Since I had some days off at my new job in Norway, I finally did what I always wanted: Hiking in the fjords!
On our first day, my Chilean friend Diego and I, started our adventure at Stavanger taking the ferry to Tau. There, one company offers round trips to Preikestolen and back for 300 NOK. But we both just needed a one-way ticket to Tau and then by bus to the Preikestolen parking lot. Unfortunately, they did not sell such tickets, only tickets for the full round trip. So we just bought the ferry ticket. While arriving at the port of Tau, I asked people driving an old Audi with spare seats in the rear and lots of space in the trunk, if they could take us to the Preikestolen parking. And they immediately replied: "Sure guys, hop on!"
Later on, as we arrived at the parking lot, they refused to take our money for the gas and said "If everybody helps each other, everything will be much easier in the world. So just help others next time, when they need help." No sooner said than done: After hiking up the usual trail to Preikestolen we met Franco, another traveler, at the crossroad to our new path along the north side of the fjord. That's where the cool part started: Franco is Chilean, too. So Diego and him immediately connected, both being so far away from their home. But the best is yet to come: After a while I asked him: "I remember a guy from Chile who sent me a request on Couchsurfing to stay at my place, but I had to decline because I'm on a hiking trip. Is that you?" His face turned into a big smile, he hugged me and said: "Yeah man! That was me! How cool is that? I finally meet a real couch surfer!" And I knew, that he didn't carry any camping luggage with him, no tent, no sleeping bag. So for the night I offered him to change the couch request into the world's first tent request. He accepted, so that we had a third hiking companion!
(Lots of the following pictures have been taken with the iphone as well, just for documentary not artistic purposes. But you'll see the difference easily)
So we continued our journey. As I had to find out, Norwegian trails are so completely different than those in Germany: Much more demanding, much more exhausting, but prettier. And the weather was just perfect! 20°C and more, blue sky and sunshine - perfect hiking weather. Everything was fine, until....
..my camera fell down. I attached it to the tripod, but it was standing on moist soil. I should not have trusted it. Anyway I did and went to take a picture of myself looking over the fjord, so I turned my back to the camera. Instead of shutter release noises, I just heard a sound, which crashed me, because I exactly knew what happened: While the wind was blowing, the tripod has been blown over. My favourite wide angle lens (Samyang 16mm) just broke off the camera. I was devastated.... I did not want to continue the journey, because I could not take any proper picture. But right on time, just before giving up, I found out that I could just unscrew the lens remains from the camera and that the camera itself still works. So I attached my Sigma 30mm 1.4 and it worked fine. But of course, the camera did not survive without any serious damage: The viewfinder is broken. Looking through the glass, you feel like a drunk. The view is completely blurred and the glass broken. So for all the following pictures I used the liveview (and the iphone of course). Since the camera still worked, I decided to continue the journey, but of course my attitude was very bad. After a while, I came to the conclusion that it just had to happen. I always wanted to upgrade my camera, every good photographer has some losses and it's my next step as a photographer. Other people pay lots of money for fuel and car repairs, I "just" need to buy a new camera. So it's not too bad.
Continuing our journey, the trail became even tougher and I was surprised what Norwegians call a trail. I was seriously in shock. We had to cross rivers, but it was doable without too many big efforts. There were enough stones, but balancing yourself and a 13kg backpack is still not so easy. Anyway, we made it and honestly speaking it was actually quite fun. After a while, the trail opened up in wide areas so it became more difficult to follow the track. You really needed to search for small stones marked with a red T. (Still the real bad examples are not pictured). And sooner or later it had to happen: I lost sight to Diego and Franco, did not see any trail mark and was quicker off the trail than I could ever imagine. I screamed, used the whistle integrated into my backpack, but still no response. So I decided to climb up to the highest elevation to get a nice overview. Then, I heard Diego's voice, but he was 200m below me on the trail (I could not see it due to the abyss). I was already quite tired of the long walk with my heavy backpack, so these extra meters did not really contribute positively to my attitude. But still we needed to find a place to pitch our tents. It's allowed by Norwegian law to pitch it wherever you want, but either everything is just pure sharp rock or moist swamp. Hence, we had to follow the track downwards, although I insisted on watching the sunset looking over the fjords. On the way down, the trail became even more difficult: Small tiny rocks, close to the abyss and dense bushes mixed with dry sharp plants. I just said to Diego:" I am so glad that my stepfather insisted some years ago on buying me those hiking boots. With the Vibram sole I'm just not slipping away at all. I guess it's not possible to master this trail without proper hiking boots." In that moment a Norwegian came by, of course in running shoes.... Telling him this story made him laugh. Furthermore, I found out that he was carrying 10 additional kilograms (!) around himself, just to make it even harder. Norwegians.... He ran the whole trail in a few hours. Norwegians are just crazy!
