Day 5: THE $300 LAUNDRY JOB
Julie and I woke up at 7am. I knew we had a full day today, but yesterday we had left most of our clothes with the reception who did full service laundry. We had gone nearly two weeks without doing laundry since our arrival in Norway and boy did we smell like it. It was too bad that none of the hotels nor towns we were at had laundry facilities we could use because we either showed up too late in the day or the hotel didn’t offer it at the times we showed up. Our early afternoon arrival at the Hotel Loenfjord in Loen yesterday allowed us to finally do it.
We had slept quite well after a memorable walk to the terminus of the Briksdal Glacier and a satisfying dinner at the Hotel Loenfjord. But now we had to wait on our laundry so basically we did everything we could do in the mean time and packed up our belongings (sans clothing) and had another koldtbord breakfast.
It wasn’t until after 9am that we finally regained our clothes and packed them into our luggage. But when we saw the price we had to pay for the laundry service (they charged by the article and not the entire load), it came out to about $300 USD (over 1800 NOK)!
Now I had thought the $50 pizza in Hemsedal was bad, but this one was the worst! Both of us wondered what other expensive surprises were in store for the remainder of our trip to Norway.
To make matters worse, our clothes remained damp (even though most of them were quick-drying synthetics) and so we knew they would remain smelly. I guess we overhwhelmed their dryer.
So we left the Loenfjord Hotel and headed straight to Geiranger. The road initially hugged the Nordfjord’s Innviksfjorden towards the town of Stryn, then headed inland up the mountains. As we continued to climb and pass through several tunnels, we were all of the sudden in a highway surrounded by snow!
It wasn’t until we descended from the snowy moors that we noticed a sign saying “Kvanndalsfossen.” So we took the signed spur all the way deep into a camping cabin area and found a place to park in front of one of the empty hyttas.
It was a little after 10am when I started the walk. Julie opted to stay in the car for this, thinking it was going to be small.
About 15 minutes later, I finally heard and saw the waterfall through lots of obstructing foliage. It was difficult to get a satisfying view, but at least it wasn’t totally blocked (and hence a waste of time). I was back at the car just after 10:30am and we continued to take the road towards Geiranger.
We ultimately arrived in the township of Geiranger at around 11:15am. But that was not before getting a nice roadside view looking down into the township as well as the fjord.
The road into town was another narrow and winding descent with Grinddalsfossen tumbling underneath some of the switchbacks and buildings cozily clinging onto the steep hill while making room for the narrow road. There was even one moment where a tour bus and I had to exchange lanes in one of the switchbacks to get by each other. I nearly backed into a car behind me to make room for the bus before an emphatic car horn stopped me in my tracks.
Now originally I had this crazy idea to take a boat into the fjord and see it at our own pace. However, we soon learned that you’re on our own when you hire a boat and they charge by time and how powerful the motor was. So we settled on doing the crowded tourist boat, and fortunately we were in time for the 11:30am tour.
Julie and I managed to find the base of a staircase near the front of the boat as our little spot. The folks behind me had the premium spot as they staked their claim to a nice sitting spot on the stairs a little higher up on the boat, which was great for photos as the boat and people wouldn’t get in the way. There were a few occassions where I had to apologize because I actually got too caught up in my picture-taking and backed into them.
The tourist boat had a tape-recorded commentary that was synchronized (or selectively played by someone on the crew, I reckon) to the sights we beheld. There would be a few moments where a live voice would talk in place of the recorded monologue. The recorded commentary seemed like it went on nonstop because it spoke in at least seven different languages.
We also saw the Eagle’s Road, a few cliff-hugging farms, and the adjoining Sunnylvs Fjord with Hellesylt in the distance all the way to the south.
Particularly memorable were the Seven Sisters waterfalls and the Friaren waterfall. The Seven Sisters are really a group of parallel waterfalls of different heights plunging alongside each other into the fjord. The Friar is a heavy-flowing waterfall sloping and fanning out at its base. Both the sisters and the lone Friar are situated directly apart from each other, and it is said that the Friar was making his move on the sisters. Hence their current positions.
Another memorable story was about one of the cliff-hugging farms near the Friar. It was said that the resident of that farm never had to pay taxes because he would cut off the rope ladder providing the only access to his farm when the tax collector came. Since he was self sufficient, he could get away with this, and eventually the tax collector would just give up.
