A few years ago a man called Robin Boustead had a vision: to create a trail spanning the length of the entire Himalaya, from Bhutan in the east right through to Afghanistan in the west. Though there are some obvious practical and security issues with this, a route is roughly in place from Bhutan to Pakistan. The Great Himalaya Trail is out there and has challenged quite a few experienced hikers and mountaineers during its lifespan. Brave and bold as we like to be we decided to put it on the agenda, though not without a sound portion of shaky knees just from the thought of it.
2600 kilometres into my Te Araroa hike I arrived in Queenstown. From there, my companions and I decided to detour from the trail and include the famous Routeburn Track. At the Routeburn Flats shelter we encountered a young German, who with many gestures was explaining an admiring girl that he had walked up to Mount Luxmore, a peak along the equally famous Kepler Track. “And I did it so fast, I was back in Te Anau after only six hours. But me and my friend had a few girls with us, and they were so annoying. I never hike with girls anymore, they are always so slow.”
I felt my mouth fall open and I saw the same on PJ’s and Patrick’s faces. But instead of going all-in, I only said “But I’m faster than these two sometimes.” That’s it. Worse even, I shut PJ up from putting the German in his place. What I should have said was something to the likes of “My friend, I walked 2600 kilometres to get here and a few hundred Mount Luxmores in height. The Routeburn and Kepler Tracks are like a city pavement compared to where I came from. I’d like to see you bash through all that bush and come out of it without your tail between your legs.” But I didn’t. Why didn’t I?
Going out on paddling trips in the deep blue waters of the Aurlands- and Nærøyfjords was a dream I’d cherished since first coming here two years ago. Because kayak rental is, however, expensive, and sometimes not allowed without proper certification, nothing ever came of it. Maybe one day, I figured, I’d have friends with a kayak, or own one myself, making the odds for the whole adventure to actually happen much better.
Fast forward to early spring 2016. After returning from a season in the Arctic PJ and I were watching a Norwegian adventure TV-show where the contestants had to find riddles along a river in Finnmark. They hiked to the river carrying packrafts in their packs. A few days later we sat around talking about the upcoming summer in the fjords. In an instant of revelation, PJ proposed that we too should buy some. Though I’d been really excited seeing them on the show, and I’d been following some people on Instagram who’d regularly flooded my feed with pictures of themselves in colourful blow-up boats, the idea just never occurred to me. In the instant PJ mentioned it, a little light went on in the back of my brain, and life suddenly made much more sense.
The best way to appreciate the Norwegian scenery is undoubtedly, from above. My favourite means of travel is thus on foot, as unlike in other mountain areas such as the Alps, there is very little infrastructure in place to reach the tops. Besides of a few viewpoints along mountain roads you need to walk if you want to make it to the peak. This means you’ll have to work if you want to get the view, which in return makes the view all the more rewarding.
Though not far in distance, it is a good 5 hour drive from Flåm to the Geirangerfjord, and therefore we had not made it there the last time we lived here. This summer we aim to explore as much as possible in our own fjord and the Nærøyfjord, but this was the one trip we planned away. And we planned it as soon as possible, to avoid the arrival of the masses from June to August.