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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Norway - The First Impressions

 It wasn't so long before I stumbled across another hiking destination
hut-hut hiking in Sweden's Kungsleden trail. This Arctic trail takes you through 443 km (275 miles) of absolute wilderness in the Swedish Lapland covering amazing forests, hidden glaciers, everything a nature lover could dream of. However, I wasn't quite sure about such a long hike; it would probably take us a month to complete. But the idea of a Scandinavian adventure kept beckoning like a honey pot calling out to a wandering bee! As I started contemplating the possibilities, a friend who lived in Finland mentioned NorwayI was still gauging my tolerance to multi-day hikes, and looking up Norway showed some amazing trails with breathtaking beauty and a good level of solitude I was looking for. Norway's rugged and dramatic terrain soon became a challenge we had to undertake and must overcome!

Before we knew, we were in Oslo, all geared up for a 15+ hours long road trip to the Arctic circle, and then a 3 hour ferry ride to one of the most beautiful archipelago in the world - the Lofoten Islands. The whole trip was planned around a few handpicked hiking trails we thought to accommodate within the two week vacation.

Ferry from Bodø to Moskenes

Difficulty in finding reasonably priced accommodations that was worth the cost in this expensive country, and freedom to camp anywhere without fearing any predators as long as you kept sufficient distance from private properties, both further encouraged the idea of combining hotel accommodations with camping during our trip.

Highlights of the trip:

1) Hermannsdalstinden trail (Sørvågen to Munkebu Hut to Litlforsvatnet)

 So much to explore in Lofoten Islands, so little time in hand! One of the main challenges with hiking in Norway is its unpredictable weather, constant rain and fog.

Though we had a few trails mapped out for this part of the country, we had to stick with a single hike - the trail to Hermannsdalstinden summit. It was an interesting hike on a rainy day, climbing slippery rocks and muddy paths.

Looking back towards the trail head by the sea

Hermannsdalstinden trail is one of the most beautiful and challenging hikes in Lofoten Islands. Most hikers take it easy by spending the night at Munkebu hut, a mountain cabin run by the trekking association, which requires a key that DNT members can pick up from Sørvågen Commerce. Even if you do not have access to the hut, its still a good midway point to setup your camp and prepare for the roughest path yet to come.

Hike to Munkebu hut
One of the several lakes on the way

Munkebu hut, and Hermannsdalstind hidden in the fog

We spent the night near Munkebu hut, and set out to hike to the summit next day. By the time we got past Point 536 (as they refer to in the maps), the wind had picked up, making us feel more vulnerable on the steep exposed ridges. We also didn't carry sufficient food or water and were persuaded to call it a day and return to our camp. Nevertheless, a beautiful day well spent.

Our campsite
Much to go before we rest! Hermannsdalstind still in the clouds


The trail has quite a few exciting parts such as these.. :)

Picture captured from the highest point we hiked to.
Little did we know the most treacherous was yet to come! :P

This trail remained an unfinished task until we returned in 2014 and completed it. 

Vikings Museum in Lofoten

Goodbye.. Until we see again.
Ferry back to Bodø; The wall of Lofoten behind me

2) 66º33" N

We stopped at the Arctic Circle monument on our way back to Oslo. It was a good stop to get out and stretch, all the while browsing through the museum, restaurant, shop, and a small field with numerous cairns stacked up by visitors.

Entering Arctic Circle

Cairns stacked by visitors to the Arctic circle monument

Arctic circle monument

Another "stretch" point on the way

3) City of Trondheim

This city was one of the several stops we made during our drive back to Oslo. The main attraction being the 18th century 
Romanesque catholic church, Nidaros Cathedral with its intricate artwork and stained glasses.
Nidaros Cathedral

From the church tower

4) Musk Oxen of Dovrefjell National Park

We picked this trail in Dovrefjell to spot musk ox, an Arctic mammal found primarily in Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Siberia, Sweden, Alaska and Norway. They are known for their thick coat and the strong musk like odor they emit. Overhunting declined their population at one point, which is now recovering with protection inside national parks and regulated hunting outside.

Musk Oxen

Dovrefjell national park

Stave church, a medieval wooden christian church
We came across it on our way to Geiranger Fjord

5) Geiranger Fjord

We spent two days exploring this magnificent fjord, kayaking, boating and hiking. 
Drive to the fjord itself was so amazing, and loaded with nature's beauty!

First day we kayaked to Seven Sister Falls. hiked up to a farm, drank from the ice cold falls and got bitten by ticks (something to watch out for if you are hiking to this isolated farm reachable only via kayak).

Later we explored a few hiking trails along the fjord passing herds of goats, llama, all intrigued by our presence. The trail also gave good views of the fjord as well as the mountains on the other side. We ended the day with another short hike to a beautiful waterfalls called Storseterfossen. Interesting thing about this falls is that you can get behind it.

The next day we rented a boat and got out in the fjord again, riding up to Sever Sister falls and Suitor falls across it. Then explored another hiking trail along the fjord, picking wild raspberries along the way.

Seven Sisters waterfalls at the fjord

One of the trails along the fjord

A lookout point not so far away

Other side of the fjord looked interesting
There are trails that leads up there. But we couldn't fit it in within our schedule

Hike to Storseterfossen Falls

Storseterfossen Falls

Another view of Geiranger fjord

Suitor Falls

Cruise ship and the Seven Sister Falls
Farm where we hiked to is on the ledge to the right of the falls

Geiranger fjord and Seven Sister Falls from another trail

Bunk bed after a long time
Cabin at Jotunheimen national park

6) Bessgen Ridge trail - Jotunheimenn National Park

After Hermannsdalstinden, this was the next major hike we had planned for our trip. We took a ferry from Gendesheim to Memurubu, and then hiked back to Gendesheim. The trail is about 8 miles with 2500 ft altitude gain, most of which is gained at the beginning of the trail and then another steep climb midway. Rock scrambling to get to the highest point of the ridge at about 5718 ft was pretty interesting. Due to its popularity, this trail is always busy. However, since we were visiting in August, we got to enjoy it without too much crowd.

Ferry to Memurubu

Gjende lake

Bessegen ridge

Gjende lake with peaks of Jotunheimen in the distance

Scrambling to get to the top of the ridge

Turquoise Gjende lake and emerald Bessvatnet lake

Reindeers (domesticated caribou)

Somewhere by the road in Jotunheimen national park

7) Oslo

Our road trip from Lofoten finally came to an end.. for the time being. We got an afternoon to walk by the palace, Nobel peace center and have some delicious "fisk" dinner!

Nobel Peace Center in Oslo


Delicious fisk dinner!

In the two weeks we were there, I had already fallen in love with this country. Saying goodbye was hard :( We boarded the flight back to Texas with memories for a life time and plans to return and make more!

Some useful links: