Thursday, 9 July 2009

Chasing Waterfalls - Four days in the Hardanger - Day 4

Stavali (1024m) to Kinsarvik (10m) - 17km

Be careful what you wish for they say. My sentiments before bed last night had possibly come back to haunt me as despite the sunshine that filtered into my tent when I first stirred there was cloud bubbling up down the valley. I could actually see it moving so I had a quick breakfast and packed up my tent ensuring my waterproofs were near the top of my rucksack. I had to retrace my steps a bit to get to the footbridge over the river and by now the cloud was almost upon me, creeping ominously like John Carpenter's The Fog.

I had several smaller streams to negotiate at the base of the Tverrelvi waterfall and then I started to head down towards the Stavali hut. There was no sign of life when I got there, I didn't know if I was too early or too late to see anyone. I was in the cloud now and relieved. It was cool and damp and made for comfortable walking. Just past the hut there lies a wood burner heated hot tub that anyone staying at the hut can use for the princely sum of £10 per person. After a long days hiking that might not seem so steep.

As I rounded the base of Randinuten the path gradually climbed the green valley, crossing several more streams. The threat of The Fog never materialised as strong rays of sunshine burnt it away. I stopped at the head of the valley and took a break, looking back at the open country I was leaving behind. The rest of my journey would be steeply downhill, physically at least.

I crossed the narrow gully and river at Viersdalen and proceeded to walk towards a wall of mist and cloud. The path dropped steeply here, the start of the granite descent that takes you into Hausdalen, home of the mighty Kinso river. The wall of water vapour was not silent and smothering like fog but swirling and hiding a thunderous beast. As my feet hit the front of my shoes on the murderous descent a white shape emerged from the mist, then another, angled to the first but unmistakable as a giant tiered waterfall, Søtefossen, the first (or last, depending which way you walk the trail) of the four big Kinso waterfalls. It's an impressive sight. I left the DNT path and made my own way across to the river to stand below the behemoth, basking in it's spray and noise.

I explored this end of the valley, well off the path, and discovered a world of granite cut with raging rivers, streams and ice cool pools. There was nobody about. Sunday afternoon, 5km from the tourist town of Kinsarvik and no one was here. I found a scary looking but actually solidly built bridge across the narrowest but heart thumpingly fast part of the river. The slot in the rock accelerated the water like a jet engine with the noise to match. The hand rails were thin wire and access to the actual bridge were steep, water slicked ramps of granite. I took minutes thinking about it and in seconds I was over it. The views on the other side were stunning and I sat and ate my lunch, waterfalls and rapids showing me the way to the fjord and my terminus.

After lunch I walked back to the DNT trail but not before peering over the edge of Nykkjesøyfossen. The trail headed back into the tinder dry and claustrophobic forest. The path was still ridiculously steep with roots and pine needles lubricating the granite slabs. Suddenly I was transported into a rainforest as a wall of spray found it's way through the vegetation. A clearing in the trees revealed the top half of Nyastølsfossen. The noise was deafening and the water seemed to slow down as it fell to river far below. Further down the trail another opening revealed the full scale of this wonder.

Then suddenly it was all over. The smaller Tveitafossen was all but hidden by a hydroelectric power station and then the trail stopped. A gravel road, car park and notice board marked the end of the journey proper. As I trudged off down the dusty soft track I knew I had one more night out here before I caught a ferry and train back to the city in the morning. I checked the map and found a bridge 500m down the track that lead across the river and into a forest. I would find a spot there, next to this amazing river. My heart dropped into my boots when I discovered the bridge gated and locked on both sides. My only option now was to walk past the heliport and down the road to Kinsarvik to one of the holiday campsites. It wasn't that bad an option, the parks had fjord side views but more importantly showers and ice creams! And I needed both. A lot.

After about a kilometre on the tarmac the good folks of Kinsarvik had the good idea to create a 'turveg' or hiking road that separates from the tarmac and follows the curves of the Kinso through the woods as it made it's way to it's meeting with the fjord. At the end of the trail it was a short walk to the camping site and I pitched my little Laser Comp, dwarfed by neighbouring motor-homes and 8-berth holiday tents you can stand up in. Looks were glanced my way as families wondered who this strange sun-cream and dust caked individual was with the impossibly small tent. A trip to the near-by Esso garage was rewarded with a haul of fresh cherries, a big bag of cheesy crisps and a Lion Bar ice-cream to celebrate the end of an amazing four days in what is for me one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I'd chased waterfalls for four days and now it was time to leave them, timelessly tumbling with gravity, and head back to the city.

