This is a tale about two men from a small, South Wales steel town, who traversed international waters to take on a hike described by one YouTuber as: "intermediate to intense" in difficulty. I know this story, because I am one of those men. The other of which, is my good friend, Mr Jonny Davies.
It's a tale filled with anguish, woe and uncertainty, but also one of friendship, salvation and redemption (but primarily, woe). These brave men decided to forego the interesting city breaks Europe had to offer — which would have more than likely involved the often enjoyable: drinking, eating and sightseeing — in favour of something a little more...challenging.
(Amsterdam, Berlin, literally anywhere other than a desolate rock in the middle of fucking nowhere.)
Their task on paper appeared to be simple: hike up hill and see rock shaped like tongue, but this wasn't your conventional old hike, this was: the tortuous "Trolltunga" hike — and in future posts, you'll be able to relive every step of my experience vicariously via the typed word.
(I use the word "story" very loosely, what I actually mean is: the often nonsensical and ultimately meaningless aspects of the trip that — for some unknown reason — were still rattling about in my head by the time we got home. It's a bit like all of the scenes from The Two Towers with Frodo and Sam...but they happen to be from Neath.)
Oh, and be warned, in this first instalment, we don't actually make it out of Gatwick Airport...
2 PINTS OF WATER AND A PACKET OF PISS
Over the course of the journey to our pre-flight hotel (near Gatwick Airport), I'd consumed two demonically strong cups of coffee from a roadside Costa outlet, in addition to the equivalent of about two pints worth of sparkling water. With an infuriatingly overactive bladder like mine [get that checked] it quickly became apparent that I’d fucked up something royal.
*FUZZY FEELING IN ABDOMEN*
I need a piss.
I'd go as far as to say that I've never needed a piss more in all my adult life.
One minute I was sat there, peacefully taking in the greyish mundanity of the shittiest road in all the country (the M25), the next minute, my bladder felt like it was going to rupture — the result of which would mean that all of my vital organs would get completely soaked...in piss.
*SIGN: WELCOME BREAK SERVICES - 20 MILES*
Way too far.
Still 15 miles away from the hotel.
We need to pull over somewhere.
“We need to pull over Jon, I’m going to bust…”
I briefly contemplated getting Jonny to stop on the hard shoulder, but didn’t want to risk whipping my knob out at the side of the motorway, in fear of being fined and/or embarrassed by any passing rozzers.
Even my kidneys are aching.
This can't be healthy.
There'd better be no scarring or anything.
Like any good friend would, Jonny found my pain to be hilarious. He proceeded to taunt me by swerving the car, tapping the brakes, and trying to make me laugh [piss] out loud. It was one of those unique situations where I knew that I couldn't laugh (same with funerals), so that's exactly what my brain was inclined to do.
*YOU ONLY BROUGHT ONE PAIR OF JEANS, AND I'M GOING TO MAKE YOU PISS 'EM.*
Brain, you dare. You fucking dare.
I quickly weighed up my options by having a quick squint around the car: a couple of cans, a discarded 500ml bottle of Coke, and a large empty packet of onion rings.
Can an empty packet of crisps hold piss?
Would it look weird if I was to tip an entire crisp packet of piss out onto the M25?
It soon became apparent that nothing within the confines of the car would be suitable for holding liquid [again, piss, in this case] and the more I stressed about it, the worse things seemed to get...
To the right of Jonny's car, in the fast lane, was an old Renault Scenic driving exactly parallel to us. In the back seat, sat a creepy looking girl who was looking out of the window. Across her face was a hauntingly vacant smile. Her eyes were dead and black, like the eyes of a shark. Most disturbingly of all, she was waving one of her hands...towards me.
Nobody else. Just me.
What. Is. Her. Deal?
Jonny looked over and saw the whole initial exchange unfold. He looked at her. Then at me. Then back at her, before beginning to howl like a gibbon on heat. That gormless gal in the back of that MPV had wanted to get my attention for some reason, and this had him tickled.
Beads of sweat started to roll down my forehead, so I opened the window full crank to get a gasp of fresh air; anything that'd take my mind away from my predicament. Who was this creepy munchkin? Why was she waving at me? How can a human have the eyes of a shark? All of these thoughts (and more) swashed about in my skull like an irrational soup, while I had to resort to pinching the end of my foreskin to create a watertight seal like you would when blowing up a party balloon.
"Pinched my knob too hard..."
Although Jon's instant reaction was again: to laugh, he could see how uncomfortable I was and started to pity me a bit, so he decided to offer me some friendly advice during my time of need.
"Why don't you try and get a boner?"
Simple as that. As if he’d seen it on a "life hack" video that he'd seen go viral on Facebook. His basic rationale was that it would temporarily “change the tracks” and therefore, block the urethra off from the inside.
Maybe Jonny could do alternative life hack videos?
While I did consider it to be a fairly reasonable hypothesis, I wasn’t prepared to sit next to one of my mates while trying to induce a chub, just so that he could film it for his Instagram story.
The sat nav says we're only 7 minutes away.
