God Bless Hiking Boots

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When we arrived at the airport in Norway, we had absolutely no idea what our plan was. We originally thought that the two boys would be joining us on Tuesday. However, because of exams and whatnot, they weren’t coming in until Wednesday. It was only Monday, so we now had a period of 48 hours with no housing. We probably could have managed 24… but two days is pushing it. Ordinarily, I would have already had everything planned out. Not this time! We had no housing and no idea how to transport around. Kelly and I had looked at transport and the weather a while back, and we were nearly convinced that Norway would be the death of us. Transport was showing buses and ferries taking 10 hours with multiple transfers, housing was ridiculously priced, and temperatures looked like they would be freezing cold with snow…

It turns out we were fine!

The weather was beautiful when we got to Norway, and fortunately for us remained pretty good the entire time. We figured out where to go and how to get there. We are alive and well with a ton of great memories!

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We chose a more inconvenient airport to save hundreds of dollars.  Good ole’ Ryanair always has our back. From London, we paid 9.99 Euro to get there, and only 22 Euro to fly back into London. A flight straight to Dublin was way out of the range of what I was willing to spend. We decided that choosing this airport was one of the best decisions because we not only saved money, we also got to see even more of Norway!

This was the tiniest international airport I have ever seen. We couldn’t just stay there for the night because it wasn’t open 24 hours. I looked up hostels again… cried internally about the prices and decided to think about Plan B. I started looking up churches in the area to see if there was any sort of help or advice they could offer. There was an international church that looked hopeful. Ali called and talked to a pastor, who said he would see if there was anything he could do.

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Ali and Kelly fell asleep in the airport, so I had to stay awake and finish figuring out what we were going to do. I figured out how and when and where to go to bus to Stavanger, where we would be meeting up with Greg. Fortunately I noticed that we had to take a bus to get to our bus… otherwise we would have been just waiting around the airport until we got kicked out. Also, thankfully we had three people, because both Ali and I’s payment cards locked up on us. Jelly came to the rescue and was able to loan us money 🙂

I had to stay awake in case the pastor tried calling us. I knew I needed to stay awake because I didn’t want to miss the call or bus we needed to take. However, I was so tired from running on only one hour of sleep that my eyes were open but my body was twitching. I tried finding a place to charge my laptop so that I could continue researching while also keeping myself awake, but I couldn’t get to the outlets without bothering Ali. So… I just sat there, staring at the phone. I did withdraw some money and filled up my water bottle! On the bright side, the little sunroom we were in was a great place to sit, with the sun warming the entire room! (no pun intended)

Once we were on the bus to get to the bus we needed, we found out that the pastor couldn’t help up. The international church was associated with a seminary, and their facilities were full. I guess that is a good problem to have! But just like that, we were once more homeless.

Once at the bus terminal, we had three hours to wait until the bus for Stavanger arrived. I was able to find an outlet and got back on my laptop to try and find housing. Someone had once suggested the website “airbnb” accommodation. I found a couple of options that seemed relatively cheap for Norway. I filled out my information, got verified for the website so that they knew I was actually Mallory Stuckwisch, and sent yet another desperation plea (motif for this vacation) to a woman named Karin. I made sure to continue creating a list of alternatives in case this fell through.

By the time we left the bus terminal, Karin still hadn’t responded to my request. Finally on the bus, which fortunately had wifi, I received a response! She said that the website showed an inaccurate price. However, she didn’t want us staying on the street at night. Her daughter had just left that very day to move to New York for work. She said that she wanted to help us because, and I quote, “I hope that someone will help her also :)” She ended up making the price cheaper for us and even came back a second time without me asking or prodding or hesitating at the first deal and lowered the price even more! What would have cost us over $40 a night a piece ended up costing a little over $20/night per person. She also continued to check up on us the entire bus ride and offered advice for getting to her house.

The bus ride alone was worth the cost of the transport ticket. It was around 2 and a half hours of driving through Norway, and it was absolutely gorgeous! We got to see all the beautiful lakes and mountainous terrain. At one point, the bus driver stopped the bus and everyone got off without a word. We were really confused because this was only an hour into the ride. We exchanged confused looks with the bus driver before he finally said, “Ferry. You can’t sit in here.” None of us had realized that the bus had driven onto a ferry!

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Upstairs, we sat at a booth by the window and then decided to check out their food options. We ended up all three getting some Norwegian dish that the lady insisted we try. I tried finding the exact name of what we ate, but it appears as though there are tons of names for it. Potetball, raspeball, komler, klubb, komper…. Whatever the name, it was a sausage surrounded by a potato/flour dumpling. Additionally, it was soacked in butter with bacon pieces. I can feel my cholesterol levels rising as I type. It was really interesting, tasted pretty good, and didn’t actually cause heart failure. It did, however, sit heavy on our stomachs.

