San José

20. – 24. November
The last five days of my three weeks in Costa Rica became a mellow, sort of homely time. Celine booked all four of us into a hostel she had stayed in earlier, and it was the loveliest hostel (it was called Hostel Urbano los Yoses). The house was beautiful with white walls and open, light spaces. The beds were soft, and every morning we were given pancakes and a cup of mixed fruits. The staff was friendly and funny and helpful. Outside it rained, and inside people cuddled up under blankets in front of a TV with Netflix. We cooked dinners in the kitchen, which was clean and bright and encouraged enthusiasm for pasta with a simple, cheap tomato sauce. We immediately settled in, and Celine said it felt like home, didn’t it?

We ambled about for days. Celine and I went for lunches. We got our ears pierced. We went to the cinema and watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It was so cheap I even bought popcorn, which I never ever do, but I felt like it. It was that, perhaps, more than anything that made the hostel feel like a retreat, having the time to go and watch a movie I had wanted to see since I heard it was coming out. It is such a mundane thing, I think, watching a movie at the theatre, even if I rarely do it. It is not something you find time for when you are travelling, but now we were in this big city with nothing but museums and at a loss at what to do with the time we had in the weather that didn’t seem to change.

One day we rented a car, and this day it actually stopped raining. Celine drove us through narrow streets where google maps told us to go, and it had us taking turn after turn through Costa Rican suburbs. As we climbed higher we got the view of San José and it seemed like the city never stopped. It merged into the other cities, and it was impossible to see where Alajuela began and the capital stopped. There was a haze that was either fog or city dust. We were going to Poás, a dormant volcano with a blue lake at the crater. On our way up the mountain we saw a sloth make its way along one of the electricity cables in that slow, unstressed way that sloths move in. It is a strange thing, to be so slow, to sleep so much, and I wonder if it was happy. I am always moving or thinking about moving, and I never let my shoulders down. Maybe the sloths are on to it.

We could drive almost to the edge of the crater. We only had to walk 400m, and then we could smell the sulphur. Around the edges we could see the clouds, and it felt like the only piece of luck we had had the past week: the unhindered view of the volcano. The water was soft blue, so soft that it was almost white – perhaps because of all the rain the past days. The dirt around the crater was orange in a sharp way, like you expect to see around a volcano, the orange colour that is only present when something is deadly. It was a small achievement to be there, to finally see a volcano. I had this idea before coming to Costa Rica about hiking volcanoes, but in Arenal it was foggy and the rest of them got lost in other places I hadn’t planned on going. But at least I saw this one, even if it didn’t exactly require a hike.

It became a successful excursion. We walked to a lagoon next to the crater, and then drove to a coffee plantation where we just walked around and tasted coffees and watched the beginning of the sunset. They had a butterfly sanctuary and a view of the plantation. We tried to race back to the city, but traffic was heavy. Celine was leaving the next day, so I had to take the car back in the morning. I lost the key to my locker with the key inside it; I woke up at 5AM and remembered that I didn’t have the key, and slept restlessly until the reception opened at 8. We had to dismantle the lock to get it open. I drove the car back to the rental place and walked back. It took me an hour, but I stopped on the way to pick up Harry Potter y la cámara secreta, a frozen yoghurt that made me shiver from cold, and an avocado and tomato to make dinner later.

I was leaving the next morning to Cuba, and I felt anxious. A storm was forecasted, and I desperately wanted to get out of San José and to Cuba where the sun would be warm and the rain would be far away. Costa Rica had started so wonderfully, but with the rain it became this thing I just wanted to escape; a place where I just sat around and waited for things that didn’t end up working. It felt like valuable time and money that I could have done something fun and exciting with, instead I was sitting at a hostel in a city that didn’t interest me at all doing things I could have done at home (blog, read, edit photographs etc.). Cuba promised me a lot of things, and it was what I had waited for for the last ten days. I only had to make it there, it only had to rain a little bit less, or the typhoon had to be a little bit late or a little bit weaker so that my plane could escape to Panama, and then bring me to the bustling, hot streets of Havana.

