We stood before a bus stop just outside the town centre of Stavanger. The highway leading towards our next destination was only a few hundred meters away and we only need to travel 145kms. It shouldn’t be a problem except that this will be the first time we are not riding the highway system the entire way. It was also midday already and travel through Norway is always mountainous and slow. We held a sign saying ‘E39’ and sure enough, within half and hour a friendly man pulled in. Instantly Kiki was easy to chat to and we shared hitchhiking stories and other experiences he had of picking up hitchhikers. He was a great person and after pulling into a service station he offered to buy us hotdogs. We had eaten half a dozen biscuits before hitching and politely declined however he was adamant that he wanted to feed us something and he knew we would appreciate it. We agreed to share a hotdog however when he placed the order he asked for 3 super burgers. A meal we would never have been able to afford! The three of us sat at the service station eating burgers and once again we were lost for words because of the kindness of strangers. The world is not a scary place people!
He drove us to the intersection from which we needed to head inland towards Kjeragboltn, a boulder wedged between 2 vertical cliffs 1100m high above water. It was one of Norway’s most popular tourist destinations and our plan was to camp at a village below it called Lysebotn, before climbing it the following day. We assumed quite a few tourists would be driving to the attraction given that it was high season and so we guessed leaving so late in the day would not be a problem. From where we were dropped we walked along the smaller road to find an area where it would be safe to hitchhike from. The road followed a river so guardrails skirted its edges as far as the eye could see. After 3km of unsafe walking along the narrow road we finally found a spot where cars could pull in. We each held a sign saying “We are Australian and friendly” and “Kjerag”. An hour passed and traffic was very light, most were driving large motor homes and their elderly drivers were not impressed. Not even our friendly Australian sign and Kayla sitting on my shoulders was enough to gain their trust.
Another half an hour past before a small Citroen pulled in and the driver offered to take us 10km up the road to a tiny town and supermarket. We agreed as we were not having any luck in our current spot and sure enough, once dropped off, it didn’t take long to get another lift 20km. We were dropped at a hotel in another tiny town and we estimated it would be another hour until Lysebotn. It was 4pm at this stage and traffic was becoming very light. However, we were picked up again within minutes. The family man was driving to his holiday caravan in the town before Lysebotn and offered to drop us there. We chatted easily and upon arriving at his caravan he offered to take us further! He was certain it was no problem but after we began on the extremely slow mountainous road he humerously agreed it was much further than he had initially thought. It was a narrow road, only wide enough for one car at many of its turns. There were stray sheep blindly crossing and at it’s highest altitude, snow scattered the road side. He dropped us 40 minutes out of his way at the starting point for the hike to Kjerag. We thanked him and stood in the emptying carpark,watching as traffic mostly left in the direction from which we had just travelled. We needed to continue on the almost vertical road down to sea level and the town Lysebotn. The walk was only 7km so we began walking with our thumbs out when a car pulled over. Catherine (a Norwegian) and Alfred (an American) were heading to the same camp ground so we were happy to accept a lift.
They ended up being really nice people and in the morning offered again to take us up to beginning of the hike. It was an amazing day and the sun shone with no clouds in sight. A rarity in Norway and perfect conditions for the 2 hour, 450 metre elevation hike. It was 9am when we began. The beginning of the walk was insanely steep, requiring steel rods with eyelet housing chains to use for handrails. Thankfully we were staying at the campground below for two nights and were able to leave most of our gear in the tent. The view was already unbelievable and increasingly so with each step. We walked following red marks on the rocks and were ushered through countless valleys. Upon the first decent we saw a natural lake which was fed by snow that poured into countless little waterfalls. It was an unbelievable sight when contrast against the views down to our camp ground and surrounding mountains. We began to climb the steep ascent on the other side and once we reached the top we found ourselves an additional 100m higher than before. Norway has an amazing staggered coastal landscape where the sea winds inland forming narrow, snaking lake systems; also known as ‘Fjords’.
Our walk terminated at a large plateau of rock which stretched out for a kilometre and was demarcated by snow covered streams which ran off either side of the cliff face, creating waterfalls below. Thankfully there were enough people on the hike to follow as this area was poorly marked. Once at the bottom of the snow covered stream, we saw the boulder. From a distance, it did not look as impressive as the pictures had seen as it did not really appear to be “hanging”. However, once we joined the line to jump on and take a photo, the 1100m drop either side became enough to make even the fearless scared of heights. Access onto the boulder was from the back (which is obscured from photos) and it only provided a small ledge of about one metre in width against a towering rock on one side and a sheer drop on the other. there was a small metal eyelet where you have to step around and onto the boulder where the path becomes half the size. We joined the half a dozen people lined up for their photos before we had lunch and looked out at the views over the fjords. Jam, bread and baked beans is our usual spread on our 10€ a day budget. Once satisfied with our food and photos we began our decent just as the weather was beginning to turn. Norway’s weather is extremely unpredictably so we hurried along hoping that it wouldn’t start raining. We bumped into a fellow Australian along the way and hiked back talking to him and his Norwegian friend. It was our first real Aussie encounter and it was nice to have that familiarity.
Once we reached the last valley with the lake the sun peaked out from behind the clouds and I couldn’t help but have a swim in the lake nestled between the mountains. As I began to tip toe in to the water I quickly regretted the decision. The temperature of the water was cold enough to make me lose my breath instantly and the bottom of the lake was mud which forced me to tread water the entire time. Once I reached the middle of the lake and found a rock to stand on I realised it was not a very nice swimming spot and the decision had not been worth it as our friends (who gave us the lift up to the beginning of the hike) walked past and I had to hurry in order to get a lift back down. The swim was also a bad idea as my legs began cramping on the final stretch and as a result I had to stop numerous times to try and warm them. Our friends carried on and Kayla and I found ourselves having to run down the last steep section to try and catch them before they left. Thankfully my legs just held up and we found ourselves back in the campground having showers and cooking an early tea by 5pm. It had been an unbelievable day and we were able to tick off our first major hike in Norway. We fell asleep instantly that night…
(Watch our video on Kjerag for a better description! Words can not describe Norway’s beauty)
(145km hitchhiked, 38km walked)