Written by Sally Moir
(A Runner-up entry in the Travel for Seniors Writing Competition.)
‘Have I arrived at my final destination? The Old People’s Home?’ was my first thought when we arrived aboard a Hurtigruten ship called the Finnmarken.
It is a part cargo, part passenger boat that delivers and collects both goods and people at many of the little ports and villages up and down the North Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkeness.
As a retired nurse for the elderly it felt like all thirteen hundred of my past case load had come along with me on this trip! Despite the slightly depressing realisation that like it or not, I was now in this elderly category, it turned out to be a magical trip of gushing waterfalls, midnight sun and a snow topped mountainous coastline.
I did wonder how this ‘older clientele’ was going to cope with being on board. Had they chosen this holiday as a cruise assuming it would be an easier trip? Getting on and off the ship was not easy with a rather slippery sloped gang plank and just one handrail to hang onto.
At least there was a lift down to the disembarking deck and daily bus excursions could be booked which made seeing places easier.
We were so fortunate to have endless sun so even if you weren’t feeling too bright, sitting on deck wrapped in blankets and watching the world go by was a very enjoyable pastime. Many passengers spent their days admiring the fiords turn from a dark school uniform green to a deep cobalt blue as the sun came out melting the snow and enlarging the already bulging waterfalls.
There was almost always coastline to see with a fascinating array of trees and very isolated houses and always something new such as a hole in the mountain! It was also fascinating to watch docking and loading/unloading at each port.
One day on deck, an elderly gentleman tripped over the support to a railing, fortunately without serious injury. It made me think of everyone I knew who had fallen and broken bones whilst on holiday. A research study by the Post Office logged over four million accidents on holidays between 2012 and 2015. A substantial proportion of these were falls and fractures.
There was no doctor on board our ship although there were first aiders and reception could book you an appointment at the next large port of call.
One of my friends fell and broke her leg in Iceland but was determined to have her holiday, so dosed herself up with vodka and painkillers and spent four days trying to enjoy herself before flying home untreated! It must have been an agonising holiday, not to mention the enormous risks she took by flying home without medical intervention.
Scarily, I found myself thinking about and planning falls prevention holidays! I looked at ways to aid safe travel for oldies such as packing lighter suitcases, using smaller quieter airports and assistance to the plane. I must not be too proud to use walking sticks when I need them or maybe more ageless walking poles!
Trying to sustain good mobility with exercise such as regular Pilates classes helps to maintain balance and flexibility. Ice grippers for snowy conditions and a torch for the dark are always necessary travelling companions. It is always worth checking out medical provision before you book a holiday and ensuring that your travel insurance is up to date.
It was amazing to see how much everyone coped on this ship, so maybe the crisp clear Scandinavian air gave us all renewed strength. I was heartened to see one man with severe mobility issues disembarking at almost every stop, sometimes several times a day. He said he was drawn by the multi-coloured wooden houses dotted around picturesque harbours and the warm, friendly atmosphere.
This journey did really cater for all abilities and there always seemed something to see or do on board and ashore. Films of the Lofoten Islands were shown and a tasting session of Norwegian foods was enjoyed by many while bicycles for the more able could be rented
for exploring further afield onshore.
The food and the service were exceptional and we were lucky enough to have a swimming pool. Sitting in the jacuzzi at the end of the day watching tree lined rocks pass by with the odd little white lighthouse and red wooden boathouse made me sure that this could be a relaxing and stress free holiday at any age and definitely it was not an old people’s home!
POSTED 3rd JANUARY 2018 by STEVE HANSON on behalf of SALLY MOIR. The photographs were supplied by the author after the competition had been judged.