Monday, July 16, 2012

Hiking to Holvassgamma Koie

We saw this picture and just had to go:

Holvassgamma Koie
Holvassgamma cabin (koie) in the Afjord region north of Trondheim.


This is just one of the cabins that are part of a network in the Trondheim area owned by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). They rent out the cabins on a first-come first-served basis to students and guests, and they have a website. So for our last weekend in Norway, we wanted to do a big hiking and camping trip. The weather was a bit unstable in the mountains where we originally wanted to go, so instead we opted for one of the cabins. We picked the one with the craziest hike, and the one which looked the coolest, but could still house at least 7 people (that's how many people were going all together; everybody in our shared apartment plus two other people).

Hiking to Holvassgamma Koie
Hiking to the cabin took almost 5 hours!


We had to reserve a car to get to the trail head where the hiking started. Once we got there (which was north of Trondheim and required a ferry ride across the fjord), we had about 3 hours of hiking, mainly uphill, ahead of us. We started at a farmhouse and walked up a road for a while. Then we started ram roding into the wet and soggy ground that is most of Scandinavia in the summer. A lot of the ground is rocky eroded mountain tops with little soil. Thick mats of carpet-like moss grow on top and the water just collects on the surface because it can't go through the rock below. We would hike uphill, hit a wet patch, and then a deep muddy hole even higher up another hillside. Water normally goes down, but the hill tops don't drain like you expect them to here. Sometimes there would be underground rivers, where you could hear the water cascading past larger boulders that were covered in a thick carpet of moss that you would float on top of. With each step it was like stepping into a huge sponge. Water would rush up, but it was usually really clean, filtered from the moss layer and also helped by the fact that there literally was no soil in many places, no dirt to get the water dirty.

Hiking to Holvassgamma Koie
We had to cross a small river to get to the cabin on the other side.


I walked with my Keens for the entire time, with wool socks. I think it worked well (I never tried it before). Yes, my feet were drenched and soaked, but the wool kept my feet warm. I didn't have to worry about where I stepped in order to prevent the water from going into my boot or whatever. I had no boots. When we got to the cabin eventually, I washed my feet, socks, and sandals in clean river water, and then put new dry socks on and a dry pair of slippers. My shoes dried out fast in the warm cabin, and so did my hiking wool socks! So I think this is the way I'm going to go from now on. Anyways. . . it took us almost 5 hours to reach the cabin because we got lost a few times and took a lot of breaks. It seems like the bigger the hiking group gets, the slower everyone hikes. But that's okay, I was enjoying the scenery.

Holvassgamma Koie
The cabin was very camouflaged and impossible to see from the other side of the river.


When we got to the general area that the cabin was in, we had to cross a small river to get to the other side where the cabin should have been. None of us went to this particular cabin before, and it was one of the most difficult to find, so we were in for an adventure. We paced back and forth along the shore of the Holvatnet thinking that the cabin should be close to the shore. But then after almost an hour, we decided to try what we first thought was a sheep path, which is why we ignored it at first. Bettina blazed up the sheep path and to our delight, actually found the cabin further up that tiny path! Everyone was so happy! We were seriously contemplating what to do in case we never found it.

Holvassgamma Koie
Bettina was the first to find the cabin! Good job! So happy to make it!


I went after Bettina, and so together we were the first to see the cabin. It was so cool looking! But there was a lot of sheep shit everywhere, which kind of sucked. It was mostly dry though. Everybody else came up the path and we all got settled into the cabin. The story about the cabin is that it was originally built by some Danish architecture students in 1972, who wanted to live in nature for one year. Apparently, they couldn't do it 100%, and trips back to the nearest town became more and more frequent. They canceled the whole thing after one of the students became pregnant. So the story I guess isn't very cool, but what is great was that they never demolished the cabin as they had intended to after the experiment was over. It was used by the locals for hunting and fishing for a few years, and then the cabin association (I am assuming an NTNUI related group) bought it and restored it for use in the cabin network. I guess it must have been hard for the people to live entirely from nature here. There isn't much good land for farming, but there is a lot of fresh water and fish and berries. Also, sheep are there so it must be okay to have sheep for milk, wool, and meat.

Holvassgamma Koie
We went fishing with Benni and Sebastian and caught 8 fish!


We brought plenty of food in our packs, so split between 7 people we had the luxury of bringing things like fruit, veges, yogurt, and other heavy things like wine! When we got there, we were all hungry, but we also wanted to try and go fishing to see if we could catch some fish and make it part of dinner. Only four of us were into fishing (the non-Norwegians), so we headed to the boat, while Bettina, Birgitte, and Sjo stayed in the cabin entertaining themselves and eventually making a lot of pasta. At the other side of the river was a boat that belonged to the cabin. We brought along some fishing poles and bait, which we took to the boat. We paddled out towards the middle of the lake, but the most bites were near the shore. In fact, on our first throw into the water, we caught a fish! Within 5 seconds too! It continued like that for the rest of the fishing trip. We caught 8 fish total. They were small, so we each had our own personal fish to eat.

Cooking Dinner!
We smoked and cooked the fish over an open campfire the first night.


When we got back to shore, we had to gut and clean the fish. I really was scared to touch the fish, so the three guys did that part. It took a long time to do 8 fish, so we were there for a while. It started getting cold! When we were finally done, we got back to the cabin and dinner was ready! I guess they didn't wait for the fish, which was okay, because we were super hungry. After pasta, vegies, and some wine, we built a campfire outside and started smoking/cooking the fish on sticks. They took a surprisingly long time to cook that way, and the meat got very dried out and smokey flavored. The next night, we decided to cook the fish in tin foil with onions and lemon slices. It was much better that way!

Holvassgamma Koie
View of the lake Holvatnet when we finally got some sun!


After the first night, half the group had to go back home so they could be back at work on Monday morning. We stayed an extra night with Benni, since it didn't matter about work for us on Monday. The second day, the weather cleared up really nicely and we actually enjoyed a bit of sunshine! We went fishing again, this time to a different lake which was about an hour hike away, to the north. We caught some fish which were slightly bigger (and cooked them in tin foil). We also made a lentil, rice, and vege stew which was great! And we had chocolate for desert and a good dose of hard liquor to wash it down (we drank all the wine on the first night, go figure!).

Holvassgamma Koie
Inside the cabin was very simple and cozy and warm!


We had a blast at the cabin! It was nice to get back to nature and experience life out of a primitive cabin. I really liked it. The morning we had to leave, the weather started turning gloomy. It rained on us almost the entire way back to the cabin! The wind was howling, but luckily it wasn't a very cold wind. We just trudged through it, and made it back in just over 2 hours! That's less than half the time it took us to get to the cabin. I think it's because we (a) never took a break from when we left the cabin to when we got to the car, and (b) were hiking as fast as we reasonably could so the rain would end faster or something! I guess we couldn't leave Norway without the typical Norwegian weather!

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