You know, sometimes you just gotta realise that the idea you had, which seemed so foolproof, was in fact just an idea made by a fool. The story about my hike to Vetvika is a tale about a girl who was forced to push herself to what felt like the verge of her physical and mental abilities. Yes, very dramatic. When the ordeal was finally over, I had been awake for 40 hours straight, the last 24 of them equally divided between a twelve hour drive through the night and the following twelve hiking in the mountains on Norway’s west coast. What a complete idiot.
I’ve developed a real appetite for hiking over the past couple of years, especially craving the Norwegians mountains. This summer I was set on reaching Vetvika, a secluded bay in Bremanger in the west of Norway. I came across Vetvika on Instagram and what I saw was picture perfect. White sand, green mountains and turquoise waters, Vetvika is both raw wilderness and exquisite beauty, a combination that was irresistible; I was dead set on getting there. After showing off my new obsession to a couple of my girlfriends, they were also ready for a three day adventure across the country. Oh my poor, poor friends agreeing on a trip with me, there’s wasn’t much I wouldn’t do to reach Vetvika. I ended up regretting that myself.
So, how did I end up staying awake for 40 hours straight? Initially we were leaving on a Monday morning to make the twelve hour drive over to Bremanger and hike to Vetvika the following day. Obviously that didn’t happen. Cause what did I do? I checked the weather forecast. I mean, who wants to hike in the rain? No, ta not me. This is what I saw: Monday: SUNNY, Tuesday: RAIN. About two seconds later I had my doubtful eureka moment; hey girls, what if we leave Sunday night instead, drive through the night and walk to Vetvika on Monday?? How bad can it be, we are three people so it’ll be loads of time to sleep, right? I love my girls, apprehensively they aggreed to my ridiculous plan and I was fist pumping the air before packing my bag for an early departure.
As you might’ve guessed I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night and although driving through the fjords at daybreak was incredible, I eventually exclaimed my frustration; MY EYES HAVE A FEVER!!! Around nine o’clock Monday morning we arrived in Bremanger with as much bounce in our step as a flat tire. After a quick breakfast we were ready to start the hike. The fresh air perked us up and we headed past the ‘Vetvika’ sign on the main road that led us on to a graveled road past a farm and up the mountain. If the fresh air wasn’t enough to wake us up, the increasing high pulse, heavy breathing and burning legs sure did; the hike to Vetvika is marked ‘demanding’ on The Norwegian Trekking Association’s website. If only this was the hardest part of the hike…
We took our time, pausing often and I used the increasingly impressive views as a cover for the ridiculous bad shape I was in. Although Vetvika is one of the most spectacular natural treasures in western Norway not a lot of people come here. During the twelve hours we were roaming the mountains we met a whole of four people on the same mission as us. Consequently, when looking for guidance on finding the path towards Vetvika, we were thrown off by misinterpretation, but also a somewhat inaccurate description of how to proceed from the road onto the mountain trail. In tune with the instructions we were suppose to walk towards a television transmitter on the top of Steinfjellet (mountain) turning left when we got close to the top. Well, let me tell you, that left turn ain’t nowhere close to the transmitter. Believe me, I know, cause we walked all the way to the bloody top. For a while we thought we had found the right track, but somehow the direction it was taking us didn’t add up to where Vetvika was supposed to be located. Oh well, the day was still young, so we continued along. After about half an hour we realised that our hunch about it being a dead end was right. All of a sudden the trail evaporated into mossy swamp like landscape. The air kinda went out of us at this point and eventually, after taking some time to scout the area for possible directions, we had to admit defeat and realise we were lost. At this point we had been walking for four hours, three of them going around in circles. We decided that we should go back down to where we came from and see if we had overlooked the initial turn we should’ve taken, if not we would just have to return home without even a glimpse of the whole reason we were here. Man, was I disappointed.
We had been walking around twenty minutes when we spotted someone walking on top of a mountain on the opposite side of where we had just come from. OH MY GOD, LOOK!! PEOPLE! THERE ARE PEOPLE WALKING OVER THERE!!! Yes, the enthusiasm should not be understated. After inspecting their direction we could see that they were heading back down towards us. No doubt they had come from Vetvika. It was around this time that we saw the tiny path that shot off from the road and heading towards our new best friends. And what do you know, there were the marked sticks that we were suppose to follow. The disappointment was gone and we were filled with a new energy; Vetvika, we are coming for you!! It was now three o’clock in the afternoon, but never mind, I had not walked nearly five hours on this godforsaken mountain to turn around after finally finding the right path. Luckily, summer in Norway means daylight into the late hours. Pumped up on realising that Vetvika was within reach, we headed back into the mountains.
After getting on the right track it was full speed ahead, as we were aching to get there. Throughout the day, the clouds had been heavy around us, but we figured it was due to our location. Bad weather usually accumulates in the mountains, but as we looked towards the ocean we could see the clouds cracking and revealing the beautiful, blue sky. We were crossing our fingers, but only slightly; it was forecast sun after all.
After spending the morning and early afternoon roaming around like headless chickens, the hike to Vetvika was smooth sailing and went surprisingly fast. Closing in on two hours walking, we could see the horizon opening up. We were getting very close to our goal. Running crazy on adrenaline, I broke into a jog, desperately wanting to see the turquoise waters glow in the sunlight. Then, all of a sudden it was there as familiar as in the photos, but at the same time alien, as if I had never seen it before. As usual, pictures don’t do nature justice. The share size and grandeur of Vetvika, I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams. Perfection.
