First, you glimpse it on the horizon. Then, as you leave the gravel road behind and start to stride out across the mountain plateau, you hear it: the sound of total tranquillity.
But before any of that, start with lunch at the Norwegian Trekking Association’s (DNT) cabin at Kalhovd, in the company of other shiny, expectant faces from Norway and abroad. Through the window, you’ll see a brisk wind blowing across the water of Kalhovdfjord, and then two cyclists come trundling down the final kilometres of the 30 km cycle track from the upper station of the Krossobanen cable car at Rjukan. You hoist your rucksack onto your back, adjust the straps and set out with a few friendly words of advice from the cabin staff.
When you get to Stegaros, you leave the gravel road behind. Ahead of you are good paths and fresh water in the streams. Perhaps your rucksack is already feeling on the heavy side, but you soon forget that as you follow the red Ts across the terrain. It isn’t long before you hear it. The tranquillity. The tranquillity of the running stream is the running stream, the blowing wind and the birds singing in the heather.
As soon as you reach the Butjønnåi river, you pull off your rucksack and lie down in the heather with a cup of cold, refreshing mountain water. Before continuing, you fill your water bottle and check your route on the map. After a few hours of walking in complete silence with unforgettable views, you pitch your tent.
The mighty Kvenna
You wake in the middle of the night and stick your head out of the tent. The moon is reflected in Vråsjåen lake, and the water looks like sheet metal. Contentedly, you close the tent again and go back to sleep. After breakfast, you cross the bridge over the Sletteåi river and continue past an old stone shelter – used among others by Norway’s famous World War Two heavy-water saboteurs in the phase before the Vemork operation – and upwards into the scrub heading for new adventures. Your next destination is Mogen tourist cabin at the head of Møsvatn lake.
As you approach the descent to the lake, you’ll be aware of the weight of your rucksack cutting into your shoulders. But then you get nearer and find new reserves of strength, particularly when you come upon the fabulous view towards Møsvatn, Mogen, Argehovd farm – where it’s hard to believe anyone could live – and the mighty Kvenna river rushing down from the plateau towards the lake. You simply have to sit down and take in the view before starting to make your way downhill through the forest to the red-painted cabin.
The joys of an open fire
Walking into one of DNT’s cabins is a real joy, perhaps particularly so at Mogen. A few seasons ago, Mogen was voted Norway’s best cabin for food. The host is reluctant to reveal what’s for dinner, except that it will be three courses based around locally sourced ingredients. Once you’ve enjoyed your fish soup, leg of lamb and apple dessert – yes, you heard correctly! – you’ll be ready to sink into one of the fireside chairs in the lounge.
And when you snuggle down under the duvet in room 212 , you’ll be asleep almost before your head hits the pillow. After the world’s best breakfast, board M/B “Fjellvåken II” to Skinnarbu for a boat trip through a unique and beautiful cultural landscape. You’ve already started planning your next trip!
How Dag Otto taught his children to master Hardangervidda
Dag Otto Lauritzen relates with enthusiasm the story of the first time he took his daughter, Line, skiing on the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, before Easter one year. His children Stian and Line have been skiing with Dad since they were 12-13 years old.
For Dag, five other fathers and twelve children, the idea of crossing the mountain plateau on skis became a ten-year tradition.
A love for the great outdoors
Dag Otto Lauritzen is famous for his achievements as a world-class cyclist, topped off by becoming Norway’s first stage winner at the Tour de France in 1987 and winning a bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. What is perhaps less well known is that he also has a love for the great outdoors.
“Looking back, I was immersed in nature from a young age, and I’m grateful to my parents for sharing that passion with us. It’s something I’ve tried to pass on to my children. Not just the experience of being in the open air but learning to push yourself a little. It’s important for children to learn what it’s like to be a little out of their comfort zone. And to realise that they can master it. This is exactly what my talks are about too – the sense of mastery,” Dag Otto Lauritzen explains.
The children had the chance to sample this sense of mastery time and again while out on the Hardangervidda. Dag Otto assures us there were long days of skiing, when children and adults alike dragged themselves into the tourist cabins on tired legs at the end of the day. There was some complaining, admittedly, but, after a good dinner, the children were usually in good spirits once more.
And the result?
“They’ve come to love nature. I hope they’ll pass that on to their own kids. Even though they’re around the 30-mark now, they still say, ‘Can’t we go skiing again soon – it’s been years since we went!’. In other words, they still want to join in, so I’d say the trips have been priceless,” Dag Otto emphasises.
Text and photo: Bjørn Harry Schønhaug, Mickel Gonsholt and DNT Telemark