Greetings from Norway!!
After a long drive to Denmark, the ferry ride from Denmark to Norway was nice and short. We were greeted with a beautiful rocky Norwegian coastline with some playful local jet skiers who seemed to have fun jumping off the waves of the boat!
Off To The Telemark Region
Our first destination was the Telemark region. Not the usual fjord lovers’ dream, but the weather looked good there compared to the fjords (does it always rain in the fjords?). On top of that, we could get a taste of Norway with some local hikes and lakes before heading to the “proper” Norwegian fjords we all know and love.
Fun Fact: If you have ever heard of Telemark skiing (you know that weird cross between downhill and cross country) it comes from this area!
Driving in Norway is often a mixture of pleasure and pain (The Divinyls knew all about it!). Pleasure – because the scenery is almost always stunning. Pain – because the roads are usually narrow and steep, with no markings. This means always watching for the edge of the road, and making sure no one is coming the other way. If they do, you either have to make space for them or go back (us or them) to somewhere where you can pass. It’s rarely relaxing.
Luckily, our first major road in Norway was wide and curving as it made its way through the forest and past huge lakes with cute Norwegian summer houses on their shores.
We spent our first days in Norway in Telemark. First, with a steep hike to a viewpoint above Valle, then a short bike ride around a lake in Dalen.
Where To Sleep?
As many of you know, we have the daily challenge of finding somewhere to park and sleep. We don’t want to go to campsites. And in Norway, you don’t have to!
However, this means a lot more work. Especially since we are fussy and want: great scenery, a quiet location and free parking. The problem is this is rare indeed – kind of like a unicorn (well, they don’t exist – sorry to disappoint). but you get the idea. So, we often get one or two of those criteria fulfilled, but never all of them.
Sometimes we might park on the side of a lake with other campers (great view) but it’s not quiet and not free (eg. in Dalen). Other times we park in the middle of a forest – alone, quiet, free – but no view (near Vallee). And every once in a while we just have to go to a campsite to take a shower and wash our clothes. We try to avoid it though because it’s busy, rarely clean, expensive and often noisy.
Through Mountains & Fjords To Stavanger
After spending some time in the hilly Telemark region we headed up and over into the mountains and fjords to discover what Norway is truly renowned for – epic scenery. And within the first 15 minutes of leaving Valle, we were deep in “epic scenery” territory. Sure, it was rainy and cloudy (it is Norway), but the twisting road making its way past an abundance of lakes, forests and mountains, more than made up for it.
Our destination was the lovely coastal city of Stavanger. It comes complete with old wooden houses along with cute cafes and wine bars. Unfortunately, the cruise ships also enjoy parking their large asses in the middle of the harbour too, but you can easily ignore them – at least in a city. In town we took care of some much-needed shopping (decent hiking pants for Norwegian weather) and me (Ash) finally getting my hair cut (last time was back in Meteora in Greece!). And we also took some time to sample the local eateries including a small taco joint and an overly pink (really PINK) “by the meter” pizza place with amazingly friendly staff. We also tested the wine bars – verdict: insanely expensive!
The Pulpit Rock – You Could Pray Up There
While we were sitting in Stavanger, we were wondering if we would ever get to hike again… the weather had been very wet and cold up until then, but we suddenly noticed a small break in the weather for the following morning. Finally a ray of sunshine in the fjords. So, what hike could we do?
Now, for those who know the Pulpit Rock (it is Instagram-famous), it is very close to Stavanger. Just 45 minutes away. But, it s also insanely popular – some 300,000 people do this hike per year (and remember Norway is only good for hiking for 3-4 months). So, the hike is full of people. All the time.
We decided to drive to the bottom of the road to the parking lot and sleep there for a few hours before the hike. We left Stavanger at 10pm.
At 2 am (yes that is correct) we awoke, ready to get going. Insane, I know.
We looked out the window at the clouds and thought…no way! So, we kept sleeping a little bit and wondering if we should go It’s not sunny, but it should clear up? Right? According to the weather app!
By 3 am we had decided to go up and park. By 3.30 am we were walking in the dark with our headlamps (it is never really dark in summer in Norway, but dark enough). We were alone. The early bird catches the worm! Right?
By 5.30 we had arrived at “the rock”, and there were already 8 other people there. Some had camped nearby, a few had walked. But it was fantastic to be “nearly” alone. Lots of space, easy to take stunning pictures and soak up the amazing views and environment. The scenery is really crazy (see the pics below). Pulpit Rock is an amazing hike if you are not jostling for space on it.
After enjoying the views for an hour, we started walking back, passing lots of people on the way back. Then more people. Then some more…
We counted at least 100-150. And that was early in the morning (5.30 am). Imagine what it is like at lunchtime!
If ever you decide to do this hike, go early. Very early. Insanely early. It is worth it!
Onwards and Fjordwards
We left Stavanger in the rain, which seems to be a trend in Norway – drive when it’s wet, do stuff when it’s dry. This means doing it all in 2-3 days, as you won‘t get more sun in one go. We have to get up at the crack of dawn, hike, bike, paddle as much as you can, for a few days. Then, retreat to the van for more rainy and cold weather. It is probably hard to believe but we jump up and down with joy when
- it is dry
- temperatures rise above 12 degrees.
Can you imagine? Yes, please send some of that heat our way please. No, we won‘t complain!
After “the rock”, we drove north through stunning rainy valleys of forest and rock, with rivers and lakes thrown in for scenic value. There were sometimes magically still lakes with amazing reflections or fjords you just had to stop and stare at for a while – so beautiful! And every valley is so different too. The nature here is quite at another level!
We found a side valley with a few options to sleep that night and ended up in some farmer’s gravel parking where he left his tools. No one seemed to mind, so we slept there the night and headed out to do a hanging glacier walk the next morning when the sun was due to shine! (according to the app – its usually right)
The hike to Buerbreen glacier above Odda seemed again to be insanely popular (is everyone traveling to Norway now or what?). It was pretty tricky, as usual in Norway, and we were once again so stunned at people being very careless, some hiking in Crocs?@! No wonder people topple off mountains … and don’t live to tell the tale.
A Minor Road Block
After staying the night in the massive grass car park at the hike, we headed further north for more Fjord loveliness. The only problem was there was no way through. 30 minutes into the drive, just as we were coming out of a tunnel were some huge rocks and trees. Seems we just missed getting crushed by this landslide by a few minutes!!!
So, instead of going directly North to Ulvik, our next destination, we took a 100km detour on a scenic road through some cute villages with lots of cherries and apple trees. It was worth the detour, as it was nice and quiet, and after a short ferry ride at the end, we arrived in the fjord-side town of Ulvik. Not a popular destination, but we really enjoyed it.
We spent a few days here in and out of the sun hiking around lakes and visiting cider farms. We got to stand up paddle in our own private fjord at Ose (just don‘t fall in, just don‘t fall in, as the water is absolutely freeeezing!), enjoying the peace and tranquility that seems to be so rare in Norway in July!