Sunday, September 14, 2014

Norway - Eidfjord, Voringfossen and Hardangerfjord

August 31, 2014

After Craig decided to head back to Bergen, I stayed in Voss for another hour or two and then headed back out on the road, determined to take advantage of my last two days in Norway.  I found some scenic backroads, heading up into the mountains and away from the fjords for an hour or two before re-emerging in the beautiful little town of Ulvik, at the end of one of the many arms of Hardangerfjord.  Multiple shades of green drew me in to the small town, where I stopped along the waterfront for a quick lunch of peanut butter and granola while the breeze blew gently off the water.  I spent a few minutes simply gazing across the water before heading back to the car and moving farther down the road and Hardangerfjord.  Lined with apple, cherry and other farms, the narrow road winds around the steep mountains, presenting great views of the water around nearly every turn.

I headed across the expensive, but fancy, toll bridge to Eidfjord, the narrow end of this fjord system.  Again, huge mountain walls surround the small villages, and I made my way up the valley, through a few corkscrew tunnels to the first view of Voringfossen, one of Norway's most famous waterfalls.  The 600 foot drop sits at the top of a pretty canyon that eventually empties down into Eidfjord.  The famous Fossli Hotel sits on top of the ridge overlooking the waterfall below, so after taking a few pictures at the viewpoints, I stopped in at the hotel for a waffle before heading out for a few more pictures before dusk set in.  As we had perfect weather for the entire trip, this day was a bit overcast and windy, with bits of rain here and there, though, as it turns out, this was ideal for taking pictures of the falls, as it would otherwise be a little blown out with the sun and lots of shadows.  So, again, I had the place exactly how I wanted it, so I was quite happy.

After wandering around the falls for a while, I headed a few minutes up the road and found a nice little pullout where I slept for the night.  Throughout Scandinavia, All Man's Right rules that you can basically camp anywhere for a day or two, granted that you are not directly on someone's property or too close to their house, so it's not uncommon to see cars parked for the night or tents in the middle of nowhere.  As I was now alone on the trip, I was able to put the seats back, lay my sleeping bag out in the passenger seat and have a pretty good sleep.

I awoke around 7 the next morning and headed back to the waterfall for more pictures from the top before heading down and hiking to the base of the falls.  The one hour hike was magical, as I was the only one on the trail, heading down among the big boulders and crossing a tiny swinging bridge before getting to the base of the massive falls where the light spray misted over me while I contemplated the perfect scene on an early Sunday morning.

Moving on from Voringfossen, I headed back to Bergen, returned the rental car and got back to Oslo late that night.  My flight was very early the next morning, so I opted to just sleep in the airport, finding a comfortable and safe spot where I could secure my bags under the table and slept across a bench seat of a booth in a seafood restaurant in the lower level of the airport.  The early morning flight was right on time, and I ended the trip with a free 7 hour layover in Denmark, giving me just enough time to see a bit of Copenhagen.

(The town of Ulvik, on the edge of Hardangerfjord. Craig had decided to head back home from Voss, so the last two days of the trip were on my own, which is nothing new for me on these trips.)

(Another view of scenic Ulvik with varying shades of green and yellow flowing into the cold blue water of the fjord.)

(A scenic suspension bridge crosses the fjord, but it's not cheap at around $21 toll per use.)

(The first view of Voringfossen.  For some perspective on the 600 foot waterfall, check out the large hotel at the top of the ridge above the waterfall.)

(The steep canyon has a few very precarious points, but this was taken over one of the guard rails at the edge of the falls, looking down to the pool below.  Strong winds often blow through the area, making it even scarier/less adviseable to stand near the edge of the falls/canyon.)

(After spending the night camping in my car nearby, I came back in the morning for another view of the beautiful falls.  Voringfoss refers to a single falls, but it is also called Voringfossen (plural) as there are another one or two small falls, as you can see on the right side of the picture.)

(Early Sunday morning, I decided to make the one hour hike to the base of the falls, and I had a perfect hike, all to myself.  The greenery and powerful falls spraying mist down the valley were a spectacular way to start the day.)

(A panorama of Voringfossen, all 600 feet of it.  The trail heads to the left of the creek here, and I passed along the green area to the base of the pool, where the spray made it a little cold to stay for too long.)

(Since Craig left early, and I was all alone on this trail, I did have to resort to taking pictures of myself, but it ended up ok.)

(One of the many long tunnels in Norway, this one just after the suspension bridge was so long that it actually had roundabouts inside.  The white lights gave way to cool blue lights indicating the upcoming roundabout, this one splitting off in one direction to Bergen and in the other to Oslo.  This particular tunnel is 8 km (5 miles) long.)

(Though I wanted to be lazy on my last day, I couldn't resist the lure of one of Norway's best day hikes, passing by four impressive waterfalls on a four hour hike.  This is the clear water just below the second of the huge waterfalls in Husedalen valley.)

(Part of the trail passes through a thick grove of birch trees.)

(The second of the large waterfalls at Husedalen.  I actually turned around after this point, realizing I needed to hurry up and get back to Bergen...and not really wanting to hike uphill much more.)

(Another pretty view of a town on the edge of a fjord, somewhat ubiquitous scenery in the area.)

(Steindalsfossen, just past the village of Norheimsund.)

(This 66 foot waterfall drops out off the edge of an overhanging rock, leaving enough room for the trail to pass behind the falls.)

(The view from the edge of Steindalsfossen, looking back towards Norheimsund.)

(A final shot partially behind the waterfalls.  As I went back to my car, a Russian woman in high heels and a short dress was posing out in the grass in front of the falls, hopefully for some professional shots, as she had obviously mastered her repertoire of poses.)


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