Of course today, these farms are abandoned because landslides and rock slides are common (a basic fact of life of having such vertical cliffs). Though restoration efforts have been made to preserve these farms. It was one of the reasons why this fjord was submitted to UNESCO for consideration of World Heritage Status. It eventually happened shortly after our Norway trip.
When the tour was about to end, we could see the town of Geiranger with Grinddalsfossen tumbling its way through. We would eventually finish the tour at around 1:30pm.
That gave us time for a little lunch and to make a phone call to the Trolltune accommodation in Dombås because we expected to check-in late. At least the Nordic Company came through in rectifying the Geiranger/Dombås swap that so troubled us several days before. Unfortunately, none of our call attempts were successful because apparently the phone number didn’t work! That was indeed troubling because we might get locked out by the time we arrive.
By 2pm, we regained the car and looked for the trailhead to Storsæterfossen. After going up a scary but short single-lane unsealed road to the Vesterås Restaurant near Hole Hyttas, we eventually embarked on our hike.
The weather was quite warm on this day so our waters were also a bit warm. The hike initially started along the road before going steeply uphill off the road. The hike was said to be about 2 hours return, and it was probably on the money. The relentless uphill climb was tiring to say the least, but it did provide interesting views back down the hill with the profile of Grinddalsfossen still visible.
We eventually made it to the top of the waterfall at 3:45pm. However, we at first couldn’t figure out how to get behind the waterfall. Above the falls, there was a dangerous-looking scramble. I had read before that people had fallen to the bottom of the falls and died so there was no way Julie and I was going that way.
Fortunately, we managed to find a far more tame approach to the falls with a fence to shield us from the drop-offs. We would eventually make it behind the cool shadowy cove behind the falls and get a little bit of relief from the warm sun.
As we were getting our fill of checking out the falls from the shady backside of Storsaeterfossen, we were also wondering where the other side of the track was that involved that dangerous cliff-hugging scramble to get here.
Maybe DNT let that trail fall into disrepair or something because it totally didn’t look obvious how we’d even make it here going that way!
Anyways, we eventually hiked back and regained the car at 4:30pm. Now, it was time to make the long drive inland towards Rondane National Park and the famous trail of Peer Gynt…
We zoomed along the Rv15 from Geiranger to Otta. Along this stretch, the road stayed in the moors before the scenery shifted towards a more alpine forest and mountain terrain. We hunted for Pollfoss along the way, but all we could see was rapids and not a real waterfall. There were a few other waterfalls we still couldn’t identify, but they looked legitimately tall and noteworthy.
The road was surprisingly straight, and for once, we could go 110km/h! Up till now, all we could do was go up to 90km/h, and the curves of the mountains prevented us from going that fast anyways. Now, it felt like we were free – even if it was for this short period of time.
We’d eventually get to Otta at around 8pm. The town seemed like it had a little bit of a happening night life going on in one district, but the rest of the town was dead. The visitor center was closed, but Julie was able to find a pay phone and use it to make another attempt at contacting the Trolltune accommodation. And it was unsuccessful again…
Well we didn’t have time to dwell on this little setback so we made our way towards the E6 then headed towards the small road that led up towards Mysusæter, which was at the gateway of the mountain plateau wilderness of Rondane National Park.
We eventually got to Mysusæter several minutes before 9pm, but we couldn’t figure out which road we were supposed to take. Finally, we asked someone who managed to tell us to take a certain road towards a toll station (yep, another one of those). And so we took his advice and eventually were onto another unpaved road that headed deep into the seemingly barren yet beautiful moors under the fading sunlight. Dark and ominous-looking thunderclouds remained to the south of us, and I immediately thought of the lightning danger if we were to be overtaken by the storm.
We’d eventually make it to a large car park that was full of cars in a spot called Spranget. It was strange to see this many people in a place this remote, but I guess what they said was true about the Rondane being very popular amongst locals.
Julie was tired and stayed in the car. So I headed out for the nearby Bruresløret for a little trail run. At first it was slow going because I was confused about which trail I should take, but eventually I just went to the river and had the faith that it would ultimately take me to the desired waterfall. And sure enough, I was there at 9:30pm – peering at the small but beautifully located waterfall surrounded by the brown moorish flatlands with mountains in the distance clinging on to its last bit of snow.
