Return of the symptoms and Norway ski trip visa issues

22/04/2021

On Tuesday 20th April I posted a ride on Strava boasting; “Celebrating 5 whole days with no stupid long COVID symptoms.”

Strava ride with photos of sights and celebratory coffee and cake

Well, that was a couple of days ago. I certainly won’t be boasting about that again for at least 5 more days, since the most persistent of the “stupid” symptoms, the pesky phantom smell, returned yesterday. I hate the phantom smell.

I can only describe this phantom smell as being akin to someone burning something they shouldn’t be burning. Though I don’t know what. The smell is entirely in my head, not up my nose. Find me something else to smell and it’s gone, but returns immediately the other smell is removed. If I eat or drink something the ‘phantom smell’ doesn’t affect the taste, but, once again, as soon as the eating or drinking are over, back comes the phantom smell.

It’s called “parosmiameaning a distortion of smell. It’s not debilitating in any way, but for some reason, it makes me anxious. I can distract myself from it, but never for very long. The longest it has lasted is 3 weeks. The shortest is 2-3 days. I hate it.

I even know what can trigger it, but sadly there is not much I can do about it. If I spend any length of time wearing a mask (10 minutes plus) it’s like a switch. No smell – 10 minutes later in a mask – pesky smell. Grrr! Got to eat though, and every Wednesday is grocery shopping day. Perhaps I have to accept that I will never be more than 7 days symptom free? As I say, at least it isn’t debilitating.

This would usually be the line where I say; “Moving on to lighter things…”

But, no, not today. Today is all about problems (sorry) and how they will be overcome (yay!).

The first problem is a biggie and requires a bit of background. If you are sitting comfortably I shall begin…

Long, long ago in a land not so very far away an evil ruler called David Cameron set the UK on course for disaster...

Or, for those who think Brexit is a good thing…

Long, long ago a wise ruler called David Cameron set the UK on a course back to greatness…

Really!?

Ah, who am I kidding? This is not about the greater good, this is personal. I voted remain because I like going to Europe and greatly valued the freedom it gave us all to travel unrestricted. Particularly the ability to stay in any European country for as long as we wanted. For example, our 4 month European climbing trip in 2018 can now never happen again, for with Brexit comes the UK’s loss of unrestricted access to Shengen countries, Norway being one of them. In the proverbial nutshell before stoopid Brexit I could visit Norway for 6 months, no questions asked. Post Brexit 90 days is the maximum stay permitted. Those of you who were paying attention will have noticed that I need in excess of 110 days for my Norway ski trip.

So, I need to apply for a visa. Not just a tourist extension visa, oh no, no such animal exists for Norway. I have to apply for a “residence visa for cultural reasons”. I need to be able to prove that I am a “Disseminator of Norwegian culture outside Norway.” It’s a good job I have a blog. I’m going to have to be a bit more creative than that though. So, I’m going to attempt to write a book (which you should all buy) and arrange some talks after the event. I have to pay £430 for this visa application, which I don’t get back if my request is turned down. Wish me luck as the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about. The alternative is that I only do about 2/3rds of the trip. Additionally it would mean that I would not be able to visit Europe/any Shengen country for 3 months before and 3 months after the trip. So, if you voted leave, you are not in my good books. I will however forgive you if you buy my book.

Houses on the banks of a Norwegian fjord – Am I disseminating yet?

And, finally, I need to move this blog. I need to create my own web site and stop relying on WordPress. I don’t own the blog, which is a concern. All that writing I have bored you with over the last few years could just be taken away. Also, it’s not very user friendly. No search options and I have failed to separate my trips, art work etc.

Also, shock horror!!, I need to change the name. Gandalfontour is a bit of a misnomer since Gandalf is not going to be coming with us.

So, I’m asking for suggestions for names for a website. Any ideas?

At the moment I have two ideas for 2 websites based on the name Zero, which I have used for many years for my art (it is also the address of my instagram account zero1n)

Like a cross between Miranda and Edward Scissorhands

19th April 2021

Yesterday I found myself at the London Region Nordic Ski Club venue in Hillingdon, London for my first ever attempt at roller skiing. Roller skiing is, in a nutshell, the art of nordic skiing without any of the hassle of that pesky white stuff also known as ‘snow‘. A better description is provided by the good people at Tracks & Trails

Roller skiing originated as a training method for cross-country ski athletes and enthusiasts to imitate the sport’s technique and practise ready for the winter seasons.

