Last summer, I was just hours away from departing on a trip to Canada to paddle a remote river located in the Yukon Territory. Due to excessive wildfires closing down the Klondike Highway that would have prevented us from reaching our float plane, we opted to postpone this trip until later in 2023. This would not have been my first trip to the Yukon. In 2019, I stand-up paddleboarded (SUP) from the mouth of Lake Laberge to Carmacks.
Not eager to not let the sun set on 2022 without a worthy expedition, I scrambled to quench my adventurous spirit.
After a few calls and some well-thought-out emails, I was asked to join a last-minute trip to Norway to SUP the “King of the Fjords.”
I accepted without hesitation.
Unlike my previous planned expedition, I would not need to transport my own inflatable board to Norway. Instead, I was to join an outfitter based in Gudvangen, Norway (east of Bergen) who used the same brand of boards (Red Paddle Co.) that I have paddled extensively on two continents.
This was to be my fourth trip to this Scandinavian country. This was also going to be my easiest traverse to this beautiful country. I was set to fly from Myrtle Beach, SC to Newark, NJ to Bergen, Norway. I was finally going to get my first Norway stamp in my passport. (Note: I finally got my Norway stamp upon my departure at the end of my trip.)
But alas, it was not meant to be so easy. My flight was delayed just enough leaving Myrtle Beach that I was going to miss my connecting flight in Newark by a mere twelve minutes. Instead, I was rerouted to London (Heathrow) to Frankfurt, Germany and then finally Bergen. My original travel itinerary should have taken twelve hours while my final travel time tallied at over 26 hours before arriving into Bergen.
After a full day in Bergen, I caught a train and then a bus to the campsite that would be our launching point for this five-day paddling trip.
Norway is a land of dramatic landscapes that were shaped by the encroaching and retreating glaciers that covered most of the country 10,000 years ago. One of the most prominent features of the country’s topography is the abundance of fjords. These fjords were created as glaciers, some in excess of a mile thick, and they carved these deep waterways while leaving imposing walls of stone flanking each side. Sognefjord, nicknamed the King of the Fjords, is Norway’s largest and deepest fjord. Nærøyfjord, one of the many arms of Sognefjord, is arguably the most spectacular and is also on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is on the banks of Nærøyfjord that we begin our journey.
After securing our dry bags to our boards, we cast off from the rocky shoreline.
As this is a group trip, we move at a more leisurely pace. And while I’m often used to pushing the limits of human endurance, I’m content to just enjoy the journey of this trip.
Over the next five days, we slice through the deep waters of not only Nærøyfjord but also that of Aurlandsfjord (another arm of Sognefjord). We camped along the fjords, we cooked our meals on small stoves, shared stories around the campfire, hiked and paddled to numerous waterfalls that dot the ominous landscape and swam in the cold waters of the fjord. And perhaps, we even walked in the footsteps of Vikings who likely utilized these waterways and shorelines centuries before.
My previous trips to this country had been in July with one being in October. During the summer months, the days can be long with the sun only slightly setting before rising again. I have seen the northern lights (the aurora borealis) on my previous trip to Canada, but they had eluded me on my previous European trips. And while the “third time was not the charm,” the fourth was. On multiple nights, this atmospheric phenomenon entertained those of us who reluctantly perhaps emerged from our warm sleeping bags.
While watching the electromagnetic light show on our next to last night, I was at the right place at the right time. Approaching from the bottom of the cup in the Big Dipper (part of the Ursa Major constellation), I got to witness something resembling the 1980s arcade game, Centipede. The Starlink satellite system was still closely grouped as it flew up through the “cup” before disappearing out of sight.
Another celestial wonder also made an appearance during our trip. The Milky Way, our own galaxy, is often obscured in towns and cities due to light pollution. But for those who wander off-the-beaten paths and seek out dark spaces, it rewards viewers with a spectacular display that runs from horizon to horizon.
And while all trips must come to an end, it’s the promise of another adventure that propels me forward. And, I already have a list building for the rest of 2023.
Click below to view some of the pictures from the trip!