One of the things I wanted to do in Norway was walk up to the Preikestolen on Lysefjord. Preikestolen means ‘pupit rock’ and it’s this huge rock with a flat platfrom that sits 650 metres above sea level, right over a beautiful fjord. So the view from there is amazing. It’s an 8km round trip, and involves a walking up, up, up a mountain.
Given that my health has been pretty dodgy lately and I’ve had very little energy, I’ve become quite unfit. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do the walk. I started, in my somewhat pathetic way, ‘training’ for it by walking more and more each day until I could at least stay on my feet for that many kilometres, even if I didn’t get in any practise with hills.
Before I went, I read this beautiful article in Flow magazine, about a woman who spent 24 hours in nature with no purpose, no plan and no technology. She just followed her intuition, wandered around and looked at stuff. I had this idea that I might try to do the Preikestolen walk with the same idea. Instead of focussing on the path and my achievement, I would listen to my body, rest whenever I needed to, and just wander along the path and enjoy looking at stuff.
I stayed at a hostel at the base of the Preikestolen trail. It was gorgeous and I couldn’t believe I got to sleep in one of those little grass-roofed huts.
The walk is incredibly popular with tourists and busloads come in every day, so I decided to go super early, and embarked off at 5.30am (thank you, jetlag!) to miss the crowds. I had the path to myself most of the way which was lovely.
Here’s what the path looked like much of the way. The first bit was the hardest. My thighs burned and my heart raced and I thought no way would I be fit enough to do this. But by the end of the first steep bit, I was kind of warmed up and my thighs didn’t burn any more. I did have to keep resting though and was really glad not to be doing this walk with anyone else, so I didn’t have to feel embarrassed about how often I paused to look around. Thanks to my commitment to listen to my intuition, I embraced my frequent stops and enjoyed taking in the beautiful nature.
After the second steep bit, I was gaining confidence. My thighs and feet were holding out, and I made an effort to walk confidently and quickly as I went up. But it was such a relief to find an easy wooden path like this one.
The flatter bits were really lovely. I still had to concentrate to walk carefully and not twist my ankle on those stones. It was definitely and eye-to-the-ground kind of walk, so my regular pauses to look around were a good way to take in the actual nature.
Once I’d conqured the third and hardest steep bit, I came to this beautiful waterhole, and I figured that was a good place for breakfast and to take a real break. I’d brought berries and creme fraiche, and packed some cheese, and raw vegies to nibble on.
It was an idyllic place to rest, and I would have liked to really settle in, do some knitting and let my body recover, but it was incredibly cold. At this point, if I’m honest, my body was spent. Listening to my intuition, I would have had to turn around and go home. Also, even though I’d done most of the climbing, I was only a bit more than half way to the top, so there was a lot ahead of me. But it was all gentler stuff and I really really wanted to see the top. I had to make a decision to follow my body, or my goal to get to the top. The goal won out. So much for connecting with my inner nature! I decided to grit my teeth and continue.
I’m glad I did, because then I came to my favourite place of the whole walk – this very lovely water hole with rocks on the far side that just spoke to me. Again I tried to stop here for a while but it was just too cold to stay more than a few minutes. I needed to walk to keep warm.
Walked for ages up a steep smoother bit of rock. At this stage it was just a matter of gritting my teeth and saying it wasn’t far now. It would have felt anti-climactic to turn around and go home at this point!
The last bit of path was precarious indeed. It’s probably a good thing I couldn’t see all the way down to the fjord.
Finally, my destination. Though as you can tell, the clouds made it pretty hard to see anything.
Yep, from on the the pulpit rock, all I could see was white. Bummer. All that way….! But I’m still glad I did it. It feels like a potent lesson in life being about the journey, rather than the destination. I was glad, again, that I’d stopped so often to enjoy on the way up.
I emptied out my backpack so I could lie on it for a bit, rested for about 45 minutes, then I couldn’t bear the cold any more so headed home. I decided to just walk fast and get it over with. In many ways I was more present for the trip home because I wasn’t so daunted! I could kind of enjoy it more. But the steep bits really did my legs in and by half way my feet, ankles, calves and thighs just plain hurt.
Afterwards, my calves hurt like nothing else, but my feet, ankles, knees and thighs were fine. Phew. I’m glad I did it, especially for the bit where I got to enjoy the beautiful waterholes. But I wished I could have rested more to appreciate the nature along the way. My original plan of wandering and following my intuition was out of the question. This was a grit-your-teeth kind of walk for me. But I felt satisfied, and full up of beautiful Norway. I’ll have to do the nature-wander another time.