That’s entirely doable.
STOP WAVING AT ME, YOU BLOODY FREAK.
*Don't piss. Don't piss. Don't piss. Don't piss. Don't piss. Don't piss.*
Jonny screeched to a halt directly outside the hotel and I dashed along inside — slow enough so that I wouldn't wee myself, but fast enough...so that I wouldn't wee myself.
MUST. FIND. URINAL.
I power-walked aimlessly through the lobby, past a large rabble of tradesmen who were queueing at the check-in desk, desperate to find my way to a porcelain pot to relieve myself before it was too late.
*JUST PISS IT OUT NOW IN YOUR PANTS*
NO BRAIN, SHUT UP, YOU DICK.
I've come this far, I'm not letting it all go now.
Bladder, don’t let go. Don't you ever let go.
On my third lap of the lobby, I spotted the illuminated sign for the toilets off down an unassuming corridor behind the bar area. I rushed in, while fumbling with my belt, before dropping both my jeans and pants to the floor in one swift motion, instigating the tried and tested "schoolboy piss" — the fastest method to get proceedings underway.
Anybody could have come in and seen my bare arse at that moment, and I wouldn't have cared — it's in these moments of severe mental and physical strain, that us humans immediately surrender any sense of pride that we carry around with us, reverting instead to our most primal of operations.
This is the longest piss I’ve ever had.
Is it wrong to feel proud?
I can't get it out of me fast enough.
It's like a golden rope emanating from my bell...
I puffed a sigh of relief walking back out into the hotel reception area to try and find Jonny, and it was then — after clarity had come rushing back in [and the piss out] — that I realised, that we were going to be staying...
In an absolute shithole.
The aroma of badly made Sunday dinners filled the air and a scruffy twat wearing a multicoloured bucket hat, vest, and camouflage combat trousers, chugged on a pint of Stella while angrily shouting at a group of disgruntled folks unfortunate enough to be his family. It was the hottest day of the year, and somehow, this made the already shit hotel, feel a lot worse.
At the corner of my eye, I spotted Jon talking to an ageing brunette behind the reception desk, so I walked on over to see what was going on.
"Are you going to be sharing a bed?"
Asked the brunette, in order to determine whether Jonny and I were lovers, or merely friends.
"He'd be so lucky!"
Quipped Jonny instantaneously with a chuckle, while nudging my arm.
The hotelier laughed, brushed her fringe out of one of her eyes, and continued to fill in the required paperwork, a little bit red in the face.
Jonny: always able to deliver on the banter front in any given situation. A true banter merchant if ever there was one.
"Jon, fancy a Stella?"
AIRPORT > BERGEN
GONE IN A PUFF OF...TALC
My phone alarm tone buzzed me awake at 6 a.m. The sound of which is something that I've gradually come to despise, but I daren't change it to something I actually enjoy the sound of (like a song for example), in fear of associating that sound forevermore with misery.
We didn't have an early flight that day, I set my alarm for 6 a.m. because Night Me, thought that Morning Me, would be up for moving fast enough to induce a little cardio buzz at the hotel’s (more than likely shite) gymnasium.
Instead of adhering to the rational, well intentioned Night Me, I decided to succumb to the wishes of Morning Me and flick about on Instagram for a bit — even though it was almost guaranteed to make me feel worse about my life afterwards.
Car I can’t afford.
Man with Photoshopped looking abs.
Cool people doing cool things.
CUTE LITTLE DOG.
Why can't I do cool things all the time?
Who the fuck are these people, anyway?
Why can't I have a dog?
I've seen enough...
After ruining the start to my own day (as I routinely tend to do), I slumped out of bed and into my scheduled pre-flight shower — because being uncomfortable on a flight is the worst sort of uncomfortable that there is in the [first] world.
I want a dog.
As I stepped out of the shower, and into the steam-filled bathroom, I felt somewhat rejuvenated — a quick rinse in a hot shower can have almost magical healing properties sometimes. I combed my hair and cleaned my teeth, while drying off the rest of my legs, in preparation of a swift application of talcum powder.
Even though I'm deeply concerned with the link between talc and cancer of the arse, balls and skin, I decided that it would be worth running the risk if it meant sustained dryness for the duration of the flight, so accordingly, I proceeded to pepper my undercarriage — and every surface in the entire bathroom including the floor — with the fine, white powder.
I am the Tony Montana of talc.
DO YOU LICK A LICK A DAY?
The taxi to the airport was a pre-paid one at a more than reasonable fixed fee of £8 — especially considering we were technically in London. Our driver greeted us, and immediately tried to help with our bags, as though we looked too weak to lift them up into the car ourselves.
Yeah, I know I look skinny now, but I did used to lift at one point, mate.
Even though my sense of pride had already been diminished, I wasn’t prepared to let a stranger gain vital "man points" on me that early in the morning, so before the burly driver (who almost certainly worked as a doorman on the weekend) could seize my case, I snatched it away and threw it into the long, deep, Mercedes boot.
