Our Cruise & Walk holidays give you the best of both worlds – luxury accommodation as you float past magnificent scenery, and shore excursions that take you right into the heart of the landscape on foot. Hannah Parsons describes her walking excursions through the stunning fjords of Norway, based on the Fred.Olsen ship, the MS Boudicca.
After a bracing journey across the wild and wet North Sea, nothing could be more of a balmy tonic to us intrepid seafarers, than our first glimpses of the beautiful and awe-inspiring Norwegian Ffords. What a haven of isolated, otherworldly tranquillity! Only an hour before, any Ramblers aboard were sensibly encased within the protective and hardy metal vessel that is MS Boudicca. Now here we were warmly bubbling our skins in the open air jacuzzi and enjoying the sunshine. The boat creeps silently between serene giants and immortal sheer faces of rock, which steadily increase in proximity, until the presence of us mere mortals slips into insignificance!
This morning was the Ramblers party’s first opportunity to disembark and attempt to make our mark on this impressive landscape. We set off, all 30 of us, at an ambitious pace which was maintained the whole morning. First stop, the environmentally friendly toilet, kindly and conveniently provided by the local Norwegian residents. We then descended to a peaceful viewpoint overlooking a lake, which could easily have been the setting for Lord of the Rings. The ancient grandeur of the landscape continued past the site of 1,200 year old Viking graves, the time capsule only interrupted occasionally by quaint farm buildings reminding us of modern existence. Finally, we reached a viewpoint where we were rewarded with a splendid overview of Eidfjord and the welcome sight of our home from home, the Boudicca.
Day 2, and with an early start we were off on two minibuses to conquer a different fjord and the town of Skjolden, reached overnight. Once arrived at our destination, the team disembarked and kitted up in multicoloured waterproof gear, ready for the trek. Making our way through the forest, the only signs of life were the pats of an unidentified animal, possibly an elk? We were later joined by the jolly sound of ringing bells. Hang on a minute, are we in the Swiss Alps? Sheep, wearing bells, appeared, affronted at our intrusion into their lair and baaing in indignation! These sturdy mountain beasts would certainly have judged our amateur methods of descending 330m. Some took the softly softly approach, others grabbed on to tree branches. Sylvia opted for a very technical method, commonly known as bum boarding! As we emerged from the forest, the clouds cleared, and we were rewarded with the sight of a beautiful crane (not of the metallic variety).
On our third day we were confronted with the modern sights and sounds of Kristiansund. With this jerk back to reality from our nostalgic wanderings in remote villages, we were only too glad to be greeted by two local Norwegian guides to take us under their wings. We were taken on a brief tour of the town before setting off to the local favourite spot for hiking and jogging. After concentrating on where to place our next step, we were certainly taken aback by the panoramic heights we had managed to reach the top of the mound. We were surrounded by everlasting mountains, sparkling sea, dazzling cityscape and pastel clouds as far as the eye could see. A great moment to shed the Luddite ideals and whip out the smart phone to record the unforgettable view! Having not eaten for over an hour, we were all ravenous and all eyes gleamed at the production of two giant bars of Norwegian chocolate. On the descent, we spotted a white-tailed eagle, which handily floated on the wing for long enough for even the slowest amongst us to scramble to the bottom of our packs for a pair of binoculars. Once safely at the bottom, Anna took the aching troop through their paces with an improvised yoga lesson, to ward off potential aches and pains the next morning.
In Geiranger, we split into two groups; the arrogant group and the modest group; also known as fast and slow. The fast group set off at an unprecedented pace set by one of the Rambler’s leaders, Jenny. For some, it was a shock to the system, yet everyone was able to keep up on the steep incline. We made quick progress and were easily beating the predicted times quoted on the various signposts. At half way many were forced to make a highly important decision: continue to the waterfall and risk missing the formal dinner, or head back for the hearty supper and risk the humiliation of confronting the slow group with your tail between your legs. The majority chose the former and headed up the expertly laid Sherpa path which honourably led us to our final destination. Some were nervous, some sceptical, some just went for it but all those who reached the waterfall were bold enough to stand behind the gushing mass of glacial liquid.
Olden- Briksdal Glacier
In the town of Olden, we enjoyed both a morning and afternoon walk. Before lunch we headed up the valley by coach to the Briksdal Glacier. Once the road came to an end, many of our fellow cruise goers shot past aboard troll cars, ironically snapping photos of us ‘mad’ Ramblers. However our climb was vastly superior in its integrity, and was infinitely more rewarding, having made the ascent with just two humble limbs. On the way up, eerie markers of where the glacier reached in the 19th century reminded us of the ever present threat to the glacier’s future. In the afternoon, after another measly lunch of gruel and water (irony), we set off from the boat to complete a pleasing circular walk along the side of the Fjord, including some risky hairpin bends.
Our final stop on this epic journey was the beautifully located city of Bergen, which we hit on one of its average 260 days of the year when it happens to pour with rain. Determined to test the Goretex, the entire group once more set off on a final soggy walk around Floyen, reached after a funicular ride which took us right into the rain clouds. For a fleeting moment, the clouds parted and one or two got a glimpse of the town and a sense of the view on a fine day. This last walk was nothing if not atmospheric, trees dripping with both water and lichens in every imaginable hue of green. The heaviest downpour was prompted by someone’s decision to remove waterproof trousers. Even under such a torrent of precipitation, one can only envy the people of Bergen who have such unspoilt hills and forests, just a 43-krone ride away from their city. With reluctance, we returned to the onboard comforts of the Boudicca.