edit-0444edit-0454edit-0473edit-0477edit-0533edit-0536edit-0537edit-0548edit-0554edit-0560

Advertisements

Bahía Drake

15. – 19. November
I had made my way south to the Osa peninsula. I was going to Bahía Drake, or Drake bay, where I would do my main Costa Rica activities. I would spend three days doing the PADI Open Water Scuba Diving certificate, and then I would hike into Corcovado national park, a park renowned for it’s thriving, biodiverse wildlife. I had big hopes for otherworldly experiences under the ocean surface (no sharks included), and my fingers had been crossed for a long time to see a puma in the jungle. I therefore uncomplainingly spent a day riding busses, and waking up at 4:00 the following morning to go to Sierpe where boats go to Bahía Drake only twice a day. The remote beach location is mainly for tourists who wish to explore the national park. The boat there took an hour, first winding through a river where crocodiles lazed on the river bank, then out on the open sea where salt water splashed into the boat. In the bay we had to wade the final two metres from the boat to the shore. Our captain jumped into the sea and held the boat steady against the waves, letting us know when we could climb down the small ladder from the boat. You become extremely aware of what fragile an art balance is when you are wading knee deep in water with a all your possessions strapped to your back. Thankfully I made it to (relatively) dry land without submerging anything but my flip-flops. When I found the hostel I was the only one there.

My first day was a quiet day, one for moving slowly and collecting energy. I went to the beach with my camera to look around. I went to the dive centre to ask about my course tomorrow. I handed my clothes in to get laundered. I spent way too much money on a tuna meal, caught fresh that very day, which I ate in stillness while reading Jonathan Safran Foer. There were some other tourists on the island, but in my hostel it was only me. I had a big room for six all to myself. It felt nice, to spread out. To know I’d be here for a few days, to not have to pack up again the next day. I sat in my bed and wrote and watched youtube and gave myself a total time-out.

When I woke the next morning it was raining hard. I had intended a walk to a beach before my diving course began, but immediately put it out of my mind. There was no way I was going out in that rain. The rain kept raining down, it rained for days. It rained energetically,  vigorously  and continuously for days. It rained so much the diving course was cancelled. It rained so much my shorts got soaked by running 30 metres to the grocery store (I only had a rain coat). It rained so much that on my third morning we woke up to a power shortage. A tree had fallen over the power lines. Even then the rain kept coming, so much water that the river took the truck down when they tried bringing it over on the roads to fix the electricity. The boats didn’t go between Sierpe and Drake for two full days, there were too many waves. It rained so hard that tourists who had gone for a day trip to Corcovado, only equipped with a small bottle of water, a packed lunch, wearing only shorts, a t-shirt and perhaps a raincoat got trapped at the ranger station for days, and had to eat only bananas found in the trees around them.

The hostel had filled up a little bit. I was still alone in my room, but in addition to myself was now four other girls and a Costa Rican guy: Elias, who was meant to be my guide for the Corcovado tour. The first dark night we lit candles and drank wine and we all became friends. We weren’t sure what to do, we knew that we could not leave. I was waiting for my tour to Corcovado, one of the girls, Teresa from Portugal, was living in San José and was just here for the weekend, and the other girls (Celine from Belgium, Pia from Germany and Zarah from México) wanted to snorkel or hike. We all waited for the rain to cease, but even when the rain stopped it just came back again right away. I went to run one day, when it had been dry for almost an hour. The rain returned in full force only 2 kilometres away from the hostel, and by then I might as well just accept I’d be wet through and through. Mostly we sat staring at the tops of the trees at the balcony, listening to the drumming of the rain that was beginning to sound like white noise.

