Tuesday, 14 August 2012

the stone house

It's been a glorious sunny afternoon.  We've had a fairly short day but it's been up and down on little back roads and we get slower as the day progresses.  On one hill we are overtaken by a woman who is power-walking.   But the final descent is fast and furious down to the sea and the quayside for our last ferry ride.  There's a small town on the other side of the fjord - can it be Trondheim?  We have arranged to Couch Surf with Frank but we are a day early and so we think about camping before we reach the city.  But it's hard to find anywhere as all the farmland is being used for wheat crops.  We take the ferry across and ignore the campsite at the quayside there.  It looks like a car park for camper vans, and hey, we've had absolutely no problem wild camping so far.

Half an hour later, we're riding along the main road in the wrong direction checking every field and woods for a spot and feeling a bit desperate.  There's a back road that will take us back to the ferry port and we might just find a spot....... It's all uphill.  Not just a little bit, but all of it.  There's no sign of anywhere to camp - all wheat fields or houses, or not flat enough.  We're sweaty and weary and feeling a bit daft.  I've just got off my bike to push when a car slows down and the woman driving asks us "Are you lost? Can I help?"  We tell her we're looking for a free camp for the night. After a brief pause she invites us to camp in her garden.  "We live in the stone house at the top of the hill - you can't miss it"  She speaks with an English accent but she's not English.  However, she can read our minds.  "My husband's English", she explains.

At the top of the hill, surrounded by the now familiar typical Norwegian wooden houses, is a stone house. The Stone House.  Trude meets us when we arrive and introduces us to Chris, her husband, and Jenny and Lewis, their children.  It turns out Chris' parents are over on a visit too, but despite this, we are invited in to shower, share dinner and sleep inside too.  Their spontaneous hospitality is warming and affecting and we have a lovely evening chatting till late. It turns out Chris is a stone mason for Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.  This cathedral is the focal point of the Christian church in Norway, built for the Viking King Olaf who was killed whilst trying to introduce christianity to Norway. (Mind you, some say he was asking for it, as he liked to convert by the sword.)  The church is still a pilgrimage site to this day and it strikes us that Chris has found himself a top job.  The house he built himself using all his spare time and effort and resourcefulness.  It's a grand accomplishment and has become a bit of a landmark for folk all around.  The Norwegians don't build stone houses, they build wooden ones.

an Englishman's home is his castle

In the end we stay up late talking about cycle touring (they have both done cycle trips and Trude has cycled the length of Norway), Chris' adaption to Norwegian ways and language, and on and on into the night.  When we set off in the morning after farewells we cannot help but feel so lucky and happy that Trude stopped to help us this evening and welcomed us into her family. And we wonder how many people would do the same for strangers?

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