Stranded in the mountains, snow falling steadily, a white lunar landscape in all directions. Our train is stalled by the lack of electricity up ahead. I might have expected this in a third world country. But not in Norway.
The journey from Oslo to Bergen is billed as one of the most beautiful train rides. We were there in plenty of time to schlep all our gear aboard and settle into the comfortable seats surrounded by modern conveniences – wifi, electric outlets and windows on the world. The ride was smooth and soothing, even if the falling snow obliterated the long range views of the mountains. It was still the magical trip we envisioned. We could see backcountry skiers trudging through the snow. We had front row seats to the small villages along the way.
Our smug sense of security vanishes at the sound of the announcer's voice as he intones “All passengers please pay attention.” The train soon comes to a halt at a tiny station in Haugastol, where we sit awaiting our fate. Will the power outage be resolved, or must alternate transport be arranged? Rumors fly in the absence of any real data.
The arrival of a bus, followed shortly by others answers our question. Apparently we are in luck, these tour buses are idle in the winter months. We are further heartened to learn that all Hurtigruten passengers are to board the first bus. We are surrounded by other Norwegian ferry cruise passengers as we fill the seats, now confident that we will make our sailing. It helps knowing that the MS Midnatsol does not depart until 10:30pm. The atmosphere is one of amused tolerance and camaraderie, not annoyance. Through our mutual plight we make new friends.
It turns out the bus is only the first requirement for travel. Before we can start, we collect a snowplow which precedes us down the mountain, clearing the snowy roads as we go. We take turns with the vehicles traveling in the opposite direction – with their own snowplow – following the single open lane. It is barren country with few trees and mountain cottages seemingly stranded in the snow, with tree branches “planted” in the snow to show the way to their doors. Progress is slow.
By the time we reach lower altitudes and can release the plow, the road clears but becomes steep and windy. Now we are surrounded by rocky cliffs covered in icy waterfalls. It is dramatic scenery, far different from what we would have seen on the train. We know it is a silver lining.
It takes hours longer to reach Bergen, but no one is complaining. Our transfer bus is awaiting when we arrive, and we board the ship without delay. Our bags are already outside our cabin door.
We have plenty of time to explore the ship, linger over dinner and go up on deck before our departure. In the end the day was all the more memorable for being derailed in Norway.