Middle Valldøla and a surf at Skjåk - Norway

Another overcast morning arrived and with it another day of paddling. Well, not for me though. After two disastrous paddles I was going to sit this one out. Even if it was an easy section I thought it would be far better for my body, and mind, to take a break. When the others got onto the river that morning it still felt sad not to be joining them and I questioned myself but stood by what I thought was the right to do.

From the overnight camp I started driving back along the narrow dirt road. After about two hundred meters the road came alongside the river and I found a small spot to leave the car while I got into position to take a few photos. It was a small rapid and nothing special but the aquamarine water and the breathtaking mountains made for a fantastic opportunity to get in a few general scenery combined with some paddling shots. I had only just arrived when Colin came through and quickly followed then by the rest.


Jussi concentrating.


Jussi enjoying the easy rapids and incredible scenery.


Tuomas coming through. Note the fine surroundings.


Leon running it easily too.


The last I saw of the group.



In the morning we were all feeling a little bit slow as it was already fourth day on our road trip-in-a road trip with Jussi, Colin and Leon. Originally Jussi had convinced boys to join him for a day trip to upper Rauma, which was oddly escalated  into a four day boating mission. Adrian decided no to paddle the day and when I was on the river in my wet gear shivering, trying to keep my hands warm in freezing water, I didn’t question his decision a bit!

The run started with some technical boulder gardens and fairly continuous class III boogie water. We made good progress eddy-hopping and soon became to more distinctive drops which proved to be fairly big slides. We would eddy out above and watch Colin or Jussi probe the drops in their fearless style. For me and Leon it was a bit more intimidating, but we would just look each others and charge after them. It worked out very well and the slides were super fun with the ample flow we had. Towards the end, between the road bridge and the take-out the river forms a short mini-gorge we had the only drop we scouted from the bank – The triple Offermann. Named after an unfortunate german swimming from the hole three times in a row we made extra sure to pull on the boof strokes. No claims for the hole this time and after a short floating we met Adrian at the take-out.


I drove further up until I reached the main road going down to Valldal. From higher up I waited for them to appear and took another shot. That was the last I saw of them and I made my way down to the take-out. It was easy to find and I pulled in behind Jussi’s car. While I waited to kill time I found some more flowers to photograph and some small butterflies tested my patience to the maximum as I tried to get a perfect shot of them. That didn’t work out as planned so I had to settle for capturing a fly inside of a flower and chasing around a bumble bee that only just allowed me to get one shot of him as he moved from flower to flower.


Jussi's car at the take-out. Fine surroundings.


One of the few birds around. There are hardly any birds in Scandinavia in comparison to South Africa and it seems a far more limited variety. I guess the harsh climate is tough on these little buggers.


A small, er bug, I suppose. Bumble Bee?


Peekaboo, I see you!


The river is far bigger here than the upper section.


The wait wasn’t too bad and after an hour or two or so they appeared on the horizon. It seemed they had had a good time and enjoyed the rapids. One particular rapid called the Triple Offermann giving them a few nervous moments in the otherwise class III and IV stretch of about six kilometres. You will notice that the river is much larger here already. That always fascinated me about Norway. You can drive alongside a river and it may be quite small and puny and then within a few kilometres it can grow into a considerable beast rather fast. There is just so much water in Norway it’s unbelievable! From every mountain you can see streaks of white as freezing water crashes down towards the rivers that inhabit every valley floor. The whitewater kayakers dream, that I can promise you!


Tuomas Vaarala.


Colin Furmston (left) and Leon Bedford (right)


Jussi Tanskanen.


Just downstream of the take-out there is a serious class V section and then the river goes through some bad siphons and tight passages in this amazing place.


Just another stream adding volume to the river.


A strawberry farm just before Valldal. I couldn't think of a more scenic place to farm! (yum-yum!!!)


From there we took a drive down to Valldal where we stocked up with some supplies from a Spar. Pretty crazy. As the saying goes, ‘there’s a friendly Spar wherever you are.’ From Valldal we took the road slightly more west and then crossed the fjord by ferry. The trip across was about twenty minutes or so and cost probably around R80. (about 8 Euro).


