After what was apparently the wettest June in 50 years for this region of Norway a friend and myself headed out to Norway in July 2017 for 5 days Kayaking on the Nærøyfjord, in the municipality of Aurland.
We flew from Stansted to Oslo with questionably overweight bags and picked up our hire car to travel across to the Fjord. This was probably the most expensive part of the trip, the hire car, Norway doesn’t half have a strong currency.
We arrived on a Sunday and so everywhere was shut, and the quiet roads were even quieter. It’s a good 5 hour drive (plus stops) so having us both insured on the hire car was quite convenient. There wasn’t much in the way of population on our route but to give a vague idea we went via Hønefoss and Gol. There are options to catch the train and/or bus to get to our destination in Gudvangen but they weren’t much cheaper and we fancied the idea of driving so that we could go see and stop where we wanted to stop, plus we could use our journey back to go and conquer Trolltunga.
The drive across from Oslo to Gudvangen was gorgeous, the weather was beautiful for most of the journey and the views were epic (granted nothing compared to what was coming, but still epic). My friend and I are both well used to wild camping in the far reaches of Scotland but this scenery was something else. Along the route we had rolling forests, shimmering lakes, waterfalls falling from impossible heights, and valleys with rivers to take a quick dip in to cool off. Through pure chance we came across a nice spot alongside a river with picknic tables and a spot to hang a hammock to catch up on sleep (after only getting around 3 hours sleep the night before).
Towards the highest point of our drive across the weather did close in a little, I believe it’s called Hemsedalsfjell fylkesgrense (good luck saying that), and in the valley dropping out of this peak we found a fresh river to top up our water bottles. We had no idea where we were going to stay for the night before picking up our kayaks on Monday, but we had a tent and questionable mantra of what we’d call flat land. In the end we got all the way to Gudvangen, drove up a tiny road on the western edge of the Nærøyfjord, and came across a pleasant spot overlooking the fjord for our nights kip.
Kayaking the Nærøyfjord
The next day it was overcast but most importantly, not raining. We had little idea of how this was going to work but we had two kayaks booked at Nordic Ventures AS, and from excessive Google Maps searching and the purchase of Norways equivalent of an OS map we were fairly sure there were a few spots along the fjord that we could camp. Nordic Ventures mostly do guided tours it seems but seemed well prepped to kit us up for our solo adventure. I really can’t fault them, for the price of Norway they were surprisingly cheap for 5 days of kayak hire, and given our background of camping, caving and other niche hobbies we had all the kit you could imagine for a trip like this.
We had mostly planned on dried (add boiling water) food for the week, but we used the shop at Gudvangen to top up with some treats, salami, cheese, bread, milk, paprika crisps, all the essentials. With that we set off into the Fjord in our longjohn wetsuits and several layers of coat. Looking back at the pictures I’m still surprised how many layers we had on to start as within hours (and for the rest of the week) it was sweltering hot.
I’d not been kayaking for years, 12 in fact, but it’s not hard to master really, and the kayaks seemed very able to take the load of me and all our things without being unstable. We weren’t in a rush to get anywhere and were just going to enjoy the freedom, paddling along and stopping at waterfalls to have a look, and just generally taking our time. Our final destination for day 1 was Odnesfossen, a absolutely fabulous spot for a camp and realistically no more than 2 hours from our starting point if we paddled without stopping. Odnesfossen is used by Nordic Ventures for their guided day trips and as we were arriving one of these day trip groups was just departing. We were still knackered from all the travelling so an early finish to our first day on the water was what we fancied. As it’s used so often there’s a rock surrounded fire pit and log benches at Odnesfossen, and with the group having just departed the fire still had enough heat in it for us to restart it with little to no effort. In early July at least there was ample drift wood on the shore to stock the fire and with the fire going strong we setup camp.
Odnesfossen is a patch of grassy flat land jutting out into the fjord, it was almost certainly created by the waterfall just behind it that drops the 1000m from the mountain peaks. The walk from camp to the waterfall took all of 2 minutes and meant we had fresh water on tap, although given it was snow melt it was brain freezing tap water. We’d brought fishing rods with us and so with the kayaks unpacked and tents up we headed back out to catch dinner. This did not go well and we are now certain that Norway has no fish, that’s the only explanation. After our fish fail we went for a swim in the fjord, which was baltic, it was warmer than the waterfall water but I’d be surprised if it was much above 10c. You could swim in it for a while but you wouldn’t want to get too far from shore without a wetsuit. Suitably frozen we returned to camp to dry off by the fire and cook our freeze dried chicken tikka curry.
