It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my
countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out-of-doors and, hopefully, they will continue to
inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.
My perusal of a recent copy of TGO magazine brought me across a few possibilities in an issue having the strapline "Walk the World" on its cover. When it comes to overseas journeying, I tend to take what alpinists might call a centrist approach. What I mean is that I have a habit of basing myself in one location and exploring that and places situated around and about it. The other approach would be to go from place to place on an itinerary.
Certainly, my usual approach makes it much easier to organise a trip and it matters more when I am going further away from home: just book somewhere to stay and sort out how to travel there and back again. After that, it is possible to concentrate on finding one’s feet and experiencing any local delights to a deeper level than you would if moving from place to place. It also works well for independent travelling and that is what I did before the pandemic came our way.
There are many trips to Scotland and the Isle of Man where I have taken the centrist approach and it has come in handy for overseas escapades featuring Iceland, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and Canada. One notable exception has been Norway but, even there, I have limited my stopping points and there was a time that I traipsed from place to place around Scotland too.
Thus, the list of possible base "camps" for European excursions in that recent issue of TGO caught my eye. Two places on the lists have seen my footfall already: Innsbruck in Austria and Sóller in Mallorca. The first of these has an embarrassment of riches surrounding it that easily caused quandaries during my extended weekend stay during May 2016. The others need to remain on file for the future. They include Senja in Norway, Gavarnie in the Pyrenees, Sotres in Picos de Europa, Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites and Bled in Slovenia. All are near to the type of countryside that I relish so they could be worth seeking should opportunities arise.
In a similar vein, Outside also listed the best mountain towns in the U.S.A. and this too struck a chord with me since I have had designs on exploring American mountain country for a while. For example, the prospect of spending time around Denver and Boulder in Colorado during the summer of 2020 foundered because of the pandemic. So, getting a wider list could be helpful and there are twenty-four entries. The source article is behind a paywall but it is worth becoming a paid subscriber to get a list like this.
The possibilities include Cordova in Alaska, Sedona in Arizona, Bentonville in Arkansas, Truckee in California, Durango & Telluride in Colorado, Stanley in Idaho, Copper Harbor in Michigan, Bozeman & Whitefish in Montana, Asheville in North Carolina, North Conway in New Hampshire, Taos in New Mexico, Lake Placid in New York, Bend in Oregan, Spearfish in South Dakota, Chattanooga in Tennessee, Terlingua in Texas, Park City in Utah, Stowe in Vermont, Roanoke in Virginia, Leavenworth in Washington State, Davis in West Virginia and Jackson in Wyoming. Here, I have ordered things by state so you will need to go to the article to get their ordering and the details that they supply for there is a lot to uncover about these. Many already are places that I have checked out but others are not.
It is all very fine to have lists of locations but there are other considerations like accessibility using public transport and the availability and cost of accommodation. Some locations are sure to be well known and hence will be busy places so knowing quieter times like shoulder seasons will prove useful as could using the services of a travel company. Of course, you cannot go anywhere without having the ideas in the first place.
There was a series on Irish television called “Reeling in the Years” where each program covered happenings in a certain year in the past using archive footage. The concept may not have been all that original though the focus of Irish events gave it a certain uniqueness. It was the sort of light television programming that could be repeated endlessly should a vacant slot need occupying.
Of course, that is not how I tend to view the entries on here and I often struggle to complete a trip report as I have been doing for a while with a day spent along Derbyshire’s Great Ridge in the autumn of 2017. Sometimes, what should produce a timely report can gain the feel of an archive item.
Nevertheless, 2020 is a leap year and a very rainy, snowy and windy February gains an extra day; it is hard to believe that we were basking in unseasonably warm sunshine just over a year ago. Perhaps, it is little wonder then that I often state that we get weather instead of seasons and such is the defining characteristic of a maritime climate.
January and February often are the quieter months of the year so there is some time for looking back and a little forward planning. Thus, I take this opportunity to cast my mind back over leap years from a outdoor wandering vantage point since that stops me at 2000 when I commenced my working life after formal education.
By 2004, my pedestrian hill wandering had come into being with Scotland being a major focus along with England and Wales. The year itself was terrible from a weather standpoint with the summer being a washout. Only some flexibility at work allowed me to snatch a drier interlude to go north to Lorn and Lochaber to make the most of a fleeting opportunity.
