June 27, 2010

After a few years boating and some time in the planning it was time for me to finally head to Norway. After initial problems with transport everything ran smoothly getting there with two of us driving down from Edinburgh and meeting the rest of the group in Calais after the club’s alps trip. Going to Norway were 6 of us: Dom Burrow, Sandy Douglas, David Maltby, Anne Pulli, Sam Sawday and myself. The drive took a total of 44 hours from Edinburgh to our first destination near Kongsberg, with us stopping in Germany to load up the minibus with as much food and drink as it could fit. The drive went surprisingly quickly and smoothly with the little exception of a speeding ticket in Denmark for Anne which set her back £220.

We based ourselves initailly in Telemark where we chose the Lower Mår for a warmup, a rocky but nice river finishing in lake Tinnsjø. In the afternoon we stepped in up and did part of the upper Austbygdåi. This was a lovely series of slides / 1-2m drops every 500m but it did result in the first swim for me and Anne in a sticky hole. Tired but happy we got out above the the big slide and set up camp for the evening where we saw a moose at the campsite which made everyone’s day.

Sam on the upper Austbygdåi

The following day we continued on the upper Austbygdåi, starting at the big slide which was the first opportunity to get some good pictures in the beautiful scenery. We continued down to the legendary Spånemfossen, an 8m waterfall which we all ran.

SpånemfossenMe running the Spånemfossen, Photo: David Matlby

After the Spånemfossen we continued onto the California section which was just horizon lines one after the other before we got out above the double drop where we luckily got a lift for the shuttle with a group from Germany. At some point along this section I managed to put an 8cm crack in my boat which is a job for the insurance but for the rest of the trip gaffa tape would suffice as a quick fix.

Camping by the big slides we continued with the California section the next day, starting at the double drop on which Sam swam and I portaged. A special day followed with lots of rolling but no more swims. In the afternoon we headed into the town to grab some lunch where we met Ted Piper and a very helpful Norwegian boater who gave us plenty of useful information on water levels. In the evening we camped at Mår homerun and it gave us the chance to have a wash in the river.

Taking the advice from our helpful Norwegian we decided to head to Buskerud the next day, driving up over the mountains through a blizzard to the Zambezi section of the Numedalslågen. This was a definite change from the previous rivers with around 100 cumecs flowing creating plenty of big volume holes which gave me a bit of beating and a wake up call to stop being a lazy paddler.

Zambezi SectionSam on the Numedalslågen

In the same place as the photo above Anne swam after going over the pourover on the right, hurting her foot in the process. Further down the river, Sandy snapped his paddles and swam and a 2km boat chase ensued with the boat luckily getting pinned or I doubt we would have ever caught up with it. After finally rescuing the boat we decided to get off and have the only real shower of the trip in Degali. In the evening we drove up towards Sjoa where we camped by the the Lågen and caught our breath.

In the morning (after Sam drove over my bag!) we drove to Otta to check out Anne’s foot where we were finally referred to the hospital in Lillehammer to which we went to next. After an x-ray and Anne’s foot in cast with a metatarsal fracture we headed towards Oslo so that we could get Anne home as camping with a cast and crutches don’t go too well together, especially after a swim booty!

After driving Anne to the airport the next morning we drove back up to Otta where we bought our first, and last, meal out at a park cafe, where we paid 122 NKR for burger and chips. We also stopped to look at the local trolls. Once refuelled we headed to the Soja: Åmot section, a narrow, medium volume river with big holes which caused lots of rolling to be needed at least on my behalf. It’s the first time I’ve opened my eyes underwater before finally rolling up very relieved and out of breath.

Trolls in Sjoa

After a few short days we decided to do a proper river section and settled on the Lower Jori which was 17km of continuous rocky 3-4 fun. It however had a long steep shuttle which Dave volunteered for, a decision I think he lated regretted! It was a great little section and just what we needed to get us all back in the flow and not continuously getting out of our boats to inspect.

