CAMPING IN NORWAY
After a delightful little voyage in one of the smart Wilson Line steamers, I arrived one morning early in Christiania, the capital of Norway.
The town is an ordinary Continental town, but stands on the shores of an arm of the sea which is so shut in by wooded hills for some twenty miles that it is more like an inland lake than a gulf of the ocean.
What a place for Sea Scouts!
One of the first Norwegian boys to attract my attention was a Boy Scout--so like an English Scout that he may have been one for all I know, but I was not able to speak to him, I was catching a train, and he was going off in a hurry in another direction, evidently in trouble, as he was whistling and smiling! And it is difficult to tell a Norwegian boy from an English boy by his appearance, for they are very much alike.
And so are the girls and young women very like their British sisters. But then, as we all came of the same blood in bygone times, it is not altogether surprising.
Then their Royal Family is related to ours, for Queen Maud, the wife of King Haakon, is sister of our own King.
So Norwegians have much in common with the English, and since my visit Scouts of the two countries have become good friends and camped with each other.
There could be no better country than this for camping out. As you come through it in the train, you keep passing among wooded hills and then alongside rivers and lakes; a great deal of wild country with occasional cultivated parts where there are neat little wooden farmsteads and villages.
The houses are painted bright colours, and are roofed with tiles or shingles, that is, wooden slates, as in Canada. In fact, with its forests, lakes, and rivers, and their floating timber, and the sawmills, the country generally is not unlike Canada.
As wood is so abundant here, farm Scouts will be interested to see from the picture how they make their fences in place of hedges or ordinary post-and-rails. It is a kind of fence that you can make easily with almost any kind of slats or with brushwood or branches.
[Illustration: A NORWEGIAN FENCE.]
A way which the Norwegian woodmen have of piling their small timber in the woods in order to dry it is one which might also be useful to Scouts when making a bivouac-hut, where there are plenty of saplings. You pile them as shown in the picture, all with their butts or thick ends together to windward, and thin ends splayed outwards.
When you have got this frame together you can cover it with a waterproof sheet, or straw mat, or brushwood, to keep out the weather, and light your fire opposite the opening.
In my camp I had one friend, George.
[Illustration: AN EASILY-MADE BIVOUAC HUT]
We found a good site on the bank of a rushing roaring river between high hills covered with forest. We were thirty-five miles from the nearest railway station, and about four miles from a farm, where we got our butter and our milk. The river supplied our fish, and we shot our own game.
We carried just enough kit to make a load for a pack-pony--a bundle of about 50lb. weight on each side of him. There were no roads, and a pack-pony is the only means of carrying heavy luggage, such as tents, etc.
We each had our bivouac tent, bedding, change of clothes, cooking pots, and fishing rods, etc.
Of course, we did our own cooking, woodcutting, and cleaning up. And cleaning up is a very important part of camp work.
Our camp was small and never likely to be seen by anybody besides ourselves, but it was always kept very neat and tidy, and we could shift camp at any moment, and leave scarcely a sign that we had been there. That is how Scouts should always have their camp--everything in its place, so that you can find anything you want at a moment's notice in the event of a sudden turn out in the dark, or for shutting up for a sudden rain squall.
All scraps of food should be burnt or buried, and not thrown about round the camp. On service these scraps would be good "sign" to an enemy's scouts as to who had occupied the camp, and how long ago, and how well off they were for provisions, and so on.
Another reason against letting your camp ground get dirty is that it quickly becomes the camping place also of thousands of flies. If you have flies in camp it is a sign that the camp is not kept clean.
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A CAMP BEDROOM.
I have made a sketch of my tent, which, as you will see, is a kind of hammock with a roof to it, slung between two trees. This form of tent keeps you dry in wet weather or on swampy ground; you never have to lie on the ground, you can get snakes and other nice visitors crawling into your bed. The cot is long enough to hold your kit as well as yourself.
It is kept stretched out by two side poles and a ridge pole. These can be cut in the wood where you camp, and the cot itself, with bedding and kit inside, can be rolled up in the waterproof, and this forms a neat roll for half of the pack-pony's load.
The cot is springy and most comfortable to sleep in.
When you are ill or wounded it makes a very good stretcher, the side poles forming the carrying handles. In the same way, when you are dead it makes an excellent coffin, as the sides and ends fold in, and can be laced over the body. I have not tried it myself in that way.
Another advantage which I have twice found the cot-tent to have was, when a tornado visited camp, and all the tents were blown down into the mud, my little cot was swaying quietly in the wind--it cannot blow down.