2008 then was the third calendar year for this blog and saw a high point in my Scottish rambling. Until very recently, a week in August spent among some of the Western Isles became my most adventurous escapade ever. Skye was a staging point and I managed to avoid much of the rain that came from a stalled front lying across Ireland, England and Scotland. It now seems surreal that there was some glorious weather to be enjoyed on Harris, Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist.
The occasional good fortune of those islands again manifested itself in 2012 when they in fact endured a drought while the the rest of Britain has the wettest summer ever. It was only the dryness of the Outer Hebrides that stopped the year going down in records as being wetter than in 2000, a year that I hardly regard as being that rainy at all though there were autumn deluges. The differences in weather were missed in 2012, not only because of a certain weather myopia but also because the heavy workload of 2011 had drained me to the point that energy for planning a return to the Western Isles just was not there.
By 2016, major changes were taking place in my life after the passing of both my parents. These were becoming evident in 2012 and the combination of a busy working life and ongoing inheritance works became enough to break me. One saving grace was that I started exploring elsewhere in Europe and that began in 2015. 2016 saw an extended weekend spent in each of Austria and Norway while there also was a mid-winter break in Mallorca. It was the latter than really taught me a lesson with a heavy cold and the others might have been but palliative care for an ongoing malaise. Changes were coming.
As I look back, it is tempting to think that leap years are not always the best for me though I now reckon that they were not as bad as I might have thought them at the time. 2020 could prove no different but that remains to be seen. Changes are continuing and I now work for myself so overseas and other excursions can continue alongside the other things that need doing. Only time will show what chances are available.
Having what is called a bucket list, a list of places that you would like to visit while you can, is common these days but I wonder if such a thing is all that desirable. By the its nature, the problems start when compiling a list of such ideas because chances are that you will select places that already are popular. That applies as much when perusing travel magazines or holiday brochures as it does when using social media.
One consequence of this is that certain locations become too popular for the sake of sustainability and that leads to restrictions that affect the independent traveller. South American destinations like Machu Pichu and Torres del Paine National Park come to mind here but the problem is spread around the world. Scotland’s Isle of Skye has experienced problems that never made the news before and you only have to see how many visit well promoted attractions like the Cliffs of Moher to see how many people visit a small number of locations in Ireland at a time during the high season.
This then poses something of a dilemma: do you cater for the visitor numbers or do you restrict them? With wilderness and conservation areas, there is a tendency to do the latter though it does have the consequence of pushing up visitor costs and that may have its benefits for local tourism businesses as you may find on a trip to places in either the Canadian Rockies or Alaska. When you add in short summer tourism seasons, the effect by necessity is more pronounced.
In other destinations, they add in facilities for the extra visitors with some decrying the effect that this has had on Spain’s Mediterranean coastline because of hotel and holiday apartment construction. Parts of the Alps are afflicted like this but in a different way: it is the infrastructure of skiing resorts that hardly help appearances in mountain country during the summer season. Both examples make you wonder at the appropriateness of such developments and they must tug at the heartstrings of anyone who adores mountain and coastal scenery.
Another aspect of any overdevelopment is that you can install something that encourages the otherwise unprepared into wild places without realise the possible dangers that are there. For instance, I seem to have inherited my father’s unease at cliff edges and my knowledge of how slippery limestone can be almost made me shout at people to keep back from the edge on a damp day hike around the Cliffs of Moher and Doolin. It is little wonder that staff are equipped with whistles to direct the unaware away from peril.
There is overcaution too and one example is the boardwalk on Cuilcagh Mountain and how incongruous it looks in the landscape through which it conveys people to the top of the hill shared between Cavan and Fermanagh, between Éire and Northern Ireland. It also does not help that it stops short of the top too but the boggy morass deters most. Another location where path development attracted adverse comment was at Sliabh Liag in County Donegal but it might be that some sense prevailed there in the end.
Hillwalking is a growing pastime in Ireland so there remains a lot to learn in a country where there is neither experience nor tradition of path and track building in such places. Thankfully, organisations like Mountain Meitheal and Mountaineering Ireland together with initiatives like Helping the Hills are starting to address this so lessons are learned from places like Scotland and applied to get sensible solutions to the growing problem of erosion on popular hills. It is something that needs attention as much as securing access for hill wandering in the first place.
