Much Better Adventurer Paula Mijares gives an insight into her weekend kayaking, wild camping and hiking in the Nærøyfjord.
Norway. If you had asked me when I was a kid what I thought Norway would be like, I imagined I would have said ‘that’s near where Santa Claus lives’. Little did I know that assumption would be proved very wrong. I travelled to Norway for the first time with Much Better Adventures. To say I was excited was an understatement as Norway has been top on my list to travel to during my time living abroad. So, without further ado here is a recap of my Norwegian adventure.
Friday 16th June, 2017
5pm. The blessed hour on a Friday afternoon that every single working employee craves to see clock over on their watches and computer screens. I bid an energetic goodbye to work and said a yummy ‘HELLO’ to the weekend. My journey from central London to Gatwick was nothing short of a whingey (typical Londoner) diatribe despite it being a glorious summer day. Let me explain. It’s never an ideal situation when you’re lugging a heavy duffle bag (mistake one) up Tottenham Court road (mistake two) weaving in and out of all the tourists and students (mistake three) on an excessively humid day while stupidly wearing a jacket (mistake four. Oh Paula).
6.30pm. Nonetheless, arriving at Gatwick airport or any airport for that matter is always exciting. 8.30pm. It was a packed flight and although the plane reeked of a thousand sweaty old socks left at the bottom of a trash can, the thought that I would be in Norway in a couple of hours was keeping my spirits high. 11.30pm. Touch down. It was approaching midnight, but the skies were still with light. How weirdly fascinating!
Saturday, 17th June, 2017
3am. I woke up to sunlight slipping through the hostel curtains. I thought to myself ‘That can’t be right. Am I dreaming? Get back to sleep, Paula’. 7 am. After only getting a couple of hours of sleep, I looked forward to breakfast knowing it was going to be a big day ahead. I was equally cheerful and pumped to see what the day would bring. 11.30am. We arrived in Gudvangen after a few hours on the road. I would have liked to enjoy the entire drive up to witness the Norwegian scenery, but I, unfortunately, succumbed to the senses and got lost in sleep and shameful drooling (how delightful). Stepping off the bus, my first thoughts of Gudvangen was ‘whoa’. I finally got to see the fjord and the dramatic grand cliffs alongside it. Just. Wow. Although it was overcast, no weather could stop me from appreciating what was before me.
1.30pm. After getting in our groups for the weekend, we received our induction in true English form i.e. with tea and biscuits. Lots of information shared but the enthusiasm didn’t cease. To be told that you will be kayaking down the Nærøyfjord, camping next to the fjord, then hiking up the mountains to view the fjord below is ridiculously unreal. Not long after that, we geared up, stocked the kayaks with our luggage and supplies and set afloat. I literally pinched myself after only a few paddles to realise that I’m kayaking down a fjord in Norway!
How is this real? What is life!
3.00pm. We stopped for lunch at an area a couple hours kayak down the fjord. Although my arms felt like they could possibly fall off, the pain didn’t faze me as I was just happy. After munching down a few sandwiches and briefly exploring the surroundings, we set off in our kayaks to paddle towards our campsite.
5.30pm. We arrived at our campsite which was located opposite the town of Dyrdal across the fjord. We had a bit of a drama paddling down after lunch. Without realising, our poor little kayak’s rudder broke, so my kayak partner and I were left wondering why we were swerving left and right when we wanted to go straight. Nevertheless, we made it unscathed. Our campsite was a pretty spot. A couple of metres away from my one-man tent was the fjord, not too bad of a view I must say.
8.30pm. After our bellies were filled with scrumptious food, we sat around the bonfire for a bit reflecting on the wonderful day we had. There is something mesmerising watching a fire.
10.00pm. I had to call it the night. My eyes were drooping down but the bright light in the evening was confusing the hell out of me. While I was brushing my teeth over the fjord, I was rudely (not really) interrupted by a seal popping out of the waters.
WHOA. My ‘wow’ moments just keep on coming. What a fantastic day.
Sunday, 18th June 2017
6.30 am. It was morning, and I was feeling fresh. I was surprised how well I slept considering the sun never set and I didn’t have a bed to sleep on. But regardless of that, if you got to wake up to the view I had once I unzipped my tent door i.e. a cheeky fjord and mountains galore, I would happily sleep on a rock, thank you very much. After a hearty breakfast, we jumped into our kayaks to paddle to the tiny town of Dyrdal where we would start our 18-19 km hike to the summit of Breiskrednosi. The last day and a half we were hit with chilly winds and constant rain but this day, we were graced with little rain, patchy sunshine and tolerable heat for most of our hike.
For most of my hikes, I do like to hang towards the back of the group, so I can take pictures and maintain my own pace. Because hiking shouldn’t be a race, it should give you a chance to enjoy your surroundings. We passed some spectacular scenery along the way from raging glacier rivers (which tasted like heaven), waterfalls that were as high as the eye can see, lakes that were clear as day and sheep that frolicked on our trail paths. The incline up to the summit was long and tough. Although I don’t particularly fancy the inclines, I do enjoy the challenge of making it to the top and seeing how far I have come.
After reaching 1 km above sea level, the summit terrain was vastly different. The tree line had gone, temperatures dropped, and we were soon hiking through snow and seeing frozen lakes. Nature is so varied and incredibly breathtaking. We got to Breiskrednosi (1189m) and wow (another wow moment), what a view from the top looking down at the fjord. As much as I wanted to take a billion photos, sometimes it is just nice to sit and savour the moment with your own eyes instead of through the lens. And this is exactly what I did.
The weather started to turn for the worst, so the group and I made our way back down to our kayaks. We slapped on our kayak gear and headed back to camp for a relaxing evening. We stood around the bonfire for a couple of hours drinking beers, exchanging banter and stories of Clarkie, the cash-rich phone salesmen. I must admit it was nice to chat without the constant presence of technology that we do not seem to be able to live without.
Monday 19th of June 2018
Last day. Why! Why do holidays always go so quick? After breakfast, we packed up camp and our gear into our kayaks and set sail down Nærøyfjord towards Aurlandsfjorden for the town of Undredal. I have to say waking up to kayak down a fjord must be one of the coolest things I have ever done on a Monday morning or any morning for that matter. There was nothing but big cheesy smiles on my face that morning. In addition, we were lucky enough to see another seal splashing about in the fjord!
Once we reached Undredal, we unpacked and got ready for lunch and our trip back to Bergen. By this point, I had nil strength or energy to move any part of my body. The struggle was exceptionally real and there was no way of making hobbling to walk look anything remotely graceful.
Arriving at the airport, I smelt and looked fantastic as ever (not really). I sat on my plane seat saying farewell to Norway from my window and reminisced about what was an unbelievable weekend away. For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to see Norway. How extremely fortunate I got to do it before coming back to Sydney. I cannot wait till I visit again. Until next time!
Paula is a Much Better Adventures trip tester and guest blogger.
Follow her on Instagram @paurkonyourfork
Check out Paula’s travel blog at whereispayula.wordpress.com.
Discover more on our hiking, kayaking and wild-camping in Norway experiences and other adventures in Norway.
Photo credit: Paula Mijares.