The bus from Bergen is busy – I’m lucky to have turned up early, as there are a few people who don’t get seats. One of the things I find amazing about Bergen is the way that the road will vanish into a tunnel, and reappear seemingly outside the city entirely. As the bus crosses from fjord to fjord, we pass some spectacular waterfalls; the driver announces that they are at a particularly high flow rate, and I wonder whether the rivers farther East will be the same. Eventually, we arrive in Odda, and the coach gets a lot less busy as about half the passengers alight outside the Trolltunga Hotel (presumably planning to hike up to the famous outcrop in the morning).
After decapitating another mountain pass via a tunnel, we arrive in Røldal, a community of a hundred or so houses, at the head of a lake. On the three other sides, the town is hemmed in by the mountains, with the steep Southern edge of Hardangervidda rearing up just beyond the road.
Fortunately, a river (presumably with the help of a lot of ice) has cut a valley into the escarpment which offers an easier way up. Eventually, the sound of the road fades, and the soundtrack for the rest of the week begins: the white noise of wind and waterfalls. This initial section is reasonably steep, so I take multiple opportunities to stop and look back down the valley.
As I climb, the forest of stunted birch trees thins, to be succeeded by the grassy moorland of the plateau. It’s around this time that I realise that the squares on my map are 2km to a side instead of 1km. Luckily the route lengths are marked in hours, so this really means that the walking speed was faster than I’d expected from trying to (incorrectly) measure the distances myself.
After about two hours, the land levels off, and I get my first view into Hardangervidda proper. Having tried not to look at photos in advance, I’m surprised at how uneven it is. ‘Vidde’ means plateau, so I was imagining something substantially flatter. Even so, it looks far from unmanageable, so after a quick lunch of leftover takeaway pizza, I continue onward.
A gentle descent brings me down to the level of Valldalsvatnet, along whose shore I’ll continue for the next couple of hours. The path has been replaced by a gravel road, which makes for faster, if less interesting walking. At its head, the lake is few by an impressive waterfall, where I run into the first people I’ve seen since shortly after Røldal. There are a few cabins, and a small farm at which sheep are being herded onto a livestock lorry.
Eventually, the trail peels away from the edge of the lake, and begins to climb again. The sun is well behind the mountains now, and I’m beginning to look for a place to camp. Given the slope, I don’t find anywhere suitably flat until just short of the cabin at Middalsbu. The ground seems to consist of a thick bed of moss, in which my footprints become short-lived puddles before rebounding, but it holds my tent’s stakes well and is very comfortable to lie on.
Despite the now rising wind (and it being my first pitch of this tent outside by garden), the tent goes up quickly and easily. After a quick dinner consisting of the last of the pizza, and a little cheese, chocolate and dried apricots, I call it a night at about 21:00.