MONDAY, JUNE 5
When trolls are mentioned in 2023, people automatically think of on-line bullies. But in Norway, Trolls are mythical characters who live in caves or behind rocks. Today we take a coach trip, which negotiates the hazardous Trolls’ Road, from the valley floor near Andalsnes, at the mouth of the Rauma River, on the shores of Romsdalsfjord. Famous in the 19th Century for salmon fishing, the Rauma flows through spectacular scenery. Norway’s highest indoor climbing wall is located in Andalsnes, which is a centre for alpine sports. Our guide on the Troll’s Road trip is Sonya, who likes a smoke, and proves quite a character. Goats on the road delay us for 10 minutes or so on the way to a 700-year-old wooden (Stave) church. There are sheer drops on the Troll Road, and it is not comforting to know that the restaurant at the top of the climb, was wiped out by an avalanche in 2021.
Back on board our cruise ship, Silver Dawn, we enjoy an excellent classical music show, followed by dinner in SALT – potato dumplings (moi) Mediterranean Mahi Mahi (Marie) – accompanied by wine from Northern Germany.. Watch movie, ‘Moving On’, starring Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin.
TUESDAY, JUNE 6
Another cruise ship, the Britannia, is also moored at Oldend, when we arrive. Our excursion takes us past a bratwurst factory to Briksdal Glacier. John Deere ‘Troll Carts’, driven mainly by young people, take us to the foot of the glacier, which has been retreating at quite a rate, for many years. Following the tour, there are delicious cakes on offer in a hotel, which also caters for other tour groups, one led by Benjamin, who was our guide a few days ago. I mention to him that I appreciated his humour. He says, he hopes the Germans in our group did as well. Then – DISASTER – I drop my phone down several flights of an internal stairwell on board Silver Dawn, and the screen shatters, as it hits a handrail and falls to the carpet. At least it didn’t hit anyone on the head. Lass at reception, who seems tech savvy, says Oslo is my best bet for screen repair, but she thinks it would be a week before they could get the screen back. Now, don’t laugh. I was worried that photos I took with the phone would have the glass shards across them. Marie suggests I put cling wrap around the screen, and our butler, Ahmad does the honours. He says ‘how cute’, when I tell him I was worried my photos would have cracks on them.
In Panorama Lounge, an English couple order champagne, with orange juice, and a Quasimodo cocktail. Dinner poolside, cooking my own steak – rib eye fillet – on the ‘hot rock’. It wasn’t as tender as I would have liked. The same could be said for Marie’s New Zealand lamb chops, which were cooked for her.
My former Brisbane ‘Telegraph’ and Courier-Mail colleague, Wayne Smith, has died, suddenly, at home, at the age of 69, just a few hours after filing his weekly column for the Sydney Morning Herald. Wayne was equally passionate about rugby union and swimming, and when it came to swimming, he was there for the long haul, attending State and National titles, not just the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. He grew up following Brisbane Rugby League, with the likes of Wayne Abdy, Richie Twist, Mick Retchless and Barry ‘Tubby’ Dowling his heroes. But he switched allegiances to rugby union in the early 1970s. A year younger than me, he started his journalistic career the same year as me – 1971. He started at the Telegraph, while I did my cadetship at ‘The Daily News’ in Murwillumbah. I got one up on him in 1985 when Telegraph sports editor, John ‘Morto’ Morton, sent me to Auckland to cover a huge weekend of footy – the Bledisloe Cup at Eden Park on the Saturday, and the Second Trans-Tasman League Test at Carlaw Park on the Sunday. I think the only reason I got the nod was the fact the league was played on the Sunday, and the Telegraph was a Monday to Friday paper, so Saturday’s Union Test would be dated, to some degree. Smithy and I played touch for the Telegraph side in the police competition at Davies Park in the 1980s, but also played rugby league together for Queensland journalists against New South Wales, in the mid and late 1970s. I have never met a more determined, focussed reporter than Wayne. He would get into trouble with some sub-editors, particularly at the tabloid Telegraph, for paragraphs and stories that were ‘too long’. His writing style was appreciated more at The Australian, the paper he joined before taking a redundancy, when it downgraded its coverage of rugby union, in the wake of the 15-man code’s decision to turn its back on FoxSports. I didn’t realise he was filing a column for the Herald, until I heard the news of his passing.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7