The electricity came back the day my Corcovado tour was supposed to have begun, but we had heard the day before that the station was closed. The other girls declared that they were leaving on the first boat, and after some debate I decided I would go with them. I had fallen out with Elias, and I knew that I would not enjoy a minute of the tour with only him and me. He was too Costa Rican, I was too Scandinavian – maybe it was that. But he had this way of saying things, of looking at me, of always being close that left me uncomfortable and frustrated. He threw around him words like corazón and cariña; he had said Costa Ricans were affectionate, and I had said Scandinavians are not. Whatever his intentions, they completely clashed with mine. Another of the guides and I spent a few hours talking at the bar the night before, and when we returned to the hostel him and Elias looked at each other with competition in their eyes. They were silently hostile, they ignored each other, and they pulled me to the side and told me contradiction things. Maybe they spoke the truth as they saw it, maybe they both straight out lied. But neither seemed to get that I was totally uninterested in them both. It was a strange situation and I still feel incredulous today that this really happened. When the other girls declared their departure I gave up all intentions of getting any adventure out of the peninsula, and decided that I did not wish to stay here – alone – with any of these two men. We packed our backpacks and went as a group down to the beach to wait for the boats. Slowly other tourists trickled down to the beach too, and I wondered if any tourists at all were staying on the island. As the boat took us out of sight of the small bay around a small islet I overheard two Germans behind me talk about a second storm heading straight for the bay.

A moral afterthought
This part of my trip was a week where I had massive plans. I had prepared for days to do my diving certificate, already I had paid and completed my theoretical course online. I had left my Canadian friends up in the north to do this, and I had sacrificed volcano hikes in favour of Corcovado. In the end this turned out to cost me a lot of time and money for very little adventure. In fact, the last few days were perhaps some of the strangest I’ve had, with these men competing for my attention when I didn’t want to be attentive to either of them. So this experience became, more than anything, a lesson; that life will never go exactly as planned, even when you’re taking a break from your life, which is often the intention of travelling; that a positive attitude is an extremely valuable thing to nurture, with the time and money spent on these days if is easy to become frustrated and pessimistic, so it’s important to look for the unexpected blessings like the new friends gained. I spent the rest of my stay in Costa Rica with these girls, and in two weeks Celine is coming from Belgium to spend a weekend at my family’s cabin in the mountains. That is something to be grateful for.

edit-0303edit-0325edit-0345edit-0420edit-0403edit-0429edit-0427edit-0355

King’s Canyon National Park

Day 5 – 13. october 2016
Yosemite delivered yet another cold morning. I made a fire, and as we packed away the tent, every now and then I would go to it to heat my fingers up. They would burn for a moment, so cold that the fire felt alien to them. It was a relief to get into the car. We have added another layer every night, and I was wearing a t-shirt, a wool layer, a fleece layer, a cotton layer and eventually my shell jacket. I felt big and bulky and clumsy as I began to take them off in the car. But at least we stayed somewhat warm during the night.

On the little drive from the campsite to the road (3 miles/5km) we saw a deer, stopped for some car pictures, and I took a time-lapse of the drive there. It is such a beautiful drive, with the big, green trees spaced out to let the sunlight through. It’s such a chaos with the fallen trunks and the dry twigs, but it looks so warm and open and lovely. A cayote watches us for a second from a little boulder by the road, but just as we see it it flees. I never saw a cayote before, and it was gone so quickly I hardly remember what it looked like. I remember it was small, and looked almost like a fox-sized woolf.

Edit-8726.jpg

Then we drove, down to the valley, out of the valley. It was strange how quickly the landscape went from impressive mountains walls to desertlike flats. We stopped for pizza and gas at Costco, and Target for food. We arrived in King’s Canyon a few hours before sunset, which gave us time to set up camp and do a little bit of hiking before dark. The campsite was nice and big; each site had a picnic table and a fire pit; each campsite had a large area for themselves. We found one next to the edge of the site, and we could sit and watch down a little hill of trees much taller than pine trees should be. The grown was covered in needles and it smelled faintly of pines until the odor of campfires took over.

