I have just arrived back from a holiday in Norway and the Arctic. I saw some of the most beautiful places in the world.
Before the trip I had researched accessibility. I am a wheelchair user. I looked at various travel books and maps. Google Earth helped show me some distances. Google searches answered some questions. Tourist offices and accommodation operators gave advice by email.
I even had an advance party of friends visit part of the route and take photos. They checked whether there were steps. They also checked whether the ground was rough or smooth. And they checked whether the path was steep or level. But you cannot research and plan everything. One of the joys of travel is when the unexpected happens.
The funniest part of the trip was when we realised that our route was in the opposite direction to our friends. We did not just wheel across to the other side of the platform to change trains. We had to scramble down the platform sides, across the rail lines and up the other side. It was difficult with a suitcase, an electric scooter and backpacks. Four American men quickly came to our rescue. They helped move our belongings in a Conga line.
I took a Luggie electric travel scooter on the trip. As the trip progressed I became more adventurous. I chose just about every kind of public transport available. For most trips I had little idea of how I would manage. I just learnt to deal with whatever challenges I had to face. I used 16 different forms of transport on the trip. They included:
- Aircraft, some with no lifting gear
- Rail, including fast trains and light rail, with different steps and gaps
- Ferries of various sizes, all with ramps
- A ship with ramps and an inside lift
- A motorised dinghy
- Buses with and without lower luggage storage for the scooter. One tilted to accept a wheelchair but the ring to lift the ramp broke off
- Trams and cable cars
- A funicular with easy level access and a lift to the carriage
- A station wagon.
All the different forms of transport were really worth it. I had so many wonderful experiences. I will always remember sitting on a pebble beach in a fjord in the Svalbard. Glaciers surrounded me. The expedition leader was standing nearby with a rifle over her shoulder to protect us from polar bears.
I had some other surprising encounters. At a remote rail stop I ran into my tennis doubles partner from my teenage years. He recognised my name on the tag on my scooter. We also met another Australian now living in Norway. She had worked with the same people I had years ago. She is now doing research on how riding horses can help people with a disability.
I will never forget all the experiences I had.