Åndalsnes and Romsdalsfjord, from the top of Nesaksla
Eight hours after hopping off the grand old sailing ship in Bergen, I was out of bed and on my way to the airport for a 7:40am flight (wednesday 4th June) to Trondheim - about six hundred kilometres to the north-east of Bergen - which is the third-largest city in Norway, with a population of about a hundred and fifty thousand. By far the biggest tourist attraction in Trondheim - and I mean that literally as well as figuratively - is the Nidaros Cathedral, which sits right in the centre of town and was built in the late eleventh century (supposedly over the sight of St. Olav's grave - making it an important pilgrimmage sight), and is everything that you would expect a gothic cathedral to be!
After spending the morning walking around the city and then falling asleep for three hours as soon as I checked into my hostel, I decided it was time to catch a tram out to a place called Bymarka - which is basically a sort of forested nature reserve with a lake in the middle of it, and like any other open, grassy area in Norway during summer, it gets packed with half-naked Norwegians
Reason to keep climbing
View from halfway up the mountain
whenever the sun is out! (I swear, you even see middle-aged ladies doing the gardening in their bikinis!) So after taking a leisurely stroll around the lake (and having my first ever encounter with a wild moose!) I headed back to the hostel to watch the sun setting over Trondheim - at eleven o'clock in the evening!
The next morning I had to run all the way from my hostel to the train station - after lingering a little too long at the breakfast buffet at my hostel - to catch the train to Dombås; from where I caught another train along the renowned Raumabanen railway (which passes the 1800 metre high Trollvegen - the highest cliff-face in Europe) to Åndalsnes. Although there was literally noone at the hostel when I arrived (the other three guests were all out and reception was closed) I was able to make myself at home, but fearing that boredom would get the better of me I decided to kill a few hours by climbing the nearby mountain Nesaksla - which at 715 metres I figured wouldn't present too much of a problem...
Sure enough within about ten minutes of setting off I
Looking out over Romsdalsfjord from Åndalsnes
was already starting to feel the pinch, but steadfastly refusing to give up (though admittedly having to stop frequently to catch my breath) I eventually made it to the top of the mountain - where I was treated to the most spectacular 360-degree view imaginable! The mountain (and indeed the town of Åndalsnes) sits at the point where the Rauma River flows into the Romsdalsfjord, not far from the head of the fjord, so the panorama included a picture-perfect river winding it's way through a deep valley, a mirror-still fjord glistening in the sunlight, and snow-clad mountains spread out in all directions!
Adding to my feeling of exhiliration was the fact that I seemed to be the only person on the mountain - with the exception of a parachutist who had been circling overhead for the best part of an hour! And just to top things off I was able to lay down in a patch of snow at the summit, which to the best of my knowledge would be the first time I have felt snow in about fifteen years... as evidenced by the fact that I had completely forgotten how wet snow can be until it was
View from the Geiranger-Hellesylt ferry
far too late!
The following day I caught a bus to Sjøholt; switched buses for the trip to Linge; caught the ferry across to Eidsdal; hopped on another bus to Geiranger; then took the car ferry (which could easily qualify as a top-notch sightseeing tour in any other part of the world) along the spectacular Geirangerfjorden to Hellesylt. This would probably have to rank as the best fjord cruise I have done yet, with waterfalls cascading down from the walls of the fjord on both sides. It's no wonder that both Geirangerfjorden and Naerøyfjorden (the first fjord I saw last week) have both been added to Unesco's world heritage list.
And best of all - especially in a country as expensive as Norway - I didn't have to fork out a single kroner for the experience! On these sort of ferry crossings, rather than having someone collecting tickets at the dock, the conductor simply waits until everyone is onboard and then slowly makes his/her way around the ferry checking people's tickets; but obviously since I was constantly in motion throughout the voyage - trying to take in as much as possible of the awe-inspiring scenery around me -
For those who like waterfalls
Snowmelt cascading down from both sides of Geirangerfjord
I had somehow managed to evade the conductor for the full hour, without even meaning to! And of course by the time I realized what had happened it was too late for me to go back and offer to pay... at least in my mind!
If I had thought that the end of my ferry journey would mean the end of the spectacular scenery, however, I was in for a pleasant surprise - for no sooner had I made my way into the centre of Hellesylt than I was greeted by the sight of a gushing waterfall flowing straight through the middle of it! Meanwhile the location of my hostel (which was perched high up on a hillside above the town, directly overlooking the fjord) turned out to be both a blessing and a curse - on the one hand the view from the rooftop terrace was magnificent; on the other hand the twenty-minute steep uphill walk to get there wasn't quite so pleasant!