We walked along road with occational views to the canyon and the Sierra on one side, and the descending mountains on the other side. The trail was called the panoramic trail, but most of it went through trees and we didn’t see much. But it was quiet, and looked like it could be the site of a fairytale. The whole park, both King’s and Sequoia, looked like fairytales. The High Sierra took my breath away. It was so unexpected to see them there in the distance, and they were so rugged and sharp. Like the type of rocks the Indians used for their spearheads, that sort of rugged edge. And they are all so tall, so much taller than is possible to comprehend from such a distance.

edit-8646edit-8733-2

After the walk we went to see the General Grant tree, which is the 3rd largest tree in the world, and I saw my first Sequoias. Now that is a tree. It is impossible to understand just how small you are, or maybe how big they are, because you cannot see it all in one glance. First you have to take in the width of the trunk, which is also a little hard since you only see it from one side. You can walk around it and count how many steps it will take you to circle it, and then think about how long that would be if you walked in a straight line. Then you must bend your neck and look up, and it hurts a little while you stare at the crown of it because it takes a while to really, really look. We learned about how the Sequoias are dependent on fire; how they are fire resistant due to chemicals in their bark; how the fires open up little pockets of seed to let the saplings begin to grown; how the fires clean the undergrowth so the saplings have space to grow; how it takes hundreds of years for a Sequoia to become one of the biggest trees in the world. General Grant was around 1.700 years old.

Day 6 – 14. october 2016
I woke up and realised that I had been warm the whole night. That I had had a good night’s sleep. It is easy to take warmth and comfort for granted, and it is something precious to find when camping. I still love to camp, there is something about the fire going late into night, about eating canned soup and about waking up to the bird chatter (or squirrel chatter) and smell the forest. But it is easy to forget all of that when your toes fell like they’re falling off and the air freezes in your nose.

We were hiking to Mist Falls, an easy but moderately long hike that would give us the faintest of tastes of the High Sierra. We drove to where the road ended, and it was like we had suddenly ended up in a different planet. As we drove down into the canyon the land went dry and yellow, and small shrubbery dotted the hills like polkas. The mountains were all smooth curves and triangular shapes, but it was so dry and the backdrop was the rugged Sierra. It looked menacing, like the landscape was daring the car to fail us and we’d have to walk to Mordor and destroy the ring before we would be able to return to our homes. And as suddenly it changed again, and we entered a flourished valley filled with green and a river running parallel to the road. As our hike began it looked more and more like Yosemite, with granite grey mountains on each side – yet they were more rugged.

Edit-8759.jpgedit-8767edit-8812

The canyon floor turned into a lush landscape that bustled with squirrels and chipmunks. I spent five minutes jumping at all sounds, expecting bears and mountain lions and rattlesnakes to plunge for us. But it was always a chipmunk; always a squirrel. The forest closed around us, but always it felt open, always it felt warming, always it felt like taken out of a book about faeries. We met no bears, no mountain lions, no snakes. No faeries either. We returned to the campsite before dark and cooked smores on the fire as the last light shone golden rays on the tree crowns.

edit-8823Edit-8752.jpg

Yosemite National Park

I’m two weeks into my trip now, and so far it’s been incredible. I flew to San Fransisco, where I met one of my amazing friends, Kelsey. We have spent ten days road-tripping through the Californian national parks. Now we are back at her house, freshly showered, laundered, rested and with steady wifi connection. So here it is, section one: Yosemite.

10. October 2016
We woke up at 4AM to drive to Yosemite. Most of the drive was in total darkness, and it took us about four hours to get there. I thought we would come through the tunnel and get our first view of the park from tunnel view, seeing the classic Yosemite shot, but we came in a different road. We turned a bend and suddenly it was there, as majestic as I thought it would be. The half-dome, El Capitan, and the soft light of a sun just risen over the mountains making it all a little hazy, making it all look slightly unreal. We had hoped to get a camp spot at Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley, but we got there at 8:20, and by that time the ranger was already handing out spots so we were three spots short of getting something. We decided to drive up to another campground rather than wait and see if something would open up. It was around 30 minutes from the park, and I was bummed out and trying to talk myself into a better mood by looking for advantages. Then, as we were just about to take a right into the camp site we see people and cars looking towards something on the side of the road, and it was a black bear. I still can’t believe that we saw a black bear (which, by the way, is the mascot of the University of Maine, where I studied abroad. I realised I have been walking around in this bear infested landscape with a t-shirt from UMaine saying: black bears attack!) Yet, there it was there, idly sniffing the ground for food, not caring at all that 10 people were standing around taking it’s picture. It was smaller than what I thought bears would, and it didn’t at all look very ferocious. When the rangers (after ten minutes) went to chase it off it simply looked up at them, and then ran off into the hills. While it was a bit unsettling to see it so close to our camp, it also soothed me to see how uninterested it was in us.

