Our second day of hiking in the Fossasete Valley was a rainy, puddly, slippery mess. But, regardless of the weather, Norway is always beautiful. A part of me wanted to go into that red cottage, start a little fire and huddle around it with a flannel blanket and cup of hot chocolate. The blanket has to be flannel or it wouldn’t be complete.
We passed by a pulley system or, I guess more like a mini chair lift system that is used to transport sheep easily up and down the mountain. The sheep are tied to the cable wire by their legs and, therefore, hung upside down which sounds really inhumane but, apparently, this freezes them up and helps to keep them calm during the transport. After this particular hike, I’m sure a few of us would’ve tried this out if we could’ve.
Phil, having done this particular hike several times with different groups, placed a troll in a random spot towards the beginning of the trail in hopes that the next person would pick it up and place it somewhere else further along. I remember when these trolls were the “in” thing back in the 90s. I practically had to beg my mom, get a few 100’s on math/spelling exams and practice piano for hours to finally convince her to buy one for me. In retrospect, I should’ve begged her for a Power Wheels convertible instead.
With the sound of one wrapper crinkling, this horse was suddenly next to us with its face all up in our business. We fed it a couple of apples, a banana and a carrot which was a mistake because, instead of being satisfied, the horse kept expecting us to pull out a feast from our bags. When we would attempt to hide our food, the horse would continue chewing on the grass “nonchalantly” while maintaining its peripheral vision and heightened senses. With one hand movement into a bag, the horse’s face would be back up in our business within seconds. So, with half-eaten lunches, we decided to just complete the remainder of our 5 hr hike.
Later that night, Katie, Jo, Phil and I were, per usual, the last ones standing after dinner. We got onto the topic of flexibility and double-jointedness and Jo, who was on her way to becoming a doctor, listed out several indicators of being double-jointed:
1) Placing hands flat on the floor while keeping your legs straight. Check.
2) Bending knees and elbows backwards. Sort of check.
3) Touching thumbs to forearms. Nope.
At this point, I joked, “Imagine the waitress walked in on us doing all of this weird shit?” and we all chuckled.
4) Bending pinky fingers backwards past 90 degrees. I feel like we got it into our heads to prove that we’re at least somewhat double-jointed and struggled to bend our pinkies backwards with looks of intensity.
Defeated, we all looked up. The waitress was standing there, as if deciding whether to continue walking in or turn back around, only to have been caught on the brink of deciding to turn back around. We all looked at each other in awkwardness until one of us managed to start explaining what was going on.
“You don’t have to explain,” she quickly replied.
Our third day of hiking was the most brutal and the most rewarding. We took a bus to Skjeggedal and began our hike to Trolltunga (the Troll’s Tongue), about 1,200m uphill and 1,200m back down for a total roundtrip of 22km. The estimated time for the hike was said to be about 8-10 hours, averaging around 9 hours for most groups.
The hike began with 1,000 stone steps of hell, all of which had been laid down by Sherpas from Nepal. How they managed to construct this is still amazing to me but, what sucked was that, after climbing the thousand steps and experiencing the utmost butt burn, we had only covered about 1-2km of the 11km. Yep.
Due to rain and warming temperatures, anyone hiking here was advised not to stray off the path. One hiker had recently ventured near a boulder and fallen through the snow bordering the rock into an icy river deep in the crevice, underneath the snowy ground. The expanse of uninterrupted snow is really deceiving as there are patches that are made weak by the layers of melted snow underneath that you are completely unaware of, layers that have become strong currents of glacial water. Nature, as usual, is no joke. Respect it!
Phil’s previous group completed this hike in about 8+ hours and our goal was to beat that. With that in mind, we powered through.
This view over the Ringedalsvatnet lake and surrounding fjord made the long hike worthwhile. After a quick lunch, we all ran to stand on the growing line of people waiting to take a photo on the “tongue.”
This isn’t as scary as it looks. On the other hand, there were 2 girls doing precarious yoga poses at the edge for that “perfect” photo opportunity which made everyone else feel nervous. So, my advice is just don’t be stupid.