Fortunately when I arrived at the hostel and asked the girl in reception whether there was anywhere nearby that I could get something to eat without having to go all the way back down
The Hellesyltfossen, splitting the town of Hellesylt in half
into town (and thus all the way back up again) she told me that I was in luck, as that very afternoon - to combat the boredom of having almost no guests to check-in, since the peak tourist season was still a week or so away - she had been to the supermarket herself and brought back various snacks and frozen meals to sell to guests! And best of all, the one decent size meal she had brought back was something that had already become a staple part of my diet since Erika and Nina had introduced me to it on my first night in Norway - Grandiosa pizzas!
The following morning I waited beside the Hellesyltfossen - the waterfall that flows straight through the centre of town - for the bus that would take me back to Bergen; a trip that despite being no more than three hundred kilometres would take at least eight hours to cover, thanks to the impassability of the fjords that stretch all the way down Norway's west coast - not only resulting in some of the windiest highways you will ever see, but also necessitating at least one ferry crossing in order to
An un-scheduled stop
My bus after breaking down on the highway
pass the Sognefjord (Norway's longest fjord, which reaches almost two hundred kilometres inland).
Of course even that estimate would not have taken into account the forty-five minute wait by the side of the road that we had to endure while a replacement bus was sent from the nearest town to wherever we were when the first bus broke down in the middle of nowhere - evoking the haunting memories of my horror road-trip from Cairns to Brisbane (or should I say Rockhampton) just last month! Needless to say I was quite relieved to finally get off the bus at about a quarter-to-eleven that evening; heading straight back to the YMCA hostel I had spent most of last week in Bergen at to turn in for the night.
After all of the exertion of the previous three days, my one and only day back in Bergen was spent sleeping; searching in vain for a laundromat open on a sunday, and then walking up the hill to Erika and Nina's apartment to do my washing there instead; walking back down the hill to get on the internet at the hostel in search of a flight to Sweden for later in
Approaching the pulpit
My first view of Preikestolen's 600-metre-high cliff face
the week; walking back to Erika and Nina's place for dinner and a movie; and then once again heading back to the hostel for some more sleep. Unfortunately the weather had turned bad so there really wasn't that much else to do.
Monday morning was spent waiting anxiously in line at the police station to collect my passport with my working holiday visa in it, then racing back to the hostel after I had checked out to jump on the internet and book my flight to Stockholm for thursday morning (which I would have been unable to take without my passport), and then heading down to the harbour to catch the Flaggruten ferry to Stavanger, about four hours south of Bergen.
Once there, I jumped straight onto another ferry to a town called Tau, where there was a bus waiting to take me up to Preikestolhytta - and all of which was for the purpose of hiking to Preikestolen, one of the greatest natural attractions in Europe, if not the world! So having settled into the hostel there, I soon set out on the two-hour hike - which was part-walk, and part-climb - from the hostel to the
Living on the edge
Sitting on the corner of Pulpit Rock - and trying to look calm
edge of the Lysefjord, where the sight of Preikestolen (also known as Pulpit Rock) was definitely just reward for my effort!
The reason for Preikestolen's fame is simple - it is a naturally-occurring twenty-five metre by twenty-five metre square rock platform that sits atop a six-hundred-metre high vertical cliff face, offering unbelievable views straight down the length of Lysefjord. So inspired was I by the spectacular natural setting that I found myself in, I even managed to surprise myself by growing the balls to walk right over and sit on the edge, with my legs hanging down over the side - although unfortunately the girl who took a photo of me while I was doing this managed to make it look more like I was sitting at the dinner table than cheating death... goddamn amateurs!!!
After enjoying the view for a while I headed back to the hostel for the night; then woke to a miserable, cold, wet and windy day for my bus ride back to Tau and ferry ride back to Stavanger - where instead of doing a cruise on the Lysefjord to see Preikestolen from below as I had originally hoped to do, I ended
Preikestolen and Lysefjord
up sat on the internet uploading photos and trying in vain to organize accommodation in Sweden for the rest of the week. A half-hour walk in the wind and rain eventually brought me to my sixth hostel in the past seven days, where I was so bored I ended up walking all the way back into town just to spend another half-an-hour on the internet and buy some food for dinner!
So all of this brings me up to today (wednesday 11th June), where once again I find myself sitting at a computer wishing the weather outside was more conducive to outdoor pusuits; although to be fair I have had an incredible run with the weather in Norway, as you can tell from the countless photos I have taken. In about three hours I have a ferry to take back to Bergen, where I will stay with Erika and Nina for the night; and then first thing tomorrow morning I'm off to the airport again for my flight to Stockholm.
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