After two days of travelling through one of the world’s last wilderness areas we can report that it’s been a bit like going through the Australian Outback (see ozhainges.typepad.com for the whole story), but not quite as interesting. Fair enough, there’s a bit more traffic but instead of being able to lose yourself in a view that stretches out hundreds of kilometres to the far horizon (as long as you’re not driving, obviously) all you get is a constant visual diet of birch and pine trees on either side of the road. And they’re irritatingly just tall enough to block your view of anything else that might be going on on the other side of them.
This kind of mobile sensory deprivation drove us to the city of Narvik to spend the night in the company of our fellow man. Narvik is the sort of place that likes you to know exactly how far from the rest of the world it is. We don’t know who Boris Gleb is, but we’re glad he’s 1023 km away…
I imagine that up until fairly recently this signpost also boasted a ‘London 2997 km” arm, subsequently removed once the UK had decided to remove itself from Europe. But enough geopolitical comment, that’s not what you’re here for – back to Narvik. Most of it was a strangely deserted and rather sad feeling place. It had the air of a tourist destination that had just finished a hard season but hadn’t yet got round to taking in all the pavement chairs and tables that the summer season needed. However, we were delighted to find that the Norwegian fasciation with giant babies extended this far north, and they’d commissioned a splendid sculpture of a junior down and out to decorate the park in the centre of town with.
Having nothing to detain us the next morning we resumed our excitement-free odyssey, heading east so we could dodge around a Swedish rocket range owned by the European Space Agency. Home that night was a peaceful lakeside parking area with nothing for miles around…
…but no sooner had we finished supper than a Mercedes E200 drew up and turned its engine off. Feeling perhaps that it was a little close, the driver tried to start up and move further away. The starter motor turned over. Several times. And several more times, until it was obvious to both the driver and us that the thing was in trouble. Keen to uphold the UK’s reputation as a helpful European nation (oops, there I go again) I wandered over to see if I could help. Luckily Silas, the German guy driving it, spoke excellent English so I was able to put a range of suggestions to him. We tried bump-starting it down a slight slope towards the lake shores, but this only served to put us closer to the lake. I remembered that I had an OBD code reader in the van and having explained roughly what it was and how it worked, I set about helping him to look for the SCART socket that the thing needed to connect to. Obligingly he started tearing panels off the driver’s footwell area, “It’s not my car, it belongs to my father. It doesn’t matter if we destroy anything…” he assured me. (Flossie, Tom and Patrick, if you’re reading this I want you to know that this is not a view I subscribe to at all). After half an hour of searching that would have done Border Force proud, we hadn’t found the socket. Silas turned to the internet and sure enough, his model of car was one of the few in existence that had a circular 38-pin socket instead of a 16-pin SCART one. Checkmate.
Drawing on previous experience I opened the car bonnet and wiggled some wires hopefully around, before whacking another bit of engine with my fist. “Try that”. No luck, the engine still failed to fire. So I came up with all I had left, “Leave it alone overnight, perhaps it’ll forget about whatever is stopping it from working now”. Silas agreed that this was probably the only course of action left open to us, Kate supplied cups of coffee all round and we had a brief chat about our respective backgrounds before getting our heads down.
Next morning – success! Silas was delighted, so were we and he very kindly insisted on giving us a bottle of spirits that his grandfather had distilled. “But I haven’t done anything” I protested, but Silas assured me that my utter lack of mechanical aptitude was more than outweighed by the moral support that I had unknowingly provided. We parted on notes of mutual goodwill, pausing only to take a couple of snaps of our crowning success as car-starters.
Viel Glück, Silas!