edit-8186-2After setting up camp we drove back down to the valley, and spent the day checking out the views from the valley floor. We did a short hike to mirror lake, which was completely dry, and we walked around the meadows under El Capitan looking at all the rock climbers through my binoculars. For sunset we drove up to Glacier point, and it was perfect: the sky was almost entirely free of clouds, and the last light of the sun cast first a glowing orange and then a soft pink onto the half-dome. It was like looking at the MacBook screensavers, just crisper and bigger and entirely breathtaking. When we drove back to our camp, we passed El Capitan, and small points of light everywhere marked climbers settling down for the night. I wondered how they slept up there, if they all had tents, because when we looked at them earlier in the day it hadn’t looked like they carried a lot with them.

edit-8352edit-8398

11. october 2016
Despite the fact that autumn dries out most of the waterfalls, we decided to climb up to the Yosemite fall for the views. It was hot and long, and I was very thankful that I had spent a lot of time in the mountains the past two months. We kept passing and getting passed by three guys from Britain as we (or they) took rests and drank water, calling ‘see you soon’, which we would in only few minutes. The path was well maintained, but it was long, and it felt extremely good to finally be on top, to sit down and just enjoy the view. Yosemite is a really good one for views. All in all, up and down, the hike took us around 6 hours and it was hard, rewarding, and left us happy to be back down in the valley and able to rest our feet.

edit-8463

We drove to Taft point for sunset, and the sky went ablaze with pink. I ran around getting pictures, which turned out quite good despite the sun setting behind the edge of the cliff where iconic Taft point shots are taken. It has felt, a little bit, like I’ve walked in the footsteps of the photographers that inspire me to come here and see the places they have seen, and take photographs in the same locations as they have photographed in before.

Edit-8492.jpg

The first night on our campsite we were cold from the moment we left the car, until three minutes after we sat back into the car the following morning. Therefore, we gathered fire-wood for our second night. Somehow, I don’t know how exactly, I managed to get a fire going (I think it is the first time ever), and the heat from the fire made for an entirely different night than the one a day before. We ate soup and I boiled water to put in a bottle by my feet during the night. When we ran out of wood and the fire went out we went to warm to bed.

12. october 2016
I didn’t sleep so well this night either, despite being warm – but I never sleep well when camping. I still love it though, and one day I will figure out how to stay warm. We brought pancake mix with us, so we ate pancakes with sirup and banana for breakfast, and vowed to gather enough firewood for a fire tomorrow morning too.

I hiked Nevada Falls, while Kelsey stayed in the valley. It is a popular hike, especially this time of the year since Vernal and Nevada falls are the only one still going, if not as powerfully. The trailhead was really crowded, packs of kids were blocking the way. There was an entire school on a fieldtrip hiking the falls, and I started just after them. I managed to pass most of them while the trail was still wide enough, and it wasn’t long before the crowds diminished. The trail to Nevada falls had three different sections: first a bridge with a view of Vernal falls, then the Vernal falls, and finally the Nevada falls. The last sections was not very busy, and I managed to keep my pace, making really good time up. The summit itself was almost as nice as the falls and the view, with a small pool before the waterfall, light granite floors and here and there a strong, green pine tree. I ate some pancakes left from breakfast and some chocolate. I hiked down on the John Muir trail, making it a loop and getting a different perspective of the fall on my way down.

edit-8550edit-8564edit-8523

Back in the valley I found Kelsey, and then a shower (felt amazing). We went to a lounge where we could charge my batteries and check up on the outside world (wifi). We also made plans for the evening: sunset at tunnel view, smores on the fire and a well-deserved glass or two of wine. Tomorrow we head out of Yosemite to King’s Canyon and Sequoia. I always struggle with leaving places like this, with views that would keep you content even if you looked at them for a lifetime. But there are massive tree trunks waiting, and I do want to see that.

