We entered Norway by land from Sweden. In theory, the border between the two countries is invisible, but we quickly noticed the change as we left behind the lowlands and got deeper into the land of mountains and fjords.
After a few magical days in Oslo, we embarked on our favorite part of the trip: Jotunheimen National Park. I heard about this place from a person I’ve only seen once in my life and whom in a pretty deep conversation had told me about his experience during a ten-day hike among the park’s mountains. A few months later, while planning a European trip with my best friend since I was 7, I convinced her that this place had to be our first stop.
It was a 6-hour bus trip from Oslo to the town of Gjendesheim. The whole ride was filled with feelings of nostalgia and familiarity: thousands of slim pine trees standing in a organized and almost perfect way, snow-capped peaks, curved roads, billboards with long and unpronounceable names, dark red and white wooden houses and small water formations reflecting the passing clouds. It was that visually stunning place I remembered and which had so marked me a few months earlier.
In Gjendesheim, the view had no comparison. There was a main lodge with small cabins and camping tents around, all of which stood in front of the Gjende Lake, which, due to the fact that it was created from a melted glacier, has an intense emerald color and seems to finish when the water reaches two snowy mountains in the horizon. We arrived on a Tuesday, which made the surroundings pretty calm despite the busy season. We had left the car noises far behind; they had drowned and mutated to become the sound of occasional ferries that dropped off and picked up tourists, mixed with the bells of local goats running around the plains and the songs of birds, who had surely migrated back for the summer.
We registered, were told that camping was free (one of my favorite things about these countries!) and we checked our route’s program. The plan was to rest and then the next day cross the Besseggen Ridge, a 14-kilometer hike through four valleys at 1800 m.a.s.l. Among the two ways of completing it, we decided on the most challenging but also most scenic and less travelled route, where we would start from Gjendesheim and end at the little town of Memurubu, to later go back to the starting point by ferry.
That first night was quite rough, especially (and honestly) because we chose a somewhat complicated spot to camp 🙂 and because we weren’t expecting the temperature to be so low, especially taking into account we would have the famous ‘midnight sun’. This insaaanely amazing phenomenon occurs because of the country’s proximity to the artic circle, which causes the sun to not set completely during the summer nights. It was as if instead of minutes, the sunset lasted for hours; with a ‘night’ like that, it’s difficult to fall asleep.
During the trail, we filled our water bottles with fresh cold water from the lakes, we got used to saying hi to all the hikers, we ran into families, people with prosthesis, crazy acrobats, sporty dogs and even elks who roam free around the area. Because we had to cross four valleys, we had to go up and down a lot, so we had to stop a few times to catch our breaths and take pictures in an attempt to pay justice to our surroundings. Without a doubt, though, the most challenging part of the trail was crossing the Besseggen Ridge, which not only lies at the highest point of the trail, but it’s also right next to a precipice. On the right side of the viewpoint, we could see the Bessvatnet Lake, which is Norway’s cleanest lake and has a deep blue color to it, while at the left side lay the Gjende Lake with its light glacier-like color tone. And even though our main thought was that a landscape like this was incredibly impressive, it was absolutely nerve-racking to know that if we wanted to keep going we had to walk down towards those lakes through a steep hill, while holding ourselves with our hands.
[It’s curious, though, that what I take away from those moments are not only the views, but the thoughts that came to my mind: How did the two of us get to be here – a place so far from where we grew up? How many life-changing processes has each one of gone through and still be able to get here? How did we go from sharing meals during school breaks to crossing four valleys by foot? I go back to those thoughts while analyzing and remembering the details of the landscapes and I realize that as travellers, we may go to the same places, but we never truly see the same; the difference among the experiences stems mainly in the mentality with which we embark on a journey and what we feel throughout them].
After 9 hours, we reached Memurubu, with a mix of happiness and relief, but knowing that we were 15 minutes late for the last ferry and we wouldn’t be able to get back to our tent. [*Fac]. Without any other way to leave, we had to pay for space in a – very expensive – bunk bed at the local refugee, and so feeling truly beat and with the clothes we wore all day long, we fell asleep in two seconds. But after waking up the next day at that small town at the foothills of the Norwegian mountains and going back with the ferry, we caught a glance of each other and silently agreed that that magical place had already filled us; there was no space for regrets. We had walked though a perfectly rugged land, spent a night under the sun, held the Nicaraguan flag on the hill of a mountain, eaten improvised gallo pinto, drank powder milk with our coffee and slept with sweaty clothes. All of that together, celebrating 20 years of friendship.