Stories

 

Norway


From the June 19th to July 23rd 2013

As we arrived in Norway, we crossed Oslo fjord by ferry, the first of a long series.

We then drove towards the main fjord area using small pleasant roads, carrying us through beautiful scenery of lakes and forests.

In the Stavanger region, we got to our first fjord. Although very touristy, the three hours hike leading to the Preikestone natural promontory, extending beyond the cliff, offered a magnificent panoramic view over the Lysefjord, 604 meters below.

    

We then reached the Skejeggedal valley, near the Hardanger fjord for a 7 hours hike leading to Trolltonga. Despite the rain, the Troll Tong overlooking Lake Ringedalsvatnet was a great reward.

While the Bergen is known for being rainy, we enjoyed a beautiful sunny day strolling in the city. In the bay, large cruise ships were moored. Wooden houses perched on the mountains bordering the city reminded us of Valparaiso in Chile. During the 13th century, Germany allied themselves into the Hanseatic trading league, with Bergen being part of the major seaport abroad. With more than 2000 resident traders, mainly Germans, the port of Bergen was a major transit point for fish exportation and grains importation, among other products. Along the Vagen Harbour, patterns of colorful wooden houses of Bryggen date from the 12th century, but were rebuilt after the 1702 fire. By observing the alignment of doors and windows on the facades, one may wonder how the houses were still standing. Walking through the streets lined with wooden floor, we could feel a good energy emanating from the neighborhood, which served for housing, office or warehouse.

    

In the Bergen fish market, fishmongers were proud to offer whale steak. As I thought that in the 21st century, Asian countries were the only one killing dolphins and whales, I was disappointed to realize that some civilized Western Europe countries still perpetuate their ancestral tradition. From the 20th century in Norway, whales didn't face small viking wooden boats anymore, but whalers equipped with harpoons. The Faroe Islands belonging to Denmark continues to perpetuate their barbaric method of encircling the pilot whales (also called Calderone dolphins) with hundreds of motor boats, directing them towards a bay where they are being waited by machetes. Are we still leaving the Stone Age? I keep a glimmer of hope that one day we will talk about those slaughters in the same way that the abolition of slavery.

We continued our journey towards the Sognefjord. It was only when entering the Gudvangen tunnel that we noticed its length. Twelve kilometers, the length of the Mont Blanc Tunnel. There was one lane in each direction, separated by a dotted line. While we thought that both our car lights and the tunnel lights were inefficient, the latter were turned off for several kilometers. We traveled in complete darkness. What a surprising sensation, especially that this experience happened again in many tunnels in the area !

In order to reach Leardal, we chose the scenic road called Aurlandsfjellet. In a few curves, we gained heights and admired the magnificent view over the Sognefjord. The scenery changed rapidly and before we even noticed it, we were transported into the landscapes of South America. On this mountain plateau, the road winded its way between rivers, lakes and rocks. At only 1200 meters above sea level, we got lost in time and space, the time of a night, where the night would not fall.

    

During the last ice age, glaciers eroded valleys whose base was located below sea level. When glaciers retreated from mountains to the sea, the latest then invaded the valleys for dozens of miles inland. Some fjords have a depth of several hundred meters, of which 1308 meters for the Sognefjord.

After crossing the Sognefjord by ferry, we reached Tungestolen located at the end of a valley. From the meadow, we could already see the largest glacier in continental Europe, the Jostedalsbreem. The markings of the trail leading to the glacier arm called Austerdalsbreen, was hidden under snowmelt streams. After an hour and a half's soaking in the water, we could finally see the ice field, overflowing the main glacier.

The next day, we followed the Sognefjellet pass, straddling between the Jotunheimen and Breheimen national parks, hosting the highest peaks in Norway, just over 2400 meters above sea level. Again, we drove from fjord to snow within a few kilometers. At the end of June, lakes were still hidden under a blanket of snow. Mountain peaks, glaciers, snow, lakes, streams, blue sky and clouds formed lavish decors.

    

We continued our journey through mountains and lakes, making our way down to Geiranger. A few kilometers before the village, a platform offered a panoramic view of the small end of the fjord, where oversized cruise ships disembarked passengers, the time to buy some souvenirs. A three-hour walk overlooking the Skageflå farms offered another perspective of the fjord winding between cliffs, with its several waterfalls, including the Seven Sisters.

