Theme: A few of my favourite things
The most recent newcomer to my list of fantabulous favourite things, this is best place to start my #Write52 journey. It is an event that I will always be truly grateful for, and I feel may possibly never be trumped in the incredible view stakes.
For those who have never heard of Preikestolen, also known as Pulpit Rock, this is a viewpoint in Norway which you can hike up to and is claimed to be one of, if not the, most beautiful viewpoint in the world. And from my travel experience so far, I have to agree. You may recognise it as it was made quite infamous by Tom Cruise dangling off it in one of the Mission Impossible Movies (I bet he didn’t hike up to it though, Mr ‘I have all the monies and a private helicopter’).
It is known as pulpit rock for quite obvious reasons really - it is an imposing, platform-like rock formation over the Lysefjord, where you stand above others and survey your lands. And preach if you like. Though I was too busy trying to keep my feet firmly on the ground. More praying than preaching.
The very word hike usually puts me off an experience (seriously, just call it a walk and I’m up for it). It’s not the actual exercise, it is the vision of super serious groups with walking poles, maps in plastic carriers, walking socks over trousers, marching army-like with a massive rucksack full of Kendal Mint Cake. Plus the resulting aches and pains afterwards and the inevitable risk of my back going half way up a mountain. Basically, in my head a hike is a very knackering version of what could be a nice Sunday stroll with a pint at the end - my chap’s one demand of any walk.
But, I digress. In my research for our Norway trip I had come across images of this place of majestic beauty and was determined that this was a place we were going to. I got quite anxious in the run up, as I do. Did I have the right shoes? Would I manage it? Will the weather be terrible? What if I fall and hurt myself? Am I fit enough? Etc, etc, etc. In reality, we stormed it.
It was not a hike in a traditional sense. You basically climb a path made of huge boulders and rock formations (interestingly built and maintained by Sherpas from Nepal) for 80% of the journey up. Some of them were much bigger than my diddy legs, so it does take some real effort or a run up to get up them and I slid back down on my butt on many a rock. Hence my crunchy knees have still not forgiven me yet.
Though they tell you this is a 3.8km hike each way, the reality is that they have literally measured this in a straight line on a map (see below). It does not account for the ups, downs, and winding round you do on the way up. So we actually walked 9.4km and climbed the equivalent of 129 flights (509m) to reach it’s 604m (1981ft) summit.
Luckily the morning fog lifted and what I came to realise once we were there was that the clouds actually added such a dramatic impact and feeling of depth. It made the views all that more incredible and it is still something that one month on, I am in absolute awe of. No amount of photography can do this viewpoint justice. You just have to be there. It is truly humbling. My house is soon to be filled with panoramic prints of this wonder.
There is no more eloquent way to put that than my exclamation at the time, before the jaw dropped and I stood mesmerised. It was the kind of wind that actually blows you off your feet. Where you wobble, wobble some more, try to plant your feet wide to stay steady and take a picture. But ultimately end up crawling on all fours or shuffling on your bum to get a photo at the edge. Quite a few of the photos have come out at an interesting angle as a result, but I quite like that quirk. It reflects the experience more.
And there are no barriers up there. No nice glass wall or fencing to keep you safe that we had seen on other less deadly viewpoints. You are quite literally exposed to the elements. After the 2 hour hike up I already had legs of jelly and kneecaps that were no longer my own, then there is the addition of an extra element of danger for me as I am monumentally clumsy, often tripping over air or my own feet. So the idea of being on an uneven surface with nothing to stop me going over the edge when I inevitably tripped was frankly all the adrenaline I needed. Some crazy bar stewards actually sat on the edge for that all important Insta pic. Not for me, thank you. As myself and a random man edged ever closer to the edge (Graham was firmly on safe ground somewhere at this point musing over his picnic), we both got gusted off our feet and decided that a metre from the edge was more than adequate from the seriously steep drop straight into the freezing fjord below. Though I suppose there’s worse ways to go.
We did this expedition on the last day of our holiday and boy did we save the best until last. This was the perfect way to end what was a magnificent, mesmerising trip - likely to be the content of another post in this series. I highly recommend that you dust off those walking shoes, get your head for heights together and get hiking, as it really is the most beautiful viewpoint in the world.