We were headed south as our last twenty four hours with the SMO3DJJ van and our Australian friends quickly approached. Having spent the past two weeks exploring the west coast of Norway with them, it felt as if we were about to say goodbye to some of our childhood friends. It is amazing how intensely the friendships you make while travelling grow and then all of a sudden you must head in your different directions. We drove towards a tiny village called Trandal that home to only 10 people and only accessible via ferry. The excursion would be 150km in the opposite direction for us, however, as our friends had reached the northern most point in their journey a few days ago and we had not been ready to say goodbye, we stayed on. The weather had also been improving and we could not pass up the opportunity to see “the most beautiful swing in the world”.
Laying beneath a mountain of bags, pillows and blankets in the van, we heard the clunk of the ferry pulling up to our destination. We were hiding in the back of our friends van, a method we had used for every ferry so far in order to avoid the budget crippling cost. Although they are not overly expensive (4€ – 12€), they must be used quite frequently in the west of Norway. Once given the all clear from Kyle, we exploded up from under our layers of camouflage, gasping for air. We immediately turned off the main road and followed a narrower road which hugged the water’s edge. It was only a 30 minute drive before we reached the small village of Strandal, the port from which our next ferry would depart. There was only three ferries a day and we had a 2 hour wait before the next one. The sun shone through a gap in the thick blanket of clouds, creating the perfect opportunity for us to try and catch a fish. We took out the fishing rod and along with Kyle, we stood at the end of the jetty and cast our first line. As we watched the lure glide through the water, we spotted a large fish come within millimetres of the hook before darting away. Kyle reeled the line in and we leapt in excitement. Our first cast of the day and we had almost caught a fish! That was the last fish we saw for almost an hour..
After giving up on fishing we headed back to the van just as the ferry approached from the distance. Within minutes we were crossing the fjord towards Trandal and the short trip would soon be over. Having no idea where the swing was as we had only read about it being at a pub, the SMO3DJJ van drove slowly along Trandal’s only road. Sure enough we came across a sign with the name of the pub. As we approached the building we were amazed by the beautiful view before us. The classic red Norwegian-style house stood between two newer buildings. They were wrapped around two halves of a tree trunk and built to resemble log cabins. They looked authentic, like a person’s home. Sitting on the hillside, it gazed across to the fjord and the 1450m mountains raising almost vertically from the waters edge. Vibrant green vegetation grew halfway to the top, before turning into bare stone and snow. Between two peaks stood a glacier which fed a dozen waterfalls that cascaded into the fjord below. It was already truly amazing, and we had not even left the car.Opening the van doors we were instantly greeted by a young man named Daniel who was friendly and introduced himself to us as the owner of the pub. He told us he hoped to see us later and then walked down a gravel path from our carpark. We soon followed him, continuing to be amazed by the views. Walking alongside the timber building, it soon opened up to a large exposed deck. It was covered with dozens of tables and chairs, all made of timber. One of the newer buildings had a skylight roof which gave you the feeling of being both indoors and outdoors at the same time. It also had some lower chairs which were wrapped in reindeer pelts and a small stage for music. We leant against the railing of the deck, lost in the view across the mountainous fjord when a lovely lady came over and began talking to us. She offered to show us around. We followed her down a gravel path which led to a full size performance stage, also entirely made of timber. Beside the stage was another log style cabin, only much larger which was used to cater for parties, wedding and all other events. Everywhere we looked we saw logs, including, the grassed roof “viking bar” which was half stone work and half timber. It doubled as an outdoor bar and also the toilet block. The front doors were painted with viking characters, very fitting for the atmosphere. The most amazing part of everything we saw was the fact it was empty. It was the most incredible pub we have ever experienced, and we could not believe we had it to ourselves.The Norwegian weather was once again looking after us as we gathered our camera gear and ventured off to take photos. We walked down a small cobble stone trail running beside the pub that overlooked the fjord. Our eyes were drawn instantly to the swing hanging four meters off of a tree’s thick branch. The distinctive size of the tree was unmatched on the green grassy hillside with the bright blue fjord below. As the swing began less than a foot’s step from the path and the hill rolled away steeply beneath, swinging gave the impression one was soaring meters above the fjord. Combined with its central position between two large mountain peaks and the glacier between, it was an incredibly mesmerising experience.
