Quick summary of my week in Norway with Marie and Donnie Meldrum… part recce for Marie’s 2015 Norseman Xtreme Triathlon entry and part, well, just regular holiday! Noted in pseudo-diary form (= even fewer sentences than usual!) with photos ruthlessly (?) pruned from the 500+ I took to give a more-or-less representative taste of the whole, so not even necessarily all the ‘best’ shots…
Monday 28 July
Flew Edinburgh to Bergen, picked up hire car (automatic BMW estate with just about enough space for Marie’s bike box, some modest luggage and the three of us) and drove via a late lunch stop at the Norseman start point of Eidfjord to Geilo, which I might introduce as the convenient, centrally-placed ski resort (somewhat reminiscent of Aviemore, but perhaps they all are?) where we were lucky enough to find suitable accommodation when planning the trip just weeks before. Initial discomfort (or maybe terror!) at driving on the right for first time since America 2006 presently allayed by getting the seat (too many levers here!) and mirrors properly adjusted for accurate road positioning.
Tuesday 29 July
Up Prestholtskarvet (1,853m?) on the Hallingskarvet ridge/plateau. Pleasant walk reminiscent of high Cairngorms tops with substantial summer snow patch some bonus fun. Then to Torpo for a quick look at the 12th century stave church, but too late for a proper look inside. Donnie driving.
Wednesday 30 July
‘Norway in a Nutshell’ trip by train to Myrdal, train again to Flåm, ferry to Gudvangen, bus to Voss and train back to Geilo. Flåmsbana (famous steep branch line) quite sensational but tricky to photograph from packed train with everyone else trying to do same, so photos barely adequate but, yes, the track and buildings you see in both (second row down) are part of the same line! Ferry trip down Aurlandsfjorden and up Nærøyfjorden (allegedly the narrowest in Norway) equally stunning, then an unexpected bonus on the bus trip (just when we thought it was all over!) with an ever-so-steady descent of the hair-raising Stalheimskleiva (just Google it!) bringing applause from the passengers.
Thursday 31 July
To Gaustatoppen (1,883m peak above Rjukan) to check out rest of Norseman cycle and run course, with Donnie driving. Marie and me taking one east-side trail up the hill and the other (which turns out to be the race route) down to cover all bases. Quick run along the ridge (Marie staying at radio tower) for me to tick true summit, with south (near) end easy going and north (far) straightforward, blocky scrambling (think ‘Carn Mor Dearg Arete’). Subsequent short diversion into Rjukan valley (famous ice-climbing centre) by car at my request.
Friday 1 August
Return to Eidfjord via Vøring(s)fossen waterfalls (me driving) to catch the gathering Norseman vibe and let the birthday girl compete in Eidfjord ‘Mini’ (1/10 Norseman distance) Triathlon. And she was doing just fine (possible ladies’ podium) till knocked off her bike (quote ‘can’t wait to show off my war wounds and torn shorts’) by angry, overtaking Frenchman, after which she did well to get going again and still finish well up.
Two more photos added 6 August, belatedly cropped from larger shots (as was the ‘torn shorts’ pic) to show Marie’s pre-race bike testing and ‘war wounds’ we never saw in real time…
Saturday 2 August
Pleasant couple of hours spent watching the Norseman come through Geilo before the rain hit. Then the first really wet stuff after hitherto (mostly) great sunny weather, so not too disappointed when enquiries about train times/costs to Finse (just three stops up the main Oslo to Bergen line) with thoughts of walking to the Hardangerjøkulen glacier snout resulted in discovery that 1. it couldn’t be done today, 2. it would have cost the earth for train standing room only (seats fully booked at weekends) and 3. times for tomorrow really wouldn’t sit well with the need for rest before subsequent overnight drive back to airport even if we’d wanted to pay 80% of our entire ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ train/ferry/bus fare for the privilege of retracing a fraction of that route. So off to the famous Borgund stave church instead (further than Marie thought when the 67km she quoted from the GPS turned out to be as the crow flies!), with Donnie driving there and me back. And what an interesting place that was (most original/characteristic/best-preserved surviving example?), with an excellent exhibition in the purpose-built visitor centre and the driest/brightest spell of the afternoon also adding much to the experience.
Sunday 3 August
Speculative wee trip to Ål (on the Torpo/Borgund road, with me driving again), where we virtually stumbled across the fabulous Bygdamuseum with its fascinating insight into historic Norwegian buildings and interiors. And saw a horse/pony wearing a ‘zebra’ coat! Followed by a late afternoon/evening of attempted sleep before leaving for Bergen just before midnight.
‘Zebrahorse’ photo (100% crop from larger shot) added 6 August.
Monday 4 August
Flew Bergen to Edinburgh and home late morning, with head naturally still full of Norway and double-checking impressions of similarities/differences to Highland Scotland on the drive. So it’s bigger and typically steeper, but different/complementary (the colours being subtly different too) rather than just a supercharged version of the same thing. Somewhere I felt at home and look forward to seeing again with thoughts of more walking, running and possibly (on yet another trip?) climbing, but simultaneously (without doing down that Norwegian grandeur at all!) giving me renewed appreciation of our uniquely Scottish landscapes. And how surreal it felt to be out for an afternoon run above the head of the Leven(s)fjord (now don’t go looking for that one on the map!) thinking ‘this morning I was in Norway!’ :-)