After a well deserved breather while taking the obligatory pictures and enjoying the spectacular views, we were ready to feel the sand between our toes. Although we didn’t realise it at the time, the highlight at 550 meters above the sea would seem so endlessly far away only a short time after. We were heading straight towards rock bottom in every sense.
There’s no point in sugarcoating the next stage of our hike. Despite the beautiful view, the walk down to Vetvika was bloody awful. By now the trail was more or less completely hidden by grass and rocks that had tumbled down the side of the mountain. Combined with the fact that it was wet, muddy and ridiculously steep, those 500 hundred meters was the most exhausting part of our hike so far. Every single step was a struggle, as we were forced to hold back in fear of loosing our grip or trip over the rocks that would send us plunging down the hill, beaten senseless all the way to Vetvika’s beautiful shore. Not before long my knees had had enough of the uninterrupted pressure my body was giving every time I moved. Likewise my thighs were getting real tired of doing deep, slow squats to keep me balanced and safe from a fall that would definitely hurt like hell. The descent seemed endless and it took us a good hour before we were finally on flat ground and able to shake loose the horrid sensation in our legs.
Just as ordered, the weather was absolutely amazing. Down at the beach we met the other two of the four people we ran into that day. They had brought a tent and were spending the night. Sweet. We sat down on the cool sand and turned our heads towards the sky, feeling the warmth of the sun and breathing in the fresh air. This could’ve been the perfect summer’s day had it not been for the inescapable nightmare we were facing on our return to Bremanger.
I do not know exactly what numbed my brain to such a high dysfunctional level, but I’d like to blame the fact that I had been up for way too many hours when we started walking. Cause what idiot brings a cup of soup, a handful of pasta and an energy bar on an eight hour hike? Me. I did that. At seven o’clock, I finished off the rest of my sorry excuse of food supplies, sitting on the beach tired, but happy and still completely unaware that the next three hours would be one of the worst experiences of my life.
The hike to Vetvika is a loop like trail meaning that we would walk another way back and join the path we had come from only when we were getting close to the graveled road we started out on. In other words, we had no clue what lay ahead. The only thing we were sure of was that we, under no circumstances, were heading back up where we had come from. What were we thinking? We had come down the mountain so it should’ve been obvious, without a shadow of a doubt, that we had to get back up. But no. We left Vetvika and continued to follow the sticks past a small water that headed straight towards a wall of rocks. I swear, it was the height of Mount Everest. Already at this point we were wining our heads off, constantly complaining about how tired we were. As the mountain kept coming closer, we began exchanging desperate looks that eventually turned into cold fear when it dawned on us that we actually had to climb the deviled mountain. From this point on I cursed the day I saw the first photo of Vetvika. So beautiful, so deceitful… I freakin’ hated this place.
The terrain was vile. Not only was it steep, but massive rocks were blocking the path and the first part of the ascent was literally rock climbing. Finally, we reached a flat plateau but that was all just a massive tease as it only led us to an even steeper section that truly had NO END in sight. Every time we thought we could make out the finish line, we would swear on our lives that if this was not it, we wouldn’t make it. And it felt real. At this point I had been awake for almost 40 hours, nearly starved my body for just as long and walked over ten hours in challenging mountain terrain. Wow, did my plan backfire. But we kept on walking until we eventually, after numerous shattered illusions of completion, could see the familiar sight of the road that marked the end of this hellish hike.
I don’t have enough words to describe how horrible those last three hours were. I have never been so exhausted in my life. I was on the verge of tears because there was nothing more to give, my body aching from shoulders to hips, to knees to my dreadfully sore big toe and its nail that was red, then blue and then black until it eventually died two months later unable to survive twelve hours kicking the inside of a mountain boot. As if the physical pain was not enough, I spent the last hour retching as my stomach was screaming for food every five minutes. Stumbling down the road, we somehow made it to the car and could finally wake up from this indescribable nightmare that I totally and completely had brought upon myself. Never ever have I been happier to get away from nature and I swore I would never see Vetvika again.
Getting out of bed the next day was just such a waste. I woke up at ten, not even close to feeling rested and for a moment I wondered what the fudge I had done to be aching so much that even breathing felt like a chore. Then I remembered the previous day and shook my head. What the hell was I thinking…
It’s been three months since that gruesome day, but the horrible memories have been replaced with multiple lessons learned on how not to try and kill yourself. They do really speak for themselves, but I was so hyped up on Vetvika that all sense and logic was highjacked by a complete lack on judgement on how to do anything that didn’t make me out to be the most inexperienced hiker the world has ever seen. Looking back, I know that the pain of that day was completely self-inflicted and had I not acted such a fool it would’ve been one of the best days ever. For weeks I kept ranting on about how Vetvika was not worth the ordeal it was to get there, but I have to admit that it totally was. Because it was the epic beauty of Vetvika that made me lose my mind for two days, completely obsessed with the sight of it. Now, what I remember best is yet another incredible encounter with nature, experiences that truly move me. I might’ve pushed myself too far to reach Vetvika, but then again I’m still alive aren’t I? Moreover, it is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever come across. The hike is indeed challenging, but with the right amount of sleep, food and time (as if this needs explaining to anyone but myself), it is undoubtedly worth it. If I ever get the chance to see Vetvika again I’ll make sure I’ll do it in a more sane mindset. Or maybe I’ll just buy a boat and cruise in from sea, very conscious of not taking a single step to reach this hidden beach paradise.