Our day began in a small timber cabin. I climbed out of my lofted bed, lumbered over to the coffee pot just as if I were back home in Ohio, and woke my Dad—two cups of coffee in hand.
We were in Norway, on the precipice of winter. A cold draft was making its way into our quarters as we piled on layers, preparing for a long drive ahead—a particularly exciting drive, which I had spent the better part of the previous month planning. With scarves around our necks & bags slung over our shoulders, we embarked—stopping to pet our hosts' dogs on our way out, taking note of the layer of frost covering any & all surfaces not yet exposed to the early morning's sunlight.
At long last, we were heading for fjord country.
I have long been captivated by fjords. I have swooned over photographs of long, narrow inlets of sea carved into steep glacial valleys. I have dreamed of seeing them with my own eyes; of feeling their frigid waters on my skin. The fjords are among the most dramatic of Mother Earth's many forms of land & sea. And those of Norway are considered the crown jewels.
We drove, slowly, through the rugged mountain wilderness, bypassing pristine alpine lakes surrounded by barren vistas littered with stone. We would happen upon an occasional tree—harsh, stunted, struggling for air at an unfavorable altitude. The roads wound around the manifold obstacles of the landscape. We drove ten miles to advance five. We saw no one. Looking at one another, we remarked, "This is God's country."
By mid-morning, we were making our descent from the mountain ridges to the valleys. Back into myriad shades of orange and green; fall foliage accented by occasional waterfalls, soon to be followed by majestic expanses of deep, blue water. The Hardangerfjord. Pulling off to capture photographs whenever I could—and I longed to do so far more than I actually did—I marveled at what lay around every bend & kink in the road. The route that I had so meticulously planned had manifest in ways more magnificent than I could have even imagined.
But plans never really work out quite how you planned them, and before long we found ourselves being flagged down by a towering, kind-eyed Norwegian man. He told us that we could go no further, the road was closed, but we could catch a ferry across the fjord. We did so without a second thought, because there was no time for any: we were the last car on the ferry before it departed. And after picking up a much-needed road map on the other side, we simply re-directed.
Yes, we missed out on a large portion of the National Tourist Route Hardanger—of which hastily drawn maps & notes remain in various notebooks around my apartment—but we drove on other beautiful, winding roads (and how beautiful they were). Our travel time increased and we skipped breakfast & lunch, but we delighted in vantage points of the Hardangerfjord that we otherwise would not have seen.
I have found time & time again that expectation means little on the road. Every step forward is an entirely new experience, planned or unplanned. And we can choose to love & appreciate it for just that reason.
But, I am glad that I had spent enough time thinking about the route to have written down the coordinates of latitude & longitude for our final destination, in absence of a formal address. And I'm glad, too, that my Dad is a sailor who knows how to peform geographic coordinate conversions from a 'decimal degrees' format to a 'degrees minutes seconds' format. Otherwise, our whimsical, planned-or-unplanned voyage through fjord country may have ended with a night spent sleeping in a frost-covered car on the side of the road.
Instead, we laughed as we pulled up to our new abode for the night, which sat a literal "stone's throw away" from the shore of the Hardangerfjord. We were greeted by a bengal cat named Prince, whom we invited in for our routine dinner of canned fish, rice, and local beer. And we bedded down for the night, back where we started, but somewhere entirely new.