Sherpa Expeditions traveller Chris Weiss shares his experiences in Norway, with his son Evan, on our Fjordland walking tour.
Why did you choose your trip?
My son has some Norwegian ancestry and lives in a part of the U.S. that is heavily populated by Norwegian immigrants (ya!). We've talked about traveling to Norway for a long time, but the logistic hurdles always seemed too overwhelming until we found Sherpa. We were looking for a rugged adventure in a cool climate where we would not have to carry all the equipment required to backpack. The Fjordland tour offered by Sherpa seemed ideal for us.
How did you prepare?
Sherpa was very helpful. The detailed logistical reference book that Sherpa provided prior to our trip answered almost every one of our questions. It included topographic maps, step-by-step hiking directions and provided the flexibility to choose a variety of hikes at each location. Although the maps provided by Sherpa were very adequate, we ended up buying the original Norwegian maps in Geilo which gave us a broader perspective of the tour.
Before the trip we watched the weather closely using internet resources and packed our clothing in anticipation of a wide range of predicted conditions. We're used to hiking in the Rocky Mountains and understand the need for lightweight, breathable clothing that can be layered for both summer and near-winter conditions on the same day hike. On our day hikes, we each carried 4-5 light weight upper layers and 3 lower layers that included a rain proof shell (and we used them all on more than one occasion). We've been stranded by weather in the outback before and always carry enough water, food, shelter and fire starters to make such an event tolerable if not comfortable. The trick is getting all this along with a hearty lunch all in a very small day pack!
What was the best part of your trip?
We loved so many parts of the trip, especially Finse and the Flam Valley. We chose to depart from the plan a bit and rented bicycles rather than walk the road through the Flam Gorge. I would recommend adding this option for anyone who enjoys the Fjordland adventure. The biking was beautiful and provided lots of time for stopping and enjoying lunch and the amazing views along the way, including the opportunity for several side trips. We also loved Aurland! The hike from Ostebo to Vassbygdi (out of Aurland) was a huge highlight. The next day, we added a kayak rental in Aurland from a very relaxed operation along the shore in town. The weather was so marvellous that we kayaked to the other side of the fjord and went cliff diving into the deep cool waters there.
...and the most challenging part?
The hike from Ostebo to Vassbygdi was marked as "challenging" in your logistic notes and it certainly was! At the same time, it was a huge highlight of our trip.
Your favourite destination?
Finse was stark and wonderful. The hikes to the north of the lodge are like nothing we've ever experienced. The contrast between the rock and the colourful mosses and lichens made the place seem unworldly. Our bike ride through the Flam Gorge was breathtaking. We plan to return there next March to ice climb the waterfalls and frozen seeps along the valley walls. Aurland was very sleepy and relaxing but the hikes from there were the best, so rugged and beautiful. We especially loved kayaking along the fjord opposite Aurland's shore, diving and swimming in the frigid waters at the base of 1000ft waterfalls there. We also chose to take the Express Ferry from Aurland to Bergen rather than return to Oslo through Flam and Myrdal. Doing so, we saw the entire length of the beautiful Sognefjord as a fitting end to our journey.
Best food and drink?
The food was great. The best were the wonderful roadside markets and the buffets in Geilo and Finse. The beer and wine was a bit too expensive for us and we were hiking too hard to partake in anything but a small taste of the local brew. The clear water that spills everywhere along the trails was clean and wonderful to taste (after we zapped it with a bit of UV light, just in case). Now, I should say that I was able to obtain an extremely rare bottle of Larsen's Arctic XO cognac in Oslo, the report for which must wait for this winter's holiday season.
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