We saw Norway as our chance to push ourselves further. With only nine days ahead of us, and less than a third of the distance of the GR5 in France, we figured we were ready for at least 30km’s each day. We shunned the world renowned norgwegian huts after some sour french refuge experiences and invested in an ultra-light tent. The result…three and a half warm days of sunshine, stunning scenery and life changing isolation. Add to that eight cans of Mackerel, four freezing cold nights, and you have two very tired runners.
Like all our trails we embark on, I had heard Jeff’s plan but not really absorbed the enormity of what we were embarking on. The combination of more walking than we had hoped, less nutrition than our bodies needed, broken sleep and an impending weather forecast of doom caused us to change our plans. After succumbing to our first hut on the fifth night we ploughed through a stormy 11 hour day to the tourist spot of Lyse, a couple of days earlier than planned.
Each time we leave a trail it’s a come down and arriving in Lyse was no exception. It was with mixed feelings, we checked into the hostel. Arriving in a town seems tame, dreary and civilised. After seeing not a soul for so long I have to say that people can become a real disappointment. Our plan for the extra time we created was to ferry to Preikestolin, Norway’s most visited natural feature…but I couldn’t face the crowds.
I couldn’t be more glad that I have a natural tendency towards being an antisocial hermit. We skipped Preikestolin and instead opted to take a risk, hoping there would be space at the brand new Skåpet cabin. So brand new, it was opening day.
After a short ferry ride through the stunningly high fjord walls rising 1000m above, we landed at the bottom of the longest wooden staircase in the world, 4,444 steps. In Singapore we struggled to find hills to train on so resorted to running up our apartment fire exit stairs… 30 floors of dripping sweat, five times up and down. An hour of stair climbing is a remarkably similar experience all over the world. For those that aren’t so excited by stair training there is a Pokemon at the top to provide motivation.
The following section of trail was some of the hardest on the trip, simply because of the fifty or so people heading the opposite way from Skåpet to the ferry.
“There were so many people at the new cabin. I don’t think you can stay, it looked really full.”…Talk about demotivating…can you just stop asking people Jeff?
But when we got to the cabin it was like a ghost town, bar one treking association employee putting trail signs.
“Um…excuse me…is there any chance we can stay?”
“Oh, argh, yeh, sure. I can’t see why not. You’ll be our first ever guests, no one else is staying but staff. We can put you in this private, two person, absolutely gorgeous, architecturally designed cabin.”
Ok so I embellished that a bit, they weren’t so gloating, but they would have been justified. The cabin was a jaw dropping example of minimalist scandinavian design. We couldn’t believe our luck having the room to ourselves.
Then a knock on the door…
“Our Michelin star chef has made dinner, we need to eat as much as possible to avoid throwing it out. Do you want a free dinner?”
At the table we get to chatting. The six trekking employees have to be some of the most welcoming, lovely, generous people I have ever met.
“Do you want some wine? It will save some weight for the helicopter tomorrow?” – well if drinking wine is helpful I’m glad to be of service.
“Here have five servings of dessert”…this only happens once in a lifetime, why not. All aspects of the ‘running diet’ flew out the window.
People turn out to not be so bad after all – what could be better than talking food, sourdough, wine and politics with the chef into the wee hours. The following morning we are fed breakfast…the bread is otherwise destined for the bin. Finally a day that started with warm coffee! A chopper comes to take away the remnants of yesterday’s opening party. It turns out they had 600 visitors, a live band, the national health minister and free apples – damn we were lucky to get in for the night! The inner child came out in all of us as we marvelled at the pilot’s skill, you don’t get to see this everyday.
Our luck continued well into the afternoon as we stared at the heavy rain out the car window, incredibly grateful for a ride to the ferry into Stavanger.
Norway, you can be proud. Not only are the trekking association buildings the best in the world, but the staff are incredible too. I think we had one of the most memorable nights of our lives. I cannot recommend this country more to runners or hikers, it is impossible to be disappointed. Thanks for the lifelong memories!
Written by Rosie
The premiere trail in the Stavanger region of Norway, the Ryfylkestien covers 250km of pristine wilderness. The trail connects 19 beautiful (and reasonably priced) huts, ranging from classic to the most modern scandinavian style architecture. Most are “self-service” meaning you have access to a provisions store but need to clean up after yourself, a few others are “serviced” with staff, cafes and a hot shower. Plenty more information about the trail here. Info about the new Skåpet hut here.
We of course attempted to camp. Norway has very generous right to roam rules allowing you to walk anywhere and camp anywhere, as long as it is 150m from any inhabited dwelling.
Because the trail skips a number of major tourist attractions and ends in a strange pocket in the middle of nowhere, we adjusted our course to divert towards Lysebotn, a famous and well serviced fjord near the city of Stavanger. The grand plan was to run to Preikestolen lodge, but we adjusted due to bad weather and took the ferry to check out Skåpet. Here you will have better access to the landmarks Kjerag and Preikestolen. The original plan was to run to Preikestolen lodge, but we adjusted due to bad weather and took the ferry to check out Skåpet.
Distance: 125km over 6 days
Difficulty: The trails are marked very well, but don’t expect smooth, built-out single track. Expect bog…and wet feet.
Also published on Medium.