I’m worried. I can’t even remember the last time I paddled a kayak for anything more than an hour or so. Or if I’ve even been in a kayak-for-one. Now I’m standing on the shores of the Naeroyfjord in Norway, decked out in a wetsuit and pondering the two-day, 25-kilometre sea kayaking adventure ahead.
What happens if my arms seize? What if I can’t steer and end up drifting in circles? I’m having visions of being towed back to town by one of the fjord’s car ferries when our guide Hayo gives us the signal to put our kayaks in the water. Can I do this? There’s only one way to find out, I guess.
We’ve joined local company Nordic Ventures for our guided trip along the Naeroyfjord, one of the longest, deepest and narrowest fjords on Earth. Naeroyfjord’s majesty, natural beauty and quintessential fjord environment have also contributed to its being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with the nearby Geirangerfjord (which we visit in our blog on the world’s most spectacular drive).
Over the next two days, we’ll be kayaking the length of this epic waterway and on into the next fjord, setting out from the scenic town of Gudvangen and hauling out at the tiny village of Undredal on the Aurlandsfjord.
It’s a journey the Nordic people have been making for centuries; boat journeys on the fjords kept communities connected during the dark, harsh winters when mountain trails would become impassable.
Boats continue to ply the waters of the fjords, although with traditional farming settlements on the decline, today’s fjord travellers are increasingly of the tourist kind. Still, with peak hour on the Naeroyfjord being the Gudvangen car ferry, a tourist RIB boat from Flåm, and two small groups of kayakers, our journey up the waterway is mostly an experience of perfect peace and solitude.
Our guide Hayo is a tall, lanky Dutch-born Kiwi with a tangle of blonde hair pulled into a loose pony tail. A lifetime devotee of the great outdoors, he’s been guiding people through some of the world’s most spectacular locations for more than two decades. Honest and pragmatic, Hayo’s understated guiding style soon leads to a kind of quiet contemplation in our group as we paddle through the dramatic terrain.
As it turns out, my fears about winding up stranded in the middle of the fjord with triceps in spasm are unfounded. The reality is, the sheer beauty of the fjord means while much of the voyage is spent gently paddling, more often than not we’re simply drifting, gaze up, mouth agape as we pass soaring rock walls, huge crashing waterfalls, and picturesque villages slotted into green valley niches.
Eagle-eye spotters might be lucky enough to glimpse birdlife, harbour porpoises and seals in and around the fjords in these parts. On our trip, the animal encounters are limited to the occasional family of goats peering down at us from precarious shelves of rock rising above the water. The incredible scenery more than makes up for the shy wildlife though.
We haul out twice on day one, first to enjoy lunch on a grassy green slope near a thundering waterfall, and again in the late afternoon to pitch our tents and settle in for a night by the fjord. Each member of the group has been given packages of food and equipment to stow inside their kayaks, but we’re still in awe at the feast that Hayo pulls together for lunch and dinner under a clever canopy of canvas and kayak oars. There’s even wine, a well-earned treat after our, um, exertions.
Our campsite is spectacular, sited at the base of a sheer rock wall and overlooking a panorama of winding fjord and rising mountains. As we set up, dark clouds roll in over the fjord, forcing the dwindling sunlight to cast a curtain of light onto the surface of the water. It’s magnificent and we all pause in the fumbling construction of our tents to take in the magic moment.
Breaking camp late morning on day two, we paddle the last dramatic lengths of the Naeroyfjord before turning into the wider, busier Aurlandsfjord. Here, cruise ships slide through the fjord waters to port for the day in the pretty town of Flåm. We skirt the edges of the fjord in our tiny kayaks, laughing nervously as we steer into the waves created by the passing boats.
In the early afternoon, we pull into Undredal, unload the kayaks and set up our canvas-and-oar canopy, just as the skies open. We cheers our little team with hot coffee and chocolate as the rain thunders down around us before boarding a bus back to Gudvangen.
It’s back to reality in more ways than one. We discover on arrival in Gudvangen that a massive rock avalanche overnight has cut off the road back to Bergen. It’s a stark reminder that the dramatic nature we’ve come to see isn’t without its perils.
With just about all of Gudvangen’s hotel rooms booked out as a result, it’s back into a tent for us. A couple of hours later, we’re pitched by a river off the Aurlandsfjord for one more night soaking up the serenity of this extraordinary place.
Best of all though, my arms don’t hurt a bit.
Good to know
Getting here: The Naeroyfjord is in Norway’s west. Kayaking tours start from the fjord-side town of Gudvangen, around 2.5 hours by road from Bergen. Our two-day Sea Kayaking tour was with Nordic Ventures, who run a range of short and multi-day outdoor adventures from their Gudvangen base from May through to early October.
Is it hard? We’re reasonably fit but we were still a little concerned as to whether we had the fitness and stamina for two solid days of sea kayaking; it turned out to be fine. The journey traverses the length of Naeroyfjord and a section of Aurlandsfjord; it’s around 25-kilometres split over the two days, so a basic level of fitness does help but it’s a fairly leisurely paddle and the pace is set by the group. You can also choose a single kayak or a tandem if you want to share the paddle power.
Tip: The landscapes of Naeroyfjord and Aurlandsfjord are spectacular and there’s lots to do in and around Gudvangen, Undredal and Flåm. While you can travel to Gudvangen direct from Bergen for this tour, it’s worth spending a couple of days in the area if you can spare the time.
See what else we got up to in Norway here.
What’s your stand-out kayaking experience? Share with us below.