Oh God, no, I don’t dare, can I do it?
“Just do it!”
And, with that I’m in, in and accomplished…
Since departing Oslo on Wednesday, I’ve spent the last few days exploring more of Norway, and more specifically its vast countryside. It involved a hell of a lot of driving but this was thankfully broken up by several stops along the way.
In the beginning there were many lakes and forests, but as we travelled further north and hit the colder region of Hardangervidda National Park, suddenly the vivid greens turned to hazy whites, large snow and ice sheets scattered across the mountains and roadsides. We passed lakes and waterfalls – mostly in the rain too, which was in ways a shame but not enough of an issue to ruin the fun – all before landing in our first stop on this stretch of the tour, Voss.
The hostel in Voss was super chilled out, but that wasn’t it’s only draw. Yes, while I hadn’t bothered on the cycle tour the day before, I was ready to challenge myself, live without regret. Enter my first ever polar plunge, immersing myself entirely in the freezing water, the growing numbness of my feet upping the intensity of the already sharp and painful stones beneath me. But I did it. I didn’t chicken out. I embraced the entire experience, and while it was at times biting, I’m still so glad I did it. And I mean, who can really resist the call of those waters anyway?
Thursday was a particularly special day. Waking up with lakefront views from the hostel patio couldn’t be described as the worst way to turn another year older. Of all the things I’ve done on my birthdays in the past, nothing could even come close to this. Norway’s landscape is truly magical, like something from fantasy, something a camera lens can’t do justice for.
And the entire day was a day of enjoying the abundance of nature and scenic drives this great country offers, including seeing some stunning fjords and the Boyabreen Glacier. Lucky me! On our way we passed through the longest tunnel in the world, running at 24.5km in length, and ferried across the Sognefjord, the longest fjord in Norway and second longest in the whole world. For lunch we stopped at the glacier, the beautiful sights continuing to pile up as I sampled my first ever deer burger.
Finally, the evening was spent once again polar plunging nearby the hostel (though this time I just played the role of spectator) before casual quiz night ensued, complete with lots of laughs and good spirits. I capped off this whirlwind of a birthday with a stroll down into the village with a few others on the trip – the perfect end to the perfect day.
And yet our tour of rural Norway still wasn’t over! What the hell, right? An early start on Friday morning saw an hour long cruise along the Gerainger Fjord, which of course once again offered up even more stunning views that now completely dominate my camera roll. En route we stopped off a play in the snow on a frozen lake, the landscape suddenly drastically different to what we’d just passed through. Following from there we visited the quaint town of Lom, with a rare wooden church and a Lonely Planet recommended bakery, Bakeriet I Lom. Of this, we approve.
But while these things were nice, a big thrill continued to loom on the horizon. Cue our stop in Lillehammer, home of the 1994 Winter Olympic games and the location for experiencing a high-intensity bobsled race. This isn’t a ride for the faint of heart, and I can see now why such thick and bulky helmets are a must based on how much we were launched around inside the carriage. Still, what a thrill!
Celebrating my team’s second place finish (how we ever managed that I don’t know), I ended the day and therefore my time in Norway in a fancy steakhouse. I’ll be in Sweden by tonight, where the final leg of my Scandinavian adventure begins… and if I don’t stop now the photos of this glorious country will just keep coming until my fingers fall off, so I should probably call it a day…