The mention of countryside access brings me to another factor that causes some places to feel overloaded: a lack of alternatives. It is not everywhere that has the liberal access rights that are enjoyed in Scotland and across Scandinavia so there can be a very really reduction in the number of places where you can explore. The options may not stop you going to those better known places like Norway’s Preikestolen before finding other quieter hikes nearby as knowledge grows and maps feel more confiding.
It is this last point that inspires the title and the theme runs through Fiona Reynolds’ The Fight for Beauty, a book that I read last autumn. It is not for nothing park rangers in Denali National Park tell you not to walk one after another in a group so a path never develops and that everyone’s backcountry journey is their own. When there is plenty of land for all, we can spread out and find our own space to recharge weary spirits. That is easier when we are not retracing the steps of others all the while and it can have a lighter impact on the countryside too with less erosion caused by many feet and much path widening. While it can be true that we get confined by or own lack of knowledge, physical restrictions caused by not having enough other places to go hardly help either. Overcoming both might be the ultimate answer to the visitor management conundrum.
There is something about spending around a week in a place that adds satisfaction to a trip. This is something that I have been discovering on trips to Ireland for getting things done. The extra time allows for a chance to soak in the atmosphere of a place and feel more of a part of it. For that though, you need to not overfill days with activity because that makes you so busy that nothing has any time to seep into your spirit.
That reminds me of a recent trip to Ireland where it was possible to stop a while and go for strolls in addition to the other things that I needed to do. People were met and things organised but there was enough time to feel more at one with where I was. Other stays have been as long in duration over the last twelve months and they have left their mark in a similar way that an extended weekend trip never would do.
A relaxed pace often helps. Thinking back to Scottish trips like the one that took me to Na hEileannan nan Iar ten years ago, they had defined itineraries but hill wandering added the slack which allowed me to look around and take in the sights and the ambience of where I was. Just rushing along would never do that and the much needed recollections of peaceful islands would been lost. Such is the state of the world at the moment, that any memories that restore peace and calm are all the more invaluable.
Oddly, no outing since that Hebridean escapade has exceed its Sunday to Sunday eight day length and none came close until June 2017 when I enjoyed a six day sojourn in Norway from Sunday to Friday. Following the August 2016 Friday to Monday four day encounter, this stay was to allow some added breathing room after I notice how short its predecessor had been. There are other compensations too for it starts to fill like a proper break after about the third day and any extra days embed a certain sense of discontinuity that really helps for a fresh restart once back into the everyday routine. After what has happened in my life over the past decade, that is relished all the more readily these days.
2017-06-05: More time around Oslo
An afternoon flight from a stuffy and busy Manchester Airport got me to Oslo. If I had known better, I would have stayed on the train from Oslo’s airport longer to get closer to where my hotel was. The day had been damp but remained dry as I undertook the longer than expected walk from Oslo sentralstasjon through the city’s heart and my tardiness was noted by the hotel receptionist before I was compensated with the largest hotel room that I ever occupied. It felt more like a two room studio flat so there was plenty of space to relax a while.
The reason for the long trek that Sunday evening was the hotel’s proximity to the Royal Palace (Det Kongelige Slott in Norwegian) and that helped to address some unfinished business from my previous visit to Oslo. The next morning brought bright sunshine so it was time to start a whole day of exploration around Norway’s capital city. Looking back through the photos now, it would be tempting to think that it was all sunshine but there was a shower of rain in the middle of the day while I got something to eat.
My day started around the Royal Palace though and I realise that mornings were better for photographing its frontage because that is when sunlight falls on it. In 2016, I had hoped to do just that before catching my train to Bergen but there was not enough time so it had to wait. There were no time constraints the next time around so I had the space that I needed and it was a wrench to pull myself away for further exploring.
As I continued through the city centre, there was a feeling of closure and it appeared that Norwegian public holiday observance was much like what they do on Sundays since no large stores were open. The need to purchase a USB Type C cable for powering my Google Pixel C tablet had to wait until the next morning but there was no time to be ruing my leaving the actual cable after me for I wanted to see Akershus slott.
Getting there had me passing landmarks that I had seen before like Domkirken where I tarried a while. When I reached the Akershus fort, I spent some time there too with the old buildings catching my eye as much as any views of Pipervika and the severe-looking towers of the Radhuset were unmissable. Their architectural style reminded me a little of Stockholm’s Radhuset and I was later to realise that Karl Johans gate lay not far behind Oslo’s city hall. My previous wandering had taken indirect routes but I was to uncover shorter ones.
