It was, by 45 minutes. It made up a bit of the time on the journey and when it landed, we had 30 minutes to get through immigration, collect our bags and find the train platform.
No problems at immigration. We hurried to the carousel and waited impatiently. Our first bag came up almost instantly. Time ticked away and the second was nowhere to be seen. Fifteen minutes went by. Zakieh passed through customs to find the train platform and wait for me back at the entrance, so if and when the bag came, we knew exactly where to go.
Soon, I was the only one left there, staring at an empty carousel. The train must have long gone now and for the first time ever, I was a piece of luggage down. I resigned to the fact that I would have to go and tell Zakieh that the Kayak and most of the equipment was lost and begin the process of getting the airline to find it.
As I headed to the exit I glanced at the other carousels and there, amongst a sea of other bags, on another flights carousel, was our bag?! I grabbed it and met back up with Zakieh, now thinking about where to go and pay for a very expensive new train ticket.
We looked at the screen to see when the next train to Andelsnes (the town I completely randomly chose to begin the kayaking) was. Ah, one train out of the whole list was delayed by thirty minutes...and it was ours, we hadn't missed it!
Two minutes ago we had lost our kayak and had missed our train, now we had everything. Nightmare avoided.
Our train ride took us past an endless landscape of trees, lakes, rivers and mountains. I'd never seen so many trees in all my life! We changed trains for the last little leg, down to Andelsnes, which happened to be an award-winning train ride (which I totally had no idea about when choosing this route), through ridiculous scenery, complete with commentary, which was shared with only one other person on the train.
All the pictures we got were blurry, except one, which unfortunately involved me on the side of the picture, with my finger up my nose. So you'll just have to believe me with how amazing it was.
It was nearing 10pm when we arrived in Andelsnes, still with no sign of the sun setting. In the winter, parts of Norway can see no sunlight all day. It was the end of the summer now though, which meant the opposite, the sun barely goes down.
We stepped off the train and rather than head to a nearby hostel or hotel, we turned our backs to the town and like a pair of donkeys with all the bags hanging off us, started walking alongside the train track out of town, in search of a camping spot.
Less than thirty minutes of walking, resting, walking, resting, brought us to a lay-by next to the fjord and a quiet road. Norway has a wonderful thing called 'Allemannsretten', which means a 'right to roam', or literally 'every mans right'. There are many rules under this, but roughly, you can camp anywhere as long as you are 150 meters from any dwelling and you keep the place clean and tidy.
We dropped the bags to floor, my shoulders and back breathing a sigh of relief. I really didn't want to be hauling these things around too much.
After the tent was set up, we got a couple packets of ham & cheese pasta on the go. With the light very slowly beginning to fade, we climbed in our tiny tent at 11pm. Moments later, we were both fast asleep.
We left the tent and all the gear in the lay-by, hoped that nobody would steal anything and walked back into town. We picked up some extra food, filled our water bottles and our big 5 litre water container and bought a fishing lure for the small telescopic rod we'd brought with us. After a wander around town, we made our way back to the tent.
By mid afternoon, the weather hadn't changed, so we decided to stay where we were for another night. I set up the fishing rod and spent half an hour, attempting to fish for the first time in about a decade, before giving up.
Next morning, the weather was still the same. So we did a repeat of the previous day. After a wander around town and another unsuccessful fishing attempt, the wind had dropped enough. It was time to give this kayaking a go.
We packed everything away inside the waterproof bags and inflated the kayak. Fitting everything inside the kayak wasn't easy. Most of the bags were wedged in the front and back, the latter I used as a back rest and the remaining bags were squeezed between both our legs. There wasn't a spare inch, but it was comfortable enough. We were off, the adventure fully underway.
Before starting this trip, I didn't really know what to expect or what difficulties we might have. The only one I was worried about, was finding a camping spot each night. As beautiful as the fjords looked on the images I'd seen, it didn't seem that steep mountains which went straight down vertically into the water, would offer the easiest camping opportunities.
By 10pm, we'd found a flattish looking area, where someone kept a small boat and a kayak tied up. We pushed our way through the the thick seaweed surrounding it and climbed back onto land. All around, the grassy ground was wet and boggy, but climbing up the steep side of the mountain we found an area, dry, only on a slight slope and just big enough to fit the tent.
While dinner was cooking, I got the rod out again. I was surprised that I hadn't even had a bite up to this point as Norway is one of the worlds best places to fish. Just as I was about to give up again, a large fish rose to the surface, it opened its mouth wide and slowly swam towards me and then disappeared back under. A strange move, I thought.
Sometimes the places you visit never quite live up to the pictures you see before you go. Norway definitely doesn't suffer that problem, the scenery is incredible.
By midday, a strong headwind had picked up. Moving forward became a real struggle. I was using maximum effort to barely move and if I paused for a moment to rest, then the wind would immediately start pushing us backwards.
I was a little worried because as far as I could see, the side of the fjord that we were on, had nowhere that offered a camping spot. The mountainside just went vertically straight down into the water. We'd been hugging the side to hide from the wind as much as we could, so crossing over to the other side, where it looked flatter, wasn't even an option as the wind would be too strong in the middle of the fjord.
We struggled on for another hour, until we found a small area slightly out of the wind, where we could tie the kayak up to some seaweed and climb on to the rocks to have a rest.
We awkwardly sort of jumped back into the kayak and squeezed our legs back into position. The sun was shining, the wind had stopped and the waterproof speaker had been brought out & into action for the first time.
There was a place on the map that we were aiming for, that looked like it would be flat. It was a large bay with a road running near to it. We reached there in the early evening, it was flat enough but boggy again and was occupied by a herd of cows. Moving on wasn't an option as we were tired and there might not have been another flat area for a while. So we went in search of somewhere hidden from the cows.
It meant another long walk up a very steep hill with all our gear again, but we found somewhere in amongst a load of trees, right by the edge of the fjord. With the tent up, Zakieh started putting the sleeping gear inside and I got dinner on the go.
The coast was now low enough that there was a road and a tiny village close by to where we stopped for lunch. I started cooking some couscous and tuna, and with our water running low, Zakieh went looking for somewhere to fill our big 5 ltr container and all our other water bottles.
She returned, everything full to the brim, courtesy of a church's outside tap and after lunch we had a nice long sunbathe on the rocks, waiting for the wind to die down.
With the sun still an hour from setting, we decided to hold off from cooking and see if we could catch our dinner first, instead.
We were in luck, I caught my first fish of the trip, soon followed by my second, third and fourth and then Zakieh caught her first ever fish just as the sun was (very slowly) beginning to set.
We caught up on a couple episodes of Game of Thrones in the tent, both called home and did a spot of fishing and organising of our gear.
It took us a good hour to paddle 1km. We came to a large bay that was sheltered from the wind and the choppy waters. There was no point battling against the elements, so we took refuge in the bay and sat ashore, waiting.
By 3pm the weather was showing no signs of letting up. Getting to Vestnes that day was off the cards and water was running low again. We made camp next to what appeared to be the end of a hiking trail and then followed the trail through thick mud, along wooden bridges and up steep slopes until we found a road. There was only a couple of houses in sight and after no response from knocking, we filled our water bottles up from an outside tap and headed back.
The wind and the sun had vanished the next morning as we inched our way around the coast, the rain falling for the first time while kayaking. We made our way past many fish farms, where there was a constant splashing of jumping fish. Seagulls lined the edges of each farm, looking in on the thousands of fish, wishing there was a way in, past the netting protecting them.
Peeing was always interesting. I could never be bothered to go through the process of paddling to the side of the fjord, tying the kayak up and climbing on land. I won't go into the details, but you can imagine the difficulty of trying to do it from inside the kayak, into the sea.
Vestnes was in sight. Frustratingly though, the speed we were going at meant it was still about three hours away. The mountains and amazing scenery was behind us now and to get out to the coast and back around into another fjord would take weeks. So our plan from Vestnes, was to see if we could get a bus overland, to the start of the next fjord and kayak up it to the end (where the river meets the fjord).
We had to cross from one side of the fjord to the other to reach Vestnes, which took an hour and a half. Normally we are beside the edge of the fjord, which makes it easier to notice our slow progress, as we watch trees and other things passing us by slowly. However, out in the middle, a kilometer from land, there's nothing to gauge your speed on. It felt as though we were stationary, which is a bit demoralising when you are paddling as hard as you can.
When we eventually reached Vestnes, we tied the kayak up and headed straight to a supermarket to re-stock on food. We found the bus timetable & routes and there was one that could take us to the next fjord in two hours time and another, an hour later.
We ate lunch and started packing away all the gear and deflating the kayak. Trying to fit all our gear into the few bags we had was no easy task and two hours came around pretty fast. One bus arrived and left, so we picked up the pace and crammed it all in, just in time for the next bus, an hour later.
All the necessary jobs got done over the next two days. Our clothes got washed, we got washed, all electronics charged to the max, new episodes of Game of Thrones downloaded, video chats to UK & Iran and a restocking of our food supplies.
We left feeling so much better than when we arrived. Unfortunately though, we were thrown straight back into the thick of it, as soon as we started kayaking again.
We started kayaking as hard as we could. The end of the peninsula was probably no more than 500 meters away, but after thirty minutes we had barely made any progress. This continued on for another thirty minutes, with progress getting slower and slower the more tired we got.
