Dec 21, 2016

Hiking the Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) at Stavanger, Norway

The famous Pulpit Rock, inspiration for the Frozen movie

One of my dreams of going to Norway to hike some of the famous landmarks but I realised most of them are quite difficult to reach either with public transport or it's still snowing when I was there in May, one of them being the famous Troll's Tongue. So imagine my surprised when I googled for Pultpit Rock and it's a doable day trip from Stavanger, and Stavanger was not part of my initial itinerary. I decided to cut short my days in Bergen and did a trip to Stavanger, just to hike the famous Pulpit Rock. I read that Frozen's backdrop is inspired by Pulpit Rock and when I was at the top, I know why!

So it began my research on how to get there the most cost efficient way. I read that most people will take about 3-4 hours ascending and descending from the Rock and I budgeted that I would take around 5 hours. 

There is no direct train services from Bergen to Stavanger, so the most reliable option is to get onto a bus, which takes around 4-5 hours. It costs about NOK 400. It's advisable to book the tickets online from the website before reaching there as the bus was quite full when I boarded. 

I booked myself a nice studio apartment at City Housing- Kirkebakken 8 for my two night stay in Stavanger which cost around NOK 1200. I was ready to conquer the Rock! 
Ferry schedule from Stavanger to Tau
The package combination by Tide bus
 To get to Stavanger, you need to first take a ferry from the harbour in Stavanger to Tau,  then transferred to a bus which will take you to the starting point of the hike. There's a package combining both the ferry and the bus but I decided to take it separately as the cost was cheaper that way. The package cost NOK 300 for return but if not mistaken, buying the ferry tickets only cost NOK 110 for return and bus NOK150 return. Be mindful that there are two bus companies to Pulpit Rock and I took the green one (Boreal) instead of the Tide bus (which is package together with the ferry).
The start of the hike

The dramatic drop of the Rock

Enjoying the view

The fjord, alternatively you can take a cruise to view the Rock from the fjord 

Me and the Rock

I started the hike around 9am. The hike is fairly easy at the beginning but turn rocky from the middle towards the end. It took me about 2 hours to reach the Rock and I was rewarded with the most beautiful scenery ever. Feels like singing 'Let me go' on top of the Rock, hehe. To get the view of the Rock against the fjord, I climbed up to another level and just sat there to enjoy the view and had my salmon sandwich, lol.

After that, it was descending time and me being the very clumsy type, managed to slip and fall a few times and got a few scratches from the trip. Painful but very rewarding hike.

Dec 14, 2016

Norway in a Nutshell On Your Own

Little coloured houses at Myrdal station

Wow, time flies! And it's already end of the year. Personally many things had happened this year and I had gone through major changes within a year. Not going to dwell much on my personal front in a public space but let's just say I grew up a lot from the experience and learn to love myself more and hence more shopping and travelling guilt.

Been meant to share about my experience of doing the Norway in the Nutshell on my own but after my laptop crashed, the idea had been shelved for months. Well, better late than never. Basically, Norway in a Nutshell is a combination of bus, train and ferry from Oslo to Bergen or vice versa which is something like this:

Oslo → Myrdal → Flam→Gundvagen→Voss→Bergen

You can actually booked Norway in a Nutshell via a tour but basically the tour requires you to take the train, bus and ferry as well.  So I guess I tried to save some money and did the whole thing on my own using the Norwegian train timetable and this website as a guide. The tour can be done in a day but I decided to break the journey into two days and spend a night in Flam.
Check out all the snow

Never been so excited to see snow in May

The red lady which I thought is a ghost

My plan was to start from Oslo and took the train to Flam but along the way, we need to change train at Myrdal to a smaller train, Flamsbana. What I did not expect was in May, I can still see snow along the way. In fact, it was still snow in Myrdal which makes the weather pretty cold and pretty, haha. The Flamsbana will stop along some pretty stops for tourists to take photos. Do spot the lady in red singing at the waterfall. For a second I thought I heard and saw a ghost!! The whole journey through the Flamsbana is very interesting and very very scenic. And once it gets into Flam, the town is very pretty although it was raining by the time I reached there and there went all my plans to do some hiking around the town. I ended up just walking around the town to get some food and went to bed early. I stayed in Flam hostel which was not too far away from the train station and the ferry port. Basically the port and the train station is just next to each other. I had booked for the earliest ferry to Gundvagen at 8am. Glad that I took such an early ferry as I managed to snap some really good photos although the sky seemed quite cloudy along the whole cruise. There were only me and this other Korean family in the ferry.
As the Flamsbana going into Flam town

View on the cruise 

Love the reflection. Early morning before the ferry ride to Gundvagen

It's gloomy yet it's so mysterious

When I reached Gundvagen, I got a bit confused as I was not aware of the bus schedule to Voss and waited almost an hour for the bus. Take bus number 950 from the bus stop just right in front of the souvenir shop.  The bus timetable is slightly different during summer and winter. I read that there's actually an express bus to Bergen from Gundvagen but one of the perks of getting the bus to Voss and then train to Bergen was the view. As the bus to Voss will take you up to the Stalheim hotel which will goes through Stalheimskleiva hairpin road which cost around NOK 110. That was one of the highlight of the trip! Once in Voss, it's just a direct affair to Bergen using the train.

Total rough estimate for my diy Norway in a Nutshell trip (as prices may change depending when you reserved for the train from Oslo to Flam)

Train from Oslo to Flam     NOK 800
Ferry to Gundvagen            NOK  260
Bus to Voss                         NOK 110
Train to Bergen                   NOK 94
Accommodation in Flam    NOK 300
Total                                    NOK  1564
which is still cheaper than the tour quoted at NOK 1770