Jonny, who must have also felt threatened, followed suit.
*Reads badge: "Patrick"*
Not on my watch, "Patrick".
We are proud men, Jonny and I.
Shortly after settling into the back of the car, Patrick tried to establish some small talk, but it was too early for Jonny and I. When asked where we were headed, we mumbled something unenthusiastically about hiking and luckily, Patrick correctly understood this to mean...
Please just shut the fuck up and drive us to the airport.
And he did, but not before turning the radio up just a little bit too loud so that it was annoying.
He did that on purpose.
Pat had a steaming hot coffee in a large foldout cupholder, that he sipped on lovingly every 20 seconds, letting out a satisfying “ahhhhhh” every time he did so. It wasn't his expression of satisfaction that bothered me (I'd do the same), it was that this noise was an audible reminder to me that I didn’t have my own coffee, and nor would I be able to enjoy one for at least another half an hour.
Should I ask him how much he wants for that already sipped coffee?
I don’t even care if he’s had his lips around it, if I have to lick his lick, then I will.
If it means having half a cup of coffee right now, I’m fully prepared to lick his lick.
"You boys need a couple of coffees, am I right?"
Said Patrick, pulling up at the terminal, while eagerly hopping out to open the boot.
Pat, you touch that case, and I swear I'll...[secretly take down your driver number and make an official complaint against you to your employer].
When in the duty free section at the airport, I normally try and pick up a new aftershave. I'm not one of those religious scent wearers who’ll only wear a certain brand though; I’ll spray on anything with a cool bottle marketed by the right actor — Gosling, Gyllenhaal, Elba, you know the ones I'm talking about: proper bloody blokes.
As is tradition, I was in the market to acquire a new gentlemanly spritz, so I started by sampling some of the sprays in the “new” section, to see if anything took my fancy.
Right, what about this one?
Good start; Ryan Reynolds claims to wear it.
Smells a bit like that other one, though?
Which one did I spray on the lower part of my arm again?
Well, I've fucked this.
I must have been giving off a distress signal as I sprayed my way through the contents of the shelves, because within moments, an older lady wearing all red pounced on me like a salivating jungle cat would a gazelle. Her name badge read "May" and right next to it, was a little Thai flag (which she later confirmed to be her country of birth).
May had been prowling about the brush (the Hugo Boss counter), waiting for the perfect opportunity to sink her (delicately stuck-on) claws into my (expertly tattooed) back. She could intrinsically sense that I might be easily swayed by the right sales patter, and in this instance, I was her bandy-legged prey just begging to be maimed and carried away to her den (the till).
“Come with me. I show you something real nice.”
May turned on her heels and marched off while doing the come hither motion divisively with one of her hands.
It would be rude if I didn't follow her.
And then buy whatever she wants me to buy, because I can't say no.
'Cause I'm too bloody nice.
*You're not that nice*
Brain, fuck you, I am that nice.
“This on offer today. Comes in gift set. Great aftershave. Really popular in Asia.”
All of those things do sound great.
She smells really good too...must know a thing or two about good smells.
“Let me spray you.”
*PFFT. PFFT. PFFT*
“Oh yes. Very nice. Your skin loves it.”
Well, I guess if my skin loves it...
"Yep. I'll take it, please, May. Sold."
Another saleslady at the payment desk could see that I’d been snared by May’s opening gambit, and blurted out a quick chuckle.
I didn't care that I'd become another of May's statistics, she was so nice, that I was just happy to have had a brief exchange of words with her — she told me that she'd lived in London for 20 years and I knew her life story within the first five minutes of meeting her.
We were mates.
What a lovely, lovely lady.
“Enjoy your smell!”
Said May, waving her left hand profusely.
“Thanks! You too!"
I replied, even though May hadn't purchased any smells to enjoy for herself, because her job is to make sure smells are sold to other fucking people.
WHY DO I ALWAYS DO THAT?
REX-T IN LINE
Jonny and I were stood in line at Starbucks so that we could both finally quench our thirst for the jitters. The only plus point of being in Starbucks (I'm a Caffe Nero man at heart), was that I’d get to give a false name to the barista, purely in an effort to amuse Jon.
I'll go with "Hector".
He'll piss himself.
“Can I take your name please?”
HE COULD TELL.
YOUR EYES GAVE IT AWAY.
YOU FUCKING DICK.
The barista looked at me suspiciously, while proceeding to jot "R-E-X" on the side of a large, mermaid emblazoned cup.
Wait a sec, he doesn't know your name isn't Rex.
He's basically just called you a liar.
I walked to the end of the bar to await my order, after becoming a bit annoyed that the barista didn't believe me when I told him my name.
“Venti Americano for..."Rex"?”
HAHA! THEY SAID "REX" and I made them say it!
That's not even my name!
I said, with a huge grin across my face while pointing to the word "REX", which was sprawled across the side of my cup.
Said Jonny, while pulling both headphones out of his ears, a confused look across his face.
(It turned out that Jonny had his headphones in the entire time and therefore, everything was fucking ruined.)