Norway In a Nutshell

August 20, 2003

   In Oslo we settled at the YHA near the palace, and near the park in which I slept last time I was in town. I was much relieved to have a roof over my head this time. Plus walls, a shower, a door and all the other comforts that come with paid accommodation. Bronwyn and I met up with Kristin and Kristine, two of the Norwegian girls I met in La Rochelle. It seemed like ages since I met them on the beach, but it's only been 5 weeks, so much has happened since then. We wandered for a bit as we told our stories of travelling in Europe and retold what our plans are for next year. Martine was in town but working so the four of us dropped by her coffee shop to say Hi. The clouds were coming in but we headed for Akershus Festning anyway. When the rain started the girls decided that it was time to go pack for Kristin's move to Denmark that evening so Bron and I ventured on alone around the old fort. It cleared up as we returned to the hostel. That night we met Angelo, a guy touring Europe on his motorbike and detailing his trip online. I really like the idea of touring by bike, and hope to get to it some day, for now I'm happy with the trains.

   The next day was the ride to Bergen, and the sun was shining all the way. We whizzed past plenty of hard to pronounce places perched way up in the hills. The one that really caught our attention was called Dale, somehow we managed to see it every time we passed (four by the time we returned to Oslo) but missed most of the others. Bergen was smaller than we thought. I had only seen the inside of the station last time I was here. Everything was in easy walking distance so after dinner on the roof top terrace we set off to what looked liked the old wharf buildings. Bronwyn spotted and alleyway that brought us to Bryggen.

The view between Oslo and Bergen

Bryggen, the old wharf buildings in Bergen

   Neither of us got much sleep that night, thanks to the old American guy who comes in third on my list of all time snorers. I have plenty of angry things to say about him, but moving on I'll complain about the hostels lack of showers. For 4 dorms of 16 people each there were exactly 5 shower heads in the male washroom. They were communal. No thank you. I made sure I showered the night before rather than wait in the queue with the 31 other guys in the morning.

   In the morning (Monday August 18th) we boarded the train to Myrdal. We swapped to the Flam railway which slowly wound it's way down the hill side, past waterfalls, valleys and the occasional singing temptress (yes really, put on for the benefit of the tourists a siren like lady beckons travellers into the hills). At the bottom we enjoyed the little settlement of Flam and hopped onto the 1:25 boat to Gudvangen. Most of the passengers went to the highest deck, but their views would have been blocked by the bridge. We stayed down and at the front enjoying unspoiled views of the fjords. The journey took two hours and we spent all of that sitting on the edge, our legs hanging over the water and us looking out at the huge landscape all around us. Some parts reminded me of Yosemite Valley. The same granite colour with sparse vegetation and domed tops. Other parts reminded me of Milford Sound, and the rest was totally unique. The bus ride up to Voss was exciting, especially when the driver took the scenic route and met three busses coming down hill. He skilfully reversed around the corner coming incredibly close to the edge but never stressed out, I guess it was just routine. From Voss to Bergen we took the train and had a few hours to kill before the night train took us to Oslo.

   I've done that exact trip before, but this time I awoke to much darker skies. The sun wasn't coming up, and didn't look like it was going to. Outside was a dark grey mist hiding all the beautiful detail I saw a month earlier. On board we met Mark, a Canadian/American who we chatted to for an hour or so before the lights got dimmed. In the morning we talked more and be the time we split up in Goteborg (Sweden) we'd swapped email addresses and he'd offered me a place to crash if I go home via New York. Back packers are the greatest.

A video from Bronwyn


best wishes from
Wish you were here?     (4 replies so far)

  23 Jul

   Well I've been through quite a bit since the last update, I have my books (my sole guide up there was Constance Roo's 'Walking in Norway', and a compass) beside me so I will hopefully get the place names correct the rest of my spelling will be up to my usual impeccable standard :-)

   I left Copenhagen on Friday and headed for Oslo, via Sweden. The train ride was nice and uneventful. Unfortunately I did not arrive in Oslo early enough to get a connection that day to the hiking area so I had to stay the night. I walked a little way to the YMCA sleep-in, only to find it was closed for a week. Given the prices of the other accommodation I made the decision not to sleep at all, thus saving a fair amount of money, but risking a fair amount of my stuff. I put everything I could do without into a locker at the bus station and went on a long walk around town scouting out places for the night. I walked right up to the palace grounds, and it looked no different to the rest of the park. For a while I considered leaping the fence and sleeping in there, until I walked around the other side and found a fully armed guard (in a fancy costume) patrolling the gate. Instead I slept in the bus station until it closed at 1am and then made my way to the park. I did manage to fall asleep there, only to wake up to find two tall dark, gun toting figures standing over me. I was on my feet pretty quickly. The palace guards asked if I was all right, which I was, and then I asked if I was allowed to sleep here. They seemed to think it was so I sat back down and watched as they went to the few other sleeping strangers and checked on each of them. I moved to a better spot hidden by a fallen branch, but when it started to drizzle I gave up on the park idea and found a bus stop to sit in until the station was open again. When I finally got on a bus it didn't take long for me to fall asleep.