In the drawing you see also, besides my bedroom (in the cot), my dressing-room, my drawing-room, and my bathroom--in fact, my whole residence.
The dressing-room was where my fishing waders are hanging up to dry, together with my shaving-glass, hat, and holdalls.
Over the cot are hanging my overcoat and moccasins and towel. My drawing-room was the rug on which I sit, my writing-case lying there ready for use.
[Illustration: MY CAMP RESIDENCE IN NORWAY. My cot-tent will be seen in the centre of the picture.]
My bath was down below, through the trees, in the river!
My whole house was carpeted with a beautiful soft springy moss, so dry that a match dropped on to it would soon set the whole forest in a blaze.
So we had to be very careful about our camp fire.
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THE CAMP FIRE.
We made our kitchen near the river, where this dry moss did not grow.
A camp fire for cooking is not a bonfire. A tenderfoot never remembers this; but an old campaigner can be recognised by the smallness of his fire; he does not waste fuel. In the woods there may be plenty of timber, but he is not going to waste time, energy, and axes in cutting down piles of firewood when he can make a few handfuls do equally well; and if he is out on the plains where firewood is almost unknown, he has to do with a few roots of grass, or bits of cow-dung, etc.
Then a big roaring fire, though it looks very cheery, sends off sparks, and in dry camping weather these are very dangerous, whether in the woods, or on the heather, or among the grass.
[Illustration: MY CAMP KITCHEN.]
We began our fire by, first of all, collecting a heap of firewood, chiefly dead branches from trees; then by laying a few shreds of birch-bark between two good flat stones of equal height (about six inches), and on these we laid a few bits and splinters of dry wood taken from the inside of a dead tree, and on that just two or three small dry sticks, and then set it alight. As it burnt we gradually added more small sticks till it was a good strong little fire, then we added more and more sticks, the object being to get the space between the stones gradually full of glowing red-hot bits of wood to give heat to the cooking pots, which we then stood on the two stones so as to bridge over the fire.
The great art is to begin with a very _small_ fire and a _very_ dry one. You can then add to its size as you please later on, and when it is going strong you can add damper wood if dry wood is scarce. Birch-bark cannot be found everywhere, but it is the best of lighting tinder when you have it.
The channel between the stones is much better if laid so as to face the breeze. The fire can then be kept going at the mouth of it, and the heat will blow through; a bigger kind of log can be put in from the other end to catch fire and add to the heat in the channel.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways of making fires, which you can read about in _Scouting for Boys_, but this is the particular kind of cooking fire that we used in my Norwegian camp.
At night, when we had cooked our supper and the night was getting chilly, of course, we put on big logs laid across each other, and so got a big, star-shaped fire to make a blaze to warm us,
But we kept a good watch on any sparks to see that they didn't touch the moss or heather, and when we turned in, we trod out the fire and poured water over the whole of the ashes, so as to prevent any chance of embers blowing out into flame again during the night and setting light to the grass.
Scouts cannot be too careful in this matter, especially in England, where landowners are very good at lending their ground to troops for camping, but are naturally very nervous all the time lest by some carelessness a grass fire may get started, and thousands of pounds' worth of timber or property get burnt.
Early in the morning we were to leave our rest-house near the railway in order to drive (and partly to walk) to the place where we were going to make our headquarters. This was forty-nine kilometres distant. How many miles is that?
As kilometres are generally used abroad for telling distances, a Scout ought to know how to compare the two and here is a simple way of doing it: Multiply your number of kilometres by five and divide the result by eight, and you will have the number of miles. Thus:
We want to know how many miles our forty-nine kilometres are.
49 5 --- 8)245 --- 30 5/8 or about 30 1/2 miles.
As I have said, we were to leave early, but we found that the Norwegian idea of early is not so very early as with us in England. They thought eight o'clock breakfast very early, and the cart, which was supposed to start at nine, did not get away till 10:30.
It was a little ramshackle sort of dogcart with a very high seat, which just gave standing room for us among our baggage, while the boy in charge of the pony hung on as best he could behind.
The pony was fine and strong and fat, but awfully sedate; in fact, it was only after a lot of persuasion that we got him to move at a trot, and then it was a marvellously slow trot.