Thoughts from the trip and a run down of kit heroes and zeroes will follow as I slowly digest the memories.

I'll leave you with my favourite photo from my trip. The cloud on the last morning creeping up the valley just as I'm about to cross the stream below Tverrelvi falls.

(More photos here)


Hendrik M said...

And once more a beautiful story, accompanied by great photos!

What's your new camera going to be? We (the girlfriend and me) are thinking about getting a Canon EOS 50D, its heavy at 822 gram but should be able to produce awesome photos. Its pricey, though...

Holdfast said...

Hendrik - thanks again. The fourth day photos are my favourite. That bit of morning cloud really added another dimension to them.

My new camera will be Panasonic Lumix Tz4 point-and-shoot. The wide-angle/zoom lens and Leica optics should prove very useful and I got it at a bargain price. I'd like nice digiSLR to get more into photography but I'm struggling to justify the weight!

Anonymous said...

Thanks once again, Holdfast, for a wonderful report. I feel like I've been on the trail myself. Next year I'll follow in your footsteps, no question about it...

As for cameras, I think the new Olympus E-Pen 1 is worth a look. Relatively compact, but with a sensor almost the size of a DSLR and without the quirks of the Sigma DP1.


Holdfast said...

Andy - Thank you. Make plans, book tickets, you won't regret it.

The Pen 1 looks very interesting indeed and I'll be in a position to seriously think about it shortly. The Tz4 will do a sterling job in the meantime I'm sure.

Dave Hanlon said...

Great stuff. Like your writing. Especialy pleasurable because, as you know, I was in Rondane at about the same time, and also testing a golite pack for the first time (in my case a Jam).

On the subject of Cameras, I carried a DSLR for the first time in years. It added a kilo to my load. Most of my mad weight saving spree in the run-up to Norway (NeoAir, Jam2 purchase etc) simply went towards offsetting the additional weight of the camera. My starting weight was 10,8kg in the pack and 1kilo in a seperate shoulder bag. Acceptable but I'd still like to be lighter. Have to say though, looking back through the photos, I don't regret the choice. Won't walk without a quality camera again (probably).

Been looking at the Pen also but will hold fire until more models become available. The first release has only live view and no inbuilt flash. Rumour has it that they will release one with an electronic viewfinder which would, I think, be better for stability(camera to the eye) and battery life. Like the retro steel look but would prefer a plastic body to shed some grams.

Holdfast said...

Dave - thanks for tuning in and your kind words. Your account of the Rondane has really spiked my interest in revisiting that area. I'm also waiting to hear what Roger has to say from his trip to Jotunheimen.

As I've said elsewhere the GoLite packs are awesome. I will be getting a Jam2 to complement the Pinnacle, especially as I'm putting my sleeping/shelter gear on a diet.

A proper viewfinder is something I miss on P&S digital cameras and a built in flash in a necessity on such a camera. You're right about the aesthetics of the Pen, it's a very cool looking piece but some carbon fibre and titanium parts would be very welcome too!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Norway looks an amazing place to go. Some day! I'm sure your TZ4 will serve you well. I'm very pleased with my TZ5. I don't know how I missed you off my Google reader, but you're on now.

Holdfast said...

Robin - welcome and thanks for adding me to your Google Reader (a very useful tool I've only just got grips with myself!). Looking forward to the Tz4 turning up. The tiny little Cybershot I borrowed was pretty good but a zoom would make a lot of difference.

As for Norway, yes, it's stunning. I am a very lucky boy to be currently living here. Everyone should have to opportunity to visit at least once in their lives.

PTC said...

Fantastic. I've missed so much in the last month while I've been stuck inside a steam boiler!

Holdfast said...

ptc* - while myself, Roger and Dave have been fannying around the different mountain regions of Norway you have been keeping the wheels of civilisation turning. I'm sure in the very near future we will once again be reading about your adventures and muttering to ourselves "You lucky, lucky bastard..."