Autumn walks and the final days in Rondane

The last few weeks I sacrificed the mountain tops for the White Birch woods, because the mountain is on fire with the autumn here. It is so pretty that I can sit down and stare at one spot for five minute and still not really comprehend what I am looking at. Blueberry plants have gone scarlet, leaves and grass is orange and the few, far spread pine trees offers a deep green contrast. It is the perfect season for packing my small bag with a thermos of hot chocolate or hot red currant sirup, a nice lunch, a book, my journal and my camera. I walk with audiobooks or music in my ears, occasionally stopping to take the ear plugs out and listen to rustling leaves or the clunking from small streams. Occasionally just listening to the silence and the solitude. These days the clouds are heavy, but a week ago the sun shone strongly and I wore t-shirts and fell asleep amongst heather. In my journal I wrote things like:

I sometimes forget how nice it is to be one’s own company, especially walking outside like this. When the nature is so magnificent it fills your heart and your head, and the sun keeps you warm. It is nice to do these easy walks, and not always push upwards on rocky paths to reach 2000m. Instead I walk for maybe 45 minutes before I find a nice rock to sit on where the wind is a soft breeze, where I can see the mountains behind me and the birches in front of me, and to my left is Furusjøen, it’s surface glittering in the sunlight, marked as a silvery circle in my photographs. I breathe and feel my shoulders come down, and all I do is read or write or rest. As long as I sit here no one comes past, it is just me here and I think back on this grand plan I had about these months between my studies and how I ended up here. Rondane is so beautiful and it is perfect for saving money, yet it is also very different from what I had hoped this time to be. I’m only waitressing, not doing anything I can add to my resumé when time comes to search for the right sort of jobs. It’s also almost over, and I don’t have enough money yet. Still, in these moments I feel blessed to be right where I am, and most of the time I’m grateful for this opportunity. I think that living in the mountains at least once in your life is healthy, and I’m glad I’m doing it now. There is a stillness and quietness to walk like this, sit like this, in being on one’s own that you don’t experience when you are around other people.

Today is my final day off, and then I work for six days before I go home. I will be at home for three nights before I fly off to California and Costa Rica and Cuba, and for my longest and scariest adventure yet. I am spending 10 weeks travelling on my own, and although almost four of these weeks are in California where I will stay with friends the whole time, it is the next six weeks that scare me. I am excited, beyond excited, to travel to these new and exotic places, but underneath it I am a little frightened. I’m frightened of what will go wrong and how I will solve it on my own. I’m frightened I’ll stay scared, and that instead of embracing the cultural differences I’ll see them as reasons to stay cautious and withdrawn. I’m also scared I will blow up my budget. But mostly I’m just excited to explore volcanoes, rainforests, tobacco fields, water falls, swim in temperate waters, and to practice Spanish. I am listening to Cuban music when writing this, and more than anything I think I’ll just love it.

edit-7745edit-7748edit-7763edit-7773edit-7781edit-7787

A Guide to the Mountains of Rondane National Park

Rondane National Park is the oldest of many national parks in Norway, and was established in 1962. Where I work is, I believe, the most popular way in to the national park. It’s easy to access on train from Oslo, and from this side you can access most of the ten 2000m peaks – some quite easily, some that require a longer or more strenous hike.  There are several reasons why I think it’s a really nice place to come: the views are amazing, even if you decide not to climb a mountain, since the mountains lay like a small range and at their roots is a massive plateau with trails along the mountain bases or by rivers; the mountains are sort of grouped together, and you can therefore hike several different peaks without having to move each night; some of the mountains offer a challenge, while other are a lot more accommodating; there is a river flowing from the mountains all the way down to Otta which offers a few gorgeous waterfalls that are all only a short walk from the roads. Rondane is the driest part of Norway, so it’s an arid landscape. Most of the park is above the alpine, but around the edges there are charming woods of white birch which are glorious to look at in the autumn glow. Otherwise, the ground take on a red and orange colour from lichen. You can find blueberries and lingonberries, heather and moss.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-15-04-59screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-15-04-51

