Saturday, June 05, 2010


[Maryanne]We wished for sunshine and blue skies - and woke up to it. Amazing!

[Kyle]From Leirvik, we turned east and motored up the Sognefjord in flat calm, mirror seas. This place is too beautiful. It actually hurts to constantly have your heart ache at so much beauty. Every little inlet is backed by a coliseum of soaring mountains half a mile high and topped with snow caps. Prim little houses nestled in the hillsides just far enough off the water to have a long view of the fjord, usually by a roaring waterfall. Most of the more remote houses had no roads leading to them at all. The entire structure was landed on a small dock and carried up the hill right down to the paint and flower boxes to make them look neat and trim.

We went through miles and miles of this, all of it under a perfectly clear blue sky with not a breath of wind. By mid afternoon, I had finally managed to get down to shorts and a t-shirt. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a sail dressed like that. Then, to top it all off, just as we left the Sognefjord and turned up the Fjærlandsfjord, we got a nice tailwind. It was just enough to roll out the screacher (our light wind sail) and ghost along but what bliss that was. With the engine off, we could hear every waterfall that we passed. It was complete overload for the senses. The mountains were too high and wide to see. The visibility was so good that we were constantly being fooled by distances. There was no haze to make things look far away so everything seemed right up against us in crisp detail. We were constantly craning our necks around and looking around the big sail to find something else incredible. The waterfalls roared and the whole place smells like fresh, wet pine and flowers. I have never had a nicer day in a boat.

Oh so pleasant a journey on Sognefjorden

Along the way we also spotted a small pod of porpoise. We tried to get a shot of them but they dove as we went by and we never saw them again.

Oops, not what we are supposed to catch fishing... Luckily this catch flew away just as soon as we untangled the hook from its feathers

We also caught a bird! We had bought ourselves a replacement fishing reel in Lerwick and Maryanne was keen to give it a try. It didn’t take long for our lure to attract the attention of the seagulls. We quickly pulled it in until they left. A little later on, with no birds about, we deployed it again. We trolled for about half an hour when I noticed there was another bird taking an interest. Maryanne went to pull in the lure, but he snagged it. Startled, he tried to fly away but ended up being dragged into the water and then under. I took the boat out of gear and coasted to a stop but I wasn’t fast enough. The poor bird was being dragged through the water in a corkscrew motion and was showing no signs of life at all. We both felt terrible, but as we reeled him in closer and the boat slowed to a stop, we were overjoyed to find that he was still alive. Seagulls must be able to hold their breath for a long time. We got him right up to the transom steps. Once he realized Maryanne was trying to help him, he became quite docile. It turned out the lure wrapped around a few feathers and caught on itself. The bird was left unharmed except for the dunking and flew off after giving us a brief look of thanks. We decided on no more fishing for the rest of the day.

We really seem to have the place to ourselves - Stunning and all ours

For the entire day, the only other boats we saw were the occasional ferry crossing the fjord. Once we entered Fjærlandsfjord, we were the only boat. In spite of the fact that Fjærland, with a meager population of 300, is supposed to receive something like 100,000 visitors per year, we ended up being the only boat there. I had expected it might be necessary for us to raft two or three deep on the small quay, but no. We had beaten the crowds!

The place was pretty much empty when we got there. We checked in at the Hotel Mundal and were told that our stay and the wifi were free to boaters, compliments of the town! Fjærland is known as Den Norske Bokbyen – The Norwegian Book Town. It seems every building is dealing in second-hand books, many of them in English. We passed by one closed store after another (it was getting late) with shelves of books all on display outside. It was clear they weren’t expecting any rain – or theft. Most had an honesty box, where you could deposit your 10-30kr per book if you found something you liked.

Fjærland also marks an important turning point for Footprint. We are at our most northerly point. From here, we plan to turn around and slowly make our way back south, toward shorter days, more reasonable latitudes and, eventually, permanent t-shirt weather. While we’re here, though, we want to hold onto this the best we can. We’ll enjoy the midnight twilight, the empty harbors and the stunning scenery.

Footprint visits Mundal, on Fjærlandsfjord

[Maryanne]I was shocked at the (small) size of towns here and suspect you might be getting the wrong impression as we bandy about the term in our Norway posts. Every town we've seen here is small (would be better called a hamlet), a few houses either side of a single road. Not big enough to support a primary school or a police station even, although often with a grocery shop, and at least one hotel. The town we are currently in seems to be known by several names. On the road sign at the entrance to the town/village it says Mundal, our guidebook and road signs pointing to it from other places say Fjærland (as does our Lonely Planet guide), and it's commonly know as Bokbyen as Kyle mentioned above. I think it would be easy to get lost here without a chart and a good GPS. We think Fjærland makes up the larger area, of which Mundal is the largest town. The population of the whole of Fjærland is 300, and most of this is made up of distinct farms - so now you get an idea of the size of a typical town here. Tiny, but oh so quaint.

The Hotel Mundal is exquisite. Beautiful, stunning. Just the sort of hotel you can sit by the fire curled up in a chair that swallows you and be comfortable for days while being served your every need. It has beautiful balconies and turrets; what a great place to enjoy an romantic get away. We are docked right beside and in full view of the grand facade of the hotel.

It now doesn't get beyond civil twilight - the light by which the sun is down, but it's still good enough to read. So although we arrived just before 8pm there was still plenty of time to go for a stroll and orient ourselves to Mundal and its surroundings. Here the old farm stores, pig sty(s) etc (anything) has been converted into a book store. Where people don't have a spare building they just build a book rack in the garden. Nobody expects to hang out and wait for a customer so the books are left out (day and night) and an honesty box provided for any passing trade.

Some of the mailboxes Footprint has seen so far in Norway, along with Footprint in Mundal

I've been attracted to good mail boxes since our trip to Australia, and have been delighted to see that the Norwegians take great pride in theirs too. Despite being all of a conformist material, size and shape - the locals often decorate them with beautiful paintings, the are a pleasure to discover on our rambles. I was most exited however when we came across our first troll. Trolls originate from Norway and many ornate carved trolls are to be found across the country - our first doubled as the mail box holder - just wonderful.


Mommy Dearest said...

When I opened this post, only just glancing at the photos, I gasped. Who would even guess such an idyllic place exists at all? Absolutely stunning. I've run out of superlatives. Your photography brings it as much to life as possible for the rest of us, but I still can only imagine what it is like to be surrounded by such quiet and dramatic beauty.
Gee, is there some compelling reason you have to keep moving? I mean, books, fine hotels (free? really?), and unspoiled natural majesty...I'd be tempted to dig that anchor in pretty deep. Stunning, and so glad you two are there.

kate said...

gorgeous, beautiful, stunning... these are puny words to describe your photos of norway. interestingly, the water sometimes appears green in your photos - and it goes without saying i love the mail boxes!

SV-Footprint said...

Re water colour... there definitely seems to be two very unexpected shades. Firstly that luminescent green that appears to be lit from below and belong in a nuclear power plant, and secondly the amazing azure of Caribbean beach scenes. Both are apparently related to the minerals being washed down from the mountains above, but the science doesn't stop us going "WOW" an awful lot!

Trotty said...

Hi guys.

Great to see you made it safely to Norway.

I have just spotted that all our boat fenders are made in Norway, possibly your too. So welcome to the fender capital of the world!

Malcolm & Kate