If the camera lens was moved slightly more to the left, the photo would’ve included the long line of people impatiently waiting for their chance on the edge. This may look like a peaceful place to sit and contemplate (well, it can be if you get there early enough) but, it’s also very much a tourist attraction. After our individual shots, the 10 of us waited in the increasingly cold winds to get a group shot. And, group shot we did take, on a GoPro that inadvertently deleted it after it was taken.
On the way back, I really had to pee and being in nature, well, I had to get creative with obscurity. I found the perfect spot in front of luckily napping hikers and stood up only to hear, “Hey, Christine! Over here!” as this picture was taken. I’m not sure if the hikers budged an eyelid.
Finally, we began making our way down and due to the snow melt and previous day’s rain, we literally grabbed onto rope railings to avoid slipping down the entire way and ending with muddy butts. After that jungle gym adventure came the 1,000 steps of hell. For some reason, the way down felt like double the amount of steps and there’s a running joke that a Sherpa comes out of hiding and adds more steps while we’re not looking. But, we finished the entire 22km hike in 7.5 hours, beating the previous group’s time. Aw, hell yea! This called for some beers. Trolltunga beers.
Literally, Trolltunga-branded beers. The best tasting beer to have ever graced my taste buds, said the July 7, 2015 version of Christine. Oh, and bags of Sørlands Chips which we progressively became obsessed with. This day, for whatever reason, became etched in our memories as Trolltunga Tuesday.
And, to continue our apparent dinnertime tradition of proving random physical feats, we competed to see who can plank the longest. The drizzle cut our competition short but, as clearly seen from the rain-spattered outline of a body above, Jo did not win.
For our last full day, we had the option of visiting Røldal and the old stave church, doing another small hike or, kayaking. Most of us wanted to be active but, the thought of hiking after Trolltunga made us literally weak in the knees. It was time to work out our other set of limbs. (That would be our arms in case you were still wondering.)
We took a bus ride toward Eidfjord where we were going to kayak and passed by a magical layer of mist hovering above the water. I was seriously mesmerized by it and couldn’t stop staring. You could’ve whispered subliminal messages into my ear during this time and had me act upon them without realizing why.
Then, we passed through tunnels in the mountainside all lit up in neon lights. We circled a roundabout inside the tunnel which further made it feel like a rave. We were just missing some electronic beats. I think all of us were too confused to even think about taking a photo.
I was paired up with a well-built guy.
“You’re lucky that you’re paired up with him! You won’t have to do much work.”
“Yessss!” I thought.
Yea, well, I don’t know what he was doing back there but, I was paddling my heart out to the point of veins popping out of my forehead. It didn’t help to realize that our kayak was named “Atlantis.” As we were falling way behind the rest of the group, someone exclaimed to him,
“Hey! You need to follow what Christine’s doing! Since she’s in the front, she’s the navigator.”
He didn’t improve much after that. I cursed like a maniac inside my head but, put on a smile and continued to paddle, using my growing anger as motivation. In this case, size did not matter.
Phil had been dropping hints for the past couple of days that he was planning a surprise for our last night. Nearby Trolltunga Hotel is a cute little red cabin, a really cute arts & crafts shop run by the couple (Keitel and Britta) living in the adjacent house. They had refurbished the basement to welcome guests and as a surprise, they had invited us in to talk about the history of Norway, the town and their family. They lit the entire place up with candles and set up a table full of snacks, then served us a locally made cider – Hardanger Sider, 9.0% alcoholic volume. I was drunk by dinnertime. We were so touched by their hospitality that we gave them multiple hugs before leaving.
The next day was departure day (sad face). And, replaying for the millionth time in the dining room’s speakers was the same playlist that’s been blasting since we arrived, a collection which included Sam Smith’s current hits and the very appropriate (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing, which I made sure to sing as we all parted ways from the bus station in Bergen.
Travel tip: To get back to Bergen, we walked to the main bus station in Odda’s city center (right by the Smeltehuset) and caught the 9:40am (on a Thursday) bus to Bergen. I believe we took bus #760 and had to switch buses around 10:30am to #740, eventually arriving in Bergen at 1:05pm. Note: These buses boarded ferries, in case you get surprised by it. When in doubt, just ask the bus driver. Total cost was kr 302.