Back from the far north

Kavringtinden (1289m), Lyngsalpene

This is another adventure with the yellow bus. The bus has already reached the tip of Portugal, it survived the Norwegian winter at -40°C and this time it reached a few hundred kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. I spend a few days with friends in Tromsø and enjoying the charms of the city, known as “Paris of the North”, I expect arrival of Mati, my travel companion. We are going to drive almost 4,000 kilometers. I suppose we are well prepared for the trip. We have all the necessary equipment and supplies to stay a few weeks in conditions prevailing in the far north.

We start in Lyngen, the area also known as the Northern Alps. My main intention is to come here once again in winter to enjoy snowboarding and skitouring on telemarks, but I think this place is also worth a visit in late summer.

The today’s route is already planned. We climb the Kavringtinden (1289m), from where we continue to Kvalvitfjellet. Observing the terrain, instead of descending, we choose to hike around a massive loop on the tops of mountains. In fact, the loop turns out to be much larger than we have planned and our chocolates, candy bars and halva, which were apparently reserve energy supplies, run out too quickly. Being completely exhausted, at least we have access to the crystal clear water flowing from the glaciers down to the mountain lakes.

Throughout our hike we enjoy vast open spaces, arid, subarctic climate and distant views of snow-clad mountain ranges. These areas are completely untouched, primordial. It is easy to get lost and completely blend in. I realize that the mountains around are quite aged, often crumbling and falling apart. Lyngsalpene are among some of the oldest mountain ranges in Europe.

Our route, planned initially to be a few hour-long, turns into an intense, ten hour-long hike with parts of rock climbing. In the end of the day we make more than 23 kilometers, burning some 4,500 calories in the mountainous terrain.

Leaving the Arctic Circle

Every day we decide to sleep in a different, secluded place, possibly by the water. Thus, every day we manage to find a new scenery. Each day is unique, because so are the diverse fjords, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, vegetation and mountains. All combined create every time an individual landscape.

We get up in the morning and prepare breakfast. Depending on the situation, we might drive some more miles by bus or slightly slow down and spend more time on mountain trails, hiking and enjoying the Norwegian nature.

Another maintenance and diner break

In the evening we prepare the improvised dinner, often including some mushrooms found on a trail during the day. Depending on quantity, the mushrooms would become just a poor-man’s topping, a starter or perhaps a main course. Besides, we have lots of sauces, pasta, spices, meat and much more, which gives countless potential combinations to cook meals in three pots on one portable stove. Planning to make enough dinner for two days, we usually eat it at once. It is due to these thousands of calories burned during a day outdoors.

We move south on a daily basis, hence every time something grips our attention, we make stop and explore it. It is undoubted advantage of Norway that without any explicit plan, there is always something interesting for the nature lover.

Although the weather is usually our friend, it does not decide about our plans. Facing an interesting route we do not give it up if it is raining. Clothes will always dry and if not tomorrow, then the another day. Therefore we need to take frequent maintenance breaks, which also become diner breaks.

Having a shower at a gas station is on one hand a luxury, but the opportunity to swim in a lake or bathe in a 7ºC river is far more memorable experience. You can get used to almost everything or at least find a solution to make it easier. In this case, the best method is to, following an intense exercise, be it half an hour run, clench your teeth and immediately jump into the icy water.

Approximately two thousand kilometers ahead of the finish line (roughly halfway) the car’s silencer begins to sound suspicious. We temporarily fix it with a tape and an aluminum beer can, but with time it does not help either. It gets louder and louder. Rusty fracture is already too large and the middle part of the silencer falls apart, after barely touching it with a hand. Therefore we drop the unwanted ballast.

We cross through the Lofoten. Many times I have heard this name, so maybe it’s my higher expectations, or perhaps any other part of Norway is simply even more interesting.

Gålå for the second time

In fact, what is most interesting in Norway is the far north. Leaving the Arctic Circle and going further south, for some time the landscape becomes quite monotonous. However, again in Oppland and further southwestwards, you can have an interesting day in nearly any accidentally chosen location on the way.

These areas are incredible, absolutely fabulous! Houses of wood or thick logs, roofs covered with moss and grass. A regular wilderness and people living around, enjoying a really slow life. Dairy farmers, cows, sheep! Metal bowls with milk! This is the essence of the Norwegian tradition.

With a great sentiment and excitement I visit Gålå, the place at the top of the Gudbrandsdal valley, where I spent the winter working, among other things, as a snowboard instructor. We visit Jakob, my former boss. In late summer, the place looks completely different than in snow-clad winter. In the morning Jakob borrows us two bicycles and we go for a bike trip around the mountain Valsfjlellet. It’s amazing to see exactly the same area, where I used to practice cross-country skiing nearly everyday during the winter a year and a half ago.

Besides, I get the opportunity to buy a set of classic telemarks, which will be useful for the next season.

Kjeragbolten

In search of inspiration
1000 meters (or 25 seconds) on Lysefjorden

We pass through another scenic areas: Buskerud,

Telemark, Aust-Adgder and we get to Rogaland Fylke. Our goal is to visit Lysefjorden. It’s probably the only planned point of interest we wanted to see from the very beginning of the trip.

Kjeragbolten is a boulder, which got inexplicably stuck between two walls of a fjord. It is is even more remarkable because entering onto the spectacular stone is relatively safe and requires no additional equipment. However, the view underneath, realizing that the moment of inattention means about 25 seconds of free fall before landing 1000 meters down at the sea level allows you feel the thrill and adrenaline.

It is a cloudy, slippery and windy day. As I try to make my first approach, supporting myself with two hands I begin to tremble in fear. I return, wait half a minute and once I cool down I think: “OK, let’s do it in the second approach” – in reality it is only about psychological fear, but eventually I mange to overcome it.

Suddenly a thick fog descends and it is getting darker. Wandering on a plateau we find a lot of gaps, dangerous jumps, dead ends, unexpected and steep ravines, often on a slippery surface.

We get lost on the way back and with a great difficulty, only thanks to the navigation we manage to find the same way we came here. I suppose following the trail on a clear day (which we didn’t) is a different magnitude of an adventure. Therefore we decided to add a bit of improvisation and for this reason, the hike to Kjeragbolten will most likely become my most memorable experience of the entire trip.

We are soaked, covered in mud up to our knees and stone-cold, but relieved that eventually we reached the base after dark. We find a nearby waterfall and just before a bedtime we drink a rewarding and exceptionally good tasting homemade beer.

In the morning we get to Kristiansand, where we catch the express ferry Hirtshals and just after two hours we are in Denmark. We stop in Odense to visit Lasse and Rie, friends, with whom I worked in Gålå.

The remaining several hundred kilometers we drive on the Danish and German two-lane highways. Due to the higher speed there is no way for music drown out the absence of the silencer. This is a moment, where comes the longing to winding, narrow and steep roads through Norwegian wilderness.

September 2011

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