Tracks & Trails Mountain Adventure Holidays
Classic Nordic Skis
Classic (Nordic) Roller skis

So, that’s the ‘what’ dealt with, now for the ‘why?’

I have a friend, David Hamilton, who is an accomplished mountaineer. And I do mean ‘accomplished.’ He has, for example, climbed Everest 10 times (show off), climbed all of the seven summits (the highest mountains on each of the seven continents of the Earth) twice(!), worked for many years guiding in Antarctica and skied the length of both the Pyrenees and the Alps.

My favourite question when I see David is; “What’s your next trip then?”

I last asked this question, back in January and he said, in a matter of fact sort of way; “I’m going to ski the length of Norway.” To which the only answer really is, “Oh!”. This is pretty much what I said.

Perhaps I should have left it at that.

A few days later, and clearly with too much time on my hands, I emailed David to ask if a person with only downhill ski experience could do such a trip, or maybe half of the trip (about 60 days). Next thing I know I’m part of the team. Not just for half the trip though, oh no. Mrs P, who obviously wants to get rid of me said, “why do you want to only do half the trip?” To which I explained how unfair it would be to leave her on her own for so long. To which she said, and I quote; “Oh piff and tosh! I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself. You boys go and have fun.” (well, maybe not an exact quote).

Upshot is, I am now booked to do the whole thing.

So, all things being equal, on the 1st January 2022 David and I will set off from the southern most point of Norway, Lindesnes and ski to the northern most point at Nordkapp. A distance of 1,700 km (1,056 miles). The journey will take around 110 days. We will utilise a variety of accommodation; predominantly basic huts (no facilities but a fire and a dry floor to sleep on) as well as staffed huts, where we can buy food and sleep in something resembling a bed, a few nights in hotels and a few (hopefully) nights in a tent. We will be carrying heavy rucksacks and will see pretty much the whole of a Norwegian winter. Finishing in mid-April 2022.

Only around 150 people have ever completed this trip in winter [source: http://norgepaalangs.info/] . And not all of them finished. It’s gonna be tough.

I’m excited. I’ve even drafted a patch to sew onto our kit.

Norway team patch (version 1)

So, all I have to do now is:

  • Task Number 1 – Recover from Long Covid
  • Task number 2 – LEARN TO SKI!!

Simple!

Task number 1 – The recovery from Long Covid is coming on. It’s been just over 12 months now and I can safely say that I am definitely getting there. Although I have never had more than 3 days without any symptoms, those symptoms that remain are more irritating than debilitating. My fitness is certainly improving, but I have a way to go to get back to my pre-covid levels.

Task number 2 – This brings me back to the reason I found myself at the London Region Nordic Ski Club venue in Hillingdon, London yesterday. I had booked a taster session and was hoping that no-one would ask me why I had decided to have a go at roller skiing. Of course, everyone asked and, as I’m not a good liar, I told the truth. They were very good, no-one laughed in my face.

I was lucky enough to get a one-to-one session with an excellent teacher Dagmar who managed to keep a straight face throughout. Fortunately, I have been downhill skiing for many years and am quite good at it, however, Nordic, or cross country skiing, is a VERY different skill, but I do at least have a good sense of balance, am fit and, most importantly, have a good sense of humour.

My favourite part of the training was the bit where Dagmar had me skipping across the grass propelling myself with really long nordic ski poles, like a cross between Miranda and Edward Scissorhands.

I was pleased when, at the end of the 2 hour session, Dagmar assured me that I would “probably” survive the Norway trip.

Watch this space for what I hope to be regular updates on my progress including continued recovery, planning, problems and of course, more roller skiing.

If you want to read more about the trip and a bit about David Hamilton you can find an article on the Mountain Equipment website about the trip and David’s Alps traverse – Crossing the Alps, Pyrenees & Norway by ski.