THE JOURNEY TO STAVANGER
After saying our farewells to Kristiansand we hit the road for Stavanger. Stavanger is located on the west coast of Norway in Fjord country and the drive proved to be some of the most breathtaking scenery we had witnessed on the trip thus far. The landscape is cut with deep U shaped valleys that extend for miles filled with long narrow waterways. The Fjords were formed from the melting of the ice sheets over thousands of years and the abrasion of the surrounding bedrock as the sheets retreated back and melted. As you drive along the mountain roads towards Stavanger you are met with valley after valley of vertical cliffs thousands of feet high stretching back as far as the eye can see. With so many deep valleys and waterways you would think the road would be filled with countless winding camel backs to climb and ascend all this terrain. But this was not to be as the road was more or less a straight shot using a system of tunnels and bridges to turn what would be a 24 hour drive into a 3 hour drive. I think we passed over 10 massive mini golden gate style bridges and 30 tunnels of varying lengths from ½ mile to several miles bored directly into and thru these massive mountains. Truly a feat of engineering to build a road this straight in this kind of terrain and a drive I won’t soon forget. The town of Stavanger sits out from the Fjords on small connected islands surrounded by inlets. We wound our way out of the mountains into town eager to see what the city had in store for us. And like every other city on our Norwegian journey it did not disappoint.
Gladmatfestivalen or “Happy Food Festival”
As we checked into our hotel the front desk person informed us we had just arrived for the busiest festival of the summer Gladmatfestivalen or “Happy food festival”. It’s held along the waterfront showcasing some of the best chefs and food in Norway. With our hotel just a stone’s throw away we couldn’t be more excited and hungry after the long drive. After getting situated we made our way to the charming waterfront with empty stomachs. The streets were filled with people and tents showcasing all kinds of food and desserts. Literally over seventy five different tents filled with delicious smells and outlays of every kind of cuisine. After spending several hours lapping the promenade we stuffed ourselves silly with beef kabobs, seafood platters, fudge, cheese, wine, beer, even authentic style Mexican tacos. Everything we encountered was top notch grub and amazingly delicious. And being a festival and peak of summer it was party time and the many beer and wine gardens had hundreds of happy food festival goers drinking and singing along to American classic hits booming from the outdoor speakers. With stomachs filled we thought it best to head back to the hotel for a nap, let our food digest then have a little peek at the nightlife later that evening.
Mexico & The Beverly Hills Fun Pub
As light turned to darkness we put on our freshest gear and marched out on the town. Once on the streets we noticed all the pubs and discos were alive with festival goers sharing in the festival spirit and just plain happy to be out enjoying the amazing and uncommon warm weather. It was funny to see the names of the bars like “Mexico” & “Beverly Hills Fun Pub” giving us a little taste of home back in Southern Cali. First to the “Beverly” as the locals call it, filled with people dancing on tables and swilling $17 beers by the pint. After bouncing around the bar we met some friendly locals who upon telling them of our paddle journey around the south coast of Norway offered to take us to the fjords, waterfall and an amazing white sand beach. As a show of our gratitude we offered them several rounds of high priced tequila shooters at the neighboring bar of “Mexico” served on wooden platters 4 deep. The bar was classic to say the least. Surrounding its patrons, most I would assume have never been to the real Mexico, with paintings of Dia De Los Muertos skulls and caballeros riding off into the cactus filled sunset shooting six shooters. Feeling lose from the tequila and happy to have some local Norwegian hosts the Stavanger rage kicked into full throttle. The long night turned quite hazy and suddenly it was morning and time to head out to paddle the fjords.
Paddling in the World’s largest fjord – Lynsfjord
The following morn the excitement of paddling the fjord quickly washed away any traces of the solid hangover from the previous night’s tequila driven rage. We loaded up the vehicle and our gracious Norwegian hosts and set off to take the ferry boat by car just 45 minutes into fjord country. The ferry is very clean and efficient and runs every half on the hour so after quickly jumping in a line of cars the ferry arrived and before we could say “where do we buy a ticket” we had parked on the ferry and were underway. We exited the vehicle and headed above to a nice indoor seating area surrounded by windows for a light lunch and to soak in the surrounding views as we approached the nearby fjords. After reaching shore we hopped back in the car and speed off onto the winding mountain roads. In an hours’ time we landed at the mouth of Lynsfjord, a 26 mile long fjord with vertical walls on either side climbing as much as 3000ft in height. It was spectacular to say the least and with no one around we had it all to ourselves to explore. Excited to finally catch a paddle we hopped into the crystal blue water and made off to the center of the fjord soaking up the views and tranquility of the surrounding nature. It was an incredible experience and of all my paddles without a doubt one of the most memorable. Our hosts even joined us on the ISUP canoe style with beers and then suddenly the sun vanished behind the peaks and a strong wind started to blow sweeping us down the fjord. After fighting our way to shore we figured it best to head out and make our way to the waterfall our hosts had said so much about. We said our good byes to the fjord and packed up our gear and made off with only hours before sundown.