One of those was to facilitate a trip to my hotel that preceded a boat trip around Oslofjord that took my fancy. The outing was not a cheap one but it made a change from wandering about on foot. The boat may have looked like a sailing vessel but it was powered by a diesel engine and did what was needed. Greener and bluer surroundings were to be savoured in the sunshine before a return to land where I did more pottering about in by now familiar places before I retired for the evening in advance of travel to Stavanger the following morning.
2017-06-06: Last minute resilience has its rewards
It is possible to travel to Stavanger by train but it is a journey that takes six or seven hours so setting aside a day or travelling overnight would be involved. In the interests of time, I chose to fly so I caught a train to Oslo airport from near the hotel and checked in for the short flight. That was a speedy and well automated affair so I had time to pick up a power cable for my tablet and the helpful assistant also saved me some money on my purchase.
On arriving in Stavanger, I caught a coach to the city centre where I placed my main holdall into a luggage locker for later retrieval. Check-in for the hotel was not until later in the day and I wanted to try my luck at getting onto a Lysefjorden boat trip. When I went to the provider’s shop, I got news that they were booked out for that afternoon’s sailing so the omens were not good.
As befitted the outcome of my enquiry, skies were grey with little sunshine so I strolled along the quay-sides surveying the cruise liners that were docked there. Then, it occurred to me that asking at the boat might be worthwhile given that not all booked passengers do show up. So, I resolved to try my luck and got on the next sailing after some patient perseverance. It was just as well given that rain was to dominate weather for the following few days.
It also happened that I had some designs on walking around that part of Norway so I fancied getting an introduction to where I was intending to go. The boat manoeuvred around the docked ships with such agility that it was intriguing to watch and I then realised why the boat had wing mirrors. One around those obstacles, we were on our way.
The boat entered more open water after going under the bridge carrying the main road to the islands of Sølyst, Engøy, Buøy and Hunvåg. Ferries were seen plying their ways and we were accompanied by a smaller boat for much of our own journey. Passing more islands, we reached the opening of Høgsfjorden where we entered to get to its tributary Lysefjorden. There was little sign of sun or I would have been busy photographing sunlit islands to my heart’s content, not that the surroundings were not beguiling without the added lighting.
Things got more interesting after Forsand beyond which we passed under another road bridge. Bergsholmen was our next landmark and the fjord grew wilder in appearance the further along its length that we went. There were various stops within the vicinity of Preikestolen to see waterfalls and such like but it was the rocky outcrop itself that was the main event.
Once we started our return to Stavanger, it was easy to tell that the attentions of others were waning for the sightseeing must have been done as far as they were concerned. For me though, things only were getting going for sunshine had broken through the cloud cover to light up the surrounding hills. Though the episode did not last, there was plenty to photograph while it did. All the while, the Lauvikka to Forsand ferry plied its passage and there was a freight ferry full of articulated trucks carried in a more insecure way than I would have expected.
Soon enough, we were back on firm ground again and I checked into my hotel. Electrical power in my room was limited until I discovered until I made an enquiry of a hotel receptionist who told me what the “Hovedbrytter” switch. When I went back to offer my gratitude, I met someone different without realising it and caused some confusion before spotting the right person in the office behind her.
Putting that embarrassment behind me, I did more strolling around Stavanger while sunshine and blue skies had made their appearance. Later, I had some food while pondering the next few days would bring. Possibilities like hiking to Preikestolen or Kjerag would need to be selected according to the weather that came.
2017-06-07: Going Scandinavian in the rain
If I have any plans to go to Preikestolen on Wednesday, they were stymied by the predication of afternoon rain. The morning was dry so it allowed some more strolling about Stavanger and a spot of shopping too. After a midday meal, I decided to brave the light rain to walk around some of Stavanger’s lakes. In a lot of ways, it was like what the Irish would call a “soft” day and it was mild too.
There is a piece of Scandinavian wisdom about there being no such thing as bad weather so long as you are clothed for the conditions. That was the approach that I took as I headed for Litla Stokkavatnet but I hope that there would some shelter from trees too and so it proved when I started to go around the lake itself after getting there along urban streets. As I moved to the shore of the larger Stora Stokkavatnet, it was easy to get the impression that you were not in a city at all but that this could have been a country location. That idea persisted as I made a brief visit to Hålandsvatnet because Friheim may as well have been a country hamlet.