The morning that greeted us was another glorious one, with fresh milk for our Yorkshire tea and wheetabix to tide us over for another days paddle. We’d caught up with our sleep by now so were capable of paddling more that a few km. We wanted to get into the Aurlandsfjorden which meant getting out into more open water, which sadly meant we’d likely find headwinds and waves. But there was plenty to see first, so we tidied up camp and headed out into the fjord. The views were once more epic and the sun was enticing enough to climb out of the kayaks mid-fjord to sample the water, and yes, it was still cold. We first stopped at a rocky floodplain off another waterfall opposite Dyrdal for a spot of elevenses, and to stretch our legs, it wasn’t a heavy start to the day!
From there it was a bit of a battle against some wind to get around the corner opposite Drydal, which called for another stop at a hidden little waterfall in a cove. This is the kind of stop that brought us here, places you can’t walk to, places you couldn’t get a tour boat to, this little cove with a lovely waterfall with views in all directions to just wow you. From here on the locations to stop at if you need a camping spot are limited. The waterfalls drop straight into the fjord rather than having spurs, much like the Sagelvi waterfall that drops several hundred metres through many mini falls all the way into the fjord. Beyond the Sagelvi waterfall is the Aurlandsfjorden, where you share the fjord with some fairly large cruise ships. We quite fancied camping somewhere around this meeting of fjords but our choices were limited, but we had seen one potential on our route. Just to the east of the Sagelvi waterfall there’s a rocky outcrop that may have a flat spot for us, taking the gamble we turned back and paddled across the waves to this spot. As luck would have it there was a flat patch big enough for us to camp on, and enough twigs and branches to get some sort of fire going. From here we could also traverse the coast to get a closer look at the Sagelvi falls.
We tried some more fishing to no avail which meant from freeze dried chilli for dinner. The traverse across to the waterfall was only 600m or so, but it was not a easy traverse. Some may even call it sketchy, but it was all part of the adventure. Using trees to climb over the most sloping parts we managed to forge a route to the waterfall, where we could once again fill up our water bottles. In fairness the route back to camp was easier so maybe we just chose a bad route on the way to the waterfall. That’s another benefit of early July at the Nærøyfjord, it doesn’t really get dark, so you can wander and explore with much of a need for a touch till very late into the night.
We’d mostly stuck to the east side of the fjord for the kayak up so for the return journey we thought we’d have a closer look at the west side of the Fjord. This meant kayaking to the base of the Sagelvi waterfall and taking care of an ongoing problem, by the third day of kayaking we weren’t our freshest so it was time for a bath, a 3 degrees Celsius bath. It was disorientating to put our heads under the water but we were so much fresher for it. The passing tourists on the big boats seemed to enjoy the sight anyway.
The North western side of the Nærøyfjord seemed to be broken up by lots of smaller waterfalls, with one near Dyrdal having a large ledge and plack to the UNESCO awarding of the Fjord. Our camp for night 3 was the well used camp spot of Dyrdal bada space. This camp looks down along the fjord and made for some epic photos as the sun got low. You can walk along the shore to Dyrdal from here where they have public facilities, or if you fancy a small adventure you can walk the opposite direction up about a 200m incline to a viewing spot above the fjord where they were building a hut of some sorts. The red of the setting sun against the valley side from up here was very rewarding of the minor climb.
Day 4 was probably our laziest day, continuing to make our way slowly back we intended to camp at Odnesfossen again. Again we kayaked back on the opposite shore checking out yet more waterfalls, getting to Odnesfossen in a mater of hours. We wanted more of an explore at Odnesfossen this time so we set up camp, with the spot to ourselves again and headed off for a wander. You can climb up the waterfall a fair distance, with the postal path passing by this point allowing access in both directions along the fjord. The trees around here are perfect for pitching a hammock and so an afternoon snooze was called for. Another waterfall bath brought up back to life and we went to have another go at fishing, which of course failed, although we did see a porpoise this time.
We surprisingly woke up to light rain but it was still so warm it didn’t really matter, in fact it was actually quite pleasant to here the water pitter pattering again the fjord as we paddled. It was a 2 hour kayak back to base where we returned the kayaks and stocked up again in the shop. It was never a intention before the trip but whilst there we decided to call at Trolltunga on the way home, it wasn’t going to be that far out of the way and we did have a day spare.
