When I wake, the room is cool, and darker than I would like; the sun has already risen, so the darkness is a sign of thick cloud. The steady rain is also pretty indicative of cloud. I get up and make myself a breakfast of tea and instant porridge with dried apricots. Yesterday’s forecast suggested that the rain should only last until about 8 o’ clock, so I decide to wait it out.
As I do, the other guests get up and start making their breakfasts, too. We discuss our routes for the day: they’re heading home today, walking up to Viveli (where their car is), stopping for lunch at Hedlo cabin. My route passes Hedlo, before turning Northwest toward the string of settlements along Riksvei 7, the only major road crossing Hardangervidda.
Eventually, the rain peters out, and I get ready to leave. The other guests comment on how small my bag looks, and since there’s an old brass scale hanging on the wall, we decide to have a weigh-in. My bag, with full water bottles and too much food comes in at 12 kg, while the others’ are 18 and 21. I had deliberately packed light, but I don’t think I’d realised how light until now. Given that I was starting a fourth consecutive day of walking with no aches or blisters, I suppose it really was paying off.
The first part of the day’s route continues down the river valley, crossing over great slabs of bare rock with rounded edges that can be surprisingly hard to get down. Eventually, the path turns uphill past some old stone shepherd’s huts, and onto the shoulder of the valley. Here the slabs are tilted, and in the drizzle, it is quite difficult to maintain traction. I’m again grateful for my poles, but even with them, I slip and fall a couple of times (luckily bruising nothing but my ego).
After slightly too long, the trail descends back towards the relatively flat ground near the river. At one point, I realise that my map (which is usually tucked behind my pack’s hip belt) is missing. Luckily, these trails are pretty easy to navigate, so I could probably get by without it. On the other hand, this means that it’s been a while since I last checked the map, so I could have dropped it more than half an hour ago. I decide to spend no more than 30 minutes backtracking for it, and after noting the time, turn around and head back, scanning the downwind bushes as I go.
Either I check the map more often than I thought, or I get lucky, because I find it after less than ten minutes. I tuck it back in place, and tighten the belt straps a little to hold it more securely. I’m almost back down to the river level now, and can see the yellow cabin of Hedlo in the distance.
As I pass Hedlo, the terrain changes again – the path is now winding through birch woods, and covered by several centimetres of water. Large rocks are scattered all over the place, sparse enough that I can’t just step from rock to rock, but frequent enough that I can’t avoid going over them. The consequence is a particularly annoying form of walking, going up or down almost every step, and soaking my feet from all the splashing. This only lasts for a kilometre or so, before I leave the river for the final time, and begin climbing the hills to its East.
The trail passes over a broad summit, and to my left I catch glimpses of the vast canyon that has swallowed the river to become Eid Fjord. The Northern horizon is rimmed by cloud, but through the gaps, I can discern patches of brighter white – the ice of Hardangerjøkulen, on whose far side lies my final destination, Finse.
As I begin the final uphill section of the day, I meet someone coming the other way, who does their best to dampen my spirits with a single word: mud. The warning probably wasn’t really necessary, given the coating of the stuff up to the man’s knees, and the fact that the road was supposed to be two hours away, but it was now mid-afternoon. I thank him for the warning, and get going.
It probably goes without saying that the mud was pretty bad. Often, the path is confined by thick bushes – here, I traverse the particularly muddy sections by standing on the sides and hanging onto sturdy-looking branches, leaning backwards over the mud. The branches get caught on straps and pockets, but I’m expecting one to break and send me backwards into the dirt. Astonishingly, this never happens. At other times, the trail crosses more open moorland. Here, you can see when a section ahead is muddy because the path will fork and broaden until it’s several metres wide. This usually means I can find a route between grass clumps that keeps me adequately dry and clean.
After what feels like hours, but can’t have been that long, the ground becomes solid again and I can spare a look forwards. I can now see the road, and houses, and a likely-looking green field that could be the campsite at Garen.
The trail down towards the road feels like a combination of the day’s earlier rockier segments, with alternating patches of relatively steep smooth rock slabs and jumbles of debris that you have to pick your way across. The sound of a waterfall grows as I continue to descend, until I find myself on a bridge over some impressive rapids. The white noise of the falls has disguised the sound of the road, which is just on the other side.
20 minutes later, I’m at the campsite, paying for £20 worth of grass to sleep on. I get my tent set up before making good use of the kitchen and the lovely warm lounge. Over my dinner of instant couscous, I check the forecast for the next two days. They both look a bit dire, with near-constant rain and wind. I have three days in which to fit two days of walking, so I can choose to spend a day hanging around here tomorrow, or stay at Rembesdalseter aftermorrow (or the insane option of walking both rainy days and spending two nights in Finse).
This place is nice, but the idea of spending a day relaxing in a cabin by a secluded mountain lake is too good to pass up. Tomorrow’s rain is due to start at about 8 o’ clock, so I’d like to cover some distance before then. That means getting an earlyish night tonight, so I head back to my tent just as the sun is setting.
Tomorrow should be interesting.