Following the climb-down from the Cherry Stone Spitting Championships, it was time to move on. We wanted to head north towards Sognefjord. This meant a stopover in Voss, a pretty ordinary town by a lake, but it has developed a reputation for adventure sports which take over from skiing in the summer months. An opportunity for face-saving, me thinks.
The latest craze to hit town is for adrenaline junkies for whom bungee-jumping is old hat. A platform suspended from a paraglider is towed by a boat over the lake. The punter and assistant (he’s the one with the pitchfork for recalcitrants) are towed up to 100 metres. After the Last Rites have been read, the person jumps (or was he pushed?) towards the potentially watery grave below. With a bit of luck, the slack in the bungee will be taken up before he hits the water. This leaves him suspended upside down being flown over the lake at about 15mph. At this point, a rescue boat draws up underneath him and, in a carefully-coordinated manoeuvre, the tow-boat slows down thus lowering the victim into the rescue boat.
I made serious enquiries about the safety precautions for the whole thing which the company were able to assure me were all above board. They thought they were on the point of a sale when I decided at the last minute to bow out on the grounds that the driver of the safety boat had a squint and might go for the wrong “me”.
Warning: Private Detectives are known to operate in this area
A spectacular bus journey took us on from Voss to Balestrand. The road which climbs up to the high plateau between fjord systems is often closed by snow until June. Over the tops, the scenery is eerily moonscape before the road drops precipitously by a series of hairpin bends to Sognefjord below.
We caught one of the car ferries to the northern side which took us to within 8 miles of Balestrand. Unfortunately, it being Sunday, there wasn’t another bus that day. We started walking and after an hour of repetitive thumb strain, a lovely lady picked us up in her Volvo Estate and delivered us to the door of the hostel. I say hostel, but, like a lot of them over here, much more like a hotel. Our en-suite room, with balcony, looked out over the fjord with its ever-changing light and passing boats.
Balestrand has long been a resort for the gentry from England and other parts of Europe. It even has its own Norwegian-style Church of England which, for administrative purposes, comes under the Diocese of Gibraltar.
Balestrand is in a lovely setting, but like lots of places on the tourist trail, you feel a bit like just another number. We’d heard of another town, reached by boat, called Mundal. Until a road tunnel was built in 1986, boat was the only way of getting there. It has retained its beauty and naturalness without any commercialisation as yet. The highlight is the Mundal Hotel (see photos) which is like going back to the days when the well-healed would come for the summer and climb up to the nearby glacier and take in the mountain air.
Even though it rained a lot whilst we were there, walking trails took us past the fjord, milky green from the glacier waters, and fast-running streams with abundant plant and bird wildlife. We even saw a sea-eagle, en-route between jobs rather than fishing for tea, unfortunately.
The hotel was too expensive for those on a budget for six months so we slummed it in a cabin on the camp site. Basic but cosy, with wild raspberries outside to add to breakfast muesli - a different sensation altogether from those tasteless, freeze-dried, high-vis, colour-additive lumps they put in Special K that are meant to pass for fruit.
After all this nature and rurality, we’re heading off to Alesund further north and a bit of the city life.