Returning to Stora Stokkavatnet, I persisted with my anticlockwise circuit even though coming off near Sanddal would have made it quicker to reach Mosavatnet. As I completed my way round, it was apparent that the evening rush hour was imminent because many were cycling in the opposite direction. The ambience had been pleasingly quiet and this posse of cyclists did little to disturb that.
Eventually, I needed to leave my wooded lakeland surroundings after me to navigate towards Mosavatnet. Quieter lanes and cycle paths were my lot and it took a little effort to orient myself properly at one junction over a busy road. Once that was achieved, I soon was at my intended destination.
Again wooded lake shores were my lot but there were more out and about by this stage in the day. Quite a few of them were jogging and no one seemed to notice the rain that much; that applied as much to groups of youngsters out training as it did to anyone else. The proximity of city streets and major building works meant that the feel of the place was not as rural as that around Stora Stokkavatnet but that was overlooked as much as any temptation to take a shortcut back to my hotel again; this was to be another complete lake circuit.
Finding a quieter road, I left Mosavatnet to continue towards Breiavatnet and I soon started to recognise my surroundings as I got nearer to this lake that I has passed more than the others. After all, it is beside the bus and train stations so I spent some time here the previous day. On this occasion, it was time to get back to the hotel and end my damp yet satisfying saunter.
2017-06-08: Two hikes in one day
My last full day in Norway allowed me to go hiking in wilder surroundings in spite of what felt like twenty four hours of rain. Once I had dealt with some Irish matters by phone and email, I was on my way for a stretch of time away from any semblance of work. Lightening rain added to the hope of there being something special to savour.
After a ferry ride to Tau and a bus journey from there to Vatne, I was at my trailhead. Because I was destined for Preikestolen, this was no solitary trek given how famous the rocky outcrop happens to be. Nonetheless, I enjoyed a dry start in misty conditions but rain was to return so the walk was to become one where I was clad in waterproofs for much of the way. This made the ascent sweaty work and I needed to be aware of others around me too, not that there were no quieter stretches.
Looking through what photos that I captured, there are very little from the ascent but I still recall moments like a phone call from my brother and the final approach to the viewpoint where you could see all around and wish for sunshine because it would been so alluring. There was plenty of wet rock to traverse and the conditions must have chivvied me into making near constant progress all the while.
What is etched in my mind is the poor visibility at Preikestolen itself, not that it deterred anyone from taking clichéd photos of each other. In my own mind, I like to think that the clag spared me from seeing anything like a sheer drop so it was no disappointed to meet with it. People still must have remained there a while because what I remember of the descent is that it was quieter and there was one point where I was tempted to include a diversion to Moslifjellet but discounted it for reasons lost to me now.
It might have been galling for some but the sun began to come out when I was back at Preikestolhytta but I must have seen it as opportunity for a second hike to follow the four hour return trip to Preikestolen; anyone that stayed up there may have been rewarded by breaking so who is know what rewards ample patience can bring? While others relished such a thing I had Revsvatnet in front of me and it surrounded by pleasing mix of bright greenery and craggy hillsides. Assessing how long it might take from the map that I had and how long I had before the last bus to Tau, I decided to hike around a lake in a much wilder aspect than anything that I had encountered the day before. There are other walking routes in the area but I reckon that they would need more time to explore and taking one’s time is best.
The lake circuit also granted me some solitary walking that was not my lot earlier in the day and it was accompanied by morale-raising sunshine for must of the way so my camera saw more use. The air might have dried but the often boggy ground remained soaked and any long vegetation was leg wetting. Even so, I continued along rough paths while keeping an eye out for any confirmatory splashes of red paint. That strategy worked well until a scramble threw me off track enough to cause disquiet in woodland at the southern end of the lake before I regained the right path by the side of the Revsåna flowing towards Lysefjorden. Going along the river bank against the flow of water got me to a bridge near the lake shore and a sign for Preikestolhytta that soothed any loss of composure.