Although the Jori was a great little run it wasn’t set up for taking pictures so hoping that recent snowfall had melted we headed to Store Ula the next day. We decided to park and huck the first 3 falls with me going first. An interesting line saw me roll just in time for the second drop and get pushed into an undercut after the last drop, swimming in time to ensure I was safe and dry before the 16m 4th drop about 5m away. In the afternoon with photos of everyone going over the waterfalls we drove up to the Pollfoss section of the Otta where the water was exceptionally blue but a little bit chilly. I swam in a hole after pulling my shoulder and that was me done for the rest of the trip which was only 2 days more. We camped on the shore of a lake just downstream, the furthest North we would get (62°N) which meant it was very light, never getting properly dark and still light enough to read a book at 1 am.

Store UlaMe on the 3rd Ula fall, Photo: Dom Burrow

With everyone tired we took a very late start the next morning  and drove to the Tora Bora and looked in awe before deciding to take the day off and head across the country towards the Fjords. Through Lom we stopped at a Bakery and we took the 55 across the mountains which is one of the most beautiful drives Ive ever been on, with my camera almost always out of the window. To quote Dave: “I feel like I’m driving a wildlife photographer around”. The road started alpine in nature with heavy trees before we reached snow capped mountains and glaciers. It got back to sea level on the other side at Skjolden where we took a swim in the Lustrafjorden, the furthest inland point of the Sognefjorden, a massive 204km long. Struggling to find somewhere to camp we ended up going through a very expensive toll with no warning but luckily stumbling across a site below a glacier, which we could hear and see bits falling off throughout our stay.

Driving on the 55

Swimming in Lustrafjorden, Photo: David Maltby

The next morning we had no choice but to pass back through the expensive tunnel where we drove to the Songdalselva but it was far too low so we decided to drive towards Voss as I needed to be there for my train the next morning. We timed the ferry perfectly and took it across the Fjord from Hella-Vogsnes for 50NKR each. On the way the rest of the group did the upper Myrkdalselvi before we reached Voss in the evening. Predictably as we were now in the West of the country the rain decided to pour down for the first time on the trip and a damp night was spent cooking and eating under tarps where we camped next to the infamous Money Drop. I’ll leave it up to the others to run this once I’m gone!

The train back was yet another feast for the eyes, snaking it’s way through the fjords, up into the mountains and back down to Oslo before flying home that evening. It was a great trip and I wish I could have stayed longer, even make a season of it raft guiding. I managed to spend not too much considering and having Sam who had been to Norway before was infinitely useful. The rest of the group are spending another week out before getting back, as for me I really need to do some work!


It has been a very busy time recently. I’ve done my first triathlon, finished my last set of exams and begun work on the infamous dissertation.

Firstly East Fife Triathlon back in April saw me finish my first Triathlon which was a great experience. I finished the sprint (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5k run) in 01:21:59 which isn’t bad for a first try, but with plenty room for improvement as the winner was home in under an hour. The hardest bit was the run at the end, most likely due to lack of training on the bike which left my legs feeling very heavy once I got of the bike.

Since then the focus was on the exams which were looming ever closer but now they’re over I’m glad that they were the last ones I will be taking. After the exams finished the sun came out across Edinburgh perfectly on cue and a great week spent sunbathing and having barbecues on the Meadows followed with everyone glad to be finished.

After a while relaxing it was hard to get the motivation to start the dissertation especially with the nice weather. I’ve been trying to treat it like a job, going in 9-5 and stopping there but with so much going on progress has been slow.

With the nice weather I’ve been getting out on the bike more and more and last weekend we cycled to Gullane (route) where we stopped for ice-cream and a dip in the sea. A trip totalling ~85km but well worth it.

Cooling off in the sea at Gullane, Photo: Victoria MacLean

The following (not so nice day) we headed back to the beach at Tyninghame where those with wetsuits headed into the sea before discovering lots of jellyfish when it was time to head to the nearest tea shop to warm up.

Paul Rachel and Lisa head into the sea at Tyninghame