Flam Railway trip is magnificent. We sit beside a couple from California and a couple from Mexico, near the country’s largest lake, Chapala. At a spectacular waterfall stop on the steep climb, female ‘mountain spirits’ emerge from behind a stone hut, as spooky classical music plays. It is a nice touch. The zipline at our mountain terminus provides a thrilling ride to the valley below. No. I didn’t take it. Strawberry and cream waffles are served at the hotel near the rail station. One of the Silversea employees assigned to our group, steps out into the middle of the rail track to take a photograph of a train climbing from the valley floor. The irate driver stops his train before the station and berates the Silversea man, for what was an act of stupidity. While waiting for the return journey, we chat to a couple from Florida. He is originally from Jamaica and loves cricket. He reckons Australia got a taste of its own medicine from the West Indies’ pace battery, as a result of our aggressive approach to cricket in the 1960s and ’70s. There is a strong smell of dope as we wait on the station platform. It is one of the passengers from our ship. Sit beside two couples from Oxford on the train. One of the males had his name come out in the Ashes ballot from Lords, and will travel down by train for the Test. The ticket price for his admission to Lords is 170 pounds.
Back at Flam, Marie and I enjoy a beer and cider respectively at Agir Bryggeri Pub and micro-brewery. ‘Ahoy’, says an American bloke, as we enjoy drinks in the beer garden. A cocktail party in the Venetian Lounge honours regular travellers, one of whom has spent 1400 days at sea with the company. Dinner in Silver Note is accompanied by Chilean wine. My lamb main course is followed by a chocolate volcano. We watch the late show in the Venetian Lounge, featuring the Nordic Brothers, who provide a mix of music and humour. The music is excellent, but the humour a bit lame, for my Aussie taste. It is one year ago today that Marie and I moved into Samford Grove Over-55 village.
THURSDAY, JUNE 8
Executive chef, Grant Chilcott tells me a former passenger on Silversea was rugby league identity, John Ribot. Today’s excursion is Hardanger Plateau, the largest in Europe. We are moored in Eidfjord. First there is stop at Nature Centre for an excellent audio-visual display. Apple pie and coffee is supplied at Art Nouvea Hotel at Voringfossen (Waterfall), and we sit beside an English couple, from Sunbury in Surrey (who have a son in Chicago); and a couple from Houston, Texas, who are originally from El Salvadore. Back on board, we have dinner in SALT, alongside Colombian couple, Carlos and Di. He is involved in construction, and Di in real estate. She studied in Brisbane, and only has fond memories of the city. I have cod for dinner, and Marie pheasant. The wine is from southern Germany. We watch the last 40 minutes of ‘Queen Tribute Show’ in Venetian Lounge. The cruise’s guest lecturer, Professor Tony Pont and I chat cricket, in particular the dramas surrounding Yorkshire Cricket and the ridiculous prices for Test tickets. One the passengers wears a ‘Go vegan’ t-shirt, which has a message which essentially accuses meat eaters of murder.
FRIDAY, JUNE 9
Dock in Haugesund, a town bordering the North Sea, which was founded in the 19th Century by herring fishermen, and is now Norway’s maritime capital. Carlo and Di send us a gift packs of tea and coffee from Colombia. Our guide – Melissa – was born in Swindon, England, but raised in Norway. She says people in Swindon have a great affection for Aussie speedway riders. Our excursion takes us to Karmoy Island and the village museum at Skudemeshaven, where there is a dental surgery, circa 1928. It doesn’t look too unlike Dr Ross Greenham’s former surgery at Zillmere. Ross was our family dentist for many years. Dr Greenham was very good by the way, and other dentists, in more ritzy practices, have praised his work. An elderly volunteer museum guide tells me he previously worked in Brazil – on oil rigs – but came back to his home town to see out his years. Residences near the dock in Haugesund, are housing Ukrainian refugees.
