Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Norway, HardangerJokulen: Day 7

Saturday – our last day out in the wilds of Norway….

By 5.30am I had given up on getting back to sleep. I had woken  feeling cold at 2am and wishing it was morning already. Paul was snoring away and didn’t seem like he was remotely cold – I was jealous. I’d made the mistake of just sleeping in my thin Embers base layer and a 100 weight micro fleece and, given the amount of ice crystals on the fly sheet, this just wasn’t enough. Paul had slept in his down jacket but I’d not wanted to do this until I absolutely had to. The problem is I find myself unwilling to move out of the foetal position and desperately trying to maintain heat inside my sleeping bag! Reaching out for my jacket didn’t feature in this plan and this meant I hadn’t made the sensible move to put it on – twerp. I could stand it no longer - the jacket went on and I scoffed a boost bar!

By now it was only just getting lighter, although it had not been totally dark during the night owing to the bright moonlight. I reached over, put some music on and began thinking about all of the missed photo opportunities I'd suffered whilst wondering just how doomed my camera really was. I tried to block this last bit out by concentrating instead on eating and drinking hot things! By 6.30 I caved and started to make a brew.

Opening the fly revealed a rather crispy, fresh topping to the undergrowth – like a nice salad. The subtle blast of the JetBoil igniting woke Paul with a bit of start *grins*. I barely had time to fetch Paul’s coveted Hurtigruten mug before boiling water was being spat and sprayed all over the porch. That bloody JetBoil always makes for a rude awakening.

sunrise_middalen2 

As soon as the water was in my mug and the teabag stewing I made the move to don my trousers, wet socks and ice-cold shoes and went and stood outside to take in the last sights of the trip. I wasn’t disappointed by what I found and I just stood listening to the rushing water and watching the light slowly reaching over Middalen across the river. It looked like another clear day and would be a nice one to finish on, especially if it warmed up a bit! The tent was literally covered in a thin layer of sparkling bling and I felt better that I it was indeed a cold night – as opposed to me just being a big wet fish.

My iPhone was my only camera now and I had to take whatever I could get out of it. Never mind.

sunrise_middalen

We had a few hours to kill before our train was due in Finse so there was no rush to move on but Paul was packing away with gay abandon, which I noticed by the sheer noise of him scuffling about. I didn’t want to rushed by this so went off to try and get some more photos whilst absorbing every last sense of the place whilst I still could.

pitch_finse_fetene 

It became apparent that the clear sky wasn’t going to remain for much longer. To the west the clouds seemed to appear from nowhere and were heading at us with some speed. It made for a nice photo but that was about all the good I could find in it.

Middalen_Blaisen

The wind was definitely picking up and beginning to gust a little so naturally packing away  now seemed like a grand idea! Seconds later I joined Paul in the tent who, by now, was all packed up and exiting! He was as surprised as me to see the clouds rolling in and was as keen as I to make it to Finse in dry clothes! It would also be nice to remember our last morning on the trail as it was now as opposed to the thick clag that we had started out in 7 days earlier.

Once again it was no time all before the tent was down and bags were shouldered. Whilst I took a few more photos Paul wandered off in the direction of the high wooden bridge over the river. By the time I was ready to leave I couldn’t even see his dark shape on the landscape.

rain_clouds_finse_fetene

As I walked on with increasing pace it really did feel a bit gut-wrenching to be leaving this all behind. There’s something about self-reliance that instills a feeling of strength and pride as though you’re basking in your own independence.

I paused to look back at our abandoned pitch spot to see the cloud had made good progress in taking over the entire blue space above me in just a matter of minutes. I couldn’t tell if it meant rain or snow but it felt cold enough to be the latter – which I secretly didn’t mind hanging around for. That would be an epic way to end the trip.

I followed the tussocky and rocky river bank to the bridge where Paul was waiting patiently. We took a few more photos before agreeing that this was now well and truly over and this last few miles would most likely end in us getting wet. Nevertheless this wasn’t a problem as by now we were seasoned pro’s at being wet and uncomfortable but it would be nice to arrive in Finse and not have to get changed. This was particularly the case for me as I had taken the gamble at putting on clean trousers and base layers for the benefit of our fellow train travelers later that day. If they ended up wet I’d be slightly unhappy!

finse_from_fetene

We walked on along the track at a pace that was fast but comfortable. From here Finse was clearly visible on the opposite bank of Finsevatnet. Seeing it getting gradually closer was somehow crap but good all at the same time.

