Fell asleep on the side of a mountain

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?

The next morning we broke camp before the sun rose, went to Lena’s gas station to say goodbye (she gave us donuts and waffles, we bought coffee) and caught our train to Bergen.


Trekking in Norway

We ended up back in Stavanger with so many ideas whirling around our conversations. We didn’t know where to go ~ should we have planned this before going to Norway? No… we wouldn’t have known what to do. It’s far better for our kind of travel to ask people. Also, we like the last-minuteness of our path. 
Somehow we ended up choosing Trondheim. We bought a train ticket and wandered around until around 10 pm, when we found our train and boarded a bit early. We were at a table and had the whole thing to ourselves. We settled in for the overnight journey. It wasn’t comfortable for sleeping but it was warm. 
At 7 am we stopped in Oslo. We’d made it so our ticket allowed us 6 hours to explore the city before boarding for the rest of the trip. We found a coffeeahop and grabbed a cup. 
We walked around, just winding our way through the city. We found tire swings ​and sat on them until a little girl came up with her mom. I don’t know how long she’d been waiting on the swings before I noticed… but her mom laughed when we apologized. We walked toward the harbor. 

I don’t want to write much more just now~ we’re in a train to Åndalsnes and the ride is beyond incredible. Instead, I’ll add photos and caption them. 

We walked around Oslo and found a flower market. 

We walked around the harbor, and found the Nobel Peace Museum. It had an exhibit about Syrian refugees that was very powerful.

We camped in Trondheim with Bjørn who we met on Couchsurfing. He was setting up camp here as well. 

Bjørn set up my Eno super high in the trees and so Anna and I decided we must sleep in it. But it didn’t get dark until midnight and was light again at 2:30 am and very, very cold so we resorted to our tent.

We explored Trondheim the next day, walking around the river and the houses and shops. 

After this, we got a train to Åndalsnes, a mountain town Anna had found on the internet. The train ride was gorgeous ~ a young woman and man offered to switch seats with us because they were on the side of the train with the best views. 

Once we got there we met Seth, a guy from London who also needed to find a camping spot.

We walked up toward the mountain ~ we’d heard there was a good hiking path into the forest. Hiking with our trekking bags was challenging and we only made it 200 meters or so before we started looking for flat ground (with as few enormous slugs as possible). 

We stayed up late chatting about differences in English and America idioms, then he went to his tent and we passed out. 

In the morning we decided to do the hike up the mountain we’d heard of and leave our tent for collection later. I didn’t have much dry clothing, so I wore my quick-dry shorts. Both Anna’s and my raincoats were pretty much soaked through already, but they were all we had. 

The hike was an hour or more up the mountain, past the tree line, to a rocky crest where we found a shelter. We met a Norwegian guy there who offered us chocolate ~ soon his entire crew crowded into the shelter. There were 7 of us in a tiny space sharing food. They all had legitimate rain clothing on while we were obviously freezing. It was awesome. We had to leave quickly before we became truly cold, and when we stepped out, the view from the moutaintop was beyond description. 

Photos do not do it any justice. We were at the height of snow-striped peaks and the wind whipped rain into our faces, but it was unquestionably worth it.

Pulpit Rock

Over 20 miles of hiking, 100 miles of buses, 4 ferries, 2 rides from strangers, and a bazillion energy bars later, we’re here: 

We left Bergen with all the belief in the world that we could walk the 16 miles to Osøyro. 8 miles later we were on a bus happily riding to the city. 

Osøyro was quiet. We got off the bus and wandered around looking for affordable food. We ended up halfing a veggie pizza and chilling for a while, regaining energy and messaging our families. By the time we left it was almost 10 pm and still quite bright outside. 

We found a sign for a walking path and followed it. The path arced between small farms and beautiful farmhouses. We followed it around a lake and up into the hills until we found a spot high above the town, perfect for setting up the tent. 

In the morning the entire city was hidden by morning sunlight-washed fog. The fog rose and fell every few minutes like a wave, and we watched it for a while. We had no SD card for Anna’s camera, our phones were dead ~ we simply witnessed it. 

We packed up and walked back into the city. Everywhere was closed but two gas stations (it was a Sunday) so we got coffee at the second and let our phones charge. We chatted with a man there, and he offered to drive us to the ferry ~ we were aiming for the south, somewhere ~ so we took him up on it. He drove us through the mountains to a 12th century monastery, where we wandered a bit, then to the ferry and dropped us off with well wishes. 

