Tramping with a toddler

With our second summer as a family well under way, it was time to get back into more serious tramping.

There was just a one problem, a small, rather mobile, but otherwise not very coordinated 12kg lump, to package away safely.

Up until now we had been using baby carriers. These are perfect for, well, babies.  You carry them on your front, and can support their head.  But then, as they get bigger, it starts becoming a bit of a strain on your neck and shoulders. Some of the baby carriers have the option of carrying the infant on your back, but in practice this really doesn’t work, mainly because their had flops about like a tea towel on a clothesline, when they fall asleep.

Front baby carrier.  Bit more challenging for serious tramping.  You can't see your feet, usually need one hand to support the infant if sleeping, or to keep baby hands from pulling out eyes.  Also not very comfortable once weight exceeds 10kg.

Front baby carrier. Bit more challenging for serious tramping. You can’t see your feet, usually need one hand to support the infant if sleeping, or to keep baby hands from pulling out mummy eyes. Also not very comfortable once weight exceeds 10kg.

Some baby carriers can also be worn on back, but not so good when infant falls asleep.

Some baby carriers can also be worn on back, but not so good when infant falls asleep.

It was time to investigate a more serious child carrier, one that would see us through, until junior was able to climb those mountains himself.

Living in Norway, means we have the luxury of limited choice, which usually makes buying decisions easy.  Our options were:

  • Bergens – the Norwegian brand.  This carrier is quite large, and comes with a frame/kick-stand, it was the only one that does so.  It feels like a heavy tramping pack.  Baby sits relatively low, so lower center of gravity, and more difficult for baby to pull at your hair and ears.  Adjustable for height.   Middle price range at 2000 NOK.
  • Little Life – Very comfy and practical.  Has small extras like fablet-szied pockets on the hip belt, heaps of storage, and a mirror for checking up on the little guy in the back.  It is, however, small.  I couldn’t see it being usable past the 18-moth – two year mark.  Baby also sits quite high, with head height the same as yours, meaning not only will he play peek-a-boo and cover up your eyes, but he also has no head protection, should you fall on your back.  Price: a high-end 2500 NOK.
  • Macpac brand – Trusty NZ brand.  Matches our tramping packs.  Has never let us down.  Baby sits quite high, same as US branded carriers.  No head support.  Only available in one store in all of Norway, in Oslo.  Not available for us to try out. Price: 3000 NOK.

We opted for the Norewegian brand.  This is after all the country of babies and mountains.  Those Norwegians have to know what they are doing when it came to making carriers.  Plus, it’s a bit bigger, so we won’t be casting it aside after six months, and together with storage, can take up to 35kg – just in case we wanted to go on that epic 10-day mountain traverse.

We tried it out up Veten, Åsane’s highest mountain, and conveniently located behind IKEA, meaning we could finish our tramp, and stop in at IKEA to buy our new bed (finally), and some tasty Swedish food.

The climb was reasonably steep, and quite challenging in places.  Not recommended for beginners, or people fussy about keeping shoes clean.  However, the carrier was up for the job.  The baby was well secured, meaning you could bend down to tie your shoelace, or arch off to the side to scoot around a rock, without needing to worry about him falling out.

Appreciating the scenery and sleeping

Appreciating the scenery and sleeping

Snoozey

Snoozey

Nearly at the top.  Taking a mini-rest to sing 'the hills are alive with the sound of music'

Nearly at the top. Taking a mini-rest to sing ‘the hills are alive with the sound of music’

Once at the summit, we could take the pack off and set it in place.  The frame and kick stand suddenly came in handy.

Making use of the kickstand.  These could also be useful for tramping packs without babies.

Making use of the kickstand. These could also be useful for tramping packs without babies.

 

On the summit.  Veten, Åsane.

On the summit. Veten, Åsane.

Reached the summit. Time for lunch.

After a lunch, and toddling about a bit on the summit, it was time for the journey back down.  Although steep and difficult in places, we managed fine. With the baby thoroughly secured and protected, both hands were free, and meant we (and when I say we, I mean Brian) could even scoot down on our bottom in the more tricky parts, without needing to worry about his head meeting a rock.

And then, we could continue on straight into IKEA for some Swedish cookies.

So, with our first tramp of the season completed we’re off to a good start.

The only downside is that there is no such thing as an easy day walk any more.  Even a three hour walk, will feel like a five-day carry-your-tent-sleeping bag-food-and-water tramp.

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Tilbake i Norge

Well, we are back in Norway.

It’s hard to believe we spent nearly two months in NZ. It all seems just like a distant dream now.

In fact, come to think of it, my entire year off seemed to have just whizzed by.

Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that we were still going up our house?

Time dilation. It’s the first real symptom of getting old. And it only gets worse.

Right, better publish this blog post, before I turn 50.