The view from the ferry as we left.


A Norwegian flag of sorts flying high on the ferry.


Adrian smiling nicely for the camera.


A similar sized ferry going the opposite way.


The two cars loaded with boats and ready to be deployed on the far side.


Seeing as though this is not going to be the article you read about crazy rivers and big days on the river, I might as well take a moment to tell you a little more about Norway, from my perspective. Norway is very, very expensive. The Norwegian Krone is about 1.25 times stronger than our currency (South African Rand). This may not seem much if you think that the Euro is 10 times stronger than our Rand. But let me put things into perspective. You walk into a pub, a cheap one, and buy one beer, it costs 50 Krone. That’s R62.50 or  €6.25. That is extremely expensive. Fine you say, I just won’t drink too much then. Well, you walk into a petrol stations quick shop and buy a half litre coke. It will cost you about R25! (In SA we pay about R7) Yes, the supermarkets are cheaper but on the whole everything is damn expensive. Fuel is expensive everywhere in Europe but yet we complain here in South Africa. It costs about R13 per litre in Norway for Diesel, petrol being more. Tuomas and I clocked up just under 6000 (yes six thousand) kilometres of driving in our trip so you can imagine then that the fuel bill would have been fairly hefty. Luckily his car is a turbo diesel and with the low speeds and his good driving habits we got good consumption.


To carry on side tracking on the subject, people often ask me how much the trip cost. Well, to be honest I can’t tell you the exact amount. I managed to spend about R15 000 (€1500 – at time of going to print! hehe) on my credit card and then there’s the cost of a ticket from Johannesburg to Helsinki (via London) and then another one to Rovaniemi, the Schengen visa, the travel insurance (which you have to have to get the visa) and a few other things. Costs were mostly on food and fuel for the car but I also bought another Sweet helmet and various cool souvenirs which came to a solid amount so all in all I spent just under R30 000 (€3000). I probably spent about five or six grand on the kayaking gear and gifts for the family, girlfriend and of course, myself! So there one can cut costs already. Can you do it for cheaper? Yes, but maybe only about 20 to 30% if you really tried hard and then it might not be fun when you’re skimping on food and the occasional beers from the supermarkets. The driving around is quite costly too but at least you save on camping. Everyone is different and I’m sure there are some hardcore river rats out there laughing at the amount of cash I spent. Of course it would be very easy to spend €5000 or more in two weeks in Norway if you beefed up your accommodation standards alone.


We only stayed in a chalet for one night and in the odd camp site where we had to pay so that saved a heap of cash. If you’re coming from a place that has a weak currency, like South Africa, then be prepared to part with loads of cash. If you’re coming from the States or elsewhere in Europe it will hardly be a strain even though it would still be conceived as ‘expensive’. Expensive is when the Euro is ten times more than your own currency and the minimum wage is more than five times less in your own country. Just a thought, use it, don’t use it…


Right, so after the ferry we drove from Eidsdal to Geiranger. Some more tunnels followed as we drove on and then we went down a seriously steep hill towards the small but beautiful town of Geiranger. There were many hair pin bends and if you suffer from car sickness now was not the time. In fact, if you’re a sufferer then Norway is going to be a killer for you as the roads are extremely windy. Geiranger is probably the most scenically spectacular place I have ever seen. No doubt about it, it is really, really beautiful. If you are planning on getting married and having a honeymoon in Norway then I suggest you book at least one night here. You’ll be thanking me I’m sure!


A short tunnel this time.


Some huge waterfalls dropping into the fjord.


Looking down into the town of Geiranger.


Note the green colour of the sea! And note all of these photos, from the tunnel onwards were taken from the car...


Hmm, I wouldn't mind taking a cruise in that ship.


The stream coming into town and the view looking back. Take a careful look on the right side of the right picture and have a look at the hairpin bend road coming down.


