After a quick 24-hour stop in Stavanger, Kira, Elliot, Anthony, and I picked up our trusty rental car and started the steep drive towards Kjerag, a Norwegian mountain located in the Lysefjord. Our ambition was to hike up to Kjeragbolten, a huge boulder wedged between two cliffs, dangling 3,00ft in the air – but that adventure calls for a whole separate blog post, which I will share next week :) In addition to our epic boulder hike, we were really excited to simply live out of our backpacks for a few days, soak up the stunning Norwegian landscape, and fall asleep under the stars.
Norway is unique in that it is legal to camp freely on uninhabited land. This law is known as “every man’s right” as it grants access to uncultivated lands such as the mountains. Even private property is up for grabs, as long as it is not clearly inhabited by livestock, fenced off, or within 150 metres of a house. The general rule of thumb is leave the land as you left it – you must carry out all of your trash, and while it’s OK to start a campfire, forest fires are somewhat frowned upon ;)
Geared up with tents, sleeping bags, head lamps, and water filters, we hit the road, winding through rocky valleys and up tall mountains towards Kjerag. We rented a car in Stavanger with the intent of using it to house some of our heavier items while camping in the mountains. From Stavanger, Kjerag is about a 3 hour drive (or 2.5 if you’re in the car with an absolute speed demon. . . hmmm no names here). However, there are also multiple ferry lines that sail through the fjords to Lysebotn several times a day, offering easy access to Kjeragbolten – check out this website for more info. We considered the ferry route, however the ferries are expensive and are not very flexible in terms of run-time, so we opted for a car which was about the same value but gave us a lot more freedom and flexibility. We stopped in a grocery store just outside of Stavanger to load up on camp food. Come to find out, Norway has one of the highest price levels for consumer goods in all of Europe – the cost of food is 47% higher than the continental average! We picked up three bags of groceries and two big boxes of beer – enough to see four hungry hikers through a long weekend. In Amsterdam, the bill would have been around €65, however, when we converted 2,000 NOK in EUR, we were surprised to find that our potatoes, peanut butter, and corn on the cob (not intended to be consumed together!) had come to a whopping €200. Sure, we would do it all again, but maybe next time we would bring some staples from Amsterdam, such as salt and pepper, instead of spending €6 a pop for such a basic and typically inexpensive food item.That said, there were really no other surprises or setbacks throughout the weekend (minus the wind which I will get to shortly!) The terrain was both lush and rocky, and speckled with sheep.Sheep scattered the hills and roads, causing small traffic jams when they decided to trot down the pavement. Many of the houses we drove past had thatched grass roofs, or were painted inconspicuously, camouflaged in with the scenery.
In some areas, we had the privilege of two lanes, however, most roads were as slim as a toothpick with steep drops on either side. Squeezing past other cars on the road was a game of Tetris, and I think my knuckles turned white on several occasions while sitting in the passenger seat, gripping the arm rest for dear life as we swung past those extra-wide RVs. Thankfully, we survived, and the majority of my attention was locked on the stunning scenery. Going into the weekend, I had no expectations. I’m not an avid backpacker, so I didn’t have any diva-like demands and happily followed (aka tried to keep up with) the group. However, my one request for the trip was to simply see a waterfall. Which actually happened every 30-minutes or so while cruising through the fjords :)As we got higher, the air got cooler, and suddenly the 70° and sunny weather had vanished.
We were engulfed in a cloudy white haze, and chilly air drifted into the car.We reached our highest altitude right before sunset, and were rewarded with some stunning views.We came across a large plain of rock towers, and hopped out of the car to worship the sun gods during the day’s final golden hour.We stretched out legs and explored a land that was completely foreign, before hopping back into the car, intent on making it to Kjerag before dark.
However, when we reached the parking lot at the base of the mountain, it was clear that there was one more task to complete before our camping adventure truly began – enjoy a large, cold beer at the base lodge. We hopped out of the car where we were greeted by – surprise – more sheep. We popped quickly into the restaurant, which was just closing, and were told we had 10 minutes to drink our beers before the doors were locked. While I can’t find a dedicated website for the restaurant, I do know it is called the Eagle’s Nest, as it’s dangling 640 meters above Lysebotn and features stunning viewing platforms (more here) you can find the restaurant at 4127 Lysebotn, Norway and the phone number is +47 959 29 004. The views alone are terrifying and are worth a stop!Once we finished our farewell-flat-land drinks, we did a bit of re-packing in the parking lot. Our plan was to hike up Kjerag with half of our bounty, camp on the mountain for the first night, and then rise early to hike up to Kjeragbolten. Ideally we would then head back down to the car and find a chill waterfront campsite for evening number two. We did our best to pack, while being harassed, nibbled, licked, and bumped by sheep . . . . . . and watched . . . A closer glimpse . . .
