Saturday, September 6, 2014

The old barn at Mittet

Article published in The Advocate, Tasmania's major newspaper
Being interviewed in Mittet for Norwegian newspapers
If there is one thing I've learned over the past two years then it's that the most improbable situations happen at the most unexpected moments. Sometimes a simple comment, intentionally or not and often from a total stranger, can result in bizarre situations. Today was one of those days. Looking for a campground we had already dismissed 3 of them for a variety of reasons, ranging from no-one there to absurd expensive, before I noticed a familiar barn… What are the odds of recognising a nondescript and derelict barn from well over 12 years ago? Yet here I found myself riding past it at 80 km/hr and in a split second I remembered that I had been here before… I also remembered there was something in that barn that interested me all those years ago and that it was visible through a hole in the back… but I couldn't remember what it was.

Front page news in Åndalsnes Norway...
The barn was on a campground, a campground we had stayed at, yet the campground didn't look familiar at all. The name did though: Mittet. The human memory is a strange phenomenon. We were greeted by an unfamiliar but very friendly man who had taken over the campground many years ago, no wonder I didn't recognise him. He had also totally modernised the reception, shower and toilet block and installed a full kitchen, which is why the campground didn't look familiar to me either, the old barn was still there though. 

It was to be the beginning of a series of events that we couldn't have dreamt of. Talking to Torre Grunnar, who now operates Mittet campground, my mind was getting more and more intrigued about what it was in that barn that had interested me… but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't remember what it was. I even remembered going into the barn and taking photos of it! Torre Grunnar wanted to know more about who we were and what brought us to the other side of the world. Jeanette gave him a card with our blog and Facebook on it, like she had done many times before. This particular card however had quite a few consequences! In the end I asked Torre what was special about the barn, upon which he replied 'you know the typical Norwegian churches? Well, the four churches around here were all made in this barn!' and then it clicked. The barn had been full of old woodworking machinery! The word carpenter brought back the whole memory. All those years ago I had looked into the barn and found an old carpenters workshop where all the machinery was still there. Piles of wood in various stages of 'processing' were still there as well, as if the carpenter had walked off one day in the middle of a job and simply never returned. Not only was the machinery still there, so were the hand tools, drawers were half open, extension leads rolled out, partly finished woodworking items and the barn simply had every possible machine in there. It had been a weird experience. 

…and on page 4 and 5
Fast Forward 12 years and not only was the barn still there… so was all the machinery, partly finished items etc! Nothing seemed to have changed…! Well, almost nothing. There were 'fresh' wood shavings on the floor, indicating someone had recently used the machinery, which was thus still operational! An unused part of the barn had been recently repaired to be used as a 'happy hour' spot for campers as the weather in Mittet is changeable even in the middle of summer, which is what the machinery had been used for. As there weren't many campers around, we used the barn as our dining room :-) First time in weeks we had a couch to sit on! 

We had 'installed' ourselves comfortably on the couches and setup the tables ready to prepare dinner when a lady popped her head around the corner. 'Are you the bikers from Australia?' she said 'I have some fish soup for you' ??? Totally surprised we accepted although previous encounters with fish soup hadn't been all that well, this one however was delicious! Later we asked the lady how come some fish soup tastes fishy while hers was beautiful. On which she replied 'Fishy fish-soup means the fish used wasn't fresh, this fish was caught today… by me and in the fjord in front of you!' 

In the meantime, without any of us knowing Torre Grunnar had called a newspaper, who had send their reporter out to Mittet for an interview…! The interview went difficult as the reporter spoke limited English while our Norwegian is non-existent. We had lots of fun though! Photos were taken and all went back to normal. Or so we thought. Torre Grunnar informed us there was a second reporter coming the next morning at 10 am… What was going on here? The story was also to be published in a national Norwegian paper. Mike is getting famous… in Norway anyway :-)

During our stay we also received a copy of an article placed about us in Tasmania. We knew 'something' had been written but had no idea what. The newspaper was kind enough to send us a pdf copy. Now Mike's story was suddenly published on both sides of the world!

Mittet campground surprised us as well. I can't remember what the old toilet block had been but the new one has luxury bathrooms! A fully equipped kitchen with a dining area, a free to use washing machine and fast free wifi completed the picture. No coins needed for the shower and everything spotlessly clean. One of the best, if not the best campground we had in Norway until then.

We had pitched the tents at the waterfront, overlooking a magnificent fjord and had a great evening. Slowly but surely everyone at the campground became aware that we were the bikers from Australia on a trip around the world. Lots of questions were asked and stories exchanged. We decided to stay an extra day and sort through some of the photos while Mike would edit his videos in the dining room. Fast Wifi meant he managed to upload 3 videos in one day. I rolled the bikes into the barn and modified the Barkbusters as I wasn't happy with the way I had mounted the brackets. Jeanette's fall had showed me the clearance between the Barkbuster bracket and the banjo of the master brake cylinder wasn't big enough. Rather than thinking 'she'll be right mate' I opted to change the brackets around. The new JT Chain, fitted after our trip to England, had now covered Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and halfway up through Norway before finally needing its first adjustment. The new set had covered over 3,000 km and needed only 1/4 turn on the adjusters. I like good gear!
What we hadn't realised was that Torre Grunnar had another surprise for us in store, on which more in the next post. 

Mittet campground is a great place to stay and can be found at: N62 42.055 E7 41.453 There is a very friendly garage and small shop nearby thats sells all the basics and Mittet campground is a good base to explore the surrounding area. Torre Grunnar is a goldmine of information on what there is to see and do.