Day 38 (July 20, 2019 – Skjolden, Norway): “The Race Against The Weather”
It was about 4:20am when I awoke to my own alarm. Upon looking out the window of our tiny little “motel” room, it looked rather clear and promising.
However, I knew that based on the forecast from last night that this was going to be short-lived. For there was rain in the forecast for later this afternoon that would also go all the way through the next day.
That said, it wasn’t until about 6:50am when we had gotten all our things together (including bedsheets and towels that we had bought on this trip since we didn’t want a repeat episode of getting ripped off renting this stuff) and took off.
As we were heading out, we were listening to Radio Stryn again, and once again, they were playing Highasakite. This time, they were playing “Someone Who’ll Get It”, which was an appropriate song about Global Warming and the demise of humanity.
They also played another song back-to-back by the same band that I hadn’t heard of before.
But it just went to show me that this local radio station really supported this band, which I’d imagine might come from this area. And that would make sense since they probably witnessed the very thing we did at the glaciers.
Regardless, we drove off and ultimately decided to make a detour into the Myklebust Valley after a scenic drive along the Nordfjord before cutting over a developed pass towards Byrkjelo.
This time, there seemed to be a giant cow farm fronting the “Nonfossen” Waterfall. As I was taking pictures there, it seemed like the cows were gathered behind the fence and looking towards us as if we were going to give them something.
Looking across the valley, we saw the familiar Strupenfossen, which was a three-tiered crashing waterfall fed by the glacier also responsible for the Ramnefjellsfossen that we saw yesterday.
Once we had our fill of this inner part of the valley, I then drove us back to the public car park (that I swore wasn’t there) closer to the mouth of the valley at 8am.
At that point, I decided that I was going to solo hike to Sanddalsfossen to see what else had changed since the last time we came here (other than the weather).
The skies were already starting to become overcast as it was apparent that the weather was already encroaching on us the further south and east that we were going. So that kind of changed the scenery somewhat from the beautiful scenery with reflections and blue skies that we had enjoyed on our first visit here.
Regardless, I now followed the signage pointing the way to Sanndalsstoylen. It was a familiar path, but I wondered about the old access which I recalled seemed to lead through a developing hydro plant just downstream of the waterfall.
This time, however, I saw that there was still a bridge over the stream responsible for the waterfall. However, there were crates and other agricultural stuff that seemed to be positioned in a way to discourage going over that bridge.
I still crossed that bridge and continued hiking uphill towards the base of the Sanddalsfossen. And by 8:25am, I finally made it up to the dam.
Just past the dam, there was fencing preventing any further progress to the base of the falls. So in the end, I didn’t get a particular good view of the falls (kind of like before) as it was all unsanctioned, I’d imagine.
Still, there was signage as if the kraftstasjon authorities had expected there to be public traffic here.
But when I looked across the reservoir, I saw that there was another road leading down to some additional infrastructure as well as some kind of house or hut at the top of the neighboring hillside.
That gave me the idea that perhaps the trail continuing beyond the waterfall to Sanddalstoylen might also yield the best view of Sanddalsfossen.
So with that, I headed back down towards the bridge at 8:35am, and then I decided to hike up the switchbacks of a wide farm road going farther than I would up going the last time (when I thought that this wasn’t the right way).
By about 8:55am, I made it up to perhaps the best views of the Sanddalsfossen that I was going to get as it was just past the house that I thought I might have seen from by the dam. It was just beyond the last of the switchbacks (by the way, that last switchback also yielded a nice view back towards the Sanddalsvatnet and Myklebustdalen).
There wasn’t any formal signage nor anything official about the falls, but I was high enough above the local treeline to finally see this waterfall in its entirety. Thus, I’d imagine that this was the proper and sanctioned way to experience the Sanddalsfossen.
At this point, I wasn’t going any further and I could see that the clouds were definitely overhead now.
By about 9:15am, I had made it back to the car where both Julie and Tahia were still asleep. There was definitely a strong smell of cows throughout the return walk.
That led me to believe that this whole valley probably was dedicated to cow farming and perhaps in support of the ubiquitous Tine brand that I’d imagine had a monopoly over the entire dairy industry in Norway as their labels were everywhere in the milk sections of every supermarket!
Next, we then made another detour towards Gloppen, where we’d visit Eidsfossen once again.
By about 9:40am, both Julie and I checked out the familiar waterfall just like last time. And at least out in these parts, the sun still prevailed.
Regardless, with the blue skies, we got to see a nice rainbow at the base of the waterfall when viewed from the top.
After having our fill of the falls at 10am, Julie and I returned to the car (in between, we also drove down to the base whose view was not as sanctioned). The whole time, Tahia was asleep in the back seat of the car.
After filling up for gas at a slightly cheaper price than all of the Nordfjord region in the nearby town of Sandane (though not as cheap as I had hoped), we then drove back in the direction of Fjaerland.
