This was to be one of the last posts from last summer’s vacation, but I never got around to completing it. I found the draft when I went to post something from this vacation, and thought I might as well post it as-is. It was a totally amazing day and absolutely worth the long, wet hike. I thought about my grandpa a lot along the way.
I went to a fjord! This was one of the first things I decided to do when I chose to go to Norway in the first place. Of course I didn’t want to go to ‘the popular fjord’ — so I went to the second-most-popular fjord instead.
I got up early and walked into town to catch the ferry. The weather was a little threatening but I was determined to go anyway. I picked up a calzone and some bottled water at the convenience store by the ferry terminal, and got on the boat.
I’d read a little online, and learned that you could buy a tour package in the town that included the ferry and the bus to the base of the hiking trail… OR you could buy a basic ferry/bus combo on the boat, which was much cheaper. Naturally I chose that option.
The ferry ride was quite lovely from the start. I spent most of it out on the upper deck, and it was gorgeous… mostly sunny but with fantastic [rain]cloud formations on all sides. The clouds with the rugged but green landscape was absolutely beautiful. It was all very Nordic and perfect.
After about 30 minutes we arrived at the ferry terminal and filed off. There was a bus stop there and we all wandered over to it (most of the passengers were also tourists with the same plan in mind). About two minutes later a nice big coach bus pulled up and most of us got on… but some of us, myself included, were turned away and gestured toward the next bus stop over. We eventually figured out that the fancy bus was for people who had bought the expensive tickets in town, and that those of us who had bought the cheap tickets on the boat had to take the other bus. The internet had told me the night before that all the fjord buses were coordinated with the ferry arrivals, so I figured it wouldn’t be much of a wait… so we waited. The ferry left. It started to rain, so we all crowded under the tiny bus shelter. It rained more. It rained really hard. I started to realize that I was woefully underdressed for a four+hour strenuous hike in the rain… I was wearing my vibram shoes (which were perfect), a sun hat (ha!), shorts, a t-shirt, and a cotton cardigan that didn’t button or zip. I started to have second thoughts… but I reeeeeeally wanted to see a fjord.
We waited some more. After about half an hour the first bus came back, and the next ferry arrived. We tried to get on that bus again, but the driver turned us away again. That bus left, and then the ferry left, and the whole sodden bunch of us crowded back under the overhang of the bus shelter. About five minutes later a different bus pulled up, parked, turned off, and the driver got off. He immediately got swamped by us all, but he explained that he was the bus meeting the NEXT ferry, and didn’t know why no other buses had come. He got on the phone to his boss and started poking around another bus that was parked and turned off — apparently the scheduled driver just hadn’t turned up that day — and we all went back under the bus shelter. Twenty minutes later, the next ferry came and we were finally allowed on a bus. At this point I was really glad I’d gotten up at 6:45am in order to catch the earliest ferry I could…
After a fairly short bus ride we arrived at a parking lot/RV campground and piled off to start hiking. The trail started off as a dirt road, but quickly narrowed to a dirt track, then a creek bed, then a swamp with a raised wood walkway (with some nice foot-sized holes scattered about), then the face of a rock slide. At this point I came across a woman who had fallen and sprained her ankle. I offered her hiking partner some Advil from my first aid kit, but they declined. I kept going… next the trail came to a some small alpine lakes and then a huge expanse of flat rock. I should note that the trail was extraordinarily well-marked with regular red T’s painted on rocks. I’d thought it was funny at first, when the trail was basically a road, but when it was all rock with no visible path, I was pretty grateful.
Finally, about 90 grueling minutes in, after passing the tree line, I got my first glimpse of the fjord from a distance. Most of the way up I kept seeing little lakes, and every time I was like “Ooooh, is THAT a fjord? Oh. That’s not a fjord. Is THAT a fjord?” When I saw the real thing, it was more “OH. THAT’s a fjord. Ohhhh.” It was pretty damn spectacular.