The path went up and down a lot as it passed several waterfalls so that took its toll on tiring legs. Reaching the hut at Torsnes brought short-lived hopes of a broader and gentler track but more path walking followed until I was back near Preikestolhytta again. Any hopes of catching the penultimate bus of the day to Tau suffered the same fate as those at Torsnes so a longer wait in muggy midge-populated conditions was in order; it gave my system some much needed rest. At least, I was awaiting the bus instead of being stranded by my own tardiness and it was reassuring that I was not alone in my vigil. In fact, the others continued all the way back to Stavanger by the reverse of what had been my outbound route.
While I might have liked to return home on a Saturday and gain an extra day, flight schedules scuppered that scheme so I left on a wet Friday. Waiting in the hotel as long as possible did not stop my getting damp on my way from there to the bus station from where I got to Stavanger’s airport to start an air journey with a connection via Oslo. The experience was a reasonably painless one.
Overall, the trip satisfied me and imperfect weather was not a source of irritation; much had been savoured and Norway is better known to me. Unused schemes like a visit to Kjerag or travelling up the coast to Bergen may encourage another return yet should life settle down again and my overseas wanderings restart. Other parts of Norway are tempting too and visiting the Lofoten Islands or Jotunheimen National Park are just two examples and I also would like to wander about the wooded and lake-studded hill country near Oslo itself. In a nutshell, there is more to draw me to Norway again.
Trains between Macclesfield and Manchester Airport as well as between Oslo and its main airport at Gardermoen. Outbound and return flights between Manchester and Oslo between Oslo and Stavanger. Coach travel between Stavanger and its airport. Return ferry trip between Stavanger and Tau followed by return bus journey between Tau and Vatne.
Unsettled after a political upheaval in June, I needed to head away from Britain and Ireland for a while. Still having ongoing legal works in progress, I chose to ration my annual leave and only added a day to the Summer Bank Holiday weekend that offered a chance for an escape. That may have compressed my stay in Norway more than would have been ideal but I still got an introduction that would stand me in good stead.
2016-08-26: An evening around Oslo
My arrival in Oslo was accompanied by grey skies so there was no rush in leaving my hotel to go for a stroll around the city. In any case, there were Irish emails that needed answering while cloud steadily broke to reveal blue skies. That and the need to find a branch of Tanum where I could add to my map collection was enough to get me exploring again.
My quest took me past St. Olav’s Cathedral to Karl Johans gate where my shopping needs were fulfilled. Then, I headed for nearby Slottsparken where I pottered about the royal palace in the evening sunshine. On the way back towards the city’s main train station, I was to pass university and parliament buildings as well as the National Theatre. It all provided architectural eye candy and I eventually sought the shore around the Opera House though ongoing building work added too many cranes to the skyline for my liking. Nevertheless, I made the best of what lay about me and set off in the direction of Akershus without ever reaching it. That was to await another visit when I got to understand the city’s geography more keenly. There was another way to the shore that would have worked better for my needs but June 2017 was when I was to learn about that.
2016-08-27: A rail journey to Bergen
One idea that popped into my head was making a morning time photo of the royal palace but there was not enough time for that before I needed to catch my train to Bergen. The railway line was world famous so I fancied travelling along it and seeing what was there. Handily, I would pass through many other places while learning the lie of the land in a country that was new to me.
Though diverted by railway engineering works and subsequently detailed by the need to await rail replacement coaches, the first part of the journey was blessed by sunshine. As we continued west, that was to change markedly with greying skies and damp weather reducing the allure of the surrounding countryside at where it should have been the most dramatic whenever snow traps allowed us to glimpse it.
What I relished was a chance for quiet appreciation of what lay outside the train window but others were not so interested. An Italian family had a child watching a film on a tablet computer without earphones. that was not to pervade all of the journey but it did for long enough to send me to the buffet car for sustenance and a bit of peace. There was little point in ruining anyone’s holiday (mine also) by suggesting the need for headphones and the passage of time has dimmed whatever irritation I might have felt at the time.
Eventually we left rain after us for a while and fjords were there to see under grey skies ensuring only week sunshine if that at all. The train was running well late at this point after a momentary problem with the locomotive. That was not a big deal for me but it had been different for anyone changing onto the Flåm railway. Hopefully, it did not mess up their day too much.
Bergen’s train station was undergoing renovations while I was in the area so we all passed under scaffolding with heavy rain pounding the roof. After a wait, I took my chance to make for my hotel but a misunderstanding of the city layout had me heading on a more roundabout route in air that was not fully dry.
