The Lysefjord is a perfect example of our time in Norway – lots of driving, sunshine-turned-to-snow-turned-to-sunshine, and inaccessible hiking trails. We started out from Telemark, where we had stopped the night before in the tiny village of Valle at a no-name hotel where we ate our fill of meats, potatoes, and jams for dinner. Leaving Valle, we soon turned off the main road onto the Suleskar Pass, a mountain pass from Setesdal through Sirdal to Ådneram and Suleskar on the Lysefjord. In normal conditions, the pass opens around the first week of May, but, this year, due to seven feet of snow falling the weekend before our roadtrip the pass had been open fewer than 24 hours when we turned off the highway onto the narrow road. The day before a crazy Dane who camped out in front of our hotel had ridden his bike over the pass and remarked on the high snows but great riding. Granted, he also remarked that he had once spent several months riding through India and frequently came to Norway for a thrill, so perhaps he had become immune to the elements by that point.
Within minutes of seeing warnings of “moose crossings” we were driving through a narrow tract cut into a snow bank higher than a semi-truck. We marveled at the homes buried so deep it seemed as only part of their roofs were visible and wondered who would have a holiday house in such a place where it could only be accessed a maximum of two months out of the year before being buried once more in the white. At the summit of the pass it started to snow while we poked around a cairn field.
Many curves and twists and turns later we emerged on the other side of the pass hundreds of meters above the Lysefjord. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the fjord the flurry had turned into gusty rain and the snows seemed even higher, putting an end to any remaining illusions I had of hiking the Kjerag Bolten of Instagram fame, so we warmed up in a cliff-side cafe with a coffee and our raincoats and admired the barely-visible view of the village of Lysebotn, 27 hairpin turns below us on the Lysevegen.
Always a good sport, Father Adventure carefully maneuvered our little electric car down the Lysevegen to Lysebotn where we ate a few sandwiches and tiny cups of pumpkin soup provided to us by the village’s hostel staff, who were making preparations to open for the season and were surprised to see tourists so early, in late May. Our initial plan had been to take the ferry to the other end of the fjord, Forsand, where we would continue on to Stavanger for the night; however, the ferry, with its space for only three cars, was full, so we drove back up, past the visitor’s center and inaccessible kjerag rock, and along the top of the fjord to the city of Stavanger instead of taking the water route.
Lysefjord itself is one of Norway’s most beautiful fjords, or at least the guidebooks tell us so. In truth, we did not get to see much of it in the fog. It is generally considered to be the southernmost of the big fjords and the true start of Norway’s fjord country. I am looking forward to a return visit to the Lysefjord sometime in August, after the snows have melted and before they start falling again. I’ve got my phone ready for some epic Instagram shots, but I think, unlike our Dannish friend, all of the cycling in the world here in the flat, snowless Netherlands will not prepare my legs for a Norwegian cycling adventure.