When you are having a tough day cycling, there are moments when you can relax and freewheel. At worst you can just get off your bike. When walking or running, if you get too tired you can just stop and have a rest also. Kayaking against a headwind however, if you take a break for a second, then you start going backwards faster than you can paddle forwards. It really is no fun.
We were sticking as close to the edge as we could, hoping that would shelter us from some of the wind, but it wasn't enough. Then we spotted a tiny rip current. A path of calm looking water winding its way out through the choppy bay. We paddled very slowly over to it and straight away it felt much better. I could take a few seconds respite, before being blown backwards,
We gradually followed our calm path out to the end of the peninsula where waves were crashing against the side of the rocks. Rounding the corner brought us the view of the fjord that lay ahead. It was wide and scary looking.
Something I never told Zakieh was how deep these things are, as the thought of it scared me. Some may only look like wide rivers but they can go as deep as 1,300 meters, that means it would completely submerge three empire state buildings on top of each other!
We thought camping would be tricky on this fjord, as judging by the terrain on google maps, there seemed to be very little flat areas. There was a small village though, which meant that area must be good at least. So our plan was to aim for there and hope there was a place to pitch the tent in the village.
Exhausted from the mornings kayak and baffled by the lack of help from the now-tailwind, had left me very unhappy. We sat there, right in the middle of the fjord for a while, resting and thinking. Then a plan popped into my head.
I asked Zakieh if she could find the tents ground sheet. While she was rummaging, I began taking apart Zakieh's paddle. Then we attached both ends of the ground sheet to the paddle, one at the top and one at the bottom and screwed the paddle heads back on. And then, Zakieh lifted the paddle up into the air..
We cruised past the daily sightings of dolphins, jellyfish and shoals of jumping fish and within only an hour, Dyrkorn, the village we were aiming for, was in sight.
At this pace, we'd spend a month in Norway and barely see any of it before we left. That had to change. So that night we made a new plan.
The fjord we were currently on, led naturally up into another, Geirangerfjord, one of Norway's most famous. We decided that Geiranger, the town at the beginning of the fjord, would be our finishing point of the kayaking. That would then leave us enough time to get buses between a couple of Norway's best areas, so we could do a bit of hiking, see some nice places and finish with a few days in Oslo. Camping would still be our only option as prices are crazy for accommodation.
We had a renewed excitement about seeing more of Norway and we were eager to get going the next morning. Unfortunately there was no tailwind that morning, so it was back to paddling.
Far in the distance we could just make out the next town we were aiming for, Stranda..
As much as I tried I couldn't reach with enough power to alter the direction of the skeg. We'd have to get to land to have a look.
We both began paddling just on one side to try and keep it straight. But if I rested for just one second or even did one relaxed stroke, the kayak would start turning and when it started turning, you couldn't stop it.
So we struggled for an hour, paddling as hard as we could. It was like repeating a very difficult rep in the gym, all on one side of the body, non stop for an hour. When we reached the side of the fjord, my arm felt like it was going to fall off and one side of my back was very painful.
I had a rest and then awkwardly climbed onto the rocks and span the kayak around to have a look. After many attempts to get it straight, I gave up and removed the whole thing. The two of us plus all of our gear, weighed enough to keep the kayak straight anyway I hoped. We had another long rest and then got back to paddling, luckily it seemed like removing the skeg made little difference.
A few hours later we reached Stranda. It didn't look like there were many camping options, so we paddled on, as just around the corner there was another small town, Helsem. We had to wait for a huge ferry to pass right in-front of us. We were getting closer to Geirangerfjord, which meant there was much more activity on the water as it's one of the most popular tourist destinations in Norway.
There still wasn't many options in Helsem, but we spotted a small car-park area next to the water, it was close to houses but we couldn't see any other option, so we hoped nobody would mind us camping there for the night.
The first two kilometers was lovely. Up ahead we could see the fjord forked off. I'm guessing that's where one fjord started and the other ended. We kayaked around the peninsular that was hiding the famous Geirangerfjord from sight. Suddenly there it was, it looked immense. With the view though, came a sudden wall of wind that stopped us in our tracks. This again.
I didn't feel like fighting the wind for hours again, looking for shelter. Do we turn around and go back to Helsem I thought? Then I spotted a possible camping spot up ahead, only fifty meters away. We made a dash for it. A dash that lasted fifteen minutes.
With great difficulty, Zakieh climbed out and took a couple of the bags with her. I looked down and began organising the bags that were between my legs. There was quite a bit of food and other things that were out, that needed to be put away and when I looked up again, thirty seconds later, I'd been blown back out and had to slowly struggle back in again..
