The second big leg of our travels is through Europe—where we are now. When planning how to spend our allowed three months here (because of Visa allowances), Andrew had Scandinavia on the top of his list. Since it’s so far North, we knew it would be our first stop, before it gets too cold. (Side note: it’s still pretty cold.)
As we started to nail down plans, Norway was repeatedly mentioned to us by PDX friends, old roommates, and SF friends. If something pops up in life that many times, it must be followed. So, we got direct flights from LA to Oslo for $180 each—a smokin’ deal, I know—and planned out a whirlwind 10-ish day itinerary through Norway.
The itinerary is: two nights in Oslo, two nights in Bergen, two nights on a kayak/camping trip (the highlight), one night in Voss, two nights in Odda, and two more nights in Bergen. Typically, we have a three night minimum rule to avoid constantly packing and unpacking, but we’re trying to save our monies in this very expensive place.
So far, the highlight has truly been our three day, two night kayaking trip with Nordic Ventures, which was highly recommended by close friends despite the hefty price tag.
When we got to Voss we met up with our guide, Whitey, and found out that it would just be the three of us on the trip. Since it was so late in the season, no one else signed up on our dates. At first, this made me a bit anxious. Are we idiots for camping in a fjord in autumn? Do we even have the proper gear for the current forecast of rain and wind? But after Whitey loaned me his beanie and offered to lend Andrew an extra pair of pants, I knew we were in good hands and realized we lucked out to have all of Whitey’s attention.
We quickly packed our kayaks full of food, camping gear, and personal items and set off on the water while Whitey exclaimed that was the fastest he has ever packed. I think he also started to realize the benefits of a small group .
We launched our kayaks in Gudvangen and began paddling through the very calm fjord. We stopped for a sandwich lunch with a gorgeous view, and stopped a second time to walk up a waterfall, then continued on and set up camp somewhere near Dyrdal. In total, we paddled about 12 kilometers the first day over a leisurely few hours.
As we set up our tent, Whitey pulled a wood table out of the forest, started a fire, and opened a bottle of wine. Again, this trip was so worth the price. For dinner we had chicken cooked over the fire, a salad, some toasted bread rolls, and more wine while we swapped travel stories. Whitey is a Kiwi who has spent years working seasonal jobs around the world, including managing 50 dog sledding huskies in the Arctic! Needless to say, we never ran out of things to talk about.
The second day, we woke up early, ate a quick breakfast around the fire, and packed our backpacks for a long hike. The goal was to hike up the entire edge of the fjord for a spectacular view. From our lunch spot the previous day, I snapped a photo of the edge we would look over at the peak of the hike.
It drizzled off and on for the majority of our hike and sometimes outright poured on us. We passed a couple of small houses along the way and stood alongside them in an attempt to get a little bit of cover. The autumn colors throughout the valley totally made up for the less-than-ideal weather.
As we climbed, and climbed, and climbed, we chatted more about travel, relationships, and family. Before I knew it, we had climbed nearly 4,000 ft and were trekking through snow. Once our feet were fully submerged in snow, it got really chilly really fast. We continued on in search of the view but as our teeth began to chatter, we decided to forego waiting for the clouds to move and head back down pretty quickly.
On the hike back down, we took a break for sandwiches, soup, and carrot cake but kept moving pretty quickly. Our shoes were soaked through at that point so I took great pleasure in stomping in the giant mud puddles all the way back down.
Once we got back to camp, we changed into warm clothes and sat back to relax with plastic cups full of wine. Whitey made a dinner of pork chops, hot dogs, pasta, and broccoli and we continued to laugh and share differences between New Zealand and the US. Just as dinner was winding down, the wind began to pick up.
To combat the perpetual drizzle, we had a tarp set up over our fire and table (pictured above). With each gust, our tarp began whipping viscously back and forth. In the worst moment, the wind blew everything off our table including a box of silverware, all our full glasses of wine (tear), and even the very heavy full bottle of wine. It was a mess. We scrambled to get everything cleaned up, re-stake our tents for extra security, and pin down anything that may fly away in the night. We paused only to make some bananas stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate over the fire. Nom nom.
After we wolfed down dessert, we dove into the safety of our tents. Whitey told us to holler if the storm beat us up during the night—a schoolhouse down the road could be unlocked for us as shelter if we needed it. Fortunately, we all slept well with the sound of rain pounding our tents and woke up the next morning feeling good. We packed everything back into our kayaks, and set off toward our final stop—Undredal.
As we started paddling, I considered ourselves lucky to witness the post-rain fjord with dozens more waterfalls that appeared overnight! It was certainly wet but it was also spectacular and totally different than what we had seen two days prior. However, as we turned out of our little bay, the winds began to pick up to about 14 knots and I remembered that I am still fostering a deeply rooted fear of waves in open water.
As we crossed the channel, the wind was blowing hard and white caps were forming in the water, pushing me toward the right. To adjust, I leaned hard to the left while still trying to continue paddling, all while it was still raining. All this together had me on the verge of panicking. Capsizing in my sea kayak (where I would have to unlatch my waist band underwater before swimming to air) was my nightmare. Because I know you’re on the edge of your seat, I’ll tell you now—I didn’t capsize. Thank goodness.
But I was pretty stressed the rest of the kayak. I only took a couple of photos and focused instead on my breathing and Dori’s voice in my head saying, “just keep swimming.” Andrew seemed 100% calm but he also admitted it was much more difficult to paddle with strong winds and rain. The more you know.
As we neared the finish, the sun peaked through the clouds and the wind died down just in time to really enjoy our last few moments on the water. Despite the questionable weather, it was a great trip. We exchanged contact information with Whitey and promises to visit each others’ countries and went on our way. There was an AirBnb in Voss with a shower and a laundry room calling our name.