Back on our first trip, there was a toll station somewhere along this route that amounted to highway robbery. I wondered what kind of toll we were going to see this time around!
By about 11:20am (after going through some tunnels and following behind caravans of slow-moving RVs), we ultimately got to some kind of spillover car park for the Boyabreen Glacier.
It was about a 300m walk or so from here to the cafe. We wondered if we could have driven over to the cafe, but we figured there were lots of people here for one reason or another and not at the other car park, which we were walking towards.
We could already see the impressive Boyabreen Glacier even during this walk as well as some surrounding waterfalls. But just like our past trips, it seemed like quite a bit of the ice had retreated further up the mountain and were replaced by waterfalls.
When we ultimately made it to the cafe where there was a decent view of the glacier, Julie and Tahia decided to grab a bite at the cafe there. We saw that there was plenty of space for parking, and perhaps in hindsight, we should have done just that especially since we were now eating at the cafe.
Meanwhile, as they were waiting for the food, I walked the remaining trail all the way to the lake where the former terminus of the glacier used to be.
This glacier didn’t quite have the scenic allure of both Kjenndalsbreen and Briksdalsbreen, but it was an easy visit comparably speaking anyways (which also made this place popular). I regretted not stopping for this glacier in the past when we had the chance.
By about 12:10pm, we were back at the car. With dark clouds now clearly overhead once again, I had a feeling that the weather was only going to get worse the closer to Skjolden (site of our next accommodation) that we were getting.
So we continued the drive through more tunnels and curvy mountain roads. We also followed behind more cars with foreign license plates or rental cars from Norway that I knew weren’t local drivers given how slow they were going.
The annoying things about these drivers were that the vast majority of them didn’t use pullouts so we had to make some daring passing maneuvers to not be subject to the delays that they were imposing on us as well as the caravan of cars behind us.
Eventually, we made it to the Rv55 when we got to Sogndal. We then drove north on that road towards both the turnoff for the Urnes Stav Church as well as a view of Feigefossen that I knew we were going to have across the Lustrafjorden.
And we didn’t take too much time at this pullout as we still had to backtrack to get to the Urnes Stav Church. But at least Julie said she liked this waterfall due to its freefalling characteristic (said to be the second highest such waterfall in Norway).
Next, we drove back in the direction of Urnes and filled up some cheap gas at the Yx station near the turnoff. Then, it turned out that we caught the boat ferry across the Lustrafjorden just in time for departure between Solvorn and Urnes (at around 2:05pm).
This ferry was small and it was weird in that we had to back into the ferry. There were also lots of pedestrians on this ferry as they were probably doing a quick round-trip from Solvorn and back.
Speaking of Solvorn, it seemed like a charming little town on the western shores of the Luster Fjord (Lustrafjorden), but Julie and Tahia recognized the Walaker Hotel which was in a Rick Steves video.
So I guess this must have been a popular spot for American tourists at least, and perhaps this might have been a suitable base to experience this arm of the grand Sognefjorden (the longest fjord in Norway).
I was always under the impression that this hotel was closer to Urnes on the east side of the fjord, but it just goes to show you that sometimes perception and reality are two very different things. And that’s why you still have to go to these places despite what you’ve read or seen or heard about before going on such trips.
As we were being ferried across the fjord, the rain definitely started to fall. It was still light enough that it didn’t discourage our visit to the Urnes Stavkirke, but it was definitely becoming a factor for anything else we were going to do on this day.
I was still holding our hope of driving up to Jotunheimen National Park on the famous Sognefjellet Road, but it was looking less and less likely that it was going to happen.
Anyways, after being let off the ferry, we had to drive up a narrow single-lane road towards a car park for the Urnes Stave Church. There was another single-lane road that we were apparently supposed to walk up to get to the church itself.
Upon Julie’s request, I had to drive up that road to reduce the walking, and when we found out that there wasn’t any sanctioned parking spaces, I decided to drop them off to save the walking, and then I’d drive back to the sanctioned lot to walk up the road.
Thus, I finally parked the car at 2:30pm and proceeded to do the uphill walk by myself.
Roughly ten minutes or so later, I finally made it back up to the Urnes Stavkirke where Julie and Tahia were already taking pictures around the impressive stavkirke.
Apparently, there was supposed to be an upcoming English-speaking tour that would let you inside the church. However, the signage said there was no photography allowed inside the church so I tried to get what shots that I could from the outside.
However, when the lady who was going to be our guide showed up, we all followed her to the side of the stavkirke, where there were intricate patterns organized in columns.
She was explaining in a bit of a French-English accent that this was the oldest stavkirke in Norway at around 1185 AD though it had gone through some transformations over the years.
