Friday, June 11, 2010


Great day sailing (again) in the Norwegian Fjords

[Kyle]We woke up to a beautiful sunny day in Balestrand. It was, in fact, the first day that I can remember in a very long time that we didn’t need to fire up the heater in the morning. Instead, it was actually warm enough that we opened the hatches. Tourists were all milling about waiting for their ferries. The park adjacent was beginning to fill up with sunbathers and kids throwing a ball around. We took a couple more showers each just to make sure we were feeling fresh and clean and to get our money’s worth.

We left in a happy mood, waving our goodbyes to the people on the quay in return to theirs. People like waving at boats. It wasn’t long before we were gliding downwind close to the shore under full mainsail. We turned a corner, unrolled the genoa and really picked up some speed.

It was a great sail, but we were going too fast. Our destination at Finnabotn in Finnafjord has the unfortunate combination of a shallow entrance right at the same spot as low power lines. The bottom wasn’t too much of a concern for us as we could pull everything up, but the power lines were, so I wanted to be sure to enter at dead low tide just to be safe.

I decided rather than reduce sail and slow down, we would use the extra time to explore Arnafjorden, our backup if we got to Finnafjorden’s power lines and decided we didn’t like it. {Maryanne: if anyone else is planning to sail here, and we recommend it, the chart shows two cables (side by side), one at 14m and one 17m - it was the 14m cables we were concerned about - but it turned out they didn't exist. The only overhead cables we found were one set and clearly marked at 17m}

Arnafjorden is gorgeous. At the head of the fjord, the water widens into a very large bay ringed on all sides by steep mountains towering above freshly painted villages. Down the sides of the rock faces, waterfalls plunged seaward. It was a wonderful place. We very nearly chickened out of going into the Finnafjord and anchored right there (for those of you wondering, the –en suffix means “the” in Norwegian, so “the Finnafjord” and “Finnafjorden” are interchangeable). We didn’t anchor because the depth in the Arnafjord anchorage is pretty high, meaning a lot of work, while Finnabotn has a dock, which would make going ashore much easier. I also figured the power line/shallow entrance combination would keep the place relatively uninhabited and pristine. I wanted to see that.

The appointed time came, so we made our way to the Finnafjord, where we made it under the power lines by a meter or so in 1.8 meters of water. The Fjord passes by the village of Nuasttangen at the power lines and then takes a right into steep mountains. Around the corner, the fjord becomes primeval. Giant gray cliffs tower over the tiny blue fjord, leaving very little room for sky. For even greater effect, six or seven huge, thundering waterfalls roar down the cliffs, their noise echoing back and forth through the valley.

At the base of it all, balanced on a steep hill, was Finnabotn, which is not a village but a single farm of seven buildings, including a very nice restaurant and guest house. We tied up to their dock and were met by Engebrigt Findebotten, the owner of the farm. He was very nice and told us once we were done tying up, to come up and say hello.

We met his wife, Turid, another woman Lisbeth, Turid’s Aunt, their chef Alexander, originally from Estonia, and their dog Brutus. We also caught a glimpse of their parrot (name so far unknown). They have a full-flighted Greenwing Macaw that has the run of the fjord. {Maryanne:For those of you who know Kyle, you can imagine how at home he felt about now}. Ingebrigt explained that the parrot won’t fly over water or high enough to get out, so he is essentially trapped in the world’s biggest parrot cage. He also has a proper cage that he can return to if it’s cold or if he wants some human company to impress with his Norwegian. A fjord with a resident talking parrot, I love it!

Even though it was fairly late in the day, I indicated that I was keen to hike up to one of the viewpoints in the fjord. It was finally forecast to begin raining the next day and I didn’t want to be climbing in it. Ingebrigt gave us detailed directions, wished us well and we were off. We climbed for about 45 minutes and lost the trail in thick undergrowth. It was clear that the trail didn’t get a lot of use. I suspect that Ingebrigt, who it turns out was born here (the farm has been in his family for over 400 years), was the one who used the trails most often. Ingebrigt is a real Action Man who, even though he seems about ten years older than I am, seems like he could throw me over a shoulder and still climb the trail in half the time that I could while carrying nothing.