Leon (left), Jussi (middle and trying to ge as short as Colin...) and Colin (right)


The waterfalls coming down in the fjord are huge, the river running near the town is super steep, and the water is crystal clear and a deep, sea green colour. (Well, it is the sea after all) We just drove straight through but as we passed one particular hotel it was tempting not to just splash out, book in and enjoy a good sauna again and a Jacuzzi overlooking the town. Ahh, one day I will return there.


Once we left town the road carried on in a series of bends and we gained a fair amount of altitude too. Soon there were some patches of snow and eventually there was snow everywhere. The road took us past some sort of house next to a lake and the lake was partially frozen. Now that was something I have never seen. The water was a brilliant blue colour underneath the ice and would have made some good footage for some flat water cartwheels. Too bad we were on a mission to Sjoa and carried on with the road. There were plenty of snow covered hills here with lakes in between them. These lakes would be joined by a small flow of water that grew with the passing kilometres. This area is the birth place of the mighty Otta River and it is funny to see a small stream grow into something that will rival the Zambezi (ok, not quite) in a distance of maybe thirty to forty kilometres. The section just upstream from Pollfoss runs next to the road and with these high levels it was good class IV and V water that looked pretty wild from the car. I’m sure at water level it would be spectacular, or maybe terrifying!


Getting out of town the road starts to climb.


The partially frozen lake. Ice fishing anyone?


The road levels off and then follows a contour and you notice the water building up between the hills and the start of another great river.


The Tora, a tributary to the Otta. Mikael Lantto ran the slide on the right at a lower level the previous year. Serious section this! There is loads more class V upstream.


The same slide/rapid looking up. At this level it stops becoming a slide.


Some American muscle in Norway! A fine example indeed. (I want one!!!!)


The road carries on to Lom and this is where we found the Skjåk wave on the Otta. The river is broad and large here and Tuomas decided to go for a bit of a play session while I chilled and took some photos of him. Unfortunately because of the high levels the wave wasn’t very good and pretty flushy. A nice shoulder on surfer’s right and more of a hole on surfers left. Tuomas had a sweet little session but at one stage the rain came down a little and no more photos could be taken. The play boating would have aggravated my shoulder even more and I decided I would rather sit this one out and try and save myself for the Sjoa.


Guides in training.... Need I say more  :-)


More guides training.


Tuomas Vaarala having an awesome time on the Skjåk wave. Although at this high level it is quite flushy and not as good as it can be. (Damn rain drops on the lens....pity)


Tuomas Vaarala.


Tuomas peeling out of the eddy and heading for the wave. It does have eddy service though.


Tuomas making his way back into the eddy. Check out the clear, green water! Yeehaaaaa!!! (and the small rainbow in the background)


After about an hour or so of watching Tuomas surf and checking out the guides at Lom Rafting do some training in the chilly water we called it a day and carried on with the road towards the town of Otta and then to Sjoa Camp. The road down follows the Otta and this river is the most beautiful green I have ever seen. It seems to glow as you drive past it. For the most part it is fairly placid on its lower stretches and often forms huge pools, probably even lakes that look very inviting.


Tuomas and I arrived at the Sjoa Camp later that day. This camping spot is on the banks of the mighty Lågen River. In the town of Otta, only a few kilometres upstream, the Otta flows into the Lågen. It’s weird that they call it the Lågen and not the Otta as the Otta is the bigger of the two. Well, either way, once these two rivers join it really is pretty large and provided us with a beautiful backdrop and the sound of the river would be provide us with the music required for a relaxing time. The Sjoa Camp is a great place to unwind and I highly recommend it to you if you’re in the area or wanting to paddle the Sjoa.


A dam on the Otta River before Otta itself. Some HUGE pushy water followed!


We camped on the other side right next to the Lågen River. A peaceful and relaxing spot to camp.


Our humble little home for the next few days.


The ultimate was having a shower and being able to be clean again. Wow, it felt so good to be clean. It’s funny how one can forget that clean feeling, and the clean smell! Sleep came a little easier that night and I wondered what the following day would bring. The Åsengjuvet section on the Sjoa was on the cards…






Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.


Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Sjoa – Åsengjuvet section, the play section and Åmot Gorge. (Norway)