Day 3 in Norway was a pretty chilled out day. We didn't have to cover much distance, the plan was set and there was nothing much to stop enroute. Or so we thought. The agenda was simple - visit Flam on the way and reach Hardanger as early as possible so as to get a goodnights rest for the Trolltunga hike tomorrow. So after the late night Aurora viewing and getting locked out of our own hotel, we finally managed to get some sleep and woke up slightly late. While gorging on the breakfast at the hotel, we managed to hook up a conversation with the manager and he kind of suggested the iternary for the day.
First stop - Borgund Stave Church. One of the oldest church in Norway and beautifully preserved. It was fun to walk through the perfectly preserved and neatly kept premises and it was probably the only museum in my entire trip that I saw in detail. Rather it was the only museum that i visited. We got a wonderful insight into the trade routes of Norway, the stave church, things used to decorate old houses and so on. A must visit if you are in that area. After spending almost an hour and half roaming the premises we decided to proceed on our way to Flam, or the fjord Aurlandsfjord a branch of Songefjord. Sognefjord is a world UNESCO heritage site.
What we were slightly unprepared for on the way to Aurlandsfjord was the longest road tunnel in the world. True, we were by now used to driving in tunnels for an average length of 5 -7 km, but this was something crazy - 24.51 km of underground road. Till now we were used to round abouts in tunnels, bridges in between two tunnels crossing a fjord, but this was crazy. The saving grace - beautiful displays of colored lights to keep the drivers awake and focussed on the road every 5 km.
The Flam village is a small village serving as a starting point for a cruise on the Songefjord or a short train ride up to Myrdal. This is one of the steepest railway tracks in the world and has some of the best views. There is also an option of walking up the trail or taking the train up and cycling down one of the best zigzag paths with amazing views. We arrived at a time where we had enough time to figure out all the options and realize that the only way we could reach our destination in time would be to take the train both ways. (I would have loved to cycle down the route.. some day I promised to myself). The initial route of the train, Flamsbana, as it is known was pretty boring, frankly speaking we had doubts about people telling us that this is the best ride to take. We were skeptical, but once the train rises above the first couple of stations the view changes dramatically. You are trapped on one side between the huge mountains with endless tunnels, some wooden tunnels in between and the Flam river flowing on the other side. Quaint villages and occasional houses dot the countryside and provide scenic views.
On one of the stations in the 20 Km journey, there is an announcement that the train will stop for 5 min to allow the people to view Kjosfoss waterfall. Everyone scrambles to make a dash for the railing and get a picture clicked with the waterfall in the background. All of a sudden you hear a beautiful music, something divine and haunting at the same time, you scan the mountain trying to trace the source of it and you find it. On the rocky mountainside, a slender, lithe figure, ethereal beauty, dressed in red singing to the waterfall luring you to follow her into the jungle. Had that railing not been there, I am sure a few would have followed her into the jungle, but then the performance ends and the PA system introduces us to the Huldra - the spirit of the forest.
The journey continues towards Myrdal, one of the stations on the Bergen -Oslo train line without much further happenings. Once there we realize that we are the only ones who are going to go back down on the same route and pretty much settle ourselves for capturing the views that we had missed early on. As we near Flam, we get a beautiful view of the village at dusk.
Next stop Voss. Our destination for the night was the town of Odda - closest to the starting point of the famous Trolltunga trek next day. While on the way to Voss, we stopped a bit at Tvindefossen another small waterfall on the outskirts of Voss and then stopped by for an early dinner. The store where we stopped was a roll house and had an african guyJeff from Rwanda working the evening shift. We soon got talking and he asked us if we were from India. When we said yes, he said he was a bit surprised as he had seen Indian customers before but they usually ordered one roll between the two, either coz they could not eat or else because it was too expensive here in Norway. On our special request he made the rolls a bit extra spicy and threw in the fries for free. :) Over dinner he mentioned how chilled out it is to live in Norway. Once you are in and working, no one ever troubles you, no police will harass you and no one will ask for your papers and stuff. He seemed a happy soul working in Voss. He also mentioned he had his younger brother studying in Trichi (India) and aksed us if we had been there. Unfortunately none of us had, but we did offer him that if he wanted to send across something to his brother, we would be more than happy to deliver the same. After exchanging our contact details we continued on our way to Hardanger. The road to Odda was full of unexpected turns and turned out to be quite a distance than we had anticipated. There were some beautiful sights enroute but both of us were too tired to halt for some photographs so we just continued driving towards our destination.
Aniket had managed to get us a room in the Hardanger hotel and he had finally made his decision that he would not be attempting the hike tomorrow. That left me alone to attempt the famous hike and so I had no choice but to turn in early.
After debating on whether to carry a tripod or carry an extra bottle of water for the next day (the bottle won ofcourse), i packed the snacks and chocolate bars that I was carrying along with the jacket and sweatshirt (Just in case the weather decided to play spoil sport) and turned in for the day. Alarm set for 5 am and a bit of anxiety of attempting the 21 km hike alone - I soon fell asleep.