One hour later we found a small plateau in the woods, surrounded by a water stream down to the fjords; a perfect camping spot. So we pitched our tents, took finally the boots off, turned on the fire and finally made food! After all these small cookies and sandwiches there were no words to describe the pleasure of eating warm spaghetti bolognese! And a meal with such a view would cost hundreds of dollars in a hotel. We had it for free. It was just perfect! The sunset was not as spectacular as I hoped, but anyway a calm dawn over the fjords was idyllic as well. Franco just slept beside me in the tent, he was freezing cold, but I offered him everything I could to isolate him more from the ground and the cold. He really survived that night. Respect! During the night I was hoping for taking pictures of the stars and the milky way, but as usual, when everything seemed to be perfect beforehand (clear sky, no moon), clouds destroyed all my hopes and I got up in the night for nothing. Bummer! But when the morning arrived I could finally enjoy nature's cinema from the front seat!
Since Franco had to catch a train from Stavanger to Oslo to continue his travel through Europe, he left us and returned the same way we came; Diego and I continued. The weather stayed as perfect as the day before, nearly no clouds, blue sky and even warmer. I got sunburned and had a head like a red balloon, although I always wore a cap. Lesson learned: Sun creme next time!
The start of day two's trail was really wonderful. Not only rocks, moss and dead plants. We followed a very scenic river up the hill. After intense struggles with my attitude, the sound of babbling water magically pushed me, so that I overtook Diego for the first time. I could not be stopped. I did not mind any obstacle, any swamp or sharp rock. I just deeply enjoyed it for the first time. Water is just beautiful, powerful and magical - nature's hidden gem to cure my soul. After this high-speed trekking session, we decided to take a break. So I had some time to take out my camera again and start being creative again. That pushed my motivation even more!
Anyway. In contrast to the weather, our path did not improve. We had to walk away from the river higher up the hill. The way there was not beautiful, just full of rocks, dead sharp plants which cut into my seines (due to walking in shorts). I never documented this uninteresting sad wasteland. Also the trail signs became smaller. Following the trail became again much more difficult. But after a while my soul could be cured again: The landscape opened up! But before, I saw some weird improvised bridges over steep river gorges. After checking the map I was relieved of not having to cross those! So we just continued.
And then it happened! I screamed loudly! I finally arrived in the photographer's paradise. Lakes, high mountains, waterfalls as far as the eye can reach! I was so happy and said:"Sorry Diego, here we need to have a longer break." He knew about my fascination and gave me some time for taking pictures. Immediately, my hand just grabbed the tripod and the camera: The photographic paradise was just in front of me! I climbed down to the waterfalls, up the hill; nobody could not stop me! Now, let's just speak the pictures for themselves:
After exploring the valley, we somehow lost the trail in all this wide open space. So we started to search for it. After a while, Diego spotted some small red trail marks. Everything fine, we thought. But someone cheered to soon. We should have checked the map. So we just followed our "trail" into the last corner of the valley. I just started wondering a bit, about the trail's quality, but I got used to nearly-not-exisiting Norwegian adventurous wild trails, so I got rid of my suspicion quite quickly. I asked Diego one last time: "Do we reaaally need to walk around that whole lake?" - "Yes, but it's not so far, we'll do that in 20-30min." I was not convinced. Anyway, he was already way ahead of me, as I started to get tired. I also forgot to refill my water supplies. But the "30 min walk" turned out to become a 1,5 hours nightmare: Swampy marshland, creeks, water, humidity, everywhere. We had to jump over powerful creeks, which costed me lots of overcoming, but I did it! Anyway, our shoes got soaked of water, due to all the f***ing annoying swamps. Our feet just hurt, the mix of wet socks, gravel, spikes and other small dirt rubbed on our skins. It was really the worst time we had. We tried to stay dry as much as possible but in the end we had to cross a part of the lake. We tried jumping from stone to stone, but missed it, so our shoes were completely wet. Finally, we could rest on the balcony of the idyllic cabin at the middle of the lake. I just said: "In four hours the sun sets, here we have water, I can't walk anymore. Can we just make shelter here?" - "Let's just quickly check the map to see how much is still in front of us, but then why not. I'm also tired."