There are two main access points to the mountains from this side of the park: Peer-Gynt hytta and Rondvassbu. Peer Gynt hytta has a small kiosk and small huts for rent, but it’s not always open. It’s an 8km walk there from the hotel I work at, and the trail is mostly flat. While the main part crosses the open plateau, the first section passes some nice waterfalls, some cabins, a White birch wood, and past some bogs. Rondvassbu is a much larger facility and offers rooms, food and snacks/coffees. From the closest car-park (Spranget) there’s an 8km into the cabins, which are also by the trailhead for most of the summits. Bikes are available for rental at the car park (100kr each way) for those who wish to save time, because the hike there takes a good while.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-15-05-12
Rondvassbu from the trail up Veslesmeden
screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-15-02-35
Peer-Gynt hytta

Smiubelgin/Bråkdalsbelgen (1915m, 3-4h, access from Peer-Gynt hytta)
This is not a mountain, but a mountain range. In English it’s given the name ‘The Forge’. The official trail here only goes up to one peak, to a summit called Bråkdalsbelgen at 1915m. The hike up takes you over one smaller peak and down a little again, but not much. It is relatively easy. I found this to be perhaps the second easiest hike of the ones I am going to discuss in this post. It offers a great view, into a sort of valley on the back with small tarns of greenish water collected from snowmelts and rain. A great view here of Trolltinden. I decided to walk onwards along the ridge a little bit, both to extend the hike and to prevent going back the same way as I came up. I walked over Ljosåbelgen (1948) and went down from the ridge at the tip of Hoggsbeitet, and found my way to the river going along Store Ula river.

I appreciated this hike a lot, because it gave me several new views and different angles, since it’s quite far from the other mountains I hiked. Also, Peer-Gynt hytta is an extremely charming location, with tiny stone cabins and a riverbed of white rocks.

Edit-.jpg

Veslesmeden (2015m, 4-5h, access from Rondvassbu)
This was the first hike I did, and while I started off with very heavy feet and felt like I was dying, the hike is not all that hard. It’s known as the most child-friendly of the summits, because it only gets very steep at the very end. I actually hiked this trail without knowing where it would end, as I just picked a path and followed it (which is a really, really stupid thing to do, because if something had happened no one would know where to look for me), and I reached the summit almost by surprise (it was foggy). Often I find that you keep thinking you must be close to the top, but I did not feel this urgency at this hike, which I think means I didn’t find it too exhausting. This is the only mountain with access from Rondvassbu that lays to the left, so it offers a great view of Storronden and Rondeslottet. It also connects to Storsmeden (2016m) by a ridge, but I would not recommend crossing it, without the proper mountaineering experience, as it is very steep close to Storsmeden, and when I hiked the ridge I felt reckless in a I-might-die-here-way, and will not do so again.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-15-04-24

Storronden (2138m, 4-5h, access from Rondvassbu)
This mountain reminds me a little of a pyramid, specifically the Sun Pyriamid in Teotihuacán in México. The trail goes almost straight the whole hike, and flattens our a little bit two times. It is, more than any of the other mountains, a massive pile of rocks, so the trail is very uneven and most of the time it’s just marked so you know you’re going in the right direction. It gets fairly steep, but doesn’t require much climbing. It is significantly easier than Rondeslottet, and is almost as high up. Offers some really nice views. I’ve hiked up twice, once when it’s been freezing on top and once when it’s been shrouded in clouds.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-15-03-05

Rondeslottet (2178m, 5-6, access from Rondvassbu)
This is the highest of the peaks in Rondane, and it’s one of the toughest hikes. It is still very possible to do, as long as you are prepared to do some climbing. The hike goes over another peak, Vinjeronden at 2044m, so the trail first climbs Vinjeronden, then drops in order to climb up again to the summit – so you get a double 2000m peak on this hike. The hike between Vinjeronden and Rondeslottet is approximately 1 hour. It took me and my brother around 7 hours to hike from Spranget, up Rondeslottet, and back to Spranget. The views on top are, again, stunning – you can’t really go wrong with the views anywhere in the park, but if you want a more challenging hike then Rondeslottet or Trolltinden would be my suggestion.

