Like most nature-lovers, I've long dreamed of staying in a cabin in the woods, trying out a simpler way of living (while secretly wondering if I'd be able to handle it). This northern summer, I got my chance - in the mother country of cabins everywhere, Norway.
|My very own cabin in the woods
(Thanks to all those who read my essay on quiet travel in The Sydney Morning Herald last week and asked for details about the cabin. This post is for you.)
|The view: a sea of trees
One of the delightful things about Klunken cabin (apart from its name, which just means "clunk" in Norwegian, go figure) is its location: on a hill surrounded by pine, fir and birch trees and overlooking the forested area it inhabits, Kjekstadmarka.
It feels remote, yet it's only 30 minutes by train from Oslo. Oh, and a two-hour walk from the station.
|Be prepared: Gotta love the Scouts
|Loved the red windows
Then there were my wild neighbours: a few squirrels, an eagle, three snakes, a tick (which I had to carefully remove from my inner elbow, ouch) and a moose I heard (but sadly didn't see) walking noisily through the forest on dusk one evening.
|Cabin interior, with candles
Inside, the cabin was the epitome of simplicity: a single room with a wood stove, bunk beds, a table and chairs, three windows and candles for reading at "night" (being mid-summer, it didn't get truly dark until 11.30pm).
There was no electricity, no running water. A previous guest joked in the "hyttebok" (hutbook) that he couldn't find the password for Klunken's wifi; of course there is none, and no mobile reception either.
|In lumberjack, er, jane, mode
What did I do all day? Housekeeping matters took more time than they would at home: making a cup of tea meant lighting a fire, I bathed and washed my clothes with water from the lake, whittled kindling with my Swiss army knife.
As I said in my quiet travel essay, there was unlimited, uninterrupted time to read, write (with pen and paper, remember those?) and do nothing but listen to the birds and the trees. I collected leaves and drew them. I took (lots of) photos.
I picked wild strawberries, raspberries and blueberries (which really should be called deep-purple berries).
|Sweetest. Berries. Ever.
One morning I did the three-hour round trip on foot to the nearest supermarket, and felt like a child raised by wolves when I got there. Cars! Shopping trolleys! Air-conditioning! Carrying two weeks' groceries home on my back gave me a new appreciation for the food I eat.
|Follow me, every path says
I also had an entire forest and an enormous freshwater lake to explore - my very own swimming pool! I loved being able to swim every day, particularly as it was so hot, more than 30 degrees sometimes (though I had no way of knowing for sure).
And I set myself little challenges. To swim to the other side of the lake and back (about 300m) and not get spooked by the bottomless black water and the fact that there was no one around if I got a cramp halfway across and drowned.
|Skapertjern lake, my happy place
Towards the end of my stay, I started walking around barefoot (I almost called this post "Barefoot and bra-less in Norway") and was amazed at how much it slowed me down - in a good way.
|This way, remember?
At least the days were long, and there were no bears. Or wolves, poisonous snakes or spiders, stinging trees, leeches. Norway is so benign. In human terms, I felt safe too; there wasn't even a lock on the cabin door.
Thank you, cabin
I learned a lot in two weeks. Practical things like how to use an axe without chopping off my foot, and how to make tasty, simple meals on a wood stove, a first for me. And other things that are harder to put into words.
It probably helped that it was also a detox, of sorts: no coffee, no chocolate, no alcohol, no meat, no dairy products (no fridge!).
|Goodbye Klunken, 'til next time
Two weeks might not sound long, but somehow time stretches out when you're living this way, in such a place, unplugged from the man-made world and tuned-in to your immediate surrounds.
Maybe I'll get back there sometime, and stay longer. Until then, I'm happy that places like Klunken still exist, leading us like a trail of breadcrumbs back to what's real.
(Although I travelled at my own expense, I am deeply grateful to the local Scouts for opening up Klunken to travellers. Thanks, Håvard!)