Norway – “Don’t look down mate” – Part 3

Four thousand, four hundred and forty four steps. We had made a prediction that it would take, with the bags on, in our current state, about three hours to reach the top.

The steps were all wooden, and nailed to a wooden frame that occasionally found itself suspended up to twenty feet above the rocky face of the mountain. I realised at this point that I really don’t have major fear issues with heights. Obviously looking down made my stomach lurch and my head spin slightly but I could always get it under control. I was just enjoying the physical nature of the climb. The burning in the legs, sweat dripping and aching back made it feel as close to a cycling time trial as I’ve ever experienced off a bike.

Obviously we counted the steps to verify the claim of there being exactly 4,444 steps to the top. I counted silent tens in my head and called it to Jack who kept track. After 100 calls we reached just two steps short of the 1,000 marker and realised that I had miscounted as the steps went sideways to avoid a protruding rock. We decided it’s accuracy was good enough and that the counting was, for the first half at least, more demoralising than anything.

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I am sure that Jack would not mind me saying that he is not a big fan of heights. Whilst he didn’t appear to have any specific issues such as slipping feet or catastrophic failure of the steps to worry about, he was certainly paler than usual and although we don’t make a habit of holding hands on our walks, I sensed his palms may have been clammy. As such a logical, careful thinker and all round clever guy I think a little taste of the illogical adds to life’s rich tapestry. Easy for me to say.

If you are a little giddy when it comes to heights heights, struggle to trust slack wires and the occasional rotten wooden step then I’d avoid this route. If not then you’ll love it!

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It took us just over two hours but eventually the top came. It was wonderfully bright up there but it was very windy. There is a large dam holding back an icy body of water.

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We followed the trail markers across the isolated landscape moving from one bowl to the next. We found a series of spots which would have made ideal camp sites. Sheltered from the wind, with plenty of crystal clear drinking water and with luscious green grass for a mattress. The day was still young and we battled hard to resist the temptation to linger. We had a long way to go if we were to remain on schedule.

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We ended up at around 1,100 meters having crossed the surface of numerous snow fields that we deemed safe and taking a detour by weaving our way through the cracked masses of ice that had collapsed in and ruined the icy tunnels carved out by the summer melt water.

Despite a few hours of remaining light, tired legs and throbbing feet forced the decision to convert a small, rare, wind protected patch of flat yellowy grass into our home for the evening. As the skies darkened I felt very far from civilisation.

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By the time morning came we had really found our stride. The routines had become ingrained, expectations for the day ahead we realistic and we, for the first time, made some real, relentless progress. We were thoroughly focused on our destination for the day – the fantastic spectacle of Kjeragbolten.

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I will not be able to say anything about Kjeragbolten that Google would not be able to tell you. It is very high, very scary and makes an excellent photograph. The walk back to the road from the bolt is long and hard work. It is particularly punishing on the knees.

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We managed to hitch a lift in the back of an aging motor home being steered around northern Europe by a quiet but friendly French couple. The newly built road is, like the majority of Norway’s mountain roads, a marvel of engineering. The hairpin bends are just begging to be ridden up but the tunnels are something else. Several kilometers long with internal hairpin bends. Just crazy.

In Lysefjord we stayed in a proper campsite. Warmish shower, packet of crisps and a view that was so strong that recalling the evening now seems a little dreamlike.

sunset

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Then it was time for the two hour tourist ferry cruise down the fjord back to Lauvik. Then some hitch hiking and a rather interesting if a little politically charged car journey to Stavanger. Arrival beers.

We then had a day to spend in Stavanger and with the sun shining brightly there was only one thing to do: take the remaining whiskey and tin cup (it’s illegal to drink in public in Norway) to the beach and finish off Hemingway’s harrowing account of the Spanish Civil war whilst crisping my already flushed skin to the sound of Norwegian chatter and splashing.

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Public use bike tools. £14 for half a beer. Cycle path traffic counter.

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I have just checked my account. The total cost from door to door, Monday to Monday, including trains to and from the airport, flights, extra luggage for tent etc, camping charges where applicable, all food and drinks, transport, ferries, maps, and even a public toilet emergency poo (paid for by card) was £330.

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