They drive on the other side of the road here. Not such a problem given the short distance to the Kiwi mini-prix, which is the only place you honestly need to go. From the top of the mountain to the supermarket there are 2 right turns and 1 left turn. On any given day you might pass, between 3-5 cars and a smattering of puffy clothed children skittling down the slopes. Next to the supermarket is a homage to Australia’s ‘Big Things’ its called ‘The Big Empty Car Park’ you can reverse park, parallel park or even just abandon you car on a haphazard angle across four separate spaces, so the driving thing is pretty easy.
But I haven’t driven the van yet. My reasons are numerous and flat out stupid. The most irrational of these is that I don’t mind walking. That is to say I didn’t mind walking into town the first time. The second time was less enjoyable. Now the hike back up the mountain with shopping completely negates the joys of appreciating the scenery on my wander down. I have come to understand this journey as a game I have been condemned to play against the forces of nature. I call it Snacks and Ladders.
Snacks and Ladders isn’t too far removed from the trinkety orthodox version of Snakes and Ladders it’s a just a tad more Jamungi-esque ‘cause if you loose you die and if you win you get to have dinner. So the basic premise is this:
1. It’s you verses Nature.
- You are weak and have feeble needs and even feebler means.
- Nature is almighty - it owns all the mountains and controls the weather.
2. Your aim in the game is divided into 2 parts
- Get to the supermarket and back home before it gets dark
- Buy as much as you can, for as little as possible. But don’t exceed 5kilos
Beware: Nature will try to distract you with views of the harbour, waterfalls, cloudscapes and other arresting phenomenon – Whatever you do don’t wander of the path.
3. Nature has 2 tasks:
- Beat you down, send you off course and stop you from getting to the supermarket
- World domination
Here are the stats on the game so far.
I brought too many groceries, couldn’t carry them and had to wait for lift home.
Hannah 0, Nature wins by default without even rolling the dice.
I spent too long planning meals and had to walk back up the mountain in the dark. The shadows sent me off course and I got lost in the woods (natures demure assassin). By the time I got home the vegetables are already rotting. I spent the night making soup instead of art.
Hannah 0. Nature 2
(This is a tense game where you start to see my competitive spirit emerge.)
I woke up early - it’s snowing. ‘Nature didn’t know I loved snow’ I moved ahead 3 spaces. I wandered through the winter whiteness exhilarated for this I get to ‘Slide down the mountain! Where I landed on ‘Pick a Card’. It instructs me to ‘Go to Co-op (pronounced coooop here) the expensive supermarket’. Uncertainty lies ahead this could break the budget and send me home without everything on my list. But it turns out I am able to buy a more diverse range of groceries and I get to go ahead 1 space. At the checkout, the 16 year old pimple-faced boy holds up my tampons, waves them at me and asks an undecipherable question in Norwegian. I move back 3 spaces in confusion. (Nature leans across the table and whispers “I am king, I will always find a way to beat you”.) Outside there is a blizzard so fierce that snow, air, ice and wind become one howling beast that consumes buildings, cars, men, women and skittling children.
I get a lift home.
I loose. Hannah 0 Nature 3
I wished and hoped and prayed for more of the magical picturesque Christmassy snow. In the morning the snow was so deep I couldn’t open my front door.
I stayed inside and feasted and watched the weather.
It was a draw. Hannah 1. Nature 4
The game changer… this is like when Bobby Fisher goes to Iceland to play his Russian chess rival in the match of the millenium. Except this is Me vs. Nature in Norway (and Bobby got a million bucks I just get groceries. But still the moves are fairly similar. And the strategy of creative distraction is almost identical)
Housebound for 3 days by a blizzard and my pantry was bringing together food groups that just don’t belong –nutella, salmon, coffee, carrots, vegetable stock, whiskey, marshmallows, mustard. In preparation for the game I laid out my armour of snowworthyness; a pair of socks coated by a pair of plastic freezer bags tucked into my thermals, followed by a pair of knee-hi woollen socks coated in shopping bags tuck over my woollen pants, followed by a pair of waterproof pants gaffataped to the shopping bags and to my boots. Done! I was waterproof and fashion proof so Nature didn’t recognise me. I slide all the way down to the mini-prix before Nature even noticed I’d rolled the dice !!!!nah-nah-na-nah-na
My shopping list was lengthy and I considered the purchases conscientiously with the deft skill of an experienced gamer. The first priority was potatoes. They’re cheap, they go with everything plus they are an upstanding solitary vegetable that can be a meal all by itself. BUT. They only come in 3k bags. This was over half my carrying capacity. The other option was a cabbage. Not quite as versatile, but cheaper and lighter than potatoes. I have a love/hate relationship with cabbage, it taste ok but sometimes it turns up in places it shouldn’t, such as my brain. That morning I had a Skype panel interview at 5am and during it I thought I was struggling with language because I hadn’t spoken to anyone for 5 days, but later I realised it was because I was using the cabbage again instead of my brain. I put the cabbage back and took the potatoes. A risk, but I was feeling lucky.
I collected a few small items but knew that I would be penalised for the essential but cheap and lightweight toilet rolls. Even though they met the criteria, they carried the penalty of supreme awkwardness, 48 toilet rolls tucked under your arm and two shopping bags can send you off balance when you get to the icy section of mountain that has a 10.8 Olympic degree of difficulty. Sometimes you just slide all the way back down to the supermarket. But toilet rolls were not negotiable.
The most precarious strategic dilemma however, was to beer or not to beer. Beer is heavy, expensive but necessary. Packaged in a less than handy 10pkt it can tip the weight limit. What to do, what to do? Nature got very restless during this part of the game and rained and snowed and hailed and basically huffed and puffed in loud sighs to hurry me up. But I stayed focused, eye on the prize and all that. Then I remember that I had a receipt that I could cash for a hundred million krone for all the beer cans that I returned for recycling last week. Problem solved, drinking beers saves money!
I was way ahead in the game at this point so after leaving the supermarket I took a short a detour to the harbour. Nature had to miss 2 turns because I didn’t get rained on during my scenic and cultural appreciation. I was feeling on top of the world, even though I was still down in the valley. It was 2:30 so I had an hour of daylight to get home, I had spent less money but got everything I needed, I had 2 extra turns and I could feel the finish in sight, I felt a win coming on.
On the way out of town I find myself at an intersection with a car, a taxi and me. The snow is so deep that there is no definition between, roads, pavements, the village square and someone’s lawns. It’s very disorientating. Plus I haven’t seen a taxi in these remote parts before so I’m bewildered and finally I can’t work out who has right of way when everyone is on the wrong side. I take a wild guess and I indicate left. I pause after indicating to ensure that we are all clear about my intentions to turn left. Then I pause again as I realise I’m not in a car, or on a motorbike or riding my bike. I am a pedestrian standing in a giant game of Snacks and Ladders, with plastic bags taped to my pants, and I’m holding my arm out to the left while I clench and open my fist to show that I have my blinker on.
Nature says “Ummm What are you doing, you're embarrassing me. I can’t play with you any more” and it sends an avalanche down the mountain to dismiss me from the game.
Hannah 1. Nature 5
Probably should learn how to drive on the right.