It seems the more technology advances the more we crave the simpler life. For every step taken towards the automation and mechanisation of tasks a countermovement can be seen to spring up anchoring us to a slower more traditional way of doing things. The slow food and slow city movements are two prime examples.
The tendency to reinvigorate a traditional or slower way of doing something tends to be associated with the ‘hipster’ culture that has developed since the turn of the millennium. But its now beginning to catch on in other walks of life as well. Not least in the active holiday market.
I would never suggest that going on an expedition with just a Bergen, a tent and a map is the invention of the millennial generation. But the commodification of such trips has certainly taken off in the last decade.
I am not normally one to applaud the commodification of anything, however, in a generation where everything happens so fast I can appreciate that sometimes we need a bit of help to make the transition to the slow lane. This is where the new brand of organised “self guided adventures” comes in.
Cult groups of adventure enthusiasts have explored for decades the globes best routes for hiking, cycling, kayaking and climbing. This knowledge is now being harnessed to give you, the weekend warrior, the chance to experience a bespoke adventure to fit your capabilities and needs without the presence of a guide or instructor.
Of course this comes with caveats. You will never get the true ‘into the wild’ sensation that our predecessors and true trail blazers had when they explored virgin trails and made first ascents. And you will be limited to your own capabilities of course. But you will get a taste of adventure and hopefully experience the adrenaline of the wild but with the knowledge you will be back safe and sound to go to work on Monday.
So last August my fiancé and I decided we wanted just that. We set about looking for something that would feed our adventure needs while not pushing us beyond our abilities. We settled on the destination of Norway and kayaking as our activity of choice.
Now there are lots of instructional kayaking, cycling and sailing holidays out there but we were after something different. We know how to kayak and we know how to navigate. We wanted something that would test our skills in the wild but with the safety net of somebody having tested the route, knowing where we were and picking us up at the other end.
International sea kayak vacations that capture the spirit of travel and adventure Credit: Kayak More Tomorrow
We used a company called Kayak More Tomorrow. Based in Alesund they are a cycling and kayaking organisation who do everything from three week guided sea kayak trips to day hire of mountain bikes.
We opted for their “build your own adventure” service. This basically involves selecting one of their pre planned routes with suggested time lines and stop off points, selecting the gear you will need to hire and selecting whether you want to be catered for or provide your own food. The catered option involves you stopping at pre-arranged points to collect food from local farmers who are contracted by KMT so does not detract from the authentic experience.
As far as equipment hire goes the options were endless and fully customisable. You could go with everything but the kayak, or you could turn up with just your clothes and everything in between.
Being outdoorsy people we have accrued a fair amount of kit but lacked some of the specialist kayaking equipment. We borrowed buoyancy aids, spraydecks, paddles and charts. They also had a huge array of camping gas bottles so we were able to use our prized jet boil without risking blowing up the plane by stowing our canisters in the hold luggage. These things are worth investigating prior to departure as they can make or break a holiday like this. Invariably these companies are run by like minded people who are incredibly helpful and just want to get you out and enjoying the hobbies they themselves live for!
So with all this arranged and our bags packed we were anxious to see what our adventure would actually entail. We turned up bright and early on the day of our departure having air bnb’d it the night before in Alesund. We got our kit packed into the kayak and then went for our brief from the company’s director.
The true benefits of paying for an organised adventure we were to discover at the briefing. We went through the charts stage by stage and were shown in detail where each of our camps would be and what the different optional stopping points were.
We were doing a route recommended for 7 days in 5 so had a fair amount of paddling to do and it was useful to be shown how best to break this up. There were certain elements that we had to do at different tide heights and here too the benefits of the brief were invaluable.
The camp sites that they had picked out for us were incredible. They aren’t campsites of the sort you would think of here in the UK. They literally consisted of a convenient spot on the bank to pull up the kayak with a flat patch of ground to pitch a tent and a fire pit. No toilets or facilities, no campsite managers. In fact we didn’t see another person for the duration of our trip…. Bliss!
And this is where the true value of this sort of service lies. The nature of the Fjord means that unless you know its there to look for, you will never find these little clearings/campsites. The rock rises pretty much vertically from the water and it can be pretty daunting knowing that there is no friendly beach to swim too should you come unstuck. Be assured, despite the advice of the organisers there were certainly times where we struggled to find a site, missed a tidal window and felt extremely isolated in some pretty scary environments. But that is exactly what we were paying for.
We kayaked 110km in 5 days. Had 5 amazing nights in the wilderness, saw sea eagles, porpoises arctic foxes and the incredible Gerainger Fjord. And waiting at the other end is the second thing that we are grateful we paid for. The van to take us back. Out and back trips are fine, but its always nice to see something new every day. By paying for the transport back from Gerrainger we were able to get much further than we would have if we had had to kayak back to Alesund.
So cost. Norway is notorious for being pricey. That’s certainly no exaggeration. But we managed the above trip for seven hundred pounds each and that’s including flights, food and a nights accommodation at each end.
The kayak hire and bespoke adventure cost us seven hundred and fifty pounds and that was about the cheapest option we could have gone for. We are both quite used to a bit of hardship, and took our own ration packs for food so this kept the cost down quite considerably.
With rates for European flights now so reasonable, if you are willing to take food with you and maybe buy the odd loaf of bread then even the likes of Norway won’t break the bank and that leaves you more money to spend on the actual adventure you go for. And this was our choice, there are numerous destinations and activities to choose from out there. So to paraphrase UP…. “Organised adventure is out there”. Go and find yours!