Day Thirty One

With midnight sun comes an early morn.  The sun is shining brightly – it’s a perfect morning and setting for a hike.

Cobwebs from a late night dusted off, coffee downed, it’s exercise gear on and camera firmly in hand. Luckily for us, there’s a dirt track that winds up the mountain.

It’s a steep climb that’s rewarded with stunning views and a close up look at the ice drifts.  It’s extraordinary to me, that throughout summer’s heat, snow and ice  survive, with some drifts taller than Chris.  Waterfalls have sprung up, running the ice melt into the fjord below.  There’s a revelation too, the ice drifts melt from below, creating archways and gravity defying shapes.

On the mountain, everything is in miniature, bar rock and stone.  There are no trees, only barely ankle high shrubbery, moss and  lichen. A closer inspection reveals all below climes have to offer, shrunk to survive in challenging conditions. There are wildflowers in all colours, but they’re the size of a match head. Tiny butterflys and birds too.  Occasionally, we hear a clang of bells – sheep grazing on high.  Apparently over 2 million sheep are released to graze free each summer in Norway.  They have a hashtag all their own: #sheepwithaview

The tiny wildflowers have me entranced and I go off path for a belly on the ground close-up.  It’s only here that my camera does justice to what I see.  In taking a landscape shot, there’s no conveying the breadth of what’s in front of me.

Post hike we traverse the downside of the mountain, thankfully at a gentler decline, and continue along the Hardanger way, this time along the Sognefjorden, the longest ice free fjord in Norway.

Before we get there though, we drive past the last of Hardangerfjord.  It offers up a last gift, an iceberg, cleaved from a drift. In clear water, its underwater underbelly is as visible as its above water peak. A little further on, a new one is calving, held on by a mere edge to the main drift.  Living in the heat of home, this is a stunning, rare sight.

We stop for lunch on  a scenic plateau, only to have friends drop in.  Three of the 2 million sheep know a soft target when they see one, and bolt over for treats.  A ewe and twins.  They’re very cute and happily accept pats for treats, baa’ing loudly when either stop.  Luckily for them, once we’ve finished, a new batch of tourists front and make with the treats. These are not silly sheep.

Sognefjorden presents in the valley.  It’s vast, a deep, deep, blue in sun, slate grey in cloud.  It dwarfs yesterday’s fjord and we hug its boundary along some pretty hairy roads, one vehicle wide, with limited passing places.  Again, its a photographer’s dream and I do my best to comply.

Here, we are travelling truly North, crossing the fjord by ferry from Vangsnes to Hella, stopping only to buy raspberries fresh off the farm.  The berries here are excellent.

The northern bank offers a very different view.  We are now in the Fjoelandfjorden, a “finger” of the Hardangerfjord.  This shore is home to orchards: apples, plums, pears and raspberries dot the slopes.  It’s a little more populated too, still well set out with plenty of space, but not the open slopes and scattered cottages of the southern bank.

Fjoelandfjorden passes to Lustrafjorden, in a Northeast direction.  Just as exquisite as its predecessor, it offers a twist.  Waters not blue, but instead an intense, almost unbelievable aqua.  It’s like driving through a postcard, each turn more glorious than the prior. Google tells me the colour is a trick of the angle at which light is reflected.  I prefer to think of it as magic, a completely divine, special, magical place.  Frequent waterfalls complete the picture.  It’s oh so gloriously beautiful.

By now it’s late afternoon, and time to stop for the night (which never comes). Buoyed up by last night on a mountain top, Chris is determined to repeat the experience.

We pass the last of Lustrafjorden’s glorious waters and prepare for a mountain goat climb to the roof of Norway, oncoming traffic, hairpin turns and tiny roads be damned.

We’re soon past the tree line and well into snow covered mountains, me terrified most of the way.  90% of the way up, and a very large truck later, I lose my nerve and beg Chris to stop.

It’s as stunning as last night’s spot, snow on one side, bare mountain on the other, with a rocky outcrop we climb before dinner.

A stiff drink and a lie down for me. That drive up got the better of me. Even with that though, I’m falling more in love with Norway every day.