Norway, August 26-September 4, 2006.
Expect to come close to nature in Norway, but true wilderness is harder to find. The people are friendly, and luckily most speak English, because Norwegian seems impossible to understand. Be sure to snap up a cheap flight into Oslo or Bergen, because traveling within the country will cost you a lot of Kroners.
On the way to the airport, we spot a cheap flight to Bergen
a nutshell, Norway is pretty to look at, but I would rather live
somewhere else. Having to mow the lawn is bad enough, but what do
I do about the roof?
A Norwegian innovation to insulation
Those seeking “budget” accommodation in Norway should stick to camping, or raise the mental threshold of what you would be prepared to fork out for budget quality. The mountain huts we stayed at in Jotunheimen National Park were cosy, well maintained and even had muffins for sale at a 300% mark-up to the Norwegian retail price. We happened to spend a night at Gjendesheim Hut at the same time as two high school biology field trips. Aside from Norwegian rap blaring from some kid’s iPod, Daniel had no complaints about our neighbours—a room full of blond teenage girls.
Inside Gjendesheim Hut
Teenagers on a biology school trip outside Gjendesheim Hut
In Voss, we had the luxury of an entire loft to ourselves, which made up for the fact that we slept on the floor (on foam mattresses). In Bergen, we spent one night in a military-style dorm located in the basement of a hostel, where one unfortunate soul got a rude shock in the middle of the night: “Excuse me, but this is not your bed”. In Preikostolen, we shared a room with two burly Hungarian guys in what should have been a room for two. At least they were friendly, even if they did smell a little.
Yet another bad hair day
Gatecrashing a 10 year old's birthday party in Voss
is famous for its salmon products and Norwegian salmon consumed in
Norway tastes surprisingly similar to Norwegian salmon purchased in
Germany or Hong Kong. I don’t understand why such a fuss is made about
whale meat (I mean from a gastronomic sense of course) because the tiny
(and I really mean tiny!) sample of smoked whale we tasted was nothing
spectacular at all. Norway is also a home to the cloudberry, a yellow
berry whose fame has yet to spread beyond Scandinavia. We
accidentally spent all our remaining Kroners on nearly 2kg of
cloudberry jam, leaving us 20 Kroners short for the airport bus
Smoked salmon and smoked whale
and cloudberries aside, Norwegian cuisine is somewhat monotonous—meat
or fish is often smoked, vegetables are generally pickled, and the
potato is ubiquitous. More disturbing is the alarmingly high
consumption of hot dogs per capita, though credit should be given for
the variety of presentation: hot dog in a bread roll with mustard and
ketchup; hot dog wrapped in bacon; a pair of hot dogs on mashed potato
swimming in liquid butter. No wonder most Norwegians seem to
carry excess blubber around their waists. Presumably
this comes in handy during the cold winter months.
Would you like your seal skin in poka dots, classic black or streaky grey?
I think that was a fox but I'm not sure
You can never have too many pairs of shoes...
cloud has a silver lining as the saying goes, and so even though it
rained nearly every day of our trip, we escaped being attacked by
mosquitos because apparently they prefer staying at home when it
rains. The highly temperamental weather means it is advisable to
carry raincoats, rainpants and a waterproof camera bag at all times.
Clambering up the rocky Bessegen Ridge through the clouds
a corollary to the intermittent rain and sun, one can indulge in
rainbow spotting. Indeed I saw more rainbows in one day than I
had ever seen in my lifetime to date, though the novelty soon wore off
after my 10th attempt to capture a digital image of a rainbow in its
Morning in Gjendesheim
Norway is a very hiker friendly destination and it is inspiring to see persons of all ages, from toddlers to silver-haired grandmas, getting in touch with nature be it by hiking up mountain ridges, rock scrambling or Nordic walking. Most hiking routes are marked with red Ts to indicate the recommended direction, especially where there is no clear path. However a compass could have come in handy since it was at times difficult to spot the red Ts through the clouds, mist and rain.
A possy of grannys off for some serious Nordic walking
A glimpse of the view from Bessegen Ridge before being enveloped in clouds, again
Most climb up to Preikestolen for the view, and some make a fashion statement while doing so
Dan on Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen)
Ev on Pulpit Rock
kayaking is a great way to explore the fjords since if the scenery
becomes a little too repetitive for your liking, there is the physical
distraction of having to keep paddling to that next lunch break or pit
stop to maintain your alertness. We spent two days kayaking and
camping along the Naeroyfjorden with a Kiwi guide and a Kiwi
couple. Was it purely coincidental that we encountered so many
Antipodeans? Or is there some subconscious desire at play, to
travel as far from home as possible to a place with a similar landscape
(to that of New Zealand)? In any case, we had a lovely group, though I
had to bite my lip when Dan started to end his sentences with “Ay”.
Dan paddling into the distance along Naeroyfjorden
A break for morning tea and use of the open air toilet
If only I can get this shot without capsizing...
tight timetable and ambitious itinerary required no small amount of
pre-trip research and logistics planning, especially since our visit
fell just outside the high summer period. We arrived in Oslo
armed with a spreadsheet of bus, train, and ferry connections timed to
the very minute, with only one room for error. At the end of the
indicative six-hour hike over Bessegen Ridge, the plan was to catch a
series of two buses to reach the Northern side of Jotunheimen National
Park where we could do a glacier hike. Eight hours later—wet,
hungry and desperate to pee—we discovered that the bus that we had
supposedly missed by two hours didn’t actually run in that direction at
that time of the year.
A ferry ride with some Norwegian enthusiasts
See you later!
The 20km train ride from Myrdal to Flam boasts passage through 20 tunnels
After the fifth tunnel, we decided that walking would give us a better view of the countryside
Along the Flam river
One of many waterfalls