Archive for November, 2011

Norway-in-a-Nutshell: Flåm to Bergen, via the Fjords

13 October 2011

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Flåm to Bergen, via the Fjords

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Note: Previous instalment is HERE.

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After a short break at Flåm, we soon make our way out of the harbour into Aurlandsfjord. We are on the third leg of our Norway-in-a-Nutshell tour from Oslo to Bergen — it’s a fjord cruise from Flåm to Gudvangen, via Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord. A good 2-hour journey through Norway’s best fjords.

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On the upper deck of our boat, people are already in full anticipation, despite the bitter cold. Most would soon disappear into the warm cabin on this 2-hour cruise. I must say I think I’ve seen this all before, at Milford Sound in NZ (where it’s spelt ‘fiord’, see HERE), but I’m in for a pleasant surprise.

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There’s a bend in the narrow fjord, and we come to the town of Aurlandsvangen, with a bit more than 500 inhabitants. There’s a highway linking it to civilisation, but I guess in the old days boats were the only way.

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The fragile box-like, colourful houses seem to hug the rocky mountain which rises abruptly from the water.

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A classic U-shape glacier valley behind Aurlandsvangen. Such is the powerful force of nature, where ice of several kilometres thick, pressed on the earth as it slowly moved towards the sea, gouging out such an immense valley.

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More granite mountains along the fjord. In this area mountains go straight up to as high as 1400m above the water level.

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As the boat pulls away from Aurlandsvangen, I take a final look. Flåm is located to the right, beyond the silhouetted mountain. We are heading north.

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Ahead of us, more huge mountains await, some reaching 2400m high. Note the steepness of these behemoths, rising from the water which can be up to 500m deep. Compare to Milford Sound in NZ where the Mitre Peak is 1700m, and the water 400m deep.

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Another bend in the fjord and another village — Undredal, sheltered by a huge mass of rock, said to be inhabited by 100 people and 500 goats, famous for brown goat cheese, whatever that is.

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Very calm water of Aurlandsfjord, and we are heading for the junction where the famous Nærøyfjord branches from it, north of here.

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A major junction in the fjord, Aurlandsfjord goes straight ahead northwards, into the huge Sognefjord, some 11km away, while we turn left into Nærøyfjord, a 17-km long fjord.

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The wake of our boat makes a right curve as we exit Aurlandsfjord to enter Nærøyfjord. We are heading southwards now, so it is like a huge U-turn for the boat. Both Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord are ‘fingers’ to the much larger Sognefjord up north.

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Waterfalls aplenty, thanks to thawing snow from the countless peaks. What a sight, as they virtually drop for more than a thousand metres.

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Nærøyfjord is a World Heritage Site, a spectacular fjord where its narrowest is only 250m.

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A quick stop at a small desolate village to deliver supplies. I don’t think it has any road connection.

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Mirror-like water as we approach the end of the Nærøyfjord. It is so far inland that waves have been dampened by the fjords, to create this smooth surface.

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As we approach the village of Bakka, real pastures can be spotted.

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Another goat-rearing community. These are hardy creatures, able to survive extreme weather and terrain.

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On the lower deck, tired travelers are whiling the time. Coincidentally the majority are Asians comprising tour groups and independent travellers like us. There’s even a tour group from Malaysia, much to our surprise.

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Serene reflection of Bakka houses in the still water.

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The classic Bakka Church from 1859.

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Just 5km south of Bakka, we come to our end-point, Gudvangen.

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Founded by the Vikings in pre-Christian era, there’s nothing much here now, except as a terminus for the fjord cruise.

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At Gudvangen, we board a bus to take us to the town of Voss, 50km away by road, to be reconnected to the trains.

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The old train station at Voss, where we rejoin the Oslo-Bergen line.

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The local train to Bergen is ready to leave. It’s still some 100km away, as the day gets darker and colder.

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Downtown Bergen at last, and it’s 9pm.

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Need to get dinner first, and a halal kebab eatery is a most welcoming sight for us famished travellers. We have been traveling for 14 hours now — by trains, boat and bus!

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It seems Bergen is awash with kebab outlets! There’s another one next to our hotel.

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The kebab, Norway-style, is normally served in paper — a thick stack of meat slices smothered with vegies and corns, and sweetish sauce. Heavenly!

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Epilogue: It has been a most memorable 14-hour journey from Oslo to Bergen, via the splendid mountains and fjords. Traveling by trains, boat and bus, we get to witness the finest Norway has to offer. The fjords here are indeed more spectacular than New Zealand’s ‘fiords’, so too the mountains. Of course NZ has awesome volcanoes, while Norway has none. In any case both countries are sexy in their own way, but I’d rate Norway above NZ in natural beauty.

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