[Maryanne] I'm still not sure how I let Kyle talk me into these hikes. I'm always up for a nice amble through the wild flowers, but we seem to end up reaching some dramatic peak and really paying for the hike physically. This climb was not too demanding physically (certainly not an easy one either), but emotionally I was tightly strung the whole time. The path was difficult to keep track of (so I was worrying about getting lost), the undergrowth so thick it was hard to tell if we were treading on solid ground, boulders, or a void in the rocks (so I was nervous of one of us breaking an ankle and what then?). Luckily we didn't have to worry about it getting dark. I was exhausted by the time we made it to the top, and the climb down was just as unnerving as the one up. I was very glad to reach the boat, and happier still to realize that this is probably our last big hike in Norway... (Shhh, don't tell Kyle or he'll have me up another darn mountain).

[Kyle]We returned to the farm to make sure we had the right directions and were assured we were on the right trail. Just keep following the river, we were told, and the trail would become more apparent further on. We went back up and this time pressed on at the same spot. The trail eventually did become more apparent, but it wasn’t nice. It was heavily overgrown and very, very steep, requiring us to pull ourselves up with our hands in many places. We kept losing the trail. We would both stop and look around before one of us noticed a branch that had been sawed through or one of the far too infrequent trail markers; a 3” disc of wood on a string (a bit of wood in a tree, not so easy to spot), before pressing on through the thick growth.

The trail occasionally emerged from the dark forest onto a steeply slanting boulder, giving us a view of the entire valley and reminding us why we were putting ourselves through this. We also came close to one of the many booming waterfalls as it crashed by, making it necessary to shout to each other to be heard.

Finnaboten - a hidden treasure that few see

We climbed for 2½ hours before emerging at the top of the tree line to stunning views. The trail then climbed further up a rather scary and slightly unstable rock fall to the top, where we were rewarded with aerial views of the fjord and tiny Footprint below. {Maryanne: Kyle has a sadistic pleasure of climbing high enough so Footprint can be blotted out from view by your little finger at full arm's length - very high! And I'm daft enough to keep following him.. Fool me twice, eh?}

Finnaboten - View from atop

Then came the equally daunting task of making our way back down. Even though we were so sick of that stinking trail by then and wanted nothing more than to be done with it, we had to make a point of taking the way down almost as slowly as we went up. The super-steep trail and the uneven ground meant we were constantly in danger of falling or twisting an ankle. There was also the constant stress about losing the trail or trying to regain the trail lost. It was a small victory every time we passed something we recognized from the way up as we spent most of our time pretty unsure whether we were on the trail or not.

We arrived back at the farm at 11:30pm pretty glad to have that whole mess over with. Ingebrigt and Turin were still up (worrying over us, how embarrassing for us, and kind of them), so we chatted for a bit about the trail, the views and the farm. He said he was going to wait another half an hour and release the dog. “The dog will always find you, no matter where you are in the fjord. If you are off the trail, he will push on you until you are back on the trail, and then lead you down.” he said.

Good trick! We should have taken the dog with us the first time. We’d have been back an hour earlier.

They bid us goodnight and we returned to Footprint for a long sleep. I cracked the hatch above the bed so I could listen to the waterfalls as we dozed off. We weren’t up the next day until almost Noon.

We emerged a couple hours later, made our way up to the lounge, and spent the rest of the day enjoying a long meandering conversation with Turid accompanied by Alexander’s wonderful hospitality.

We were asked if we were staying for dinner. One look at the menu revealed that it was a tad out of our price range but we thought we'd just treat it as a special occasion and go for it. Alexander had made me the nicest mocha and Maryanne the nicest Indian Chai we’d had in a very long time and I was sure the rest of the meal would be as delicious. We didn’t have much cash so we asked if they took credit cards. “Sure, we do”, came the response. “as long as it’s not American.” Ooh, awkward {I think Turid was joking with us, I don't thing they currently take any credit cards yet, they're working on that}. Turid waved away our concerns and assured us that whatever we could come up with would be fine and told us to enjoy ourselves. I was relieved she did it in a nice Norwegian way and not the scary New Jersey way. You know: “How much you got?”


Mommy Dearest said...

New Jersey never saw anything like this. Are you able to speak Norwegian? I know you were studying it before you left. Linda and I are impressed you can even spell the nsmes of these places and I am impressed you found all the special characters on the keyboard ;-)

Can't tell you how much I'm enjoying my voyeuristic accompaniment on this trip.

Anonymous said...

the lengths some women go to to keep their man happy I know you enjoy it as much as Kyle as usual stunning pics and dialogue