Looking at the map, it was hardly believing our eyes: We just got completely off the trail and walked through this nightmare just for nothing. We had to catch the ferry in the fjords back to Stavanger in the early morning. We were further away from it than ever! So we had no other choice: Walking through the nightmare again. When the body can't, you need to believe in yourself and your inner strength. We walked all the way back, got completely wet again, but we did not care at all, as we knew what to expect. Surprisingly, we made it back to the beginning of the beautiful valley in less than 40 minutes. Consequently, the sunset we had nearly 3 hours left to come closer to the ferry and to find a camp site. But first of all, we had to figure out the trail. We walked along the river, which we had to cross, looking for bridges, small stone paths or just something else looking like a trail. But we just could not find anything. On the other side, we saw cabins, so we thought there has to be a normal way. But what is normal in Norway is not normal neither in Germany nor in Chile. As we did not want to lose much time, we decided to take off our shoes and to slosh through the big river. We had to do that quickly, the water came straight down from the snow covered mountains so it was freezing cold. Of course, we made it. And of course, we found our trail there! (As we found out the next day talking to Norwegians, such trails are normal and taken for granted: "Of course that's the path. Yes, you need to walk through the river.")
From that moment on, I stopped taking pictures. We had to focus on our attitude and even more on the path. I just said, "at least it's not so swampy here." But of course, a few minutes later, as far as the eyes can reach: Wet swampy marshland again. I just wanted an end of the nightmare. We got off the track several times, but realised it very quickly and after some detailed track reading, we could find our way back onto the trail. Furthermore, we check all altitude lines exactly to not get lost again. As we finally made it out of all the hated swamps, we "just had to go down". But we both hate going down....
Anyway, it became steeper than ever (and the whole track had really lots of steep ascents and descents). We were more tired than ever as well. But slowly we found our way down into the valley. There we simply followed a road down to the small harbour where our ferry was supposed to start off the next day at 7.40am. We made it down the fjord before darkness! We were so happy! I knocked on some houses' doors to find a fenced and proper place in their garden to pitch our tent, but besides sheep nobody inhabited that place. So we pitched our tent on an even ground somewhere close to the harbour, quickly boiled some noodles, enjoyed the fantastic view again and just fell asleep.
But there were only 5 hours of darkness, so the sheep in the area woke up quite early, so that they woke us up as well. Stupid bells and "bah!!!" Anyway, fumbIing in my backpack, I managed to find my earplugs quickly and could catch some sleep again. We set-up an alarm to 7 am the night before, to really catch the ferry back and to have time to call the hotline to be picked up here. Then the next disaster happened: the hotline was only in Norwegian and I had a menu to navigate through. I chose every option and left always a voice mail "We would like to be picked up by the next ferry in Songnesand". We went down to the pier, but or more than two hours, there were no ships. After a while, I saw some cruise yachts passing by, made a signal and waved my light orange mattress, but they haven't seen me. I was crashed. So we waited and waited....After a while I spotted something: A car stopped by at this goddamn abandoned village. I screamed "DIEGOOO, there's a car. Run there!" As it turned out, the driver was very helpful, as every Norwegian, and offered us to wait for his friend, with whom we can drive to the next bigger town. On that ride back we had a free sightseeing tour. Such a beautiful landscape which I've never seen before. It was amazing. We were constantly recording with our phones. It is just breathtaking. A beautiful end of a beautiful adventure! Take a look at it yourself:
One last crazy fact about Norwegians: We just met them, because they started practicing for a run around the Lysefjord (120km) in less than 24 hours, starting in the darkness. So they will cross all the swamps, rocks, and every other difficult steep ascent and descent we crossed and run all that distance in just a few minutes. They are unbelievable! Chapeau!
Long story short, after enjoying our free panorama ride, they dropped us in the next bigger city. We thanked them for all and waited for an hour for the bus. The bus driver charged us 100NOK instead of 34NOK, but anyway. We reached the ferry and arrived back home after two adventurous, exhausting, beautiful and unforgettable days. It was the biggest adventure of my life. I appreciate every minute of it and realise which nice privileges I have. I am very happy for every experience I collect living abroad in different countries. It teaches me things you can learn nowhere else. Thanks to those, who motivated me to take the step of going to Norway. I'm jsut 25 years old, but I already made experiences, other people will never make in their lives.
Thanks to everybody who was part of adventure, helped us or was in touch with us, thanks to Diego for sharing his knowledge and experience with me and of course for finding our track in the backland. Thanks to you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it! See you at the next chapter!