The southern bank seemed popular with other campers who had come in a group with bomb-proof tents and gear. We wondered what they might make of our lightweight approach, given that a hunter passed us by showing a face that was showing us nothing short of contempt!

The group of campers were clearly feeling the cold and they milled about camp, walking on the spot on tip-toes. There were quite a few of them and we could only assume that the they were ‘conserving heat’ with so many bodies inside so few tents…

finsebergvatnet

By now we were approaching the dam wall on the south east side of the vatnet with the wooden face of the hotel staring right back at us. There were more groups on the dam wall heading our way and it looked as though they were in the for the same start as Paul and I had experiences almost a week ago. Poor little sods!

This was not how I envisaged the end of this epic trip would be. I don’t know what I expected but this felt numb and almost senseless. We nodded as we passed the young looking group who all wore smirks as we did so. I was confused by this. It could have been the stench or our gear but either way we were entertaining for some reason. I made a vow to check my face when I got to a mirror but was 99% sure it was a response to Paul – which is quite normal.

Once across the dam wall the track turns to a wider gravel path for pedestrians and cyclists, of which we saw plenty starting out on the route from Finse on the Navvies Road (Rallarvegen) to Flam. The Norwegian flag was flying high at the colossal DNT hut on the peninsula of the lake and our decision to stay out last night seemed like a good one as scores of people poured out of it’s doors.

finse_from_vatnet

By now it was around 9.30am and we slowed our pace as we walked along the small breezeblock apartments that lined the track. Life would be hard out here in winter but its something I’d love to experience just once at very least.

Thoughts soon turned to our large suitcase that we’d pretty much abandoned in the drying room of the hotel. We hoped it would be there, primarily as the thought of a night out in Bergen with walking shoes, trousers and a merino base-layer seemed a little off to us! The track began to climb up to the long train platform and the signpost we’d taken photographs of at the beginning of the trip came into view. The place was fairly empty with only a few people inside the station and a small group of cyclists about to set out. They were embarking on their journey as we were just finishing ours. It hadn’t rained and we were dry so the Gods would not win today. There was nothing to say to each other that hadn't already been said so we extended arms, firmly shook hands and turned and headed for the bar!

finse_hotel_pint 

The hotel was busy with people eating breakfast or preparing to leave for their own adventures. It was a little early for a beer so we waiting 5 minutes before flipping a coin to see who would go get them in. I lost (as usual) so went off to do the honours whilst Paul found window seats looking out across the lake and the glacier.

It was the sweetest beer we’d tasted and despite Paul’s dismay at the absence of cider, he seemed to find it agreeable too. The suitcase was exactly where we left it so there nothing left to do other than stow our packs, change our shoes and socks and board the train.

As the big red carriages drew to a stop on the platform we took one last pause to look around and wave to the webcam before the whistle was being blown and the doors closing behind us.

It had all started here when we stepped onto this platform 7 days ago and now it was over. We’d had such a great many laughs, mini-adventures and soakings! More importantly we had some stories to tell and we’d start by finding some poor Norwegian buggers once we arrived in Bergen!

train_to_bergen

8 comments:

Joe Newton said...

Good work lads! It's one hell of a nice part of the world. We're off there again in July. Takk for tur!

Marcus Gough said...

Cheers Joe. Its been a real effort to get those out given the amount of time that has passed so thanks for sticking with it!

Wish I was going back in July....

Helen Fisher said...

I've really enjoyed reading your adventures in Norway with Paul. Where are you off to this year, and did you manage to convince Charl?
Great reading and photies :)

Marcus Gough said...

Hi Helen,

I'm glad to hear it and sorry again it took so flippin long!

We both agreed that with pending operations, children and other commitments this year we'd remain in the UK. However I'm currently exploring ideas for another trip and was considering Greenland - time to start saving then!

Alan Sloman said...

I have really, really enjoyed and looked forward to every gripping episode of this trip, Marcus.
Some really gorgeous pictures on this last report as well.
Thank you, and well done to you & Paul.
Top quality trip and first class blogging!

Marcus Gough said...

Thanks Alan. I'm glad you liked it.

It has taught me a valuable lesson: Its a lot easier to write trip reports when the memories are fresh in your mind! Referring to notes is soul destroying!

We need to get back on the adventure train at point but God only knows when. Must get my thinking cap on.

Nielsen Brown said...

A wonderful read and you have convinced me that I need to visit the area, the Norwegian mountains are one of the most enjoyable hiking areas I have visited.

Samuel Cook said...

lovely pictures..
its a great place with awesome environment...i love this place..:)

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