I can’t quite believe it’s December already, and definitely can’t believe the amazing opportunities trail running has brought me this year, especially in the shape of some of the amazing places I’ve travelled to – off the top of my head I’ve been to Canada, Scotland, France, Switzerland, and have literally just returned from Norway.
I felt I’d gotten to a saturation point with new places – I could, of course, see the beauty in everything around me and appreciated every single one of the opportunities I’ve been given. However, and I blame mass media consumption and consumerism for this, I had begun to wonder, just what there was in the world that would ever manage to blow me away – having seen and experienced so much.
Well, it turns out, just a couple of hundred miles from my base in Scotland, is a country so flipping amazing that it completely blew me away! Norway has really similar geography and weather to Scotland – the hills have summits of similar height, many are rolling and undulating, some are aggressive and rugged, there’s lots of water, lots of heather and similar flora and fauna – it’s all very similar, but Norway is just so much bigger – someone described it as ‘Scotland on steroids…’. I’m not sure I’d say exactly that, but, yes, something along those lines!
My trip to Norway was really for business, but there was no way I was going to miss out on running some of the local hills. After a day exploring the quaint, and very Nordic, town of Bergen, I took a five-hour boat trip north, and then inland along the Sogn Fjord to a little town called Sogndal. Really, this was only a few degrees further north than Scotland, but it was cold – very cold!
Arriving in places when it’s dark is something I love to do – there is something so brilliant about waking up and taking in the new surroundings. Norway didn’t disappoint, I’m not sure what I expected, but hill rising out of the water wasn’t it – I was immediately route planning a run!
After a generous brekkie of Norwegian brown cheese (Brunost), speltlompers, sea buckthorn berry smoothies and lots of very strong coffee, I was off! My first hill was a relatively small hill called Stedjeasen – there was a frosting of snow at about 100m, and it was the first time I’d been running on snow since the start of the year so I was glad of such a steep ascent that allowed me to trot slowly and tread carefully! The trail mostly winds up the hill, pretty much straight up! Through the forest and past little Nordic farm buildings, before opening to a clearing – that was nothing short of a scene from Narnia. The summit, at around 600m, was a lake surrounded by trees, nothing short of beautiful.
The next day I was keen to conquer a proper Nordic mountain. It’s quite hard to find information online about the trails, so one, Nuken, was recommended to me by the hotel reception. I got the impression they thought I was a bit weird, wanting to run up a mountain – most people seem to walk. It also seemed a bit strange when I showed up a while later asking for a detailed weather report for the summits, and wanting an indication of what the snow conditions were like up there.
Anyway, off I went, up and up, and more up, until I reached the last little village and the start of the mountain trail. It was so much fun running through the snow, over sheet ice and further into the mountains. The higher I got the colder it got, but with that came views as far as the eye could see, fluffy snowy trails and breathtaking sights. A couple of times I wondered when I would finally get to the summit, and if I had enough daylight, but I couldn’t force myself to turn back – in fact, I could quite happily have stayed up there for a month – it was the most perfect place I’ve ever been.
After that, it slowed down a bit and I was tied up with work commitments – I presented my research at the International Adventure Conference, sampled a day of Friluftsliv, an afternoon at a local farm, mountain yoga, and of course, lots of local food and drinks – the only thing missing was an Aurora sighting!
I’d always wanted to visit Norway, and so far, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this amazing country has to offer – words, photos, even film can’t do it justice – there really is something magical and mystical about the whole place – I can’t wait to go back, and am currently trying to convince my other half, that we don’t need to live in France, it’s Norway we need to move to next!