Mist did not make itself scarce on our Norwegian vacation in the August of 2016. Our plan to hike Trolltunga – and jump at the end of the troll’s tongue while aiming not to fall off it while doing so – was interrupted by adverse weather. For as you know, it is not a good idea to set out on a hike in slippery conditions when you would in all probability need to be hoiked midway through the hike. Airlifts have indeed taken place a few times in Trolltunga. Let me assure you that the authorities do not shower you with kind looks and cupcakes when that happens. Expect thin-lipped looks, heavy with disapproval, at you being an utter git.
I am a git at the best of times. But I did have the experience of climbing boulders on the way to Pulpit Rock and that made me think twice. Despite all my hankering for Trolltunga, I did bow down to the wayward weather deities. There is no fighting nature for she will have her say.
I made plans instead for us to hike up to a mountain farm high above one of the fjords, Simadalsfjord.
That crazy man, Woody Allen, remarks that “if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” I did not tell the weather gods about our plans but they have powers of prescience I am told. My plans were foiled again.
It was drizzling and it had rained heavily all through the day before. Double drama. Which meant that we had to abandon all thoughts of the steep climb to Kjeåsen Mountain Farm.
The other way up was to drive up a winding road that was constructed in the 1970s (maybe to allow people like me a route into this mountain farm which has been declared the most inaccessible one in the world?). No you hike-loving twat (reference to the self), it was built keeping in mind the need for hydroelectricity development.
The road up a one-way tunnel runs for just 3-odd miles, but what it lacks for in length, it makes up in steepness. The tunnel comes across as dark as a subterranean passage because of the lack of lighting. How do they avoid kissing vehicle mishaps here? The authorities have put out strict timings. You can go up at slots that start dot on the hour (such as 9am, 10am, 11am…). The journey down can begin at 9.30am, 10.30am…You get the drill.
The latest time till which you can drive up is 5pm. There are a handful of people who still live up there on Kjeåsen.
We passed through Hardangerbru, the suspension bridge that spans the length of Eidfjorden (a branch of Hardangerfjorden), and stopped at the hamlet of Eidfjord for a coffee break, before we carried on up to Kjeåsen. It was a quiet community – all of 950 people share it between themselves.
Mountains towered above us, lush beacons of goodness, slender waterfalls tracing their paths down the steep slopes, as we wandered around Eidfjord and paused at the port where cruise ships stop before entering Norway’s largest national park, Hardangervidda, which is also the largest high mountain plateau in Europe. I shall take you into its open barrenness in the next post. I will throw in some trolls too to make it good.
When we reached the foot of the road near Sima Power Plant, we were part of a queue of cars that had lined up to start the one-way journey on the hour. The cars have to maintain German-sharp timelines. After a tortuous drive (which is still less crazier than the Scafell Pike drive in the Lake District of England), we were walking through wild fields.
Veils of mist hung above us. As we kept walking up, the mountain tops appeared to let off steam which made it a stomping field for the imagination. Ancient and all-imposing.
For 400 years, the farm has had inhabitants who eked out their existence from the rich soil and forests through hunting and fishing. The story goes that the farms, which stand in solitary glory at the top of the mountains, were built during a lengthy period spanning three decades. The hardy people who lived there had to carry planks of wood, stone and building materials up the slopes. Their children had to attend school in Simadal below in summer. They lived with their relatives in the valley during the winter months when the paths leading up and down the mountains became too risky for them to chart. I could almost feel the sorrow that would have filled their tiny hearts as they pined away for their folks and the spectacular place they called home.
High above the fjord, shivering in the cold, we walked past the farm and stared at the surrounding mountains which plunged into the fjord. The waters were not smoky blue or steely grey. They were on the brink of turning a deep bluish-green.
Fjords, mountains, mists, waterfalls and lonely farms. We were caught in the clutches of time.