 

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Flying long haul with an infant, part 2 – Premium economy

We upgraded our two long haul flights from economy to premium economy paying about 30% – 40% extra.  Because we were travelling with an infant, this meant we were also assigned the bulk head seats.

We flew British Airways on a shiny new A380 from London to Hong Kong (11 1/2 hours), and Cathay Pacific on an archaic A340 from Hong Kong to Auckland (10 1/2 hours).

So, was the extra money for Premium economy worth it?

Pros:

  • Heaps of leg room. You really could completely stretch your legs and then some. Also plenty of space for baby to safely crawl around in front of you.
Premium Economy bulk head infant seats on British Airways.  Heaps of leg room, and wide seats with generously sized arm rests - great for breast feeding and sleeping (at the same time)!

Premium Economy bulk head infant seats on British Airways. Heaps of leg room (and baby crawling space), and wide seats with generously sized arm rests – great for breast feeding and sleeping (at the same time)!

 

  • Significantly wider seats. The configuration is 2, 3, 2 (In cattle class it’s 3,4,3 or 3,5,3 depending on the air craft). We were seated in the middle row, meaning there was one other person in our row. We barely noticed them. Not only are the seats wider, but there is a very generous amount of arm rest space. You will not be rubbing elbows. At all.
  • You can actually sleep. Even while holding an infant.
  • You can use the airplane carry cot. Now, I wouldn’t recommend using these for actual baby sleeping. Baby is not strapped in. The cot is not very tall, and it’d be easy for baby to climb/fall out. It offers no protection from turbulence. And, if there is turbulence you have to wake baby, take him out, and put him into your seat-belt harness.  The cot is also at an awkward height so that you are unable to see the baby while sitting in your seat. We found it easier and better just to keep junior on our lap. However, the cot (or even just the table) did make for great fast access storage area.
Infant cot (up to 18kg).  Cot is strapped in, but baby is not.  We kept baby sleeping on our lap, and used the cot for storage space.

Infant cot (up to 18kg). Cot is strapped in, but baby is not. We kept baby sleeping on our lap, and used the cot for fast access storage space.

 

 

  • USB power and regular power outlets. Yep, you can run your laptop, tablet, or phone for the duration of the flight.
  • Extra classy meals with real metal utensils, and cloth serviettes. As an example, included in our breakfast was a croissant and mini glass jam jar with metal lid.
  • Welcome drinkies!

We arrived in NZ 7.30am having traveled for 34 hours. We felt surprisingly good, and refreshed. The baby showed no problems coping with the 12 hour time difference, and wasted no time exploring his new surroundings, before crashing at his usual bedtime of 7 pm much later that day.

Verdict: If you have the means to pay the extra 30-40%C it is well worth the money. Even if it is just for the one flight. You will be able to sleep. And if you are travelling with a baby, it makes everything just sooo much better.  In general, we found the British Airways flight slightly better than Cathay Pacific, but only because it was a newer aircraft.

In summary, it’s the extra leg room and wider seats that makes premium economy worth the price.

 

 

 

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Flying with an infant from Norway to New Zealand, part 1

I both sought and received much advice on flying long haul with a baby, or in our case double back-to-back long haul.

A repeating theme seemed to be that you can never have enough toys. Load up your iPad with baby apps, and photos, music and videos they said. Bring toys they said. Both old faithful toys, and new ones.  Book toys, soft toys, clangy toys, music toys, round toys, rattling toys, and blinking toys.

This caused me to go into a state of panic. I had no toys for the baby. Just what sort of mother was I? I frantically started scouring baby toys on Amazon and started wish lists. I sourced custom made plane-friendly toys shipped to us all the way from Kumeu Baby Supplies in New Zealand, and also from the US. My colleague dropped off a giant sized IKEA canvas bag of toys. (Who knew babies were so demanding?).

But at least now, I felt I was ready.

We were allowed three pieces of hand baggage, one was an optimal sized suitcase filled with nothing but toys. The second was a bag filled with various other baby bits, while the third was our entertainment bag, laptops, phones, and tablets all preloaded with an assortment of baby apps, German metal music (babies love Toten Hosen), and photos.

And, I never used any of them. The iPad didn’t even get turned on.

Instead it was the aircraft safety manual that this little baby found most amusing.

Studying the safety manual for the A319 heading from Bergen to London

Studying the safety manual for the A319 heading from Bergen to London for Leg 1 of 3.

Babies. So complex.

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You’d think with all our renovation experience, we’d be able to build a structurally sound gingerbread house…

Pepperkakehus

Pepperkakehus

 

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Å koser seg

The days are short now, and mostly dark. When talking to people in the southern hemisphere a repeating theme seems to be ‘oh it must be so depressing now in Norway’.

But, it’s not really.

There is something very special about this time of year.

The Norwegians even have a word for it – å koser.

