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Trip Report Besseggen, Preikestolen and the Fimmvörðuháls with a fear of heights

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Ten dollars to the first person who has any idea what that title means.

I have always shied away from writing trip reports on the Europe Forum. They disappear so quickly and frankly don’t seem worth the effort. So I have hit upon a new theory that probably won’t work – write the trip report in a way that will show up in google searches and help people dear to my heart – people with a fear of heights who nonetheless persist in hiking challenging trails.

I first wrote about hiking and fear of heights in our trip report about the Inca Trail. This year we decided to visit Scandinavia. I (as the organizer) was particularly interested in hiking the Besseggen, one of Norway’s most popular hikes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Besseggen

If we were going to visit Norway we might as well also do the Preikestolen:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preikestolen

And since we were flying Icelandair from Ottawa Canada to Scandinavia we got to stop in Iceland for a few days at no extra cost. We settled on the hike between Porsmork and Skogar so that we could visit the volcano that blew in 2010:

http://www.mountainguides.is/overnight-tours/trekking-tours/þórsmoerk-skógar/

We are a family of five – parents age 57 and 53, daughter (20) joining us from a stint in Tunisia and sons age 18 and 14. With us were the same two couples that we did the Inca Trail with. One of these couples announced they were splitting shortly before the trip. But they still wanted to come on the trip.

While this report will focus on the hiking I want to include a few other stories either because they struck me as humorous or because they might help someone with the high cost of visiting these countries.

Arrival – Stockholm August 6 – A couple of years ago we had looked at visiting Stockholm. At the time the cost of getting from the airport to the city approached our annual income. That was the end of that idea. But this year the Arlanda Express airport train had a deal on. The four of us traveling from Ottawa (daughter was already in Stockholm having arrived from Tunisia) could take the train to the city for a mere 380 SEKs, or $62 Canadian. So that is what we did. The plan was to then take the subway one stop to somewhere near our hotel in Gamla stan, Stockholm’s historic old town.

We arrived at Stockholm Central Station, found a money machine and then a store where we could load a transit card with 400 SEK worth of transit rides for the next three days. I do a lot of research before trips and had settled on this approach to paying for transit. Despite this research the Stockholm system threw a couple of unexpected curves at us over the next three days. Transit systems can be very difficult for tourists to understand IMO.

In 2006 we were in New York City and purchased a prepaid pass of some kind that was supposed to give us a specific number of subway rides. The fellow in Grand Central Station told us that it was his last day working at that location. He seemed a bit chatty, wanting to know if we had been to NYC before. Long story short after using the card (or whatever it was) once, the card expired. He had sold us a cheaper pass at a higher price. I immediately complained to the station attendant who told me to phone the Metropolitan Transit Authority and complain. I did and they told me to send in a complaint with the details and they might help me someday. I didn’t bother despite being very irritated.

This is only relevant because of the following. In Stockholm if you have a prepaid card you approach an attendant who subtracts the cost of the ride from the card. After we passed through the turnstile I looked at the receipt I was given. It was in Swedish and seemed to indicate our opening balance was 350 SEK and not the 400 SEK we had paid for. The missing credit was worth less that $10 but visions of the Grand Central Station crook were dancing in my head. We were not going to be cheated twice.

I returned to the turnstile. The attendant we had dealt with had left, reinforcing my belief that we had been swindled. The new attendant tried to figure out where our 50 SEK was but couldn’t. She told us to visit the transit authority office located back in the train station somewhere. So I left my wife and two sons on the subway platform and raced to the transit office. At this point I was looking somewhat nutty to the family but too bad. Fool me once and all that.

The nice woman at the transit office told me she couldn’t figure out what had happened as the new pass was so recently issued that the information was not available in her system. She told me to return the next day when they could figure out where my 50 SEK was. I think she thought I was somewhat deranged. Are Canadians this cheap? This was no way to begin a vacation she told me.

I said to her that if I returned and told anyone but her what had happened they might think I was the swindler. Yes she said, that was indeed possible. So she suggested I return two days later when she was working and she would figure it all out. That is what I did and whatdoyaknow she gave me my 50 SEK back. I thought of kissing her. The holiday was already a success.

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