Having immigrated to the country of fjords, we felt it was our duty to get up close, and personal with Slartibartfast’s finest achievement.
It was time to follow the tourists and head up the Sognefjord.
The Sognefjord is the largest fjord in Norway, and the third largest in the world (Canada and Greenland trump Norway here).
It is 207km long, and over 1300m deep, second in depth only to the 2km deep icy Skelton inlet in Antarctica.
On average the main trunk of the Sognefjord is around 4km wide.
Along most of the way, steep, near vertical 1000m high Te Aroha-sized mountains, rise abruptly out of the sea. The terrain is inhospitable, and there are few sea-side villages to be seen.
The fjord has several sub fjords branching off it, two of which have been granted a UNESCO world heritage status.
This is the fjord visited by cruise ships.
And if you’re on one of those world trips, where you have been allocated two days to see Norway, this is the place included in your itinerary.
The tiny villages ‘fortunate’ enough to be visited by the cruise ships have taken full advantage of this, and can boast what must be Norway’s largest souvenir shops, where you can buy everything from plastic elk antlers, blonde Viking wigs, moose embroidered underwear, hideous jumpers, 100 different trolls, to fjord inspired mood rings.
Not wealthy enough to charter a cruiser, we decided to do our own version of the of the famous Norway-in-a-nutshell tour intended for the country’s non-cruise ship day-visitors.
From Bergen we took a train to Myrdal, and there the Flåmsbana railway to Flåm, a tiny village at the end of Aurlandsfjorden, a subfjord off Sognefjord.
For train enthusiasts the Flåmsbana is apparently considered a masterpiece of Norwegian engineering – this from a country which has roundabouts and intersections inside tunnels, 1km+ spanning bridges over similarly deep fjords, and roads carved into near vertical mountain faces (actually there seems to be less of that now, mostly just tunnels).
The railway is a steep, 20km, hour long, zig zag journey down the mountain side to the village. The average gradient is 1/18.
It’s also spectacular.
The train terminates at the fjord-end, in Flåm, the troll-shop capitol.
This was part one of our nut-shell trip.
From Flåm, we camped, ferry-hopped and tramped our way down to the next sub-fjord, Nærøyfjord. We took a slight detour from the tourist schedule and trekked the Old Kings Road from Styvi to Bleiklindi, an old, now abandoned postal road winding its way up the fjord.
Unfortunately, at the end of the road, there was no ferry to pick us up. However, to continue our trek to the town of Gudvangen at the fjord-end, we somehow needed to cross the cold, 1km deep body of water in front of us.
On the other side was the barely village, Bakka, population around 50.
Brian whipped out the wonderphone, and looked up one of the locals.
Brian asked him if he’d transport us across the fjord and negotiated a price of 150 NOK. We were all set. Five minutes later we see our transport head down to the water front, and jump into a row-boat making his way across.
He was hardcore Norwegian, quite possibly well into his 80s or beyond.
He effortlessly rowed us and packs back to his home-village, and invited us to visit the church before we continued our trek to Gudvangen. We visited, bought tasty local waffles, and tramped on.
From Gudvangen we would continue on to Mofjorden for our final tramp (earlier post) back up to the Sognefjord, before catching a ferry for the 200km+ journey back to the comforts of Bergen.
We’ve now seen Norway in a nut-shell, and more.
Enough words – now for the photos, and the reason we moved to Norway.