Norway has an extensive hut and trail system, managed by the Den Norske Turistforening (DNT).
On our third day in Norway, we signed up to become members.
Last week, we made use of the huts.
We set out on a four-day Fjord to Fjord trek starting from Mo (Mojorden) and ending at the mega Sognefjord.
View Fjord til Fjord in a larger map
As with many of the fjordy tramps here, the trek starts out at around 0m near a fjord-side town, and then makes a steep ascent to the mountain plateau at around 1000m, where there is a hut. From there the trail carries on over the mountains intercepting other trails, and huts, before eventually descending back to a fjord and town.
We started at Mo, 0m. From there it was a steep five hour ascent to the mountain plateau. The tree-line receded at around 500m. As we reached the plateau we continued on over the boulderous terrain, negotiating snowy mountain lakes with enticingly clear water, and out-of-place tailed and belled sheep.
Even here, I don’t think the sheep are very smart, they have the choice of plentiful luscious grass on the lower slopes, and instead opt for the higher barren plains.
Either that or they’re just more cultured and appreciate the scenery.
We arrived at the hut.
From the outside it looked similar to an NZ hut, all hut-like, with a separate building for toilets and wood storage.
We opened the door and ventured in.
The door opened to red rug covering a polished wooden floor set in a wide hall way with seating, and coat hooks. We put down our packs, took off our boots, hung up our jackets, and ventured through the next door.
The next door lead to the living, kitchen and lounging area. Here was a fully equipped kitchen complete with glasses, cutlery, tea towels, pots, and spices. There were two large wooden tables with seating, as well as more comfortable seating with cushions. Walls were adorned with calanders, pictures and rugged hangings.
There were even solar powered smoke detectors.
From there, were two small bedrooms (sleeping 2 – 4) off to each side, and a larger sleeping facility upstairs in the loft. The beds come with clean duvets and pillows, and hikers are expected to bring their own liner, and pillow cases.
Our packs were crammed with a tent, sleeping bags, thermorests, food, cups, bowls, a billy, and gas. None of these items were required here. Later some additional hikers would show up with packs half the size of ours.
The hut resembled a typical NZ motel, minus the carpet.
And then we ventured through the last door, the store room.
Here we found food. Everything from canned meat and vege to pasta, enticing bacon paste in a tube, hot chocolate, desserts, porridge, liver paste, crackers, and soup.
Huts run on an honour system here, something the Norwegians are fiercely proud of. When you turn up, you are expected to sign the register, and deposit money into a safe, paying for your accommodation, around $NZD 40 per person, and whatever food you used.
We filled in the forms, and tried some tasty berry hot-toddy from the store room, as well as some porridge for breakfast.
As we sipped on our berry hot-toddy, we were suddenly aware of the real difference in culture between NZ and Norway.
Norwegians seem to be open, direct, and expect the best of people.
New Zealanders are generally private, suspicious, and expect the worst.
Unfortunately, I could never see the Norwegian hutting system working in New Zealand. I imagine the food store would be raided by the local chav youths, and the hut register assaulted with angry ‘F*#! DOC’ scrawlings by non-paying hunters. This in turn would inspire tourists to also make most of the free-for-all grab.
After a lovely night’s sleep, we tramped on the next day. The scenery is what we have come to expect of Norway, dramatic, vast, and breathtaking. The trail crosses the plateau, peppered with pristine mountain lakes, occasionally descending into grassy valleys alongside waterfalls, and startled sheep, before heading back to the plateau and eventually the next hut.
As we tramped and hutted, we kept pondering if we really couldn’t adopt the Norwegian hut system in NZ.
Maybe just flash-up, and foodstock one or two huts. Maybe one on the Waikaremoana trail, and the hut beginning with ‘W’ on the Northern circuit.
Flash-them up, and watch and wait. Maybe it’s just me who expects the worst, and New Zealanders would really embrace the hutting system.
But then, I remembered that cheesy Target episode with the feijoa stand and the honesty box. Only a minority of people paid the actual amount. The rest paid only a partial amount, didn’t pay at all, or worse took feijoas and then raided the honesty box for money to add insult to injury.
New Zealand, it seems, is just not ready for truly awesome tramping.