Our stay in Belfast was sadly way too short! On our way out of town, on a deadline to get our rental car back to Dublin, we tracked down some of the amazing murals that have been created in tribute to the conflicts that have beseiged the city in times gone by. They were incredible, and only piqued our interest in what had happened in the fascinating city. We both confessed to knowing almost nothing about these, and having ran out of time to take advantage of a Black cab tour or otherwise learning about the city, we had to be content with reading the Wikipedia page on the drive down!
We are fast learning that we need longer in places than we have booked – a whirlwind visit to Belfast and then also Dublin, where we had time to visit the Guinness Storehouse but not much else before our time in Ireland was complete. Good thing we did have time for it though as another thing I have learned on this trip is that Guinness is delicious!
On to the next stage of the adventure, we safely stowed our definitely-more-than 8kg backpacks onto two planes (Kelly possibly incurring injuries from the surreptitious whack needed to squeeze my fat little bag into the available space – never before has needing to get on the plane early have quite so much significance!) first to Oslo and then on to Bergen, Norway. We arrived on a beautiful sunny day to the stunning Bergen – think Queenstown, but bigger – with the dark green mountains lined with picturesque white trimmed wooden houses, giving way to the harbour where massive cruise ships were in port.
We lugged our bags up the pretty streets to our air BnB and after quickly navigating the nearby supermarket (Google translate is a wonderful invention) we sat out on the terrace with our dinner to watch the very late sunset, sighing with the delight of it all.
The next morning, our plans for exploring the beautiful city were dashed – the heavens had opened and within minutes of stepping outside the door we were drenched. We spent a miserable hour navigating the narrow, maze like roads to the Harbourside where we attempted to enjoy the Fish Market, supposedly an attraction selling local delights as well as fish, but instead mostly attempted to stay out of the rain like the other hundreds of tourists who had recently come ashore from the cruise boats.
Deflated, we trudged back to our accommodation. While we had only booked a room in an apartment on air BnB, our hosts were actually away at the time, leaving us with the whole place to ourselves – fortunate in the circumstances perhaps, since we spent the rest of the day camped on the couch reading our books – not the sight seeing extravaganza I had envisaged! Ah well, we shouldn’t have been surprised, apparently Bergen has the highest rainfall in Norway – locals say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. While I agree in principle, there’s nothing quite so defeating as soaked, clinging jeans..
Infuriatingly, the next day dawned stunning – as it must of course, given we were spending it travelling! But it was stunning, and the view from the bus was incredible. Half the time we gazed out at lakes and fjords surrounded by mountains, dotted with the most adorable colourful wooden houses, each belonging in the pages of storybooks. The other half of the time was spent underground in increasingly extensive tunnels – 10km tunnels are apparently unremarkable in this part of the world! The bus trip also included a ferry ride – the bus itself zooming onto a barge which immediately chugged to the other side of a fjord – such efficiency! I was very impressed.
We arrived in the township of Odda in the afternoon. We donned our backpacks and began the 1 km trek to our next accommodation, a cabin at the Odda camping ground, and our base camp for our hike Trolltunga. While only 1 km, this walk was probably the first time I have truly appreciated our decision to carry on only. It appears that Odda is located at end of an ancient glacier, while the Odda camping ground is to the end of the moraine pushed along by the ice. As we marched directly up and over the hill, red faced and puffing, I looked over to a fellow traveller lugging almost twice what we were carrying and breathed a sigh of relief!
But that brief trek was to be only a warm up for our next days adventure. The hike to Trolltunga while not the highest we have done, but, at 23 km, definitely the longest.
We departed at 7am, clambering up through the trees to gain some 700m of height within 4 km. From there, another 7km around the ridge line to reach the iconic slab jutting out hundreds if not thousands of meters above the glacial pond below. Having reached the rock at just on 1130, my knees turned weak as I peered over the edge at the people posing on the rock – how the hell was I going to stand on that tiny stone?!
Thankfully, Kelly bravely volunteered to go first while I rustled up some courage and stared in horror at those with death wishes dangling their feet over the edge, convinced that at any second someone was going to tumble off into the nothing below..
Then it was my turn – all of about two seconds of it, was all of my already shaking legs could handle before I scurried back to solid ground, as you’ll see below, token snap ticked off!
Kelly’s Pro Travel Tip: Strap yourself in team this is a long one. Always be Organised. Isn’t it an absolute delight to de-stress after a long hard day with a well earned shower. How one can walk in feeling out of sorts, dirty and tired only to walk out a fresher, newer version of ones self. Such simple pleasures we take for granted. Well friends this much anticipated daily task only becomes more rewarding when travelling the dusty, crowded trails of Europe and so naturally they charge you for the experience. One such place we stayed at has the price of happiness set at around $3.30 for 5 minutes or, in other words, 40 dollars an hour. So what was once an enjoyable experience has now turned into a stress inducing episode in time management. I refer you briefly back to the past Pro Travel Tip in which my worldly advice noted the need to carry coins in ones pockets. I must revise this to ensure the correct coins are carried. After finding the shower, a task unto its self (unisex showers? Bloody hope so) I find an open cubicle. Stress the word cube-icle, swinging a cat in such an enclosure would result in a bloody tail in your hands and scraped knuckles. You then haphazardly stack all your belongings on a shelf designed to hold nothing more than the tail of the above mentioned cat, dubiously close to the actual path of the water. Once pleased nothing will fall onto the waterlogged floor, your own feet positioned a few perilous millimetres above care of some questionable quality Warehouse havaianas, you then proceed to insert the coin into the box for the shower currently occupied by some singing German. Damnit. Once you get the right coin, in the right box the timer starts. Like an episode of 24 the time starts to tick away, precious seconds are lost just walking back to the cubicle. Once in, you realise you’re still fully clothed ( why did you wear a jersey to the shower!?), your gear on the shelf is about to fall in the water, you haven’t yet worked out how to turn the Norwegian shower on and you wonder how the hell you get your pants off while keeping your Jandals on so as not to touch whatever is growing on the floor or the pile of hair gathered in the corner making plans to escape. AND FOREVER THE CLOCK TICKS ON. So you muster everything you have left mentally and the inevitable panic sets in, a bead or sweat forms on the brow. You start undressing only to realise you haven’t locked the door, you manage to take off your pants with Jandals on (magician) throw the clothes onto the shelf hoping nothing falls and proceed to slip slide your way closer to the shower, what that German must have thought was happening next door who knows, perhaps a bear attack, invasion of Normandy? The singing had definitely stopped I’ll tell you that much. I’ll save you the next part in the story but it was a flurry of hands going hell for leather with the soap.
After all said and done you emerge, a fragile emotional wreck, barely clean yet sweating still. An experience to say the least.