We then reached the Trollstingen pass, meaning Troll Ladder, which consists of a series of hear pins on the side of the steep mountain. This pass marked for us the end of the main fjords and mountains region. We continued our trip to the north by the Arctic Road and part of the Kystriksveien Road, going from a ferry to another, while listening to "Riders on the Storm." If the weather was not the best to enjoy the scenery, it did certainly not prevent us from making a nice encounter. We heard the guitar melody before seeing their teepee along the Forvik marina. For the last five years, this group of friends living in Trondheim sail to a music festival, on an island about fifty kilometers off the coast, on a small Viking sailboat. Stuck in port for the previous two days, Kari, Christian, Sigmund and Sverre waited for the wind decrease.

    

It was the opportunity to ask the questions we had accumulated. Why most houses are painted in red or white? Why roofs are covered in grass ? Why house windows are decorated with lights? We asked the same questions to several people during our journey and the only answer we could get was : It's a tradition. Internet finally gave us more detailed answers. At the time, the color of the house depended on the profession, the financial situation and the geographic location of the owners. Red was the cheapest color to produce and created from a mixture of ocher and cod liver oil. It was therefore the most used color for fisherman houses or farms. The yellow was a bit more expensive and manufactured with the same basic ingredients. White, made from Zinc was the most expensive and therefore the most luxurious color. The weight of bark layers, earth and grass on the roof pressurized the wooden slats and kept straight walls. It was also a good way of insulation. The light in the windows served as a guide for travelers or friends, to find their way during the long winter nights.

    

Just north of Mo I Rana, we crossed the Arctic Circle, the line north of which the sun shines without interruption for at least one day in summer and never rise for at least one day in winter.

From Bodo, we sailed to the Lofoten Islands by ferry. This region lives mainly on cod fishing. Once dried on large drying racks, most of the fish is exported all over Europe, while the heads are sent to Africa. Among the various fishing villages, we particularly appreciate Henningsvaer, where houses were built on stilts over small rocky islands. Apart from its temperature, the water color was reminiscent of the Caribbean. We went for a swim in the 10°C sea waters, while the air wasn't any warmer.

    

While looking for a place to say around Sto, we spotted some fins on the horizon and had the chance to follow the four orcas slaloming between the islands. The following day we rented a canoe and enjoyed THE sunny day we've been waiting for the past several weeks. A few meters away from the canoe, heads emerged from the water like periscopes. While playing together, seals enjoyed splashing us. This day out to sea was also a nice way to observe Atlantic Puffins, the parrot of the Arctic and Sea Eagles.

As we progressed to the north of Andoy Island, we sighted some blue sky on the horizon. Would it be the night of our fist midnight sun? We stopped on a small peninsula, facing north. Here the sun doesn't set in the west nor does it rise in the east. Because the sun rises before even touching the horizon, the show happens in the north... Unfortunately, it did not take long for the rain to catch us. We fled and clung to this little piece of blue sky. A few kilometers from Andenes, we settled down on a beautiful white sand beach, protected by a sand dune. At 8 PM, we could already see the sunlight shining through the cloud ceiling. For several hours, the sun moved horizontally without touching the horizon. What an amazing place for this eternal day!

    

We then reached Senja Island and were delighted with a surprising midnight sun. At 11:45 PM, after dissipation of clouds, the fireball made a spectacular show till 00:30 AM. With its fjords and mountains, this little island offered a good overview of what Norway has to offer.

After a good night's sleep in Havoysund, we opened the curtains and discovered a herd of reindeers and a fox holding a prey in its mouth, just a few meters from Zorro. On June 3rd, as we left Geneva, a fox in a field wished an amazing journey to his fellow Zorro (meaning "fox" in Spanish). As we reached our north cape, he was here again to great him.

    

We chose the Arctic View of Havoysund as our north cape. Unlike the North Cape, 16 kilometers to the north, the view was free and we had the whole place for us. In addition, the North Cape is not actually the most northern point, so why bothering... On the top of this beautiful cliff overlooking the ocean and some small island, we had the chance to enjoy two midnight suns in a row. From one minute to the other, the blue sky would give place to a thick fog diffusing the orange sunlight. The landscape changed so fast, we had the feeling of watching various sunsets in one night, without actually setting down at all.

    

As we left Havoysund and drove along the Bakfjord, I spotted movements in the water. A group of about twenty white-beaked dolphins performed magnificent acrobatic jumps. For more than an hour, we were under the charm of the cetaceans zigzagging along the shore.

After over a month in Norway, we crossed the border to Finland.

Click here to read the following story about our trip in Finland.

See the album "Norway - June-July 2013"