We walked, then bussed, then walked to Stavanger. It is a larger city and we found restaurants and boats and cool homes. We found a guy with an SD card and traded him $12, a coke, and chocolate for it. We wandered. We met a man who offered us a ride to Pulpit Rock if we went with him and his wife on the ferry to Tau then a bus to their home city. We did this, having to run to the ferry but pause every few feet to look at tee sunset 

The man and his wife were beyond kind. He brought us into the mountains near Pulpit Rock and dropped us off, telling us we could camp in the woods then set off in the morning for the hike. 

We got coffee at a cafe in a hotel near the hike, then set off. It was only a few hours, and endlessly lovely. 

Norwegian Progressive New Age Rock?

Over the past 24 (ish) hours I have traveled from Orlando, Florida, to Bergen, Norway. It has been an fascinating and exquisitely exhausting experience.  During the flight I sat next to woman from Boulder, Colorado, and I felt like the universe was on my side ~ then Norwegian Airlines kindly informed me that they’d lost my baggage somewhere between Orlando and Oslo, and I almost missed my connection to Bergen while trying to file a claim. This is the balance of traveling ~ it’s a lesson in living in the moment.

When I landed in Bergen I quickly found Anna, who was waiting by baggage claim. We finished filing my claim for my lost trekking bag and asked the woman helping us where we should sleep ~ we had planned to camp but my tent was somewhere in the world other than Bergen, so we needed advice. She didn’t really know, so we asked the service desk. They didn’t really know but they told us how to get to the city center, so we bought our tickets for the train and made our way to the station.

At the station, we met Oystein, a man who was eager to help us figure out where the heck we were supposed to go. As we chatted, we described our situation. He invited us to come to his home, even calling his parents to ask if we could stay with them. Although this sounded like a wonderful option, we were set on exploring the city on our own a bit, and weren’t sure about possible parallels with the movie Taken. So we declined but thanked him profusely, and got his email in case we decided to go visit and meet his many sheep he described.

We got off at the last stop and began to walk around the city. The first thing that struck me was the openness of the sky, with clouds arching high and bright toward the horizon. We were in a narrow valley with mountains rising around us. There were so many flowers, their smell spilling into the paths and roadways.

We really wanted coffee ~ well I wanted coffee and we needed wifi to figure out where we would sleep ~ so we searched for a cafe. We couldn’t find a typical coffeeshop so after a while we walked into an eclectic-looking bar. There we met a young woman who exuded positive energy ~ after ordering coffees and asking for the wifi password (which we struggled with for a while until we realized the password wasn’t correct and asked again), the woman invited us to sleep in her attic. Again, I was blown away by the genuine hospitality given to a complete stranger. She told us that, if we couldn’t find somewhere, we could return to the bar before 1 am (when she got off) and go with her to her home. We thanked her, and decided to try to find the one hostel in the city before taking her up on her offer.

It took us a while to find the hostel because Google Maps doesn’t work as well without wifi or data. Our little blue dot often went in the opposite direction that we were actually walking, and we finally gave up on it. It took us multiple walks around the same area to find the hostel, and when we did, we couldn’t find the main door. We were surprised when a man popped out of the side of the house and invited us in. We got the last 2 available beds, and settled down to figure out how I would get my trekking bag.

After an hour or so of chasing after my bag, we decided to go walk around. It was already 9 pm and quite bright outside still ~ we walked around a lovely park outside of our hostel and into the adjacent neighborhood. As the sky darkened very slowly we were drawn to a cave-like opening and the sounds of bass and electric guitar. “Should we do it?” We hesitantly walked toward the opening, and finally got the guts to walk inside the dark and grungy corridor. Candles lit the pathway. We found two young women sitting at a small table. They asked to see our IDs, which we handed over along with a small cover charge, and allowed us into the cave. It was an underground concert hall. We found ourselves amidst the cacophony of  a rock concert, with lights shooting and darting piercingly throughout the room. Mostly men filled the space, and moved only slightly to the music. The sound was totally overwhelming. At first it hurt, the music drilling into my ears, and then I found myself being absorbed. Fog rose from a machine on the stage and slowly filled the room. It felt like the world was on fire.

A fire alarm blasted, somehow even louder than the music. Young men and women wearing yellow vests herded us out into the street. The fog machine had set off the fire alarm, one young woman told us. We laughed as we waited outside, and soon were ushered back inside. We spent another few songs, this time wordless, absorbed in the music, then left in response to stomachs unused to the time of day being one for sleep, not food.

We wandered the city ~ at 11 pm there was still plenty of light to navigate by ~ finally making our way home around midnight. There we sat in the hostel’s kitchen chatting with other residents until just a few minutes ago, when I began this blog post.

It has been a journey completely counter to my plans, of course, as it must always be.