We are in Sundal, a lovely little place which reflects many of our experiences over the past few weeks. The three of us are sitting on a wooden jetty looking out over the Kvinnheradsfjord which is dark and glassy, its surface rippled only by the occasional leaping fish. To the left is a fishing dock with white clapboard buildings and a wooden-hulled fishing boat tied off for the night. To my right, shafts of light from the evening sun are slowly tracking up a steep green mountainside. Behind me, the sun has just lit up the top of a glacier, which is sending a river of blue-grey ice steeply down the mountainside. We really didn’t think we would get this lucky tonight.
Ulvik was just about open but eerily deserted. We got a photocopy of the ferry timetable from the tourist office (“do you have 50 krona for the ink…?) and then got very lost trying to get to Kinsarvik, where the ferry leaves for Utne – one of the prettier villages at the junction of several fjords. Some way down the road out of Ulvik we passed an abandoned ferry terminal and assumed it to be Kinsarvik, so we abandoned our Kinsarvik ferry plans and put Kvanndal into the satnav, which also has a ferry to Utne.
|Deep in a tunnel we discovered the alien mothership|
But then we got sucked into a tunnel and spat out onto a graceful new bridge which after some head-scratching we realised had taken us just up the road from Kinsarvik.
Twenty minutes later we were buying our ticket from the ruddy-faced, twinkly-eyed, grey-mustacheod ferryman:
Utne was indeed a delightful little place, a string of wooden waterfront houses and a white-painted church. We found a carpark with a view to have our last pack of Lofoten’s finest fish soup. Our food supplies are almost gone now and we shall miss that soup!
A short walk from the ferry dock is Utne’s folk museum which had displays of costumes in one hall, including wedding costumes which included head-dresses very similar to those used by the Sami people, which in turn are very similar to those used by Native Americans.
It also had an interesting display of Hardangar Fiddles, which have a second set of strings underneath the usual four and make an unusual, almost accordian-like sound. They also had some extraordinary primitive slim boxes with a single string which were played with a bow, and some long, slim birchwood trumpets used by shephards to communicate from mountain to mountain, and to scare away predators.
There was also a small log cabin from the 1820s owned by one Gunnar Arnfinnson Årkol who was weakened by TB and no longer able to be a crofter. He’d tried all sorts of other occupations including bookkeeping, but discovered eventually that what he was really good at, was painting – and in particular, painting furniture with floral patterns.
He became well known for his skill and his cottage had lots of little pictures on the wooden walls and furniture that he had painted.
As we walked around the buildings the sun began to come out, finally lighting up the Hardangerfjord and its surrounding mountains. It put a spring back in all our steps and we made plans to head down the long sliver of Sornfjord to Odda where there was a reasonable-looking campsite.
It was a perfect drive through the fjord country with pretty little buildings all along the water’s edge of the kind we had just seen in the museum. The sun shining on the opposite bank made the red barns stand out like bright sparks against the green hillside. We passed fields of fruit trees and little stalls selling punnets of plums. It was a grand drive of about 40K down the length of the fjord.
As we drew closer to Odda though the landscape changed. There were two big container ships anchored by an island which was completely full of some kind of production plant. A huge carbide factory was established nearby in 1908 and for a few decades Odda was something of an industrial mecca, but its heydey is long gone and today it has a gritty, ground-down feel overshadowed in parts by the giant concrete remnants of long-gone factories. That said, it still has plenty of characterful clapboard houses and its not hard to imagine Odda making a comeback as one of the more unusual destinations in fjordland.
As soon as we came out of the tunnel mouth we knew we had made the right choice. It was like going through the back of the wardrobe and into Narnia, a brilliant stretch of fjord gleaming off into the sunset with mountains crowding in from either side.
The view of the glacier was the icing on the cake and we pulled in and parked up. Its great to end the day feeling uplifted by Norway again.