   I got to Gjendesheim and the weather was great. Situated at the eastern end of the Gjende it has a great view across the lake and of my hike for the next day. Despite sleeping next to a human combine harvester I did get a good rest and set off the following morning in high spirts.

Looking east across the Gjende after sunset

   It was my birthday, it was perfectly sunny day and I was in the Norwegian mountains. The hike was pretty tough, and I was still carrying far more than anyone else, my packing skills leave much to be desired. The view from the top though made it all worth while.

Above Gjendesheim

The famous Besseggen Ridge

   I took lots of pictures from the Besseggen Ridge, and have complied this Quicktime VR movie (4.6mb) taken from between the lakes. I came to Norway based mostly on photos by Jørgen so I have a lot to thank him for besides his hospitality when I passed through Copenhagen. That evening I was quietly sitting in my bunk, writing my paper based journal (thanks Josephine), when Mertte, a Norwegian girl in the same room, asked my age.
'22, err no 23, today is my birthday' :-)
   Not much later I was upstairs in the common room eating a birthday muffin (they didn't have any cakes for sale) with her and Maria. We talked for a few hours before I had to call it quits and head for bed.
   The next day the weather was not so brilliant, and I had reports that the glaciers that were on my planned northerly route had lost their snow cover making them just ice. Without crampons I would have been crazy to take that path, so I took a boat along the Gjende to Gjendebu and then started my walk to Olavsbu, a small self-service hut in the middle of nowhere. No electricity, no running water and no beds for the last people to arrive. They had to sleep on the padded benches in the main room.

Looking back towards Gjendebu

   At first I was walking through sparse trees and muddy ground, but further up the valley the vegetation dropped off and it became a hike over rocks. Lots of rocks. If there was one other place on earth that Lord of the Rings could have been filmed, Norway would be it, and I was on the edge of Mordor (video 3.9mb). The rain came in and the wet weather gear came out. By 2pm I was at the hut and toasting my feet in front of the fire. Without much else to do, and no native English speakers to compare stories with I spent most of my time in bed, my feet needed it as much as my back.

   In the morning I started down the hill with sunshine behind me and surrounded by huge snow capped mountains. I passed a few lakes, and some beautiful patches of moss and grass with little snow melt streams running through them. The rain caught me once again and I spent the early afternoon trudging downhill in between little bushes, jumping over muddy patches and avoiding slippery rocks.

Part of the track towards Skogadalsboen

   I came to Skogadalsboen and decided to fork out for a full dinner because I was getting rather hungry after finishing my loaf of bread and last apple the day before. The man at the desk said I was the first Kiwi of the season which was kinda cool. It was here that I got reception for the first time since the Besseggen Ridge so I made a birthday call to Mark in the morning (a week late) and received texts from others wishing me well for my day.

   An early start and fast pace the next morning (Wednesday) so that I could get to Hjelle in time for the 3:45 bus to reach the next town for another bus so that I could get the night train to Oslo. Everything went well. The mountains were fantastic, the rain came and went and I got to see some cool things. Mountain huts with grass and lupins growing on the roof, Norway's highest waterfall and some beautiful little valleys, only visible to those willing to put in the time and effort to walk that high in the mountains.

A quiet little valley, away from civilisation

   Like the previous two days I spent a few hours without seeing anybody at all. But there where more towards the end, day hikers just doing a hour or two. The final few kilometers were on a dirt track from Vetti to Hjelle and I had time to record this video (5.5mb)The bus ride to Bergen was great, and I definitely want to see the fjords again. Sheer rock walls plunging straight into the water, with moody clouds hanging over them about to drench the place. They have some massive tunnels up there. The longest, at 25km, has some big caverns spaced out along it, with a spacey blue light scheme.

   The train ride to Oslo wasn't particularly comfortable but when I woke at about half three in the morning all was forgiven. We were whizzing past pine forests and perfectly still lakes with small clouds rising up between them. The sun was coming up and the sky turned a subtle purple colour.

Sunrise from a moving train

Watching Norway fly by

   It was definitely up there in the best views of my entire trip. I wanted to wake everyone up and tell them that they were missing out on an amazing experience, but I don't think it would have gone down well. We rolled into Oslo at about 6:30 and I waited for my next train, happy with my time in Norway, and pining for the fjiords.

best wishes from
Wish you were here?     (8 replies so far)

Art work and site design by Craig Stanton. Entries written by Craig Stanton, Bronwyn Leak and Nina Lindsay. All rights reserved. © 2003