Trolltinden (2018m, unknown length, access from Rondvassbu)
Trolltinden lies behind the Smiubelgin edge, in what is sometimes referred to as the backyard of Rondane. The peak is a magnificent one, and to reach it from this side of the park the trail goes on the top of a very narrow edge. I thought it would be no harder than Rondeslottet at it’s steepest, but we actually abandoned the idea of reaching the top when we saw how steep it actually was. We made it as far as the lower summit, when the trail suddenly stooped and then rose in a fashion that made it seem like it required actions closer to actual rock climbing than hiking. The Norwegian hiking foundation (DNT) has stopped caring for the trail – it’s still there but for reasons I don’t know they are no longer clearing the path and maintaining the markings. This also made us a little more cautious. There are guided tours from Rondvassbu once or twice a weak for 500 NOK – with a guide I think I would have felt safe enough to hike it. We did see one other hiker doing it, but they were way ahead of us so we did not talk with them. It looked like an amazing, crazy hike, so if the chance to hike it comes up I wouldn’t discourage it, however I do suggest being extremely careful if attempting it, and I wouldn’t recommend it for unexperienced hikers. I would have liked to return with a guide, but I don’t think I will have time.

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-13-15-13

The Move to the Mountains

Already the day after returning from Lofoten I was on a train again with my luggage heading north. Through a friend I had landed a job that probably couldn’t have suited me better for this study break intended to nurture my bank account and wanderlust. I really hoped to spend some of this time travelling around Norway, as it doesn’t make sense for an enthusiastic hiker in search of magnificent views to leave out Norway. Being able to work only a short hike from a national park – ah that was the dream. So I got on the train heading to Otta, a small town situated in a valley next to a river that is icy blue, or perhaps green, depending on how the sun shines on it. If you follow the road going up the valley you will find the hotel where I now work, and if you follow the road another 10ks then you will be met with a mountain range consisting of a handful of summits over 2000 metre (and some slightly under).

I am perhaps a bit arrogant, at times, at the prospect of a new adventure like this one. I find myself constantly moving around, abandoning all that I know to go new places, and friends ask me if I’m not scared, nervous. Usually I’m not, instead I’m excited and grateful – until the train pulls into the station and I’m dragging my suitcase down the steps looking for a man with red trousers, and that is all I know about anyone in this place. That there is someone there to pick me up and they are wearing red trousers. This is when the butterflies begin to flutter anxiously in my belly, when I am about to meet the new people, see my new home. This is when the image I’ve created in my head of how these two next months will be like is put to the test. I am not scared, exactly, but I suddenly question everything I think I am and the way I have chosen to live my life. But as soon as I get the first friendly smile and see that the room I’m meant to stay with has a functioning bathroom, electricity and a comfortable bed, that nervousness is gone and only the excitement is left.

I began work the next morning, and for a few days I fumbled and struggled with the insecurity of all that I did not know. I have never waitressed before, and a friend of mine who has has always made is seem like a stressful and difficult job. Thankfully there is something about people in the mountains, they have a more relaxed air, a less demanding presence. I quickly learned how to do the job, and I quickly settled into this mountain home. I sometimes feel as if I am living in a TV show, so secluded up here without good wifi connection and a staff that mostly live on the property. Even off duty the hotel is swarming with chefs, receptionists, housekeepers and waitresses. We are always eating, always coming for coffee or for the internet. Suddenly I understand the connection that exists in a workplace where everyone always seems to be in the office.

And then there are the days when I don’t have work and the sun is shining and the mountains are calling. I go as often as I can, and after a month I feel like this is my home, like I have known these mountains forever. I feel my legs growing stronger and my breathing gets easier as I trudge up rocky paths towards a cairn and the chocolate reward at the summit. Outside the leaves are going yellow and orange and the autumn foliage has rarely been more welcome, as the scenery in a couple of weeks will look entirely different and can therefore be rediscovered.

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-13-26-15screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-13-26-07

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-13-26-26