The last 2 days have been positively dreamy. I’m exhausted and overwhelmed with everything, but I’ve genuinely just had one of the best experiences of my life.
I set off yesterday morning, we got picked up from Voss and driven to Gurvangen, a little way away. The drive was beautiful, we took the old postal road which is a steep winding road down the mountain. As the area is big on its extreme sports, there are people who skateboard down the mountain path and people who base jump off it. When we got to the office of Nordic Ventures, the company running the kayaking, we spent a while sorting out the gear, getting into wetsuits and life jackets and packing up the boats with tents, sleeping bags, cooking equipment as well as personal belongings. It’s amazing how much the kayaks could hold in the hatches either end of the boat. When we launched into the open space of the fjords, I felt wonderful. At least I did for a few minutes before my rudder broke and I couldn’t steer and the rest of the group had gone ahead and the sea was a bit choppy and I was shouting to the guide, Lucas, but he was too far away to hear. Eventually he clocked and came back to rescue me, fixing the rudder. After that I felt wonderful again and shot on ahead. The scenery was mind blowing – towering mountains all around the sea, 360 degrees, wherever I looked. The weather turned fairly early, there was a terrible headwind which made the sea a bit rough and meant I was paddling and paddling but felt like I wasn’t moving forward at all. My hands were getting numb and I thought wistfully of the suggested kit list consisting of things like thermals and gloves and how I thought I wouldn’t need them. My feet were soaked in my neoprene boots and every bit was a struggle. The wind was horrendous, howling in my ears and dragging me backwards. Part of me was thinking ‘Have I actually paid money to do this?’ And the other part was thinking ‘I’m an absolute Spartan’ and thankfully the latter part won. Well at least until I got caught in a tree that overhung from the land to the sea and the boat got jammed in the rocks and I was just stuck there while the rest of the group moved on. I tried to push away with the oar but I felt like I was about to capsize so I stopped. My hair was tangled in the tree and when I managed to undo it, I paddled backwards and managed to free myself. Another member of the group got blown over the same way and she was sobbing and sobbing with the stress of the wind.
We stopped on a grassy verge for lunch. We pulled things out of the kayaks – fresh bread rolls, spreads, cheeses, avocados, salad and we had nuts and raisins to snack on. Refuelling felt great after such an arduous kayak. I was thrilled there was a long-drop toilet as well, as peeing behind a tree in a wetsuit is far from ideal as it means you basically have to get completely naked.
The afternoon’s kayaking was a bit easier. The rain had picked up but the wind had subsided, making it much easier to keep moving forward. It was calm though, and pretty and peaceful, and much the way I had imagined the trip compared to the morning’s struggle. We stopped at one point to climb up next to a waterfall, which was beautiful.
By the time we arrived at our camping spot, the rain was coming down in torrents. We worked together to put a tarp up over a table for a dining area, then each pitched our own tents. I didn’t envy Lucas, having to get the campfire going in the pouring rain, but he did it fine. While he was cooking, I got to know the rest of the group a bit more. There were Americans, Australians and Filipinos and they were all great. We ate, drank wine and Irish coffee and chatted for hours. It continued to rain and rain.
Waking up this morning, the weather was lovely. The sun was shining onto the mountains and there was a rainbow the other side of the fjord. After breakfast and striking our tents, getting back into damp wetsuits from yesterday wasn’t pleasant. Getting out on the water again in the sunshine was glorious, and we took it quite slow so we could take it all in. I saw a couple of seals swimming around, lots of jellyfish and starfish under the water and some Dolphins. There were also some mountain goats on a hillside. I had a very awkward moment when I had to stop for a wee on the way and as it was happening, a ferry went past with loads of tourists standing on the deck! I had to laugh.
The trip finished in the small village on Underdal which is unofficially the cutest town on earth. It has a church that only seats 40 people and was built in the 1100s. They’re known for their goats and hence also their goats cheese. We’d covered about 25km in the 2 days and I felt great. The skin is now raw on my thumbs from paddling and my arms and core ache like they’ve been used properly and I’m feeling very pleased with myself. Kayaking is hands down one of my favourite things to do.
I’m back in Voss now and very much looking forward to some sleep. I’ve had so much fun and been with nature but it’s nice to be in a warm room with a lake view also.