Thursday, April 28, 2016

Winter camping in the Norwegian snow - you bet we did!

Never in my wildest dream had I imagined that I would ever spend a night outside in the freezing cold of my own free will. People told us we were insane to even think about camping in the snow - and we probably were a bit. Being fairly new to outdoor life, it was pretty much high spirit and a bunch of good luck that carried us through the cold nights. This was such an unforgettable experience and the perfect way to include Norway into our Nordic Journey adventures.

Of all the Nordic countries, Norway rank highest in terms of most pinned places we dream of visiting one day. There are the classic places like Trolltunga, Preikestolen and Kjerag - all of which could make for an epic summer road trip between Stavanger and Bergen. For the longest time we thought we would make it to Norway during 2015 but as things turned out, we never got around to it. Last summer were instead spent on biking the Finnish Turku Archipelago and hiking the Swedish High Coast Hike. Yes, Norway had to wait. Though not for long. Early on this year, we received a surprise message from an old schoolmate, Nina, asking if we were up for some fun camping in Notodden in Norway. Now, how can you say no to that? The opportunity was too good to resist, so we jumped at the chance without knowing it would be our first camping experience in the snow.
The snowcovered campsite at the top of Eikeskar
The Danish Winter seems to have become an endangered season. As we were prepping for this trip, we heard rumours that Winter Wonderland still persisted up North in Notodden which naturally started a fire of excitement as we eyed a possibility of seeing proper snow this winter. From Oslo we took a 2 hour busride towards Notodden and as we distanced ourselves from the Norwegian capital, we soon found ourselves glaring through the window out on the thick snowcovered landscapes. It was absolutely magical and our inner children just sparkled to life! We got off at the bus stop Nils Bjørnebu situated outside of the city. From here a small 3.2km hike to the top of Eikeskar was awaiting us.
The half frozen Lake Heddal (Heddalsvannet) running below Eikeskar
The city of Notodden is surrounded by forests, lakes, rivers and mountains. We just couldn't wait to get an overview of it all at the top of Eikeskar, where we were to camp for the night. Eikeskar is only 416 meters high and not at all the highest top in the area. However, the view can still be rewarding - when the weather is clear, at least. As we arrived at camp site there was some fog in the air and the sky was covered in clouds. We had a good view over Notodden itself but we couldn't see much further than that. The tranquility of this haven nevertheless made up for the limited visibility and knowing that we were setting ourselves up for an unique experience, the fog merely added an extra touch to the story.

The spontaneity of this trip was well reflected by the small challenges that arose while setting up camp. None of us had really considered the difficulties of driving the tent pegs into frozen ground; or well it had crossed our minds but never did we think that special pegs were needed. Anyhow we managed to force a couple down and luckily for us a group of trees stood perfectly clustered together for us to tie up, and pinch down our tent in between. Definitely not pretty nor perfect but it worked like a charm. The first hurdle before the night was complete.
Winter camping at the top of Eikeskar with view over the city of Notodden
As the sun was slowly moving down towards the horizon, we knew a campfire would be essentiel for our survival in this cold wilderness. A local friend, Mariann, would join us later at Eikeskar and bring fuelwood for the fire, however, we needed something to start with before she turned up. Being high on life and oblivious about the fact that Mariann eventually would be hindered in joining the nights event, we took a walk in the woods and casually scouted for sticks and brances that could be used as fuel. Not unexpectedly it became a hard task as everything were soaking wet from the winter snow. Darkness was crawling upon us, but we decided to swing by another lookout point before heading back to camp. This turned out to be the best decision of the day; a bag filled with dry fuelwood was laying there as it was sent from the heaven above. Talk about luck! We had fire for the night, and as soon as it was up and running Mariann's message ticked in notifying us about her hold back.

Even though the stars were hidden away we still had our own private light show as Notodden was shimmering. The city looked so warm and cozy - and you couldn't help but wonder whether someone perhaps was looking up and thinking the same about us and our bonfire. The evening was spent with smores and stories from "100 myths about health and disease" until the fire could not persist anymore.
Marianne gifted us with a Norwegian national treasure - the chocolate-covered treat Kvikk Lunsj
Yesterday evening hadn't exactly blessed us with any visible signs of the sun going down, so we were aiming for the following day to break loose with a spectacular morning light show. In the morning, as we peeped out through the tent opening there were, again, no light beams to be seen; the fog was still hanging around just a tad bit more heavy and grey. Well well, you can't be lucky in all aspects of life. We rolled out of our sleeping bags, contemplating on the sleep we had gotten through the night. All of us had litterally been freezing our butt cheeks and had seemingly been catching glimpses of sleep in turn. Nevertheless, we felt fresh and were ready to seize another day. We met up with Mariann, who spent the entire day with us - taking us three "kids" to the mountains to play in the snow, and welcomed us into her home with an overwhelming delicious breakfast table and a lovely dinner with her family.
A lighthearted night by the fire, gazing at the stars from our campsite at Tinnemyra
Succesfully surviving the first night in the snow, we were ready to take on another night. Mariann took us out to Tinnemyra, a lake located a little outside of the city. It was during the dark hours of the night, so we couldn't see much at that time and barely had an idea of what the place looked like. We settled ourselves at the bottom of the lake, where we shared the last laughters with Mariann before she had to head back home. The trail running along the lake was illuminated by a cleverly integrated light show, but it was nothing compared to the sight found right above our heads. Tonight, we were sleeping at a 5 million star hotel for free dollars - how amazing is that!
After yet another ice cold night, we found ourselves to have set up our tent RIGHT next to the frozen lake
The next morning we woke up to an incredible sight. It felt like we were encapsulated within a little magical realm of a snow globe - all we needed was a good shake, before the finest snow flakes would be sprinkled over us. The lake was completely frozen and for good reason; that night the temperature had dropped to -12°C thus ensuring that winter persisted in Notodden. No wonder it was bitterly cold that particular morning. Few minutes of non-attendance and my tea had simply crystallized - that's how cold it was. We were jumping back and forth between warming ourselves by the fire and scooping down some breakfast while packing everything down. We were lucky to have the fire running the whole morning, cos oh man, could we otherwise have conjured up some serious frostbites.
Rise and Shine! Packing up after two cold but incredible nights camping in the snow in Norway
I do love it! You're the coolest twins i know! Thanks for an amazing adventure, for beeing such lovely travel partners and showing the world how uncomplicated, fun and beautiful life can be, if you just grab the crazy ideas and outlive them!   -   Nina
We waved goodbye to Winter Wonderland with an incredible experience in our backpockets and a re-established friendship in our hands. Freezing our butts off during the cold nights were worth every second spent and we would do it all again in a heart beat. Nina, are you ready for next round?