Trolltunga and whiteout
With the car repacked we headed on our route to Trolltunga, which took us via Vossevangen and Kinsarvik. This route took us via more epic waterfalls and some insane tunnels that just emerged out of a cliff and onto a suspension bridge (Hardanger Bridge). We stopped at the shop at Tyssedalstveiti at the foot of Trolltunga for supplies and headed up to the car park. Because of our lack of research we didn’t realise how much this would be, it was around £30 to park there which we weren’t keen on, but there was heavy no parking enforcement everywhere else, everywhere apart from a small free car park just up the road at Ringedalsdammen which was convenient!
We’d planned on camping here the night and then climbing the mountain tomorrow, however it seemed insanely busy and so we hatched a questionable plan. Our dinner involved splitting 10 fillets of cod and 500g of rice between two, and then looking at our gear. Whilst we had walking equipment with us we never intended on straying far from camp so we didn’t really have any suitable rucksacks for our trip. We managed to fashion something out of drybags and cords but it wasn’t going to be comfortable.
We were going to bivy about half way to the peak so that we could get to Trolltunga for a picture before the masses, and with that we set off. The wall to Trolltunga starts with a never ending staircase up the mountain where you gain 400m almost entirely in staircase. There was still stragglers coming down the mountain as we headed up at 8pm and they looked pretty worse for wear. The good news was that this first heavy climb was actually the majority of the climb with only a few hundred metres accent needed over the following 12 odd kilometres.
It was at this point that the weather closed in, it had been cloudy up to now but now this cloud dropped whilst we began the second main climb at Trombeskar. It started to rain, it was after 10pm, the light was bad, the cloud was thick, the path had vanished, we were lost. We were very lost stood on the side of a mountain this the ground a mix of marsh, stream, ice and snow. Fortunately we can both read maps and we at least had sensible clothing on so we zigzagged until we could identify enough features to work out where we were on the map and get back on course. As it turns out we were still on the “path”, but this path isn’t really a path at this point so with zero visibility it’s easy to feel lost.
At the top of the Trombeskar climb the cloud typically thinned and we were able to plod along. We were now pretty wet and the temperature was pretty low but our steady pace was keeping us warm. The grim weather was not making bivying appealing so we just carried on walking hoping to come across somewhere to set up cover. As it turned out we found such a place, although again it was questionable. About half way in we found a rescue shelter, which we poked our heads into and found empty. It was essentially a shed, a bunk house shed but it was dry. We weren’t causing any trouble so we decided to bed down here, it was 1am and we were tired.
We grabbed 4 hours sleep then headed off again, the rain now relenting. It was actually a very easy walk from here on, I doubt we climbed more than 150m and the snow on the ground was hard under foot and easy to avoid if needed. We got to Trolltunga at around 7am and were happy to find zero queues, however there was 100% cloud so no view. We settled down and had some breakfast to wait, for which we were soon rewarded, with short bursts of clear skies giving us the picture we wanted.
The walk down was to be easy, it’s around 14km each way with the steep declines in two short bursts, so that the whole trip down took around 5 hours with stops. On the way down we were shown that our overnight climb whilst unpleasant at times was worth it, for around half way back we met the crowds. Literally 1000’s of people were now climbing up to Trolltunga, I dread to think of the queue at the summit for a picture on the tongue. The further down we got the nicer the weather became, and our wet clothes were dry by the time we reached the car. An all round good adventure, with a bit of struggle to make it all the more adventurous…
Our flight wasn’t until the following afternoon, and most of the day was still left. We needed to return the hire car by 11am though so we had to camp fairly near to Oslo airport which meant another drive across some fabulous scenery.
Our drive to camp took in the unique Vøringfossen waterfalls and the slightly odd Gardnos Meteorite Crater. We decided to camp at the spot we happened across on day one, I have no idea how to explain it but it’s on the south bank of the river near Austvoll, near Stavn ( 60°25’44.0″N 9°23’13.7″E ). With picnic benches, a lovely river, and flat land this was a simple and easy stop after a long nights walk.
Sadly this was the end of our adventure, the next day we returned the car, caught the airport train to Oslo and wandered around the city like regular tourists.
It was an awesome trip to a beautiful country, something I would definitely recommend. The flights with luggage were around £150 each, the hire car for the week was £175 each, the kayaks were £130 each for 5 days, and every time we stopped at a supermarket we were charged £9000 for the ingredients to make a sandwich. Not a cheap trip but not expensive either, it’s a bit do-it-yourself with little in the way of guides, but that’s exactly why we went.
Thank you Norway
Little video clip.