Nærøyfjorden: Grand, mysterious and beautiful
Nærøyfjord. As Norwegian as it gets. A fjord so beautiful that one might belive it's staged. Stalling mountainsides sit like thrones on either side of the fjord, so steep in some places that not even the trees can grow roots. More than 400 000 visit this fjord every year, and this year, I'm one of them.
I can see the weekend blinking at me like the Northern star. What to do? Where to go? The weather forecast shows rain for the entire west coast of Norway, so we can just pick an choose. We're choosing the best, we're paddling through Nærøyfjorden and we're going camping.
We pack up our gear, strap the kayakt to the roof of the car and off we go. Without a plan. "We'll take it as it comes" - state my paddle friend. In the midst of thing I almost forget to pack a map. The further away from Bergen we get, the better the weather. By the time we make it to Gudvangen and the fjord, we've almost forgotten that is was even an issue.
The sun seems to shine through the clouds, the fjord is like a mirror. Nearly no wind. Small puffy clouds stretch along the mountainsides. We carry our kayak to the water and fetch our gear from the car. I start to wonder. - How much food should we bring? - Are we going out for the whole weekend? I was the one asking the questions, my paddle friend simply looked a little confused and dumbfounded at me. In his mind he's already out on the water. I take the lead. - I'll bring all the food and gear we need for the whole weekend. Better safe than sorry.
Finally on the water. The feeling you get when you sit in the kayak and get ready for a trip is indescribable. Relax, take a deep breath, put everyday life behind you and in front of you lies nothing but adventure. What are we going to experience on this trip?
It's already late Friday afternoon, but the evening is bright and nice. No sign of rain. No, I know, we weren't supposed to think about that. We pass the "Norway in the nutshell"-ferries that travel back and forth like shuttles. Inflatable boats fly past, they can't possibly see anything going so fast. They're noicy as well.
Suddenly we're surrounded by other paddlers. All in double kayaks and all of them tourist. They greet us in English, and we hear words like "beautiful ", "amazing" and "wonderful" as we pass each other.
We paddle on, we want to get away from the noise. We want to be one with nature, find the peace. We're not in any hurry, paddling slowly. It's importent to take in the life along the fjord, to paddle slowly past the old villages. The farmhouses in Bakka and Tufto date back to the 1600's. The people who lived there were skilled laborers and traders. It's easy to picture the workers out in the fields and children running barefoot between the houses.
|Farmhouses in Bakka.|
The ferry still stops in Tufto for those who wish to look around. From here, we could've walked all the way back to Gudvangen, if need be. We glance up at the mountainside over the village, far in the distance you can see a hiking path. Rimstigen it's called. What a beautiful name. It's obvius that from here it's a steep hike and your climbing skills will come in handy. You are rewarded at the top with a breathtaking view.
|Left photo: Ferry dock in Tufto. Right photo: We passed charming houses a long the way.|
The goal for today is Odnes. Here is the perfect place to set up a tent on the flat, green grass. Over in the woods is surprisingly an outhouse. Behind it all we can hear the roar of the waterfall. Down on the beach is a small fire pit. I was looking forward to sitting by the fire tonight, looking out over the fjord, lost in my own thoughts. Bud did we bring any dry wood to start the fire? Nope, that's still in the car. So much for that. But a good meal cooked with a storm kitchen and great company, that we do have. Out on the fjord there's a seal swimming back and forth, close enough for us to see it, but too far to eternalize it on film.
|Campsite in Odnes|
The silence is suddenly broken by the sound of a motorboat passing. It's pulling 18 kayaks on a rope. They're probably heading bak to Gudvangen, getting ready for the next day. This day is over, we crawl in to our tent and drift off to the sound of the waterfall.