What do you want?!
Finally, after a long drive, a big beer, a few fun stops, and a quick re-pack, we were ready to hike. I’d be lying if I said I majorly contributed to the transport of our belongings. I took Elliot’s pack, which was the lightest, while he took my pack which held a lot of our food. Kira also had a huge pack, housing a tent, folding chair, sleeping bag, and lots of booze.But I think Anthony was the clear heavy-pack winner, carrying not only a hefty backpack, but also a drone and a night’s worth of firewood. I felt bad for not being able to carry more (my bike to work // occasional yoga regime doesn’t really do much in the muscle-building department) BUT I did feel relieved knowing that if I broke a leg, my super strong boyfriend could probably carry me out to safety (kidding, but not really).
I’m not going to lie, that initial hike up was HEAVY. My face felt hot and the air was tight flowing into my lungs. And every time, just when I thought we were about to reach the peak, we’d round the final bend only to realize that it was not the top, but in fact just another hump on the long, gruelling climb. Nevertheless, we were very cheerful campers, who egged each other on and all whooped with joy when we finally reached the top and started the equally long descent.We hiked down into a large valley, where we could see several other tents set up far off in the distance.We made our way through, looking for a secluded area and a clean water source. Finally, we found the perfect spot, on the edge of a large cliff located right next a cold waterfall that trickled down through the valley. We pitched up our tents in a hurry, keen to get everything in order before dark. We found a river cooler for the beer, started a small fire under the lip of a small cliff, and wrapped up our dinner in foil to cook. As I mentioned before, it was very, very windy. So much so, that we had to tie all of the tents down with large rocks, and put additional rocks inside so they did not blow away. Even then, they slowly inched towards the cliff’s edge, and we just prayed a strong gust would not whip them away while we were sleeping inside! Our cups, plates, and chairs flew off into the sky if we forgot to carefully hold them down, and more than one Hendricks cocktail fell victim to strong blasts of air that flew through the valley. Wind aside, it was a really lovely evening. We had baked potatoes with cheese and salsa, and corn on the cob with butter and herbs for dinner. Paired with some marshmallows and gin, we had a happy family dinner, staying warm by the fire which luckily survived the strong breeze. After a long day in the car and a heavy hike up the mountain, we were exhausted, and despite the rocky ground out tents occupied, we fell asleep straight away. In the morning we woke up around 10am and hiked up to Kjeragbolten, which was quite the trek in terms of distance and height, but the journey felt like a breeze in comparison to the night before, when we lugged all of our camping gear up the mountainside. With only small day packs, we floated up the mountain and secured our priceless photos standing on top of the suspended boulder :) More on this next week! After our long 8-hour hike, we packed up our campsite and descended to the car. Camping on the mountain was awesome, but sleeping on a rock was hard (literally), and so we were intent on finding a soft, grassy field for camping night number two. When you camp, it’s the little things!
We drove towards Lysebotn, which we could actually see way down in the fjord from our campsite the evening before. We’d heard there was a general store in the town along with a campground, and so if we could not find an ideal field to camp in, we had a fall-back plan.We arrived in Lysebotn just in time to watch the ferry pull off into the sunset. We picked up a few snacks from the shop, and then drove around the area for a while searching for a rogue camp spot. It was a bit frustrating, as when we finally did find the ideal location, a man came out and yelled at us (with his big knife in hand) to get off of his property. There was no house in sight, and we were a bit bummed as we had just set up our tents along a lovely river. Although we knew our rights (if it’s not fenced off or by a house, you can camp it) we weren’t about to argue with big-Norwegian-knife-man. So we packed up our tents again, and headed back to the local campground. It was getting late and we wanted to get situated before nightfall, and the campground was our best bet.
Turns out the campground we’d landed in was not only secluded, but was also one of the most gorgeous spots in the fjord. With two sharp mountains on either side, our sleeping area was secluded and dreamy. Getting kicked out of our previous campsite was a bit of a downer, but waking up the next day nestled in the fjords was truly a once in a lifetime experience.Sleeping between two mountains, under the stars without a rainfly is a MUST do experience :)We found a small picnic table where we popped champagne and prepped dinner for camping night number two. The next day came all too fast. It was a 3-hour drive back to Stavanger, and with a 1pm flight, we had to get on the road fairly early. We had a hot breakfast at the camp’s small pub (well, the guys did, I was still stuffed from dinner the night before – freeze-dried camping meals are actually quite superb!!) We cruised down the mountains, much more confident in the road, and made it back to the city with time to spare :) In all it was an epic experience – a great long weekend spent enjoying nature with some fantastic company! Have you ever been to Norway?? I’ll share my last Norway post early next week – until then! xo Ali
PS. You can check our part 1 of our Norway trip here.