It was an early start to the day having to wake up at 5am. We had a ferry to catch at 7am which was leaving from the small town of Lysebotn. It was well and truly light outside when our alarm began to pull us out of unconsciousness. It is a strange feeling being bathed in light at all hours of the day. We had learnt to put a t-shirt over our eyes in order to aid in the confusion one experiences when waking before the alarm. We quickly packed, used what time we had left on the “precious” wifi before we ran to the ferry. Ferrys are reasonably cheap considering Norway’s standards however we spent our entire day’s budget on the one and a half hour ride down the fjord. It was well worth the 20€ and luckily we still had enough food to last us throughout our day of activities. We stood on the top deck of the ferry, sun shining on us, experiencing something someone may think a 10€ a day budget could not afford. In the past couple of days we had felt so free.. so Limitless.
The ferry clunked into the dock where we were getting off. Pedestrians left first before being followed by vehicles. Our goal today was to hitch a ride to the famous Preikestolen Rock; a particularly crowded 2 hour hike to a large, flat rock surface with a cliff face that plummeted 650m below to a fjord. We planned to camp on the summit in order to have the opportunity to experience it when it was less crowded. Once onto dry land we were told by the ticket inspector there was a tourist bus which took people to Preikestolen and upon asking and being told it was another 10€ for a 20 minute trip, we began writing a cardboard sign. We were standing and writing when suddenly we heard someone yell out to us –
“You want a lift?” a young guy in a packed little car was talking to us.
“We would love one but is there enough room?’ we asked. Turns out they were a Danish family on a Norwegian trip with two cars, each with one seat free. We split up for the first time and the car I jumped in was full of the younger family members; there was even a token Australian boyfriend in the back. We all chatted and they played Danish gangsta rap as we began to depart.
We were dropped at the car park and ventured to find toilets to prepare and change. We had to take our entire packs with us up to the summit. Luckily, we were told it was not too difficult. They were wrong! Our packs were only light, 9kg and 15kg, however the hike was consisted of rock formed stairs which were well over regular step height. The walks reputation for being crowded was accurate also. For a nature walk it felt more like lining to cue for a theme park ride! Most of the trek was walked in single file. It was however, very beautiful, crossing over mountain-high marsh lands and numerous alpine lakes with thick vegetation on either side. As we neared the top, the rocks began to widen and the crowds thickened. It was astonishing how many people were there, which made it hard to determine where the actual attraction was. Eventually the track came to an end and we were standing amongst 100+ people who were taking photos, eating lunch and daring to stand close to the rocks edge. It was a magical spot, even with the crowds. We had made it before midday and decided to sit down and eat lunch. More people continued to flock in so once we were full on bread, sardines and jam, we ventured higher, off the beaten track to find a camp site. It did not take long to find a somewhat protected location which was wedged between two rock faces. The only problem was that the ground was quite damp. We came up with the idea to pull grass out and make a thick blanket to keep off the dampness. It worked really well and our tent was well insulated. We were 25m away from the rock swarming with tourists. Occasionally adventurous people would by, however we were not bothered and crawled inside at 2pm and went to sleep…
We woke at 8pm to the sound of our alarm. We had not planned to sleep so long s it was lucky we had decided to set an alarm just in case. It did not worry us though as we had planned on seeing the rock after the crowds had retreated to there creature comforts. Stepping outside it was freezing! The sun was blanketed by thick clouds but the view was extremely clear. The soft, chilling breeze crept through our 4 layers of clothing and froze our extremities. It felt as if it were below zero, or perhaps, that we were ill prepared. From our higher vantage point, we made out half a dozen other tents and as we walked to the edge of the summit, looking down at Preikestolen, we saw only 8 other people standing on the rock! ‘This is why we camped here’ we agreed and walked back to our tent to cook dinner and wait for the the remaining people to leave.
We began looking for what scarce firewood we could find, as our plan was to cook on hot coals. During our search we stumbled across a fellow Australian named Kyle who was also camping on the summit with his girlfriend, sister and friend. It felt like a taste of home as we chatted and the rest of his group gathered over to huddle around the fire we had started. Hayley and Michele (Kyle’s girlfriend and friend) were keen photographers and shared our vision of capturing the rock when it was less crowded. We agreed to meet down the bottom after some food, so we put our pot on the coals and made our packet pasta in a hurry. Once down on the ledge, it was a truely magical experience. The large flat surface of the cliff suddenly seemed like such an enormous expanse without the tourists. The sun had just began to set and it cast a light pink aura over the surrounding mountain sides. It was truely spectacular and we got to share it laughing with a great bunch of Australians. Also camping on the actual rock were two Germans and a Dutch guy. They had made a large fire and we sat around it talking until well after midnight. We scaled up to our tent in Norway’s night light and attempted sleep in the freezing conditions. It felt like we hadn’t slept when our alarm sounded at 4am in order for us to capture the sunrise.
Because of how cold it had been, we had slept in every piece of clothing we owned, which meant nothing needed to be changed when we quickly jumped out of bed and hurried down to watch the sunrise. The fjord was running perfectly in an east to west direction so once the sun crept over the mountains it shone brilliantly along the sea, illuminating the cliff. A few odd people had made the midnight trip up to witness the sunrise but other than that, we had the rock to ourselves. Again, it was as magical as the night before, perhaps even more so, and we all started taking photos of Norway’s beauty. We finally made it back to our tents and ate our musli with water for breakfast. The group of Australians we had met were super kind and offered us a lift to a nearby town where we had a couchsurfer lined up, so we packed our tents up and made the journey down together at 7am.