I was back at the car park at 9:45pm and immediately headed to where the Vesleulfossen trail started. By 10pm, I was at the spot where I thought the trail began. I thought we could go closer, but a locked gate prevented us from going any further so I guess this was where I’d have to start walking. Once again, Julie stayed in the car.
The remaining daylight was fading fast so I walked as fast as I could with a few moments of trail running. I had to follow the famed Peer Gynt Trail, which had different red markings instead of the usual red Ts I was used to hunting for when hiking in the wilderness. Also, much of the trail was muddy as it passed before numerous cabins.
The legend of Peer Gynt was made famous by the playwright Henrik Ibsen. I don’t know all the details about the play, but apparently, the main character Peer Gynt went on a journey to rediscover himself. And that journey featured the trail that I was on…
Eventually, I got to a point where the cabins were nowhere in sight and I went into a forest where the trail was a mix of dirt, mud, and boardwalks. I had a foreboding sense that I might have missed the turnoff for the falls, but I didn’t notice any signs. Ultimately, the GPS told me that I had gone to about the same latitude as Bruresløret, which the map clearly told me could not be the case. Thus, I turned back towards the cabins along the Peer Gynt Trail.
After getting back to the first of the cabins, I decided to start to have a look around. The description in the newsletter I picked up at the toll station in Mysusæter said to follow the Peer Gynt Trail until the last cabin. I assumed that cabin I was at was the last one.
Finally, I saw some blue spray-painted markings on some rocks on the ground with a primitive trail leading behind the cabin towards what appeared to be a chasm in the distance behind the trees. With the light continuing to fade as the sun was going behind the mountains way off in the distance to the west, I had to hasten my steps.
It was 11:15pm when I finally arrived at the falls. With not enough light to take a normal photo, I had to really steady the camera and try to take a few long exposure photos. It was too bad the trees blocked the lower parts of Rondane’s tallest waterfall, but I was in no mood to continue scrambling down the increasingly steep slope, especially under the ensuing darkness that was about to overwhelm the area.
And so with the best photos that I could manage, I trail ran my way back to the car. I would eventually make it back to the car park by midnight. It was dark, but there was still a little bit of twilight to make out objects before me. Plus, my eyes were already accustomed to the darkness. Fortunately, I got back to a worried Julie because I didn’t bring a torch, which was kind of stupid on my part.
With the car started and Julie reassured that I came back in one piece, we headed back down towards Otta. We determined to make one last stop there so we could make another attempt at contacting the Trolltune Hotel.
So back to the pay phone we went. This time, Julie finally realized that Nordic Company provided the wrong area code for the Trolltune phone number! She was pissed at them, but at least that subsided when she managed to get a hold of the proprietor at the Trolltune and told him we were on our way.
As we finally arrived in Dombås, it was now past 1am and we were desperate to find some sort of clue as to where the Trolltune accommodation was. As we drove through the darkness and sparse town lights, we finally found the visitor center (closed of course). Julie got out of the car and walked up to a town map taped onto the window. I tried to use a little high beam to give Julie some more light as she was reading the map. Just then, a police car with a pair of officers pulled up from behind and had its high beams flashed onto us. Clearly, they must’ve thought we were up to no good.
So both Julie and I talked to the approaching officer as he asked us what the problem was.
And so we explained to him that we were lost and we were looking for the Trolltune accommodation. With that, he got into his squad car with his partner and asked us to follow him.
And that we did.
The squad car weaved through a few town streets before going up a hill. It seemed quite a ways away from the town and we were beginning to wonder where he was taking us. But our fears were allayed when he signaled towards the Trolltune.
Before we could thank the officers, they took off.
Without the aid of the cops, I couldn’t imagine how we would ever find this place. We were nearly without a place to stay, and we were glad the police found us and helped a pair of poor foreigners like us.
Anyhow, we finally met the proprietor, who turned out to speak limited english. We tried to explain futilely what happened and how the cops led us here in our broken Norwegian, but he didn’t quite understand what we were saying.
So with that, we quietly got into our rooms, showered, and went to bed. But that was not before we both took a glance out the window and noticed how the skies were already starting to get a little brighter. It was 2am…