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When we got into Stavanger, Ali was able to get a map pulled up so that we could find the street we needed. She got us to the street, which wasn’t too far away, but the next task was finding the house number. We ended up running across the freeway a few times, fighting construction, facing a roundabout… you know, all that fun stuff. (Sorry, Mom!)

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We finally found house 62, but weren’t sure what to expect from this point on. Jelly worked up the courage to press the buzzer. Nothing happened. Jelly once more pressed the buzzer, but this time it made a noise!! Karin stuck her head out of a window upstairs and said something about how she would be down shortly. She led us around to the back basement, which was newly renovated. We each had our own room. The floors were heated. We had showers!

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Karin brought us ham on bread, fish soup, and a bottle of wine. I am picky when it come to fish, but this was delicious! After eating, I took a shower, ate, and went to bed because I was sleep deprived. Ali and Kelly ran loads of laundry because Karin was kind enough to let us use the washer, drier, and soap! I was really happy to get my socks washed. Karin also told us that she could drop us off in town the next morning if we wanted because she was going in for work.

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We ended up deciding to sleep in because we desperately needed it. I got up around 11 and decided I was ready to head out and explore. With my huge penguin project done, I was free!! Ali and Kelly said they needed to stay back and study, so I was prepared to head out alone. In the end, Jelly ended up deciding she would go see Stavanger with me! We found the simple way to get to town that didn’t require running across the freeway. (You’re welcome, Mom!)

Once in Stavanger, we started by walking around the lake. Then we wandered over to the fjords and walked along the water, admiring the huge boats. We found our way to Old Town, which had cute cobblestone sidewalks and little white houses. I also found a cat that looked almost identical to Finn!!

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After this, we headed back towards the water so we could head the other way and not get lost. Kelly found a building with her name on it that she wanted a picture with, so we strayed from the water. While we were over there, we happened upon a slack line! Kelly and I tried until we each went from one plastic base to the other. The middle part was the hardest because it is so shaky! When I started getting better, Kelly took a video. However, the time she chose to record, I hardly made it a step. The next take was better 🙂

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We went back to walking along the water once we had both successfully conquered the slack line. Next, we found a playground made out of old metal pieces. It was like a junkyard turned playground that was big enough for adults. There were a bunch of bright red balls and we discovered that they were secured in place but still squishy! I bounced across the top of them. Then my foot landed between two of them and I plopped right on the ground into the sand.

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We moved on and found where we needed to be for the ferry the next day. After this, we decided to risk cutting through the land to head back to Karin’s. We found the tower landmark and walked through the streets where all their shops are. We brought food back for all of us, and then shortly after, Karin came down to check on us. She brought us leftover sandwiches from her work, so we had lunch for the next day!

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At some point after Jelly and I returned, we all fell asleep on Ali’s bed. I was curled up at the end like a dog. We had to have napped for over an hour. We were still exhausted from lack of sleep. We did get some more laundry done, I blogged about my parent’s visit, and Ali and Jelly were confronted by a guy from Barcelona who was occupying the fourth room. He said something about there being standing water in the bathroom. There was water on the floor because there was no curtain or glass or anything to stop the water, but I think he exaggerated just a tad about the depth of the water 😉 We had tried our best to squeegee!

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The next morning, we got up and gathered our belongings. We didn’t hear back in time exactly when we were meeting up with the boys, so we had to leave without saying goodbye to Karin. That was pretty sad. We do have her address for a thank you note though!

We stopped in a a few little markets to find protein bars and also water to fill up our bottles since we weren’t sure at this point whether it was safe to drink from the tap. Next we went in search of hiking boots for Jelly since we were upping our hiking game that week. I fortunately had boots I had bought back in Ireland.

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We sat at the ferry port and waited for the boys, while eating our sandwiches from Karin. We weren’t there for very long when Chris and Greg showed up. Ali took them back to the sport shop to get a knife, map, and compass. When they came back, we jumped on the ferry that was departing and headed over to Tau. We were able to find a bus to the campsite once we got off, and arrived at Wathne Camping!

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When we showed up in the reception cabin, they were a little surprised. It turns out that they didn’t have our reservation in the system because their server was down and they had forgotten to write our names down after we emailed to reserve. They were very apologetic and were able to arrange a cabin for the first two nights. The second two nights, we were moved to their other building down the road. It was a holiday weekend for them so they were completely booked those two nights! The building we got moved into was an old restaurant converted into living space. There was plenty of room and a professional kitchen! Not that we had a need for it, but we had a deep frier even!

