After a pretty hectic (and challenging) couple of weeks at work, Mike and I have just returned from an ace weekend in the mountains. Sometimes I am blown away by the culture here in Norway, and how different it is to the UK. One of the best things we’ve discovered so far is the ‘DNT’, or Den Norske Turistforening, cabins. DNT is an association that builds fantastic cabins on popular hiking trails all over Norway – so far they have 460 – which can be used by anyone for a nominal nightly fee. Some cabins are very basic: just a warm bed for the night; some are staffed and there will be someone there to cook you a hot meal at the end of your hike; the rest are halfway between. We chose one of the halfway cabins to walk to: Tomannsbu.
I don’t like to paint a bad picture of the UK – I was born and raised in England and spent many happy years in Scotland – but the level of trust here in Scandinavia is so high compared to back home. The DNT cabins are unlocked to allow anyone to enter at any time. Tomannsbu was spotless when we arrived, clean and cosy. The food larder (in case you don’t want to heft your own food for the weekend on the 3-hour hike it takes to get to the cabin) was also unlocked and fully stocked with tinned food and a price list for each item. You pop in your name and bank details in a locked box so that DNT can charge you for your stay later. There is nothing to stop you spending the night without paying, emptying the larder of food and leaving the place in a mess. Yet, nobody does that here. There is always a certain percentage of any population that might take advantage of such a lovely system, and I’m sure it does occasionally happen here, but I know for sure that the percentage of bad apples in the UK is significantly higher.
Mike and I managed to finish work early on Friday, and drove up to Hunnedalen straight from the office. We were faced with a fairly steep climb up the side of a waterfall to begin with, and I immediately began to regret bringing so much stuff with us in our bags! When we reached the top of the first hill, the terrain flattened out for quite some time, and we began to really enjoy our hike. The scenery is quite similar to the Scottish hills, but on a much larger scale – and really stunning with the light running in time with the clouds over the valleys and mountain lakes. After two hours, we were about 2/3 of the way there, so stopped for some crisps and grapes by the side of the clearest body of water I’ve seen in ages – we were a few metres above the surface on the path, but we could see all the individual pebbles on the bottom. Along the way we stepped over scores of frogs ranging from a couple of centimeters long to quite gigantic in froggy terms! We passed a group of two mums and their 5 daughters who were heading in our direction, knowing we’d see them again soon once we reached our destination. 3 and a bit hours later, the cabin popped into view from behind a heathery hill – a welcome sight for sore feet and shoulders from our bags.
We were the only occupants so we chose a room on the top floor and changed into some comfier clothes for the evening before exploring our surroundings. The cabin was very traditionally Norwegian – wooden and cosy, with two wood-burning stoves for heat and a couple of Primus hobs for cooking. There were two small living rooms with soft sofas and lots of board games for the kids. A huge dining room lead off the kitchen, big enough to seat all of the 30 people the cabin was equipped to sleep. We’d brought up some leftovers from last night’s dinner with us, so we heated those up and opened a bottle of wine, too. The family of girls arrived and the kids were so excited to be on a sleepover in a cabin – they were lovely smiley little things that were too shy to speak to us and just listened as we chatted in a language different to their own.
After dinner, we lit the wood-burning stove and some candles and opened our books to read for a while. The cabin did have some electricity, fired by solar panels on the roof, but there was no need to use it. We headed to bed early, and found our room to be really cosy (it was above the wood-burner!) and comfy. We must have been asleep in seconds! When we woke up, the sun was out and Mike was brave enough to have his morning wash in the lake – brr! I just heated a basin of water on the wood-burner and threw it over myself on the balcony instead – much warmer :o) After a very chilled out morning, we were left alone in the cabin so we decided to head our ourselves to a nearby lake. While Mike fished I picked wild blueberries – I was much more successful than him and we came home with no fish but a bowl full of berries. On our arrival we discovered we had some new neighbours for the night – a group of two dads and their kids, and two men who both volunteered for DNT and who were up to do some odd jobs around the cabin. We spent another lovely night eating some great food that Mike cooked up and drinking wine by candlelight.
The next morning we woke to clouds hanging low over the surrounding hills, and after a very brief wash in the lake for me, and a sweep and mop of our room, we decided to head back to the car. The hike was a little more challenging on our return journey as, although it was dry for our walk, it had been raining heavily all night and the moorland was slick with mud. We both plunged into deep boggy puddles a few times on our way home! As much as I enjoyed the walk, I was awfully happy to see Viking (our Norwegian Volvo) in the car park at the bottom of the waterfall we had first walked up.
Mike and I split the drive home and then took turns to have a reaaaaaally long, hot shower when we got home. I made us salmon with dauphinoise potatoes for supper and we napped on the sofa as half-watched comedies played on the TV. A fantastic weekend and one we will definitely repeat in future.