We paddled on into the evening, the wind completely leaving us, until we found a nice little camping spot. It would leave us about 22km to do the next day. That would easily be our biggest distance in one day, but knew it was easily possible if the wind would just take a day off.
Up ahead, we could see from our camping spot, that the fjord forked again. The fjord would gradually get narrower here and supposedly more dramatic. This is the part which the hordes of tourists come to see. We would be taking the route on the left where the cloud is poking out..
Norway was showing off. The scenery was spectacular. Waterfalls dotted all the way along, provided us with fresh water to drink and a cold shower in the kayak. The dolphins were back in numbers, how I managed to miss them on every photo attempt, I don't know. The water was alive with jumping fish and the sun was beating down constantly.
It couldn't have been a better day for kayaking and after more than two weeks of almost constantly struggling against the wind, it was the perfect way to finish it.
The sun was still shinning at this point, but it was nearly 10pm. As it was late, rather than head into town and pay for a campsite, we stopped just short, a couple of kilometers before it and set up camp there.
The local bus took us out of the valley, getting higher and higher, winding its way up the mountain side and dropped us off at what was supposedly the bus stop, although there were no signs, it was just a road.
The warmth of Geiranger had long gone. It was freezing up here.
Nearly three weeks of using our arms to move forwards, while the legs took a long rest each day, made the hike much harder than it should've been.
It was worth the effort though..
The bus took seven hours, winding its way through and around mountain after mountain, past endless lush scenery and across two fjords on a ferry, before reaching Bergen.
Not wanting to haul our gear everywhere with us, we went to the luggage lockers and crammed everything we thought we wouldn't need for a couple days, into it.
Bergens green parts were on the mountains overlooking the city though, a popular tourist spot. Nevertheless, we jumped on the funicular to take us to the top.
A hotel would be pushing it, but we found a restaurant that we didn't need to take a loan out to pay the bill and devoured what was put in front of us, in record speed.
The hike itself is supposed to be a a full hard days hike, 28km in total. And after reading many reviews, the advice was the same.. Don't underestimate it and wear proper footwear.
We arrived in Odda late at night and for the first time since being in Norway, it was fully dark. I'm sure it had been fully dark for an hour or two in other places we'd been, but not while we were awake.
So.. pitch black, a place we've never been, loads of heavy bags, an expensive, bad-reviewed campsite somewhere in town.. might as well start walking, looking for our own camping spot somewhere then.
We found one after about thirty minutes, half hidden down a grass bank, between a small road and the river.
The thing that can make the hike particularly tough, is the weather of course. After 5km, I was really hoping the weather wouldn't turn, as that was as long as my carrier bags lasted.
With very sore legs the following morning, after picking up our bags from the tourist office, we made our way to the bus stop, to wait for the bus to Oslo.
Everything, except seafood, is expensive in Norway, including buses. After doing lots of fiddling with different destinations on the buses website, I'd stumbled across a sort of glitch. From Odda to Oslo, the price was around £65 each, for the seven hour journey.
However, I found that if I chose one particular destination, that involved the route we wanted (Odda to Oslo), but then an extra bus to this other destination (that we wouldn't use, we'd just stay in Oslo), then it was £6 each.. Unheard of prices in Norway!
Unfortunately it involved a painful one hour walk through the city, with the heavy bags digging into my shoulders. Then it involved a ferry to one of the many Islands just off the coast of Oslo. And then another thirty minute walk, on the island, to the area where wild camping was allowed.
It was about the only place where it's legal to wild camp in/near to the capital. So when we arrived at the side of the island where it's allowed, we found many other people with the same idea. The were tents dotted everywhere, all the prime positions already taken.
Down by the shore though we found a bit of space in what looked almost like a community of campers. Although by law you shouldn't stay there longer than a week, many people clearly had been there much longer. Some had solar lights surrounding their tents and a sort of mini garden. Others had made benches and tables out of stacking stones on top of each other. The place had a weird vibe too. Nevertheless, we set up camp and made it home for four days.
I'm not even sure if it's possible to ride mules. Donkeys surely not? But either way, I've promised we'll look into it. Don't hold your breath though.
Our time in Norway had come to an end. Almost surprisingly, I'd found a new travel partner in Zakieh. The previous cycle trips were long and tough. But the kayaking against a head wind for two and a half weeks was as physically demanding as anything I've ever done. It was also the most continuous camping I'd done, at thirty days long.. and the tent was tiny! She'd easily passed the test.
After all those nights in the tiny tent, we were finishing the trip in style. We were slowly going to be making our way back to the UK, through Europe. And the first part of that journey was a huge overnight ferry from Oslo to Copenhagen. Finally, a real bed and en suite bathroom awaited us.