Travel Tip: Consider the weekends

Having spent the first half of the morning educating myself on the non-horizontal sleeping patterns of the medieval Europeans in Bryggen, I was ready to set off towards my next UNESCO site, the 12th-century Urnes Stave Church, some 20 km northeast of Sogndal. I arrived in Flåm just after 2 pm, heading straight for the Tourist Info to find out about my transportation options to and from Urnes. My original plan was to stay in Flåm, while going to see the church and returning that same day. A very helpful lady behind the counter grew increasingly frustrated with the system and herself as she had to be the bearer of bad news that there was no possible way of getting to Urnes today. In fact, this being a Saturday, not only were there no more buses today, but the prospect looked just as grim for the following day, Sunday. Having Lixian’s tent in my backpack, I thought about wild camping somewhere around the church and optimistically enquired if there was a possibility of travelling just one way to Urnes. Several more minutes of vigorous keyboard strokes and further frustration from the lady resulted in the same negative answer. I guess having mostly travelled and lived in metropolitan cities, I never rarely given much thought to the different patterns of life in the more rural areas. On the weekends, the opening hours are different (if existent at all), the transit routes change times, even the prices can vary. This was my big takeaway, the one I would be much more conscious of when travelling the remote Welsh castles – consider the weekends.

So what does one do when handed the news that their travel is finished for today and they will have to stay put where they have arrived? That certain someone buys a smorgasbord of food from the supermarket and makes a whole-day picnic in the beautiful fjord in front of him.

A hungry traveller's lunch
A hungry traveller’s lunch

I think this is as good of a time as any to tell you of my love for kaviar. On the right-hand side of the picture, just above the cucumber and below the sliced bread, you will see a tube of something that looks more like it should be a topical ointment rather than something squeezed onto your bread. And yet, if I ever go to space, there would be no other tubed product I’d rather eat up there. Kaviar is a spread mainly consisting of smoked cod roe with a fine balance of sugar and salt added. This may only sound appetising to the selected few, but it is just the salty savoury flavour that enhances many a sandwich. Plus, it squeezes out of a tube, and that never fails to amuze me.

After a lazy day engaged in reading, eating inordinate amounts of kaviar and relaxing in the kind, breezy Norwegian sunshine, I started thinking about where I would be camping that night. I knew I had to walk away from Flåm itself, littered with paparazzi-like tourist buses and overpriced seafront restaurants. The time allowance to set up the tent was not really an issue, since even when the summer sun had technically set in Norway, the sky is still well-lit, and you certainly don’t need a flash light in the permanently dusky night. I set off the on the eastern side of the fjord following the bike trail away from the town. Clearly, I was not the only wise one, as almost every tree on the fjord bank had a “NO camping” sign hanging on it. While the constant reminders didn’t dissuade me from my decision, I knew I definitely would feel slightly awkward doing something directly under a sign asking you not to do that very thing. So I carried on walking. On my iPhone map app, the bike lane was ending soon, and I knew I would have to start walking on the road itself, which I wasn’t a very appealing option. While backpacking, fewer things can be less enticing than trodding on the side of a highway with no clear idea of when to stop. Luckily before that happened, I stumbled onto a site of some minor historical significance, as there were remaining foundation of buildings nowhere to be explained. I was able to walk down relatively close to the fjord and pitch my tent with the view of one of the most glorious sights I have ever pitched in front. The gamble has payed off.

Camping on the bank of Aurlandsfjorden
Camping on the bank of Aurlandsfjorden

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