The closest English translation means to be cosy and warm.  But it encompasses much more than that.

It’s sitting by the fire drinking hot chocolate and playing boardgames while it’s quietly snowing outside. It’s enjoying an evening glass of port, and watching some Sherlock Holmes after the baby has gone to sleep.  It’s meeting friends for a late afternoon tea and muffins. It’s going out for a walk in the wind, rain, and ice, dressed in layers of warm wind and waterproof clothing, with a baby soundly asleep underneath it all in a lambskin cocoon. It’s coming home from work on a Friday night, to sit down for a cold drink and some pre-dinner snacks (Fredagskos as the weegies call it).   It’s decorating your front door with a fir and holly wreath, and your windows with starry Christmas lights.

Å koser seg.

Downtown Bergen now has a different look.  Koserish. Something warm and inviting. Christmas decorations begin to light up the streets at 3pm.  Going into cafe to koser yourself with a hot drink has never been more inviting.

Å koser seg.

Whenever I go out now , particularly when I have a sleeping junior snuggly strapped to my chest, I am frequently stopped by old Norwegians who hve an irristable urge to poke him and say something along the lines of ‘awww så søtt. Han koser seg’.

Everytime.

During every other time of year, the locals are usually busily working away on their do-up projects, hiking, or fishing.  This time of year (with the exception of skiing, which in itself has much kosering potential), all that stops. Everything slows down.   It’s a time to just sit back and relax in cosy, warm home, and enter a quasi-hibernation state, just enjoying each other’s company.

It’s 9.30am now, and mostly light.  The rain has eased, and the last of the snow melted.  It’s time to wrap up the barn and head out på tur, kosering ourselves in our warm, snug attire.

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Driving on the right, driving on the right

In New Zealand the process of obtaining a drivers license is a long and drawn out one.

First you sit a theory test, which gives you a learner’s license.  This means you are allowed to drive, but a driver with a full license must be with you at all times.  Then, six months later you can sit the practical test.  If you pass, you get a restricted license, meaning you are allowed to drive on your own during the day, but need a licensed driver with you at night.  Then, 18 months after this, you get your full license.

There are no formal courses you need to take.  If you pass your practical test, and don’t do any driving after that, you will still get your full license.

Two weeks ago, Brian received his full Norwegian driver’s license.  The entire process took him a month, and was rather different to what we do in NZ. It was, in what can only be described as, intense.

First, despite knowing how to drive, he was legally required to take several 1.5 hour driving lessons from a certified instructor.  (Probably a good idea since they drive on the wrong side of the road here, and have some really weird give way rules).

Then, there were the courses.  So many courses, all taking at least 1/2 a day.

  • There was the ice driving course – this actually sounded like fun.
  • The mountain driving course
  • The night driving course
  • The risk management course
  • The first aid course
On the ice driving course

On the ice driving course

On top of this there is also a very thorough theory exam.

Then once all these are completed it’s off for a a 1.5 hour practical driving test.

And now after all that, and just one month later, Brian is legally let loose on Norsk roads.

We headed out this weekend in a rental car to give his license a test.

Now Norwegian roads are pretty unusual.  The top speed limit is 80, and most minor roads are windy, narrow, and one way.

There is no room for error

This is probably why they take their licensing process so seriously.  If you drive a little too fast and suddenly brake, you won’t just skid a bit, but instead will be hurled off a mountain, and plummet into a 1500m deep fjord below.   And, as we found ourselves on our own on some very narrow, rather terrifying although typically Norsk roads, I found myself rather glad that I could be sure any drivers we came across, even youthy ones, would have undergone very rigorous training with much less likelihood of thinking hooning is a marvelous idea.

Our driving adventure was a success, and we luckily avoided any major snow with the weekend falling into a ‘warm’ period.

Next step is to actually buy a car.  Very keen on an electric model.  Free charging, parking and no tolls.

But first, Brian just needs to stop uttering ‘driving on the right, driving on the right’ under his breath at every turn.

 

Old power station on Osterøy.  The new power station is next to it, deeply burrowed into a mountain, it's the Norwegian way.

Old power station on Osterøy. The new power station is next to it, deeply burrowed into a mountain, it’s the Norwegian way.

Bridge to Osterøy, Europe's largest inland island.  Bridge was built in 1997, prior to that access was via ferry only.

Bridge to Osterøy, Europe’s largest inland island. Bridge was built in 1997, prior to that access was via ferry only.

Feeding stop

Feeding stop

Fjord or lake?

Fjord or lake?

Lunch stop

Lunch stop

Norsk road up mountain on Osterøy.

Norsk road up mountain on Osterøy.

We didn't drive on this road.

We didn’t drive on this road.

Weegies hanging out in the Church of Norway

Weegies hanging out in the Church of Norway

 

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