Thursday, June 10, 2010


[Kyle]After our battle to get to Flatbrehhyta (see Conquering the Toblerone), we were pretty limpy, so we spent most of the next day aboard doing boat stuff. I gave Footprint a good tidying while Maryanne did some minor repairs, then we both worked on the blog and topped it off with a big dinner outside with a view of the Toblerones. Then, surprisingly, we went for a short but lovely stroll along the fjord.

We were up early the next morning. The sky was clear and the air still had enough of a bite in it that we could see our breaths. We motored along in flat water until the Fjærlandsfjord joined with Sognefjorden, then we picked up a light breeze and were able to unroll the screacher. That gave us a break from the drone of the engine. We could then hear the waterfalls, the birds and occasionally, when the wind picked up a little, our own wake.

Footprint and the giant "Mona Lisa" cruising the Norwegian Fjords

Along the way, we saw our first other boat that wasn’t a ferry, a giant cruise ship called the Mona Lisa, which was flying a Norwegian flag but the hailing port read Nassau (Bahamas). She slid past us at a narrow point in the Fjord. Her decks were ringed with passengers all looking happy and cheerful and amazed. As she passed, the occupants of both boats comically turned and started snapping pictures of each other. Perhaps next time I should dress up.

As we turned off the Sognefjord into the Aurlandsfjord, the water narrowed, bringing the hills closer and closer. The wind very gradually accelerated until we were finally sailing faster than we could have motored. A little way further, we turned down a very narrow branch and entered the Nærøyfjord, named after the Norse god Njord, god of seafarers and the sea, not a cognate of narrow, although that works in my head.

Journey to and through Nærøyfjord

After just a couple of bends, Nærøyfjord narrowed even further. The adjacent hills also got taller, going from the 800-1000 meter range to as high as 1790m, towering way above us. What an impressive sight! The bottoms of the cliffs were close enough that we could smell the trees and grasses, while the tops were so far away that individual trees and rocks were hard to make out. From the top, every now and then, a silent plume of white water would come plunging over the side, eventually becoming a roaring waterfall plunging into the Fjord nearby.

Nærøyfjord is gorgeous! It’s narrow enough at the bottom that it has the feel of a quiet mountain river and so majestic that we felt as if we were sailing through the Yosemite Valley, passing under massive cliffs of quartz and granite topped with little wisps of cumulus that were not so much Toblerones but bookends.

There is much more traffic in the Nærøyfjord . Every now and then, ferries and tour boats would pass by and we saw several kayakers both on the water and sitting on the shore. We moored up for the night alongside the one-boat sized dock at the perfectly subdued and tasteful little church in the idyllic village of Bakka.

Even though it was late, we had to make a real effort to restrain ourselves and not go crawling all over the place that night. We settled for short after dinner walk along the shore before falling into a contented sleep.

Waterfalls everywhere, Kyle's loving the sailing

The next day after breakfast, we walked about 5km into Gudvangen, which in the manner of Norwegian towns is very little more than a cluster of buildings. In this case, most are tourist shops and cafés catering to the crowds of people changing from tour bus to tour boat and vice-versa.

Scenes from an easy stroll

We popped into the local gas station/store, bought a couple of semi-stale pastries and asked if they had any trail maps of the area other than the 149kr ($22) ones he had covering a much larger area than we needed and in Norwegian. He looked noticeably put out but eventually became a fount of good information, sparing us the need for a map. I don’t think it was personal. I think he had just seen one too many tourists for the day tottering over from their busses and asking annoying questions. From him, we were able to determine that the best trail in the area was the one out of Bakka to Rimstigen. Then he made an almost imperceptible snort and shot us a withering look that said, “Don’t even try it. You’ll miss your bus.” Well, the joke’s on you, buddy! My bus leaves whenever I want it to and besides, by the time we walk all the way back to Bakka, we will have done two thirds of our walking for the day anyway.

We decided to have a little walk further up the valley before returning to Bakka. The trail was nothing special, just some trail a little way into the valley past a sheep farm, but it was magnificent. We had the roar of waterfalls coming from all sides. The huge mountains soaring above were on such a grand scale that several waterfalls that would otherwise have been impressive anywhere else were almost completely lost in the sea of stone surrounding them, occupying high, forgotten corners. It must be really hard to make it as a waterfall in Norway. To me, the place had the feel of walking through a meadow in one of the big national parks in the U.S., like Yellowstone or Glacier National Park.

We walked back into Gudvangen and then back to Bakka. On the way we passed a couple of adorable ponies, an aloof tan one and one very friendly black Shetland. The black one took a real liking to Maryanne and started to follow us home but gave up at the next cattle grate.

Along the same road, we saw a beautifully done Viking longboat sitting on the shore. We walked over to admire the handiwork. As soon as I got near enough to be peering over the gunwales, I was taken by the smell. Aaah, it was marvelous! All of the unpainted wood was varnished not with varnish, which smells like paint or turpentine, but with some sort of pine oil or pine sap or pine something. The whole boat smelled like fresh-cut pine coated in fresh sap, although it was much darker and not sticky. I’ve never smelled a fresher smelling boat. It was all I could do to keep from gnawing on the rail. It turned out most of the barns and sheds in the area have one of these boats in various sizes either inside or nearby. They too, had their wood finished with the same great stuff.

We had a big lunch at Footprint, got ourselves well hydrated and headed up the path to Rimstiger. Like the path to Flatbrehhta, this one also started out steep and stayed that way to the top. It was hard work but we were much fresher and better fuelled up at the start. We also paced ourselves a bit slower and threw in a good rest every now and then, so it didn’t quite have the feel of a mindless trudge.

The trail was really well done. There were a couple of boggy spots where somebody had used the surrounding rock to put down a series of flagstones as perfectly spaced steps. These weren’t little garden variety flagstones, but big slabs of rock that must have weighed a hundred pounds each. I saw one that was probably six feet per side and maybe eight inches thick that had to have taken at least four people to muscle into position, then it was all shimmed up so that it was nice and flat. This went on for a couple hundred steps. There was a section further on, way up near the top, where a switchback on a cliff side was built from dozens of big CUT stone blocks. Somebody actually carried those things up there. Ditto the three ten foot sections of telephone pole used to make a safe edge on a bit of slippery rock.

The trail went in and out of the trees. We would occasionally climb into a clearing and gasp anew at the amazing beauty of the fjord seen from five or ten meters above where we gasped at it the last time. The trail also occasionally took us to the edge of a huge, roaring waterfall arcing off the top of the rim. Where was all of that water coming from?

After just over two hours of climbing, the trail leveled a bit and we came to the sign for Rimstigen, elevation: 760m, complete with a little mailbox house containing a guest book to sign. We went a little further on to a ridge where we found the top of the waterfall shooting off the edge of the cliff in a hiss and found the source of the water. There was a whole range of mountains looming even higher in the distance, all covered with snow. Wow, this place is rugged.

Scenes from a very steep hike - luckily only 1.7km up!!!! Gees, the things Kyle has me do


Anonymous said...

no doubt you enjoyed it when you got to the top would love to be there with you keep up the excellent posts and even better pics

Mommy Dearest said...

Unspoiled, breathtakingly beautiful. I want to go!