Day 10: Wandering Through Hardangerfjord

Day 10 saw us fly into Bergen, rent a car, and start to make our way toward Hardangerfjord. As is common in Norway - and especially, I think, in that area - the "major" highways around there are quite narrow, and contain quite a few tunnels dug through the fjord area's steep hills. It ain't 280, although it is at least as beautiful

We didn't really know where we wanted to go, though we hoped to get out of the car, do a decent day hike, and set up our tent somewhere. After several failed attempts at finding a useful information station, we got to a tourist office in Oystese just as a man was locking the door. We told him of our plan, and Elaine asked if he had any good maps. He told us he would give us a route, although not before his cellphone rang, and he began to ignore us.

A minute or two later, an older man rode up to the station on his bike. We figured he wanted information too, so we continued to wait idly. After a couple of minutes, however, the man on the cellphone told us that the older man could assist us. Why the older man himself hadn't told us, we weren't sure.

This man turned out to be quite a character. When Elaine again asked if there were any maps, he told us everything was in his head. The best bet, he told us, was to drive to Sjusete, and then hike from there up the hill. You just go straight up, he told us, and you can't get lost. If you go to another spot, it's easy to get lost, but Sjusete is simple. When you get to the top, he said, you can walk around: there are lakes, it's beautiful, and you can walk forever without getting lost. He knew that entire area perfectly, and he mentioned that fact several times. We nodded politely, and he humored Elaine by drawing her a map on a napkin. Here's the scanned napkin (click on the picture to see it in its full glory):

Before we left, he asked where we were from. U.S., we said. He mentioned he'd recently spent a number of years in Canada. But that obviously wasn't the answer he'd been looking for; he wanted to know where Elaine's family came from. He then proceeded to lecture us for several minutes about Chinese history, which he'd studied in college. I guess there aren't too many Chinese people in Oystese, and he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.

Having a slightly solidified idea of where to go, we headed off toward Sjusete. This we had no trouble finding, though our initial attempt at finding a trailhead was completely off the mark. In our second attempt, we went through a fence closed to keep the sheep locked in. We walked along a dirt road for a little while, occasionally crossing through more fences. And except for a brief detour caused by our foolishly following a French couple, we continued on along the dirt roads, which eventually turned into a smaller, more typical, and steeper hiking path.

The path was quite nice: a clear view of the waters and mountains of the fjord, lots of blueberry bushes, and the company of sheep all around us. Once we found the trail, it was obvious what the old man had been talking about: getting back to our car would be a breeze. We'd finally gotten a nice day, and Elaine and I gradually made our way up to the 1050 meter peak of Torefjell.

The top was even nicer. In addition to the other mountains, the waterfalls, and the fjord, we could now see the area around the peak he'd been talking about: lightly rolling hills, with grassland, small boulders, and lakes. There was no one else around, and we felt like we'd found our own little paradise.

We decided to make our way toward one of the further lakes, where we'd set up tent. It didn't look to far, though it wound up taking a couple of hours to get there. It was all okay, though: it was sunny, comfortable, and making our way from boulder to boulder was a lot of fun.

When we got near the lake, we set up tent, filled up on water, and ate some food. After relaxing for an hour or so, we went to sleep, hopelessly unaware of the different world that would await us in just a few hours.

Believe it or not, Hardangerfjord is famous for its produce. We arrived too late for cherry season, but raspberries, apples, and plums were all ripe in mid-August. This shot was taken at an orchard which had signs advertising plums. We stopped there, assuming we could buy them, but there was no one there, nor were there any buckets of plums to purchase.

Starting to make our way up Torefjell.

Baa. There were both white and black sheep to be found on the mountain.

A good view of the fjord beneath us, and the towns that have developed. While we were there, I predicted that this area would become a bigger tourist destination; I could easily see it developing into something that would attract a lot of Europeans.

At the top. These are the lakes that one can see from the peak of Torefjell.

The terrain is barren enough that you don't need to follow trails (and the trails are at times very hard to follow anyway). But it's often a lot easier to do so, because it means a less steep route. At this point, Elaine was not on the trail.

There were lots of little puddles, with grasses and wildflowers growing out of them.

Guess which of us would make a better cheerleader.

Day 11: Hardangerfjord As A Non-Paradise

We woke up - several times - to the sound of rain pelting down on the tent and to the feeling of water dropping onto our faces. Around 5:30, we got sick of it, and decided to pack up the tent and hike back. The rain was coming down pretty hard, although it was at least a little warmer than the weather we'd experienced in Jotunheimen.

Our Oystese friend's claim that "we couldn't get lost in this area" proved a little optimistic when we started hiking that morning. We attempted to follow the trail, but the resident sheep had done their best to make it difficult, by creating frequent forks in various directions. And along with rain, the area was covered in fog, meaning we could not see anything resembling the peak we'd reached the previous day. Hence we scrambled across rocks, crossed streams, and consulted our compass, not nearly as relaxed as we had been the previous afternoon.

We did, however, eventually find the top. And from there, it wasn't too difficult: the fog abated as we descended. We spent at least an hour following three sheep who were slightly afraid of us, but not scared enough to actually leave the hiking path.

After returning to the car, I drove on to another fjord town, while Elaine of course slept. After spending an hour or two walking through orchards, we headed back to Bergen, where we finished the day with a lousy Chinese meal.

As we reached the top, the fog cleared very quickly. I wanted to get a video of it, but as I saw it lifting, I literally did not have enough time to get out my camera.

This happy shot obscures the stress and irritation that the rain and helped to provide.

Elaine trudging on, her backpack wisely protected against the rain which would come back.

The orchards of Hardangerfjord.

Looking through two rows of apple trees.

Day 12: Bergen

Our day in Bergen was nice, relaxed, and lacking in interesting stories. We walked over to the fish market and got some tasty fish, which we made for lunch and dinner. We walked around the city, and I ran around the city, making a bigger loop than I'd expected. Bergen is charming, hilly, and rainy, which makes it no surprise that it's "sister city" of Seattle. It's also more or less closed in by the mountains that surround it. I believe to get out of the city, you have to drive through a tunnel, unless you want to go over the mountains on foot.

The fish market was pretty cool, although it's not huge.

Pastel-colored houses are popular in Bergen.