We sat at the pub hours later with a bitter sensation we had not yet experienced in Norway. We were really going all out as we sat overlooking the landscape holding cold beers. Our table had 9 people seated around it. A couple of minutes later a tray returned with shots. A strong mint aroma followed quickly after it. Our new friends, 4 Norwegian guys who had called us over to drink with them, had arrived at the pub by boat. One of them was kind enough to buy us all shots, a typical alcohol which was drunk before fishermen went out onto the sea. They were called ‘Fishermen Friends’, like the mints back home. We were told after taking the shots that the main ingredient was actually the fishermen friends mints melted down into a liquid. The guys were very friendly and as we continued chatting into the night, found ourselves on their boat, drinking generously measured bundy rum and cokes. The hour was close to midnight and our drinks were constantly refilled as we sped around the deserted fjord while the sun set beautifully behind us. Even though it was beginning to become the norm, we still found ourselves sitting gobsmacked yet again by what this adventure was throwing at us.We woke with slight headaches and foggy memories from the night before. Supposedly we had arranged to go fishing with Daniel in the morning. I quickly got dressed, taking a bowel of musli and my laptop to the pub in hopes of remembering what our plans were. As I sat writing, still appreciating the beauty which was our surroundings, Daniel walked by and confirmed that Kyle and I were welcome to join him and another local man they checked their salmon nets. I ran back to tell Kyle to get ready and half an hour later we were down by the pub’s marina, jumping into their small metal tinny.
It was only a short ride to a location where buoys marked out a series of nets held down by steel anchors. They were set up in this fashion so larger fish would follow along a net to where it funnelled into smaller and smaller netted areas, eventually trapping the fish. We pulled up beside the net cage which was still three meters wide and began pulling it into the boat, reducing the area in which a fish could swim. A shimmer from a silver scale caught our eye and we began pulling the net in faster until Daniel simply grabbed a salmon the size of an arm’s length and threw it into the boat. We repeated the process on the the second and third cage. Again we saw a salmon in the depths, only this one was at least a third larger. It was much quicker and was not trapped in the net like the other. Twice we had to drive the boat to the other side before it was yanked into the boat and smacked unconscious with a mallet. What an experience Kyle and I agreed! Once back on the dock we watched them gut the salmon before they offered the smaller one to us! We thanked them, appreciating the gesture and in awe, walked back to the van holding a 2.5kg fresh atlantic salmon.Combined with some rice and soy sauce from our friends, we ate the freshest and tastiest salmon of our lives for lunch. We had another whole fillet each for dinner and after scrubbing like hell to remove the incredibly strong fish smell from our hands, found ourselves inside the original, 1500 century house that was now the pub. Inside, the pub felt like a warm, charming house. It had old, comfy couches, rugs, old family photographs and pictures from the area. Everything was wood and painted bright colours. It was an extremely personal and familiar experience, like visiting your grandparent’s house. We all sat at a long wooden table, avoiding the typical rainy Norwegian weather and talking to Cindy, a really cool chick who was Daniel’s cousin.
As dinner time approached we made our way back to the van to cook the remaining salmon. We had no rice left so we opted for something better. Having seen some kids order a large bowl of chips we decided to a get a bowl each with the salmon. We had not spent any money and as the 4€ a bowl chips fit in to a budget, we sat at the pub enjoying our last night with an extraordinary bunch of people. The initial idea of taking a picture at a swing had turned into an unforgettable two days and words cannot describe how appreciative we are of the SMO3DJJ family. It is funny to think that a simple offer of a lift to the next town, turned into two weeks of unforgettable travel..
Thank you Kyle, Haley, Michele and Erin for making our Norway experience.
We will be seeing you soon!
(135km walked, 1147km hitchhiked)