After booking into my accommodation and settling into my room, it was time to wander around Bergen. Sunshine eventually broke through to brighten up the evening but not before I visited the tourism information centre and got something to eat. After that, I tried out the Fløybanen and it gained me alluring views over Bergen’s harbour and nearby islands. Not finding my wallet where I expected it cause me to wonder if I had left it on the funicular train that I had used but I located it and any sense of panic passed.
In fading evening light, I went down again and pottered about the city a bit more and got more of a grip on its layout. It also showed me where I had taken a wrong turn earlier in the day. With light lost for the day, it was time to return to my hotel for the night and rest before the following day.
2016-08-28: A saunter around some of Bergen’s hills
The trouble with exploring is that it sometimes gets in the way of planning activities. For my Sunday in Bergen, there were choices to be made and the shortness of my stay had me torn between the options that came to mind. The lure of a boat and rail tour was a strong one but I also had hiking gear so I also fancied a walk. The decision was made for me by my oversleeping. This was to be a day spent wandering around Bergen’s nearby hills and any regret about missing out on that wider tour was set aside and left for a possible return sometime.
Satisfyingly, cloud cover was broken and I had a sunny morning in a part of Norway with a similar weather reputation to Scotland’s Fort William or Ireland’s Dingle. This is a place where rain abounds and I was to have some rain every day of my stay in Norway’s second city and one-time capital. Another stroll around the city was in order to see if a better photo could be made of Lille Lungegårdsvannet. It surprises me now to think of how long I lingered around the man-made like but I was rewarded for my patience.
Then, it was time to by return to Vågen from where my hike would commence in earnest. It was by now near the middle of the day as I passed the Bergenhus, a royal fort that is open to the public. A visit there would need to wait until next morning since I was decided on an outdoors outing. In fact, I was so dressed and equipped that I heard an American lady comment on the fact to her companion, perhaps unaware that I too was a native English speaker that could overhear and understand what they were saying.
Coastal road walking with only occasional views of the coast were my lot as I continued past Sandviken. Eventually, the main thorough that I had been shadowing was left fro some narrower and quieter lanes. Plying these allowed me to get to Munkesbotvatnet are some steep strolling with some switchback bends to ease the effect of the gradient. As I did so, the earlier sunshine was fading as clouds encroached to bring me a dull afternoon that limited any photographic action. Eventually these were set to bring bring rain but my hike was done before that happened.
The tarmac ended at Munkesbotvatnet and a wide gravel track was its replacement for the journey to Storvatnet. This was lake to lake walking on a popular trail with so many coming against that I was left in wonderment. Eventually though, the need for more personal space led me away from the track to follow a muddy trail that reminded me of Scottish stravaiging with its undeveloped feel.
There were less people going this way, which achieved what I needed as I navigated around more lakes on a course that took me both uphill and downhill. There were good views to be enjoyed even if more sunshine would have made the sights even more special. Eventually, I was lured onto moderate summits around Rundemanen before I reached another gravel track that would carry me past Lille Tindevatnet Store and Blåmanen, a lake followed by a hill, on my way down to Fløyen where I caught the Fløybanen down to Bergen. Were it not for a need to attend to other needs, I might have been tempted to walk all the way down and I had decided to limit aspirations that would have led me around by Svartediket and Ulriken. It is never good to rush a first encounter and the decision possibly saved me a wetting too.
2016-08-29: A last saunter around Bergen
Though there was a direct flight from Bergen to Manchester on Monday, it did not leave until the evening time and staying until then did not appeal to me since I needed to check out of my hotel around noon. Bergen’s train station was being refurbished so I did not see any luggage lockers there. If such a facility were available then there might have been some time for a short fjord cruise if one was available.
Instead, I pottered about Bergen in the morning between any rain showers and explored the Bergenhus as well as revisiting other spots that I had savoured on previous days. Then, I headed for the local airport for a flight to Oslo from where I flew to Manchester. Those flights took me over mountain scenery so I peered out at what lay below as much as I could. Then, I could not have known that another Norway visit would come to pass less the twelve months later.
Train travel between Macclesfield and Manchester Airport. Outbound flight from Manchester to Oslo followed by train journey from Oslo to Bergen. Return flights from Bergen to Manchester via Oslo.