But apparently, this was the fourth stavkirke and some of the things we were seeing on this church were actually replicas or moved over from the so-called third stavkirke. I wasn’t sure what the history was behind the first and second stave churches let alone the third and fourth ones, but we could probably look that up later.
In any case, we were paying full attention to the young lady, who was obviously on a Summer job.
It was raining again when we were getting our talk on the outside, and I think she was cognizant of that (which was why she wanted to go through the outside part first before going inside).
But once we went inside, we could readily see that this had a pretty impressive and ornate interior. She’d go on to explain that quite a few of the bling pieces that we saw were actually donations from families local to the area.
Indeed, there was a shimmering painting to the left and a rather ornate altar. It was still mostly dark inside the stavkirke as the only window to the place was up above where sunlight would shine on some Jesus icon.
There were other details that the guide went over regarding where the women sat and who got to sit in the cages as well as some of the cross-beams that were put in place to stabilize the structure after it transformed into a more Lutheran faith following the Reformation.
When the French guide was done with her talk, she then allowed there to be non-flash photography, which everyone took quite a bit of time to do as it wasn’t expected.
Then, after finally having our fill of the interior, we then went outside towards the utsikt (lookout), but we ultimately found that the best views were from the ramp as we could look back at the stave church with part of the Lusterfjord in the background.
With the trees in the way, we couldn’t quite get the angle that we wanted, but it was still quite nice.
Finally at about 3:40pm, I had already walked back down to the car while Julie and Tahia took their time picking wild raspberries along the single-lane road.
By this time, the rain was definitely coming down now. And since we were on the single-lane road connecting Urnes to Skjolden where Feigefossen was along the way, I ultimately decided that I should just get the Feigefossen hike out of the way even though it would be in bad weather.
So by about 4pm, I finally made it to the familiar Feigefossen car park. Julie and Tahia stayed back in the car to avoid the worsening weather.
Meanwhile, I donned my rain poncho and waterproof pants, and then I proceeded to go along the single-lane road before going on the uphill trail leading closer to the base of the falls.
The hike was just as uphill as I had remembered it. At least it was all uphill going past a swinging gate before reaching up to an overlook with a full view of the Feigefossen.
By the time I was up here, it was quite rainy and I couldn’t whip out the camera for too long.
However, when I continued on the trail, I then had to descend a slippery and muddy path before the trail ascended once again.
So with all that climbing, I knew that the unbreathable rain poncho and waterproof pants were making me sweat and wet from the inside out, which kind of defeated the purpose of having such rain gear in the first place.
Nonetheless, I was at least protecting the camera as well as my pen and pad.
By about 4:45pm, I had finally made it to the end of the trail. There was one other guy who made it up here with me, and he didn’t take long to take his shots and go.
And I didn’t blame him considering that the rain was really starting to come down now.
Anyways, when I had my fill of the falls, I followed suit and went downhill and then back uphill to the overlook. I really didn’t like that uphill part on the return.
At about 5pm, I was back at the utsikt and took a few more photos of the Feigefossen waterfall before heading back down.
Ultimately by about 5:30pm, I finally made it back to the car as a hot and sweaty (and wet) mess. It was still raining, and I had to resign myself to the fact that trying to fit in the Sognefjellet Road on this day was just wishful thinking.
By about 6:10pm, we finally settled into the fairly small room after doing a little improvised parking near the hotel. There was some kind of wedding that was going on at this hotel, which further constrained the parking situation.
The room itself faced towards the mountains instead of the fjord. I recalled that the last time we were here, we also got views looking towards the fjord. So I’d imagine that we must have gotten the cheapest (and last-minute) rooms that they had available. Perhaps this wedding had something to do with it.
But with the cold and wet weather, we weren’t going to do anything more on this day. And with the weather forecast calling for still bad weather tomorrow, we were in a situation where we had to make lemonade out of lemons again.
Regardless, we went to the Eide Gard as we knew that eating at the Skjolden Hotel was a recipe for getting ripped off. Plus, nothing else was open because it was getting late and it was getting to be Sunday tomorrow as things were closing up shop for Saturday night already.
At 6:50pm, we ultimately got back in the car and drove over to the Eide Gard Farm. We did have 8:30pm reservations for the Skjolden Hotel dining room just in case, but we weren’t going to go back after seeing that this place was still open and had a decent menu.
Anyways, the internet was working at this place so Julie and Tahia spent more time surfing the web (because the Skjolden Hotel one was spotty and wasn’t working when we were there), and it wouldn’t be until about 8:25pm when we were finally leaving.
By 8:35pm we were back at the room where we got cleaned up and tried to get some shut-eye. However, there was music blaring well into the night (past 1am was my recollection) due to the wedding reception. Plus, the walls of the Skjolden Hotel were pretty thin.
So we’d just have to put up with this but eventually I went from conscious to unconscious at some point, and then I finally got my Z’s knowing that the prospect for another day of embracing the suck was high tomorrow…