Kyle and Hayley had been working in the UK and travelling Europe for the past year and had bought a sick van to do their road trip. Their friend Michele had jumped on board in Amsterdam to do the Norway leg and Kyle’s sister Erin had been with them previously in the UK. They were an easy-going, fun group of people and were more than happy to drop us 30kms down the road. We completed the 2hr walk back and jumped into their converted ford transit van. It was a rad setup with two triple bench seats which folded into a bed in the back, a small kitchen and 3 seats in the front. The 6 of us piled our bags in, feeling exhausted, and took off down the road with Kyle driving. We reached the town of Tao and found a supermarket to restock our supplies. Everyone jumped out and we did a group shop together. The supermarket had wifi and toilets and we spent quite some time there having lunch and organising the next few days. We looked up our couchsurfers address and had made a mistake regarding which town he lived in. Unfortunately he lived in the previous town. We began planning our hitch back to our couchsurfer’s house when our friends once again offered to take us. Everyone piled back into the van and 5 minutes into the trip down the road somehow the decision for us to skip the couchsurfer and continue North with these guys was made. Aussie road trip!
We hummed north along a narrow, winding Norwegian highway. We made our way through countless mountain tunnels, past waterfalls that lapsed from mountains into fjords and lakes and we began to notice we were always surrounded by water. A typical highway in beautiful Norway. Despite the lack of sleep everyone was joyful and it was a trip spent in laughter. Spirits were high and Kayla and I could not believe our luck bumping into such awesome like minded people! We had not planned to travel so far but the hours just seemed to pass us by. We had to pay to cross a ferry (a sting to the budget) and found ourselves within 50km from Odda, the town where we all planned to do the famous hike to Trolltunga; a large rock formation which projected out from the side of a cliff pointing down towards a mountain lake (most people would have seen the photo). At this stage we had been looking for a free-camping spot along the road to accomodate the van and two tents and although we had high expectations; water frontage, green grass, fire possibilities, flat ground, wifi and toilets we found an unbelievable spot along side a mountain lake, only 5kms from a popular ski resort. It ticked all the boxes besides wifi and the toilet may have been a bush but the location was absolutely beautiful. The van was parked back towards the lake, only 2 meters from the shore and our tents erected beside it. Although it rained heavily when we set our tents up and everything was drenched, we were happy. The rest of the day and night consisted of watching the rain fall from the inside of the van, chatting and eating salami sandwiches. Life was bliss, and our company was even better!
We woke the next morning at 8am to absolute sunshine with no clouds in the sky. Norway was being kind to us yet again and we sat in the sun the entire morning enjoying our surroundings. The clouds had lifted from the day before to reveal snow capped mountains in the distance and the lack of wind created a mirrored surface on lake that reflected the blue sky, mountains and a small island in its centre. The water was too enticing and it persuaded me to make one of the worst decisions in my life.
Looking at the small island I began stepping into the icy water with the idea of swimming to it. It was perhaps just over 100 metres out; a comfortable swim for myself, however I did not consider the temperature of the water. I jumped in and began swimming away from the shore. The island was within 20 metres when I suddenly could not lift my arms above the surface. I had my go pro in my mouth and figured it was because I was exhausted. I began breaststroking and could feel my body drastically loosing control. Luckily by this stage the island was only a few strokes away and I pulled myself onto its rocky shore. I felt dizzy as I tried to stand and could not stop shivering. I gave it a couple of minutes and tried to soak up the warmth of the sun. I walked around the island hoping my body would return to its normal functioning state. 20 minutes passed as I walked back and forth along the stretch of the island, rubbing myself trying to warm up. My body just could not seem to regain its core temperature. I stood on the shore looking back at the others with worry written all over my face. Knowing that they were now concerned, I gave them a signal (crossed arms above my head) that it was not a good idea and then jumped back into the water.
The next hour is very cloudy in my memory but I remember swimming half of the distance before my body lost control and I began to lose muscle function. I resorted to breaststroking but only made it another 10m before my vision went blurry and I can vaguely remember calling for help. Kyle, being the champion that he was, was prepared and ran into the water, swimming out despite the icy conditions. Apparently he swam beside me the rest of the way, encouraging me as I paddled to the shore with my eyes struggling to remain open, before I collapsed into the arms of our friends. They wrapped me in dry clothes and did everything they could to warm me as I lay on the tarp, a pale and shivering mess. I can’t remember anything other than their voices. Even when I finally regained consciousness enough to sit up they stayed by my side, continuing to offer their help. If it were not for them the situation would have ended far worse than it did and I cannot thank them enough for everything! Lesson learnt; don’t swim long distances in cold water!
It wasn’t until 1pm that I was fully recovered and we all packed up to travel the short distance to the town of Odda. It was an incredibly beautiful route driving through the snow covered resort and its surrounding villages. Again, countless waterfalls cascaded off of mountain cliffs and we followed a powerful stream the entire way. We unintentionally passed the famous Latefossen waterfall which crashed 20m from the bridged highway, running forcefully beneath us. We pulled into a car park and took photos as Kyle drove the van. From the waterfall it was a short drive to Odda where we pulled into a camp ground for the night. The 20€ price for the night again broke our budget however we still came out slightly on top due to the previous day when we spent no money. We borrowed their van kitchen and cooked noodles for dinner and set our tents up as a group. We all fell asleep easily knowing we had a couple of large days before us; hiking the 22km to Trolltunga!
(204km hitchhiked, 30km walked)