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It turns out that Betty and Sam are missionaries from Texas. They have been in Norway for 20 years. They were extremely helpful the entire stay! Sam drove us where we needed to go and would pick us up when we were done. They offered advice for trails around the area. They were just in general very friendly, wonderful people! My favourite thing was Betty’s sweatshirt that said “Grandma’s Gems” with all of the names of her grandchildren and rhinestones.

The first night we were there, we sent Greg and Chris to get groceries. Ali, Kelly, and I explored the campsite. We hopped on rocks, my foot fell in the water and my waterproof boot wasn’t fully tied, and we took pictures. After leaving the lake area, we headed over to huge rocks overlooking the road. We were perched there waiting to see Greg and Chris go by in the car. We waited for a long while and didn’t see them. Finally, it started getting chilly and my feet were still wet, so we decided to head back. I slipped on the gravel on the way down and Jelly sort of caught me from behind.

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It turns out, they had been back for a while! We must have just missed them when we moved over to the rocks. When we got back into the cabin, the boys were cutting up potatoes for dinner. We sat in the living room area eating cashews 🙂

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The next day, we set out to find trails. It was rainy and cold out, so it was hard to get motivated to get going. I got dressed in my most waterproof thing– a dress– and went out. At first we just walked along not really on trails. We found an area of huge moss covered rocks that was cool and the ground was really squishy everywhere! Greg decided we should go back and ask for real trail, so after seeking Sam’s advice, we went to the Hamrane forest trails.

Even then we eventually ended up off the trails again, roughing it up hills in the forest. My foot once more fell into water and my shoe was once more tied improperly. We climbed up several sections of huge rocks that would slip out from under you if you weren’t careful, and maneuvered over, under, and around brush. Jelly’s poor little legs couldn’t reach as far as the rest of ours, but I kept telling her that it would be worth it! And it was!! There were points where we could see pretty well over trees, we had fun, got exercise, and found a waterfall!

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They were discussing whether they wanted to go up higher on the waterfall, but I convinced them that we should head back because there was a huge, black scary storm front coming in. We used the “controlled fall” technique so Greg called it, and scrambled down the mountain. Just as we hit the bottom, it started pouring! We ended up inside a gated pasture and had to hop a fence to get out. People went down the driveway and then sat there. They were probably wondering why we were in their livestock fields. I had on cotton leggings that were soaking up all the water… Chris had a windbreaker that did a better job of retaining water than repelling it. So, it was a race to get into our cabin. Once inside, we warmed up with the heaters and then sat out on the front porch until the rain started coming inwards.

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The next day, Friday, it was absolutely beautiful out! We headed into town where we caught a bus for Preikestolen. This hike was only 2.4 miles each way, but it was on elevated surfaces that challenged my level of fitness. Chris, Greg, and I were pretty far ahead of Ali and Kelly because we walk fast. The terrain changed so much throughout the hike– it went from forest to rocky to bog to snow! It even hailed on us a few times!!

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Once we made it to the top of Pulpit Rock, I sat on the edge of the cliff, which was 600 meters above the fjord. To put it into context, the Cliffs of Moher only reaches 214 meters max. The best place to sit was the corner. It sort of tilted down towards the water, which was frightening, yet exhilarating. One of the scariest parts is the deep cracks along the plateau. At some point the Plateau will fall down into the water, but scientists say that it’s safe for now 🙂

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The views from Pulpit Rock were surreal! Eventually Ali and Kelly caught up, and we ate our sandwiches on the cliffside. Jelly is afraid of heights, so I am proud of Kelly for getting as close to the edge as she did!! After eating, we climbed up the mountainside to get a bird’s-eye-view of Preikestolen.

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We all hiked down together. Kelly built a snowman. Since she is from the San Francisco area, she isn’t used to snow and got super pumped about it being all around. The best part was when she started screaming “Owww, it’s stinging me!!”

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Once at the bottom, we went down to the lake. We stood on some rocks and then found a little hut that we sat in. At one point, three girls went past on a canoe. We all stared at each other and laughed. We headed back up to the lodge, where we found out that we had until 9 for our bus. So, we sat overlooking the lake.

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The next day was beautiful again. We were going to go to a waterfall, but Sam was busy building a tool shed. He picked us up and brought us back to the campsite, until he could run us to the buses.

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We ended up going back out to Preikestolen, but went canoeing this time. They wouldn’t let us put three in the canoe even though there were three benches, so we had to rent an extra kayak. They did only charge us for two hours, instead of the four we rented them for!! Kelly and I paddled together and we did better than expected, especially when I would count out loud. For some reason being in a canoe made me channel my inner Native American, and I kept wanting to sing “Colors of the Wind.”