However, I found that if one showed him the spare end of the rope reins, and offered to strike him with it, he mended his pace considerably. He kept his eye on me all the time--
The Norwegians seem to be very kind to their animals. They don't use whips or blinkers or bearing-reins on their horses and before we had gone very far the boy in charge considered it time to unharness and feed his horse for a few minutes. We walked on while he did so, and as it wasn't for an hour and a half that he overtook us again, we guessed he had given the horse a very fine feed indeed.
[Illustration: THE HORSE KEPT HIS EYE ON ME ALL THE WAY.]
We didn't do ourselves badly, either, because all along the road, which ran through beautiful woods along the hillside, we found lots of excellent raspberries growing wild.
We changed ponies half-way: but when we had got nearly to our journey's end, the boy said he must stop and feed the horse. We said: "No; it is only four or five miles more, and the pony will be home." But the boy began to cry at our cruelty, so we had to stop and let the horse graze. It was very pleasing to see that they are so kind to their animals.
I have said that I was not one day in Norway before I saw a Boy Scout. Well, I was not two days in the country before I saw a Girl Guide. Correctly dressed in the same kits those in England, with her patrol ribbons on, she was taking lunch at the rest-house where we stopped for ours. Unfortunately, she could not talk English, so we could not have a chat, as I should have liked.
It is a grand thing for Scouts who care to travel that Boy Scouts are now to be found in most foreign countries, because you have only to make the secret sign a few times in any town, and you will get an answer, and find a brother Scout ready to help you.
In Norway, especially, they seem likely to be very useful to British Scouts, because they are very like British boys, except that they have much more practice in woodcraft.
A large proportion of them live in wildish country, among the forests and lakes, and so they know how to look after themselves; they are nice, cheery fellows. They are very clean, and they speak the truth. Well, that means a great deal, because you can trust a fellow who speaks the truth, and, what is more, you can trust him to behave well in danger or trouble.
I find that men who tell lies in peace time are not among the bravest in war; and telling a lie is, after all, a bit of cowardice--the fellow who tells it is afraid to speak the truth, or he hopes to get something in return for what he says, if he can only get the other fellow to see the question as he wants him to.
Well, that's a sneaking way of doing it. A manly fellow will speak out, and always say exactly what he wants or what is the real state of the case; he will be believed and will generally get his way. In any case, show me a liar, and I can show you a "funk-stick."
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HOOKS AND POT-HOOKS.
You may be interested in a picture of our camp on the Allalaer River in Norway. The shelter was rigged up with a waterproof sheet and a few poles cut in the forest.
Inside this shelter you see our store-cupboard; in other words, a box turned on end, with a bit of the lid made into a shelf. In this we stored our bread, coffee, sugar, and such things.
Then down on the left of the sketch is a small log bridge over a stream. Under this bridge we kept our milk, butter, and fish; it made an excellent ice-cold larder.
Next we come to the chopping block, an old log on which we chopped firewood into the right size. If you chop wood on the ground you will very soon blunt your axe, so always use a chopping-block.
And when you have finished chopping, leave your axe sticking in the block; this preserves its edge from getting rusty or knocked by stones, etc. It also preserves your toes from getting cut by stumbling over an axe in the dark.
[Illustration: MY CAMP ON THE ALLALAER RIVER IN NORWAY.]
Next we come to the important part of the camp--the fire. You see we made the fire between two big flat stones. These were useful for standing the frying-pan on, and cooking billies, etc. The fire is made at the windward end of the channel, between the stones, so that the heat blows into the channel, while the fire forms a pile of red-hot embers outside, at which toast can be made.
Notice our automatic toast-makers, made of a forked stick and a small supporting fork.
[Illustration: MY TOASTING-FORK.]
Then over the fire we had a crossbar of green wood (if you use old wood it will catch fire and drop your pot into the fire just as the stew is ready); it was supported on two stout, firmly-driven forked stakes, not the wobbly, rickety things which tenderfoots like to put up.
On the crossbar our kettle was hung by a pot-hook--just a hooked stick with a good notch cut in it to take the handle of the kettle.
Also on the crossbar in the sketch you see our tongs. These are most useful things for a camp-fire for lifting hot embers into the spot where you want them for giving extra heat.
[Illustration: MY AUTOMATIC KETTLE-HOLDER.]
The tongs are made from a green stick of hazel, or alder, or birch. The stick should be about 2 1/2 to 3 feet long. At the middle you cut away a good bit of the wood from one side for about 4 inches. Then cut a number of small notches across the grain of the wood to make it still more bendable at the centre. Here's the side view of the centre part of your stick.
