Andalsnes was most definitely my favorite city in Norway we visited. It was distinctly mountainous and the valley was full of beautiful Norwegian homes and the river, hinting at a nearby fjord.
After the hike I wrote about in my last post, Anna and I were beyond exhausted and thoroughly soaked (as was the tent) so we decided to swallow our pride and rent a room at a hostel. At the hostel we spent most of our time doing laundry and losing ourselves in layers of blankets on the hostel’s comfy couches, but at some point we looked up trains back to Bergen (where our flight left to Amsterdam on the 29th). Trains in Andalsnes do not run on the weekend, and the ride was too long to leave day-of. We realized that we had to leave the city we had finally decided we could settle in for more than one night.
We decided to visit Voss instead of go directly to Bergen because we’d heard Voss was a smaller town with mountains easily accessible. We caught the train around 4 pm and it went directly to Oslo, where we had a one hour layover. We decided to grab some food and met a few men from Albania at an Italian food restaurant in the station. We chatted for a while ~ I spoke with one man about his lifestyle of finding work in foreign countries and learning the languages there, then moving on.
We rode the train from Oslo overnight to Voss. The overnight trains aren’t the most comfortable when you have standard seats, but I asked the conductor if it would be alright if I slept in two seats across from ours and Anna slept in ours. She checked her little ticket machine, and nodded. Relief.
I woke up around 3 am. My legs were crushed against the train window, and I tried to shift into a more comfortable position and pushed my complementary eye-mask up. I saw a stark and gorgeous landscape out the windows. The 3 am dusk-ness of the sky lingered over the world beyond the tough plastic of my window. Sparse homes stood strong on black rock, with white snow encroaching upon the homes’ premises. I sat, aghast, mind helplessly rolling over the idea of living upon a mountaintop.
I woke up again (must have fallen asleep at some point) around 5 am, just a few minutes before we were supposed to get off the train. I sluggishly yanked on my trekking bag and stood by the doors, prepared.
When we arrived Anna and I stumbled in the pre-dawn grey into the train station. We bought our tickets to Bergen for 2 days later, hoping fervently we’d love Voss enough to enjoy staying so long compared to our other stops.
We walked into the town. Nothing was open of course, but we saw that a small gas station was well-lit so we wandered through its doors.
There we met Lena. She offered to pay for our second coffee if we’d buy groceries for her to then cook us a traditional Norwegian breakfast when she got off work at 7. We were eager to comply, and got our coffees then walked out into the mist. We found a vast lake behind the gas station and watched as the morning fog lose itself into the sun spilling into the air.
We met Caroline when we returned, a San Francisco-ian (?) who was traveling with family then decided to keep traveling when they returned home. She was unbelievably wonderful, and chatting in that gas station, the only place open in Voss before 8 am, we found a bubble of warmth and peace.
When it became 7 am Lena grabbed her stuff and asked if we were ready. We followed her to a grocery store, bought the necessary items for Norwegian porridge, and went to her shared home a lovely walk away. We talked on her balcony then Lena began to heat the oats. We ate them on her porch with strawberry jam and conversation.
Anna and I left after a couple of hours. We walked to a bookstore to find a new novel (I’d just finished my Agatha Christie book) and got the advice from the young man working at the bookstore on where to walk: “just find your way” up the mountain. “Isn’t there a trail?” I asked… “No you have to find your own way.”
Turns out there most definitely was a trail, and we spent nearly an hour wandering the neighborhood lugging our massive packs before we found the lovely dirt path by the Folk Museum. We began to walk upwards and honestly my mind, for most of the way, was bent on forcing my feet forward and upward while they screamed that this extra weight wasn’t normal and therefore they hadn’t signed up for this!
We made it to the lookout. Exhausted, we dropped our packs and pulled out our towels and books ~ we found spots among the grass on the hillside overlooking the town and lake, and quickly fell asleep in the sunlight soaking the mountain.
We woke up sometime in the evening and decided to set up camp right there. We hadn’t slept adequately the night before on the train, so a lazy, sunlit afternoon and evening were quite welcome. As evening shrouded the mountain, we got into our sleeping bags and passed out.
We woke up to the full light of the sun and began making our way down the mountain. It was tough ~ I fell once as the weight of the pack threw me off balance ~ but we made it down.
We found a lovely cafe called Tres Brors and sat with the warmth of coffee for over an hour. I journaled and we talked to our families. Eventually we reemerged into the town, bent on finding a campsite with showers.
We found said campsite but they charged $10 per person and over $1 per 4 minutes of showering… I was not feeling the vibes so we left. We ran into Lena’s housemate, Fouad, who showed us where an open grocery store was. I grabbed a can of beans in tomato sauce (Noway is expensiveeee) and Anna grabbed some vegetables. We ate on a short stone wall then shouldered our packs again and started walking (relatively) aimlessly around the neighborhood. “Where are you trying to go?” asked one man watering his lawn. “The mountains…?” was my rely.
We ended up heading back into town to go on a walk by the lake ~ also Anna had a hunch that we could find good camping space there. It was definitely a move by the universe to turn us toward the lake because the view and the breeze… also we could see the tips of pine trees peeking out above the water level ~ they had become submerged and somehow still survived.
We walked around, into a densely wooded mini-peninsula, and found a large boulder. I did some yoga and stretched, then we decided to ditch our bags in the bushes until we came back to set up camp. We put the tent’s rain cover around the bags (the cover is nature-green) and started walking.
We walked toward a gorge Anna had read on the area’s map. Walking trail signs were easy to spot, and we made our way over a bridge and into the neighborhood again. Almost directly adjacent to the houses we found our gorge.
We sat there for a long time, talking and listening to the water. The water was mesmerizing, bashing itself against black rock fearlessly. I felt terrified ~ to perhaps one day be water and to move so freely as the glacial falls ~ but how could the water be afraid?
We camped that night at the edge of the lake. I stayed for a while on the boulder, looking out at the lake and the city’s lights. The moon was just a sliver but seemed larger somehow ~ is Norway nearer to the moon? Is that possible?