DO­ING IT THE NOR-WAY

The first mis­sion on our ar­rival to Oslo was to find a Den Norske Turist­foren­ing (DNT, The Nor­we­gian Trekking As­so­ci­a­tion) of­fice, so we could sign up to be­come mem­bers and gain the much-needed DNT key. The DNT main­tains many tourist huts and tracks in No

Say Yes To Adventure - - Features - Sadao Tsuchiya

“IF YOU LIKE tramp­ing in New Zealand's South Is­land, you'd like tramp­ing in Nor­way, too.” This com­ment from one of my clients on a guided hike had stuck in my head for many years. Karen and I were about to tick off an­other item from the bucket list – a tramp­ing trip across the high­est na­tional park in Nor­way, Jo­tun­heimen Nasjon­al­park – The Home of the Gi­ant. After spend­ing a night at Gjen­desheim hut, lo­cated at the east­ern en­trance to the park, we set off early for our five­day tramp. This day was the big­gest day, climb­ing over Besseggen Ridge. Most hik­ers stay­ing in the hut took the early boat to­ward Me­mu­rubu, our des­ti­na­tion for the day. Dur­ing the last ice age glaciers carved these val­leys out of the huge moun­tains, and the colour of Lake Gjende is ev­i­dence of its trib­u­taries. The track was marked by red T's painted on rock cairns, lead­ing us up to the ridge. After three hours of climb­ing, we reached a large cairn, with a panoramic view over­look­ing both clear, blue Lake Bess­vat­net, and the silky Lake Gjende. The Besseggen Ridge sep­a­rates the two lakes at dif­fer­ent heights – Bess­vat­net is 400 me­tres higher than Gjende. The blue Scan­di­na­vian sky was clear, and the weaker Au­gust sun­shine ac­cen­tu­ated the stun­ning scenery.

The de­scent along the nar­row rocky ridge re­quired a bit of care; bal­ance was not easy with the heavy load in our back­packs (four days of food!). It was about this time we started to en­counter many day walk­ers com­ing the other way. We soon re­alised why so many hik­ers took the morn­ing boat to Me­mu­rubu. They choose to walk in the other di­rec­tion – climb­ing the ridge in­stead of down. Much eas­ier! After eight hours of as­cent and de­scent, we fi­nally ar­rived at the Me­mu­rubu Hut. We knew there were no self-cater­ing ar­eas in the staffed huts in Nor­way, and Me­mu­rubu was no ex­cep­tion. We had some con­cern about cook­ing in­side the bunkroom, so while the sun was still high and the wind was low, we headed down to the camp­ground to cook up our spaghetti. Sur­rounded by big moun­tains and crisp blue sky it was a great spot to re­flect on the

day's walk. Back in the bunk room, we found the group of older Bel­gian men that we would be room­ing with didn't share our con­cern and were cook­ing their din­ner.

Each of the staffed huts has a weather forecast, so we knew a front was ap­proach­ing on the day we were to walk from Me­mu­rubu to Gjen­debu. We could have taken the af­ter­noon boat to skip that sec­tion, but the forecast for nor' west­er­lies at 15m/s (54km/h) didn't sound too bad, and we de­cided to give it a go.

The first two hours climb­ing was okay, how­ever, once we reached the top of the ridge, the gale force winds picked up, fol­low­ing the val­leys on one side of the moun­tains, then burst­ing up with force, hit­ting the ridge we were walk­ing along. A cou­ple of older Nor­we­gian men with plas­tic pon­chos and day packs passed us, head­ing in the other di­rec­tion. We held on to each other as we walked, cling­ing on to rocks when the gusts be­came too strong. Shel­ter­ing be­hind a rock, Karen said, “If we die here, Nor­we­gians read­ing the news­pa­per will be quick to judge us as for­eign tram­pers, un­der pre­pared for the Scan­di­na­vian moun­tains,” just as we are guilty of do­ing when read­ing the pa­pers at home.

While chat­ting with the Bel­gians the pre­vi­ous night, they men­tioned that the track to the hut is very rocky with chains to climb down. Given the weather, we de­cided to take the longer but more gen­tle track. It was the right de­ci­sion. Once we had es­caped from the ridge, the wind and rain eased, but the next cou­ple of hours de­scent felt much longer than it was. We were frus­trated that the forecast was only for lake-level, and it is so dif­fer­ent where we walked. Or maybe we missed that in­for­ma­tion be­cause of our lim­ited un­der­stand­ing of Nor­we­gian?

After stay­ing at DNT Gen­debu hut, the weather had im­proved the next morn­ing. Our gear was al­most dry, and we were happy enough to start the day. As we ap­proached the small sad­dle above Ves­ladalen the trees got shorter, and we came out to a vast, open area, like stand­ing on the moon. There were rocky tors around us; high desert stretched as far as we could see, bro­ken only by some­one's tent stand­ing alone. We walked through this land­scape for the next few hours, nav­i­gat­ing the rock scree around Raud­dalsegge Peak be­fore we spot­ted the DNT Olavsbu hut in the dis­tance, which soon be­came our favourite hut of the tramp.

DNT Olavsbu was the only self­ser­viced hut on our tramp. We took out the key to open the hut, but found it was al­ready un­locked. We lost our only chance to open a hut the Nor­we­gian way. It turned out only three Nor­we­gian cou­ples were stay­ing in the hut, mak­ing it feel off the beaten track. Since Karen was a child, her dad taught her to ex­plore the hut fa­cil­i­ties upon ar­rival, and she ad­hered to the habit. Prizes this time were an ‘hon­esty box' pro­vi­sions cup­board, a tiny drying room heated by a pot­belly stove, and Nor­we­gian Scrab­ble (com­plete with Å and Ø). We en­joyed a tin of rein­deer meat­balls and in­stant mashed potato from the pro­vi­sions, which we jus­ti­fied as a cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence. We soaked up real Nor­we­gian back­coun­try – read­ing a book with a can­dle, chat­ting qui­etly and spend­ing a calm and peace­ful night. Next stretch to Sko­gadals­boen was tough and cold although an im­prove­ment on our ‘Ex­treme Nor­way' day. The af­ter­noon sun­shine had just started to come out when we ar­rived at

‘ We held on to each other as we walked, cling­ing on to rocks when the gusts be­came too strong.’

the hut with other tram­pers chat­ting out­side en­joy­ing some beers at the pic­nic ta­bles. To cel­e­brate our last night on the track, we care­fully chose a tap beer, the cheap­est op­tion avail­able at 35 Nor­we­gian kro­nor ($7). After pour­ing the beer, the lodge man­ager asked us to pay 90NOK ($18). I ex­changed a wor­ried look with Karen and told him, “Sorry. That wasn't what we or­dered.” It be­came his turn to be con­fused. After some bro­ken English and sign lan­guage, we found out that the cheaper beer was al­co­hol-free, so we stuck with the most ex­pen­sive beer we have ever had, in a plas­tic cup – one be­tween two of us.

On our last morn­ing, the sky had cleared up. The track fol­lowed the Ulta River, which was still swollen from the last few days of rain and re­sulted in spec­tac­u­lar wa­ter­falls. This val­ley was much greener, with old shep­herds' huts dot­ted along the track and sheep graz­ing around them.

Climb­ing to the head of the val­ley the view changed again, and it took our breath away. An in­fi­nite num­ber of tarns and lakes were dot­ted on the Tun­dra Plateau, with the moun­tains cov­ered by large sheet glaciers. An hour walk led us to the western end of the Na­tional Park at Sogne­f­jell­shytta (Sogn For­est Hut) – and our fi­nal des­ti­na­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.