BSI Strandcamping: is «beach trip» a thing in Norway?

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COLD FEET. A beach trip in Bergen wasn't quite the same as a beach trip in Greece. PHOTO: LEONIDAS VYZAS

A tricky night for the internationals spent under the stars in sleeping bags on a beach an hour outside Bergen.

«Come to help us build and sleep in a big tent and have a feast by the bonfire», wrote the BSI in the invitation to their Strandcamping event.

In a country filled with dramatic mountains and bipolar weather conditions, sometimes a beach trip is just what you need. However, little does the medium reader’s mental image of sandy shores in the Cyclades or Australian postcards have to do with the ten-minute walk through a muddy enchanted forest one endures before arriving to the grassy beach of Io, just one hour outside of Bergen by bus.

Reaching through Rossland towards the beach is an experience in itself: Small fjords surrounding you, the sun of Bergenese May, children’s laughs coming from the green front yards of the rural houses. Everything is a little better with a bit of sun, but sun just goes so much better with Norwegian nature.

Doubts take over

Once reaching our destination, expectations are tested. The utopian «beach» seems to be but a rocky swamp of shallow waters, and the glad BSI companionship is consisting of four people fighting with sticks and rocks to light the fire.

– We are to sleep beneath the stars, promises a German BSI guy, and Fantoft seems like a fading memory, or maybe even dream, if we ever manage to get any sleep.

Boy scout chit-chatting while drying our feet by the flame, it becomes inescapably apparent that this BSI Friluft trip is an attempt to escape from frenetic university obligations, the everlasting hope of man that getting lost into the wild offers you something that even the night wind cannot blow away.

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BONFIRE BBQ. Vegetables wrapped in tin foil is a delicacy not to be snubbed. PHOTO: LEONIDAS VYZAS

Things to do amidst nowhere

This place is an isolated island, both literally and figuratively, and any bus taking you back in everyday reality isn’t accessible until 9.01 the next day. How does one hop back into civilization? Hitchhike in the middle of the night, the way any horror movie opening that respects itself is made, or maybe spend the rest of the night with heartbeats, counting seconds and stars until finally falling asleep in glad oblivion of a potential emergency, until the next bus operates?

In places like Io, the answer is always one: enjoy the 22.00 sunset. Engage in the most simple-minded discussion. Set cucumbers with feta on fire as a midnight snack. Rest.

Everything at a price

Now the sun has given its place to a yellow line in the horizon, and it is time for us to fall asleep. But vagueness has its price too, not counted in NOK, but in how many land patches haven’t been turned into a swampy disaster to lay our sleeping bag on.

– I just set up my hammock over here so I’ll probably stay, says a BSI guy. This is the decisive moment when we part ways with the fellowship. And, barefoot, our sub-journey to return through the haunted forest begins.

If your morning-after night visitor list too only contains a confused cat, you can officially call it a successful roofless night’s sleep, even if you had to lay down our backs on a small cement square for the night. Camper geeks won’t mind.

– If it wasn’t for my woolen sweater and waterproof jacket, I would still be here as an ice sculpture, observes, and indirectly warns, the Greek student.

Smile turned to beam

Better directions, clearer organization, consistent food, and warm Alpine clothing seem to be all you need to call it a successful BSI trip, we conclude upon catching the morning bus.

– Credit cards are not accepted on board, I’m sorry but we should find an ATM kids, says the austere-looking bus driver (WTF, Skyss? Even Lofoten buses accept them by now). But after the stops have passed one after the other like a «majestic nature» slideshow on our windows, he lets us out the door on our designated station only to wink us goodbye and ask us to be more precautious next time.

Thus, we finally add, it is the Norwegian traveler-friendly soul that makes these experiences what they are to their core. Not that breathtaking scenery does not count as a potent enough reason already.