Back on board, Marie and I attend the Latin Dance Show, before dinner in Atlantide. The dancers, both from Poland, dine near us. Watch excellent movie ‘Out and About’, which was filmed at Hastings-on-Hudson in the USA. The middle-aged lead character, played by Peter Callahan, who also directed the movie, has many thoughts the same as mine. His nostalgic walk around his home town is quite an emotional experience. I think I might do a similar walk around Murwillumbah, in the not-too-distant future.
There are lovely tributes on-line, and in ‘traditional’ media, for former sports writer, Wayne Smith. The tributes come from the likes of fellow scribes, Iain Payten; Mike Colman, Jim Tucker; Rugby union identities, Tim Horan, John ‘Knuckles’ Connolly, John Eales, John O’Neill; swimmers and Olympic identities, Susie O’Neill; Kieran Perkins and John Coates.
SATURDAY, JUNE 10
The Nordic Brothers are worse for wear as they arrive for a heart starter in the Arts Cafe. One of them orders an expresso martini, when he meant an expresso. I watch Broncos v Knights match, with Brisbane hanging on for a thrilling win. Notice that former Leeds’ coach, Brian McDermott is in the Knights’ box. One of the highlights of the game is Newcastle star, Kalyn Ponga’s front-on tackle on Broncos’ speedster, Reece Walsh. A ‘Women in Rugby’ (Union) ad follows the NRL game.
We take advantage of the Nordic buffet served poolside, with Norwegian Lager and Pilsener making a change from Stella Artois and Becks. The Silver Dawn Band – from Mexico – provide background music. Chat to David and Cheryl Collins about the Essendon drug drama. David played for Essendon in the late 1960s. They recall Essendon’s courageous 1993 Grand Final win, while I recall the 1993 NSWRL Grand Final, which I covered for ‘The Courier-Mail’, with Wayne Bennett the coach, and Allan Langer the skipper. Then to Observatory Bar for the grand entry into the Norwegian capital, Oslo, where people are swimming in the harbour, as the temperature is an amazing 25 degrees! An American, sitting near us in the Observatory Bar, tells his companions about two hookers who tried to take him back to his room at the Radisson, in Minneapolis, when he was 16, and on a family holiday. He didn’t mean rugby league hookers.
Marie and I wander the incredibly busy harbour precinct in Oslo, enjoying a drink at a bar near the opera house. One of the security guards back at the wharf, calls himself ‘Dan the Man from Amsterdam’, and tell us of his love for Australia, the result of a working holiday there, in 1996. He met his Norwegian wife while working in the bananas at Lichfield, in the Northern Territory. Marie and I enjoy room service pizza, prawns and lobster, while watching episodes of ‘The Office’ (American version).
It is 55 years ago today that I attended the Rugby League World Cup final – Australia v France – at the SCG. Crowd 55,000. Result: Australia 20-2. I was a schoolboy and tickets to the match were the reward for our (North Coast’s) efforts in the State Carnival (under-9 stone) at Gosford. Australia were captained by Johnny Raper and coached by Harry Bath.
SUNDAY, JUNE 11
Our guide on the ‘Best of Oslo’ tour is over 80. She told us so. The city is so quiet. We walk through a park which is famous for the works of Gustav Vigeland. I am underwhelmed by the sculptures. Next stop is the Olympic ski jump, where I have possibly the worst coffee of all time. Then to a folk village, where we visit our third Stave Church. One would have sufficed. Our guide says it is politically incorrect to refer to Sami (indigenous) people, as Laplanders.
Back on board, we enjoy drinks in the Panorama Lounge, before dinner in La Terraza. A fireball erupts in Oslo city centre, as our ship leaves. It proves to be a rooftop fire, and, while spectacular, does not result in any casualties. The Aussies on board are delighted by the news we have beaten India in the Test Cricket Grand Final at ‘The Oval’, in London. There are a number of Indians in the crew and they are not so happy.