The next morning, when I look out the opening of the tent, the fjord lay like a mirror in front of me. There's no wind, but a few clouds that are slowly raising to give way to a clear and beautiful moning. Breakfast just disappeared. I assume we ate it, but we're to busy gazing over the fjord to notice. Eventually we pack up our stuff. - Are we going to paddle further on today? Or are we heading back? I ask my paddle friend. He want's to head back, he wants to experience the same trip from the other direction. Toward Gudvangen. So that's what we do. And get a whole new experience.
|Early morning in the fjord.|
Soon we meet some of the local residents in the fjord. There is a farm, a small green patch in a cove. The old farm houses are worn from years of rain and wind. There are lambs roaming freely in the area. They haven't been taught to be afraid of us, so they come right down to the water. They're curious. maybe they're wondering where we come from? or if we've brought them any snacks? After a while we're not so interesting anymore so they turn and walk away. We pass another nice, small farm. The houses are lined up like dominos along the hillside. For anyone wanting to live in this majestic nature, it's paradise.
|Old farm houses in Nærøyfjorden|
Safely back in Gudvangen, we pack up the car and drive to Flåm. We're no longer in Nærøyfjorden, strictly this is Aurlandsfjorden, which again is a part of Sognefjorden, but neither signs nor natives call it anything else. The weather is getting a bit worse, but we've decided to paddle to Undredal, so that's what we do. On the way we pass more of the fjords locals. Some goats, hunting for food, are perched nearly vertically on the edge of the mountain. That bush in the corner is too tempting to pass up, so they're climbing skills come in handy. But if they fall, they will drown.
|Goats balancing on the cliffs.|
We continue onward and pass a waterfall. This side of the fjord is not as exciting. The sheer steepness of the mountain doesn't leave room for people or wildlife. So we spend the trip talking while we paddle toward today's goal, Undredal.
A large cruise ship passes us just before we reach Undredal, on it's way out of the fjord. I turn my kayak and get a quick picture before we paddle further. Large boats don't usually make large waves, so I don't give it anymore thought. Luckily I turn a minute later and see some huge waves heading our way. While I turn my kayak at record speed I shout out a warning to my friend. The waves are approaching and they look scary. My instinct tells me to paddle through them, so that's what I do. I make it over the first wave, but the second comes on too fast and I cut straight through it. The water rushes over me and for a minute I lose my breath, but I keep paddling on, eyes straight ahead. This is how I keep my balance and avoid rolling out of my kayak. When I catch my breath I hear - "Yoohoo" not far away. My paddle friend is also thrilled he's still safely in his kayak.
|Large boats can make large waves.|
We get to land, wet and still a little shaken, we carry our kayaks 100 meters to the campsite. It's started raining now, and it's pouring. Not the ideal weather to put up a tent and try to get warm. Luckily the residents of Undedal have made a service building with facilities, and we can sit with a roof over our heads as we make dinner. As the evening fades we get to know some of the other camping guests. They're from Canada, Israel, Germany and a few from Norway. Some we talk to a little, some a lot. They tell us a bit about where they're from but mostly they're interested in camping pointer for Norway. We deightedly share our knowledge. It's been pouring all night, but we barely notice, we're having such a great time.
When I peek out of the tent Sunday morning it's almost sunny and the fjord calmly awaits. After breakfast we're going back to Flåm, but this time on the other side of the fjord. The fjord is wide here and it takes time to get across, we paddle in silence. It's not as fun to paddle long distances, but it gives you a chance to get a panoramic view of the beautiful nature. Safely on the other side, the first thing we meet is an old boathouse that's patched together like a quilt, with a view from the 2nd floor. It's incredibly charming, and assumably a paradise for the neighborhood kids, even if it's cold during the winter.
We keep seeing traces of rockslides, boulder that have fallen from the 1800 meter higt mountains that surround the fjord. Some have just missed the boathouses, talk about luck. Or maybe there is a boathouse flattened under the boulder?
The last village we pass is called Aurland. Broadly known for the production of the Aurland shoe. In the glory days of the 1950's - 60's they produced 30-40 000 pairs of shoes here. Further up the mountain we can see the road to Stegastein. Next time we come, we'll drive up there and gaze out over the fjord. We're still interrupted by boats rushing by, but there's space for everyone, so we can continue on our way without second thought.
|The view towards Aurland.|
On this trip we've had both rain and shine. We've been soaking wet but also nice and warn. We've paddled in silence and let our mind wander, or talked at great lengths about whatever crossed our minds. The water has been calm and mirror-like, but also rugged from passing boats. Every second has been a joy and an experience of a lifetime. A memory to keep with us forever.
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