1972 Saab

Located in:

North of the arctic circle, Norway - July 1999

A couple of weeks after we met the crazy guy, Mossman and I visited my old friend Eero. At the time, Eero was living in a small Norwegian fishing village called Lysnes (or something like that). This village is north of the arctic circle and rests on a picturesque fjord. We had flown from Tallinn to Oslo and to save money we spent the night at the airport, sleeping on benches next to an enormous flaccid penis. Eero's one wish was for us to bring beer because in Norway, the cost is almost prohibitive. (something like $100 a case) Arriving in Oslo, I had 24 cans of Saku Originaal which was above the allowable alcohol limit stated on the customs signs. Luckily, there are two exits from the airport - one is marked in red and is for people with stuff to declare, the other is marked in green, is unattended and is meant for those with nothing to declare. Guess which one we chose? Yep - and it worked fine. The next morning we flew to Tromso and from there we had to take a boat to a place named Finnsnes where Eero would pick us up.

Because we did not spend the night in Oslo proper, we didn't bother getting Norwegian currency and, being big city spoiled, we assumed we'd hit a bank machine once money was required. Well, northern Norway - probably like all northern places - is not especially geared for "fly by the seat of your pants" travelling. Arriving in Tromso, we had very little time to make the boat to meet Eero and using terrible Norwegian to describe to the taxi driver where we needed to go added precious minutes to our trip time. We got to the boat with moments to spare but quickly realised we had no money. Of little shock was the fact that there were no conveniently located bank machines either. Credit cards were not accepted on the boat so we promised the crew we'd use a bank machine at our destination to pay. They looked at us bemusedly - if cosmopolitan Tromso was short on ATM's what made us think our much smaller destination would have any? Thankfully, they were kind enough to allow us on and an hour later we were in a tiny place called Finnsnes which had nothing more than a variety store. After some miscommunication with the variety store clerk and his helpful daughter, we used their phone to call Eero who came to pick us up. (remember, this was 1999 and cel phones were not ubiquitous)

Eero arrived in a 1973 Saab that had been retrofitted with a 1972 motor. It was a pretty sweet ride. He was happy to see us but even more happy that we had brought the beer. Driving back to his village, Eero pointed out certain quirks of early 70's Saabs in a clear effort to prepare me to drive one myself. Sure enough, once we got to his place, there was a brown, 1972 Saab in the driveway which could be used by Mossman and me whenever required. Before we took it for a spin, Eero gave me some pointers. One thing I was to watch for was the wheelchair man who makes it a habit to roll down the middle of the pitch black, unnerving, multi-kilometre long tunnels. Also, if the engine temperature gets too hot, I have to lower the engine speed and coast as much as possible. Furthermore, if a sudden stop is required, there is some kind of latch located close to the foot pedals that needed to be pulled or turned while braking. I never thought sudden braking should be a multi-step process requiring your feet and hands.

So we hopped in the car and I asked for the keys. Eero handed me a screwdriver. The keys no longer existed so the trick was to shove the screwdriver in the ignition to start the motor. I have to admit, the car was fun to drive. Three on a tree with good site lines and a leather interior. It was certainly impressive that such an old car was still working. Well, mostly working. The radiator was leaky so before we left, Eero had to top it up with distilled water.

We toured around the area, Eero drank Saku and pointed out areas of interest. He showed us the rock where the day before he was fishing and a large wave swept him into the water, but then luckily washed him back onto the rock. This far north, the ocean is only a couple of degrees warm and being swept away with the tide means major trouble. Well, not trouble, just death.

Back at home, we were visited by two little girls who were just learning English. Living in such a small place, it must have been an entertaining distraction to have strangers in town so they dropped by for a look see. Initially shy, they soon found confidence and began to practice their English. They could not have been more than 10 years old but already they were swearing at an 8th grade level. It was quite amazing the stuff passing their lips; they told us to go f%$k ourselves while giving us the finger - who was teaching them that stuff? Soon they upped the ante and practiced their karate moves on us. Mossman was punished with relentless attacks consisting of kicks and punches. The funny thing is that they were little sweethearts to Eero's girlfriend but to us they were little terrors.

At night we went fishing off Eero's dock. Technically it was night but July up north doesn't get dark so it was just a constant dusk even though it was past 2 in the morning. The place was absolutely amazing for fishing. Mossman caught 20 fish with 20 casts of the rod. He then tried a different direction, failed on one cast and then went back to catch another 17 straight. The next day we went out in a boat and lowered lines with multiple hooks. You couldn't get the line to your desired depth before fish were biting. The norm was to pull up four or five fish at once. Smaller ones were either thrown back or tossed at the seagulls who would catch and swallow the fish whole. Afterwards, their bellies were noticeably distended and they had trouble taking off! We also caught a brief glimpse of fins breaking the surface close to our small boat. I don't know what kind of fish/mammal they belonged to there's no doubt that the ocean up there is teeming with life.

Fish that were deemed large enough were immediately filleted by Eero's expert hands and once we had a bucket full of fresh coalfish, it was time to head back. The only problem is that the engine that brought us to the middle of the fjord had failed on the outward journey so we had to row back against the tide and the wind. Not pleasant. However, the hard work resulted in all that fresh fish being fried up and eaten with true vigour.

Plans on our departure day had to change because Eero had been up all night drinking scotch with his neighbour. He was supposed to drive us the 60 km to Finnsnes but he felt he was still too drunk to drive. We were handed the screwdriver and a couple of gallons of distilled water to chauffeur ourselves in the brown Saab. We found our way well enough and close monitoring of the engine temperature meant we had to stop only once to top up the radiator. Good times driving in the middle of nowhere in a car you think might break down at anytime. Upon arrival in Finnsnes we did as instructed and parked the car in the lot next to the police station. The doors were left unlocked and the screwdriver was left on the driver's seat.

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