jumpsuit at the school leaver’s disco beats this), I remind myself that at least I’ll float if I fall into the fjord. Of course, that is until all the excess padding soaks up the inky blue water at record speed, at which point I would surely plummet to join the Norwegian salmon in the deepest, darkest depths.
This isn’t my usual attire. All thoughts of fashion went well and truly out of the window when I slipped my goggles over my head, raising my hand to politely refuse a black balaclava that would certainly have proven to be the straw that broke the overdressed camel’s back.
We were in Skjolden with Hurtigruten, having spent the last couple of days cruising the Norwegian Fjords from Bergen. A brass band had welcomed us to a place that looked too good to be true. A perfectly symmetrical row of red wooden houses flew the Norwegian flag, the light wind sending them all on a merry dance in a blur of red, white and blue. It was cold like the crispest winter day at home, when your breath shows in air that is fresh and chilly but not biting or bitter.
The fjords had risen around us, tempting our ship into the best looking dead end you ever did see. MS Kong Harald had brought us to the head of the fjord and now a RIB ride was about to take us back out into its heart.
Ten neon Michelin Men waddled towards the inflatable black boat, clambered in and clung on for dear life. The engine started and we were off. The wind in our hair, our hair in our faces and our knuckles white from holding on, we were too awestruck to scream. If you thought the fjords were commanding from the deck of a ship, being aboard tiny rubber boat as it snakes between the mountains and beneath waterfalls is a whole new ball game.
Coldplay’s ‘Sky Full of Stars’ broke the silence as our driver picked up the pace, our thrilled screams adding a little somethin’ somethin’ to Chris Martin’s dulcet tones.
We soaked up the waterfall spray with our ‘survival suits’ and wondered who lived in the red huts by the water. We sliced between the sheer cliff faces, wiping the water from our goggles and craning our necks to see to the top.
As we cruised back towards the jetty where it all began, I caught my breath – easier said than done when you’re careering along the longest fjord in the world – and took a minute to appreciate what we had just experienced.
Now I’m back on dry land and the Norwegian Fjords are just a distant memory, I’d give an arm and a leg to be back in that overstuffed neon suit.