[Illustration: THE TONGS BEFORE AND AFTER BEING BENT.]
Then flatten the inner sides of your stick towards both ends, so that they get a better hold on things; bend the two ends together and there you have your tongs:
Next to the tongs, in the sketch, you see a small branch of dwarf fir. This makes a hearth-brush, which is very useful for keeping the fire neat and clean.
The ordinary-looking stick leaning against the crossbar is an ordinary sort of stick, but a very useful one. He is the poker and pot-lifter. He should be a stout green stick not easily burnt. Poplar is a difficult wood to burn, but then many old hands won't use it, because it is said to bring bad luck on the camp-fire where it is used; but that is an old wife's story, and I always use it when I get the chance.
If the soup gets upset, I look on it as my fault, not the fault of the poplar poker. In fact, whatever wood the poker is made of, one always seems to get a kind of affection for him. He is only an ordinary ugly, old half-burnt stick, but he is jolly useful and helpful.
On this side of the fire you see the pile of wood that has been collected for fuel. It is generally the right thing when in camp for each camper, when coming in, whether from bathing, or fishing, or anywhere else, to bring with him some contribution to the wood-pile.
Different kinds of wood are needed for it.
First you want "punk" and "kindling"--that is, strips of birch-bark (which are better than paper for starting a fire), dry fibre from the inside of old dead trees, dry lichen or moss, anything that will start a fire. And also small, dry splinters, chips, and twigs to give the flame for lighting the bigger wood.
Secondly, you want lots of sticks, about 1/2 to 1 inch in thickness, for making your cooking-fire of hot embers, or you can get bigger logs, from which you can afterwards knock off, with our friend the poker, red-hot embers for the cooking.
Remember, you don't want a great blazing fire for cooking, but one that is all made of red-hot lumps.
For warming you up and giving a cheerful appearance to the camp at night you can have any amount of big, dry branches and logs--the drier the better for a good blaze.
Beyond the fire, in the sketch, you see our dining-table and seat. This is a plank set across a hole in the ground, and the table is another plank beyond it. That is one way of making a dining-table.
Another way to make seats and tables in camp, especially in a country like this, where the forest is full of fallen timber, is to go and look out for a suitable pine tree with branches so placed that by a little lopping with an axe you can make a trestle like this:
[Illustration: HOME-MADE SEAT.]
Two such trestles can be made to support a few split saplings, or a number of stout straight rods, which can then be nailed, spiked, or lashed down with cross-battens to form a table; and more such trestles can form the seats.
On the right of the sketch you see three forked uprights. These formed our rack for holding fishing-rods and landing-nets.
The little tufts hanging on this rack are bunches of heather.
Did you ever hear the yarn of the Boy Scout who, at his school examination in natural history, was asked, "What is heather?" He replied, "Well, sir, it is what we clean the cooking-pots with in camp."
He was quite right, though perhaps the examiner did not think so.
A few bunches of heather are most useful as dishcloths for cleaning dishes and pots. The reason why they are hanging on the rod rack is that they are handy for use in the scullery, which is that part of the river close by the rack.
In using a river you always have certain spots told off to the different uses. First and highest up-stream you get your drinking water. Next is your handwashing place (not bathing place) and scullery for washing plates and cooking-pots.
Below that is the refuse place, where you throw away scraps off the plates and from cooking-pots, and gut your fish. This should be where the stream will carry away the scraps and not slack water, where they will collect.
Of course, this throwing of refuse into the river only does in a wild country or where the river is big. In most English camps, all refuse should be buried in a pit or burnt.
I think that describes the whole of our camp.
Oh, no, there is still one article--and one of great importance Alongside the tent you see our camp besom or broom. It is made of a few birch twigs bound together. (The long thin roots of the fir-tree make very good cord.) This we used for sweeping the camp-ground every morning when we tidied up.
When we left our camp, the last thing we did after everything was packed ready for moving was to go round and tidy up the whole ground, and burn all the scraps, chips, and twigs that were left on the ground. So when we left it would have been difficult for a stranger to say that anybody had been camped there except for the place where the fire had been. But we left the cross-bars, pot-hooks, and wood-pile there, so that anyone coming after us would find them ready for his use.
[Illustration: A FISH CARRIER]
But I expect they will all have rotted away before any one else comes that way to camp, for it is in an out-of-the-way corner where very few travellers come.
Another hook I might, mention is one used for carrying your fish when you have caught them. It is merely a twig cut from the nearest bush.
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