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We shored the boats on the other side of the lake and hit some hiking trails. The hike down to the fjords wasn’t bad. It was tricky in places and required some climbing because of water puddles. But it was fun! I fell into a bush at one point.

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Ali, Kelly, and I relaxed on huge rocks overlooking the fjords as Chris and Greg went on exploring.

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The way back up was rough. I couldn’t breathe. At one point, I told Greg and Chris, “I am stopping. I need air. Now.” So, we waited for Ali and Kelly to catch up. I was able to catch my breath in the meantime. We made it back to the canoes and Ali and Chris switched turns on the kayak. We spent the next few hours drifting and lightly paddling around the lake– or in Ali’s case being lightly paddled around the lake. The alcoves were all fun to explore! At one point I leaned against the back of the boat and Kelly leaned against my knees, and we just closed our eyes and listed to the baby waterfall next to us. I also discovered on the way back that I am capable of rowing a canoe solo for a good distance. I had Kelly stop rowing because I wanted to see if I could do it. Once our time was up, we put the canoes back. Ali tried pulling the canoe further onto shore for me, but didn’t realize that I was already standing up and making my way out of the boat. She pulled as I was precariously balancing, and I ended up flying backwards into the canoe. Better than in the water 🙂

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We missed a bus by a few minutes and ended up having to hang around the lodge for an hour and a half before the next one at 8:50. I sat outside for a tiny bit and appreciated the campfire smell, but it got cold quickly. Jelly and I headed into the lodge, where we could still see the lake while drinking hot chocolate and sitting on reindeer pelts.

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When we got back to Tau, we were hungry and couldn’t get ahold of Sam. So we walked in search of food. We ended up finding our way to Tau Cafe and Pizza. We defeated two large kebab pizzas, one even had french fries on it! We had to eventually move the party outside because they were closing for the night. Finally, Sam showed up and took us home.

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The next morning, Sam took us to the ferry port before his church started, since Greg and Chris had to be back for their flights later that day. We hung out for a little bit outside before Chris got on his airport shuttle. The coffee shop we were waiting outside opened at noon, so the rest of us migrated inside and enjoyed some coffee and pastries. Afterwards, we headed over to the water and sat on a huge mirror bench/piece of art? and talked while watching all the people go by. We went up to the tower before getting Greg to the bus stop.

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Once he was gone, Ali, Kelly, and I waited around until 9 pm when we could go to the airbnb place I had found for the night. We hit up the deli for sandwiches and took them with us to the apartment. We were just in one room this time and it was pretty much a living room… there was a table for us to eat our food! We unintentionally broke the number one rule for staying at their place: no pork. (I am assuming it was a religious thing?) I had read that off to Jelly and Ali when I was booking the place, but Jelly didn’t hear me and Ali didn’t realize that it was for the place we were staying. I didn’t pay attention when we were ordering food at the deli and both Ali and Kelly had food with some form of pork. I realized while we were there eating… so we quickly finished up the food. I told them that we could not leave any behind! I ended up having to conceal some of the evidence because Ali couldn’t finish her sandwich.

Concealing the Evidence

Concealing the Evidence

We tried to be super quiet because the couple who owned the place were in the next room. But it was the cheapest we could get and we only needed it until  5 AM. I was so tired that sleeping on a mattress on the floor didn’t phase me. They told us that we were the best guests they have ever had. We were honestly just really tired, so we didn’t have much energy to be rowdy even if we had wanted to be.

Waking up in the morning was once more terrible, but our host was super understanding about the time we had to leave and locked up behind us. We got on our bus at 5:45 and made it to the airport by about 8:30. This was again the tiny international airport. They only had three flights going out that morning– two of which were to Oslo, Norway and then there was ours to London. Jelly and I got to sit together on this flight, which isn’t usual! Also, I was able to see Norway from the sky since I had a window seat (my favourite!!).

We arrived to Stansted around 11:30 am and had to go through passport control, which took forever! Afterwards, we camped out at Starbucks in the airport once we checked back in and went through security again. We once more had two Starbucks a piece. Like I said last blog, that may seem excessive, but it was necessary. Jelly and Ali needed to study for their exams the next day. I journaled about all of this! Our flight finally left at about 10:20 pm. After arriving back in Dublin, going through passport check, and taking the aircoach home, it was 1 AM. We were wiped out and ready to sleep!

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I am incredibly glad that Greg suggested this trip. The hiking, views, experiences, new people… EVERYTHING! It was all worthwhile!

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