Attempting to SUP the 300ft Mannesund Waterfall
After driving for nearly 2 hours we finally reached the parking lot near the base of the Mannesund waterfall. Our hosts told us it was a solid 30 minute hike up a steep ravine and then once at the top you could climb back down into the pool at the waterfall base and go for a paddle. Sounds great in theory but not so easy in practice trying to lug a paddle board along for the hike. After nearly an hour or so of grueling terrain both up and down toward the pool we could not get near it without putting someone in serious danger due to the slippery rocks and force of the 300ft high water splashing into the small pool and across the adjacent rocks. We got up on a 100ft tall ridge about as close as we could possibly get and rested for a while to admire the falls from a distance. It was breathtaking to say the least and the sights and sounds of the falling water after all the agony of the hike put you in an almost Zen like state. With dark approaching we decided it best to pack up and head back to the hotel for a night of rest. Unfortunately rest was not too be and another long night of festival rage ensued. This time away from the Pub areas of town to the more upscale discos. A hefty bill and a champagne hangover later we awoke to sunny skies and another perfect day to explore the town around the hotel.
Playing in the Oil Museum Playground
Norway is a very rich country. The main reason it’s so rich is due to natural resources specifically oil and gas discovered in the 1960’s offshore and still flowing till this day. With its small population of only 4.5 million and abundant resources there is a lot of money to go around. All placed in the hands of very smart individuals running the country and is no doubt a major reason why the social system takes care of its people and it shows. Stavanger is at the center of this oil boom and a major oil town due to its geographic location on the west coast and port. In order to pay homage to the oil industry and give the kids some fun toys to play on the town has constructed an oil museum and oil playground with all sorts of oil and gas hardware like pipes, drills, buoys and the like for the little kiddies and big kiddies like me to play on. It was lots of fun running amuck amongst all this decommissioned heavy oil platform machinery and although I saw no graffiti really anywhere in Norway they actually allow you to graffiti in the oil park so lots of cool art amongst the metal and plastic. After stretching out our muscles with a few backflips in the bubble balls of the oil and gas playground the local hosts mentioned a white sand beach with the possibility of waves nearby. We though it fun to finally take a look at the ocean and see if we could catch a few swells in the summer in Norway of all places.
Catching some fun waves at the white sand beach of Borestranda
We loaded all the paddle boards once again and headed off to Borestranda beach. With no real idea of what to expect we made our way across endless farmlands with rows and rows of perfectly trimmed hay shucked and bailed creating intricate patterns across the landscape. It was as if every farm house had a fresh coat of paint and everything was in perfect order, nothing seemed broken down or out of place and with a climate typical to that of the northwest in the states everything was so green and lush giving an almost surreal like feel being that it was eighty degrees and perfectly sunny outside. As we finally approached some high grass hills obstructing the views of the beach we parked next to an adjacent farm with all kinds of long haired shaggy cows and even a couple Clydesdales frolicking in the summer sun. We unloaded the car and as we walked across the hill we finally saw the first view of an amazing white sand beach with bright blue water and a little island on the outside with a light house. An incredible sight this far north of the equator and almost felt like we were in Hawaii or Puerto Rico. Unfortunately the waves were tiny but just big enough to catch a few ripples on the paddle boards. After a long day paddling and playing in the white sand and water we finally called it a day and started to get that end of trip anxiety knowing we had little time left in this amazing country.
Time to Say Goodbye…
That evening before dark we noticed dark clouds forming on the horizon and the weather beginning to change. Almost as if on cue the weather was finally turning for the worse upon our departure. We had been in Norway for nearly two weeks and the weather was flawless nearly every day in the mid to low eighties something unheard of for this part of the world and now it seemed it was turning as if to be giving us a sign the trip was finally over. When we awoke the last morning just before our flights the clouds had gathered over the city and it was sad not only to leave and say goodbye to our new friends but to see the sun and amazing weather finally go away. After some hugs and masking a few tears with high fives it was back on the plane for the long journey home but we vowed to return to Norway and specifically Stavanger as it was our favorite of all the stops along our journey of the southern coast. We will miss you beloved Norway!!