We are exploring a fjord region of Norway called Ryfylke; very near Stavanger although we’ve not yet ventured into the city. Our guidebook covers several fjords, yet suggests not to bother with fjords (excellent guide, Norway Mainland Coast, Fjords and Islands, Including Svalbard and Jan Mayen by Judy Lomax published by Imray), rather recommends to stick to the islands and admire the views from afar. From a sailing perspective, the wind in a fjord is either funneling inward our funneling outward and the wind strength can build quickly. This means a sailor is likely to motor upwind in order to reach the destination at the head of the fjord, never so lucky for a downwind sail certainly not in both directions. The fjords extend miles inland, and having presumably motored so far upwind, there are often no rewarding anchorages at the head or even along the way simply because the depths are tremendous. We wanted a little sampling of fjords, however, so with the aid of our guidebook and Norway’s tourist information (also excellent) we’ve selected a few (short in distance fjords) in Ryfylke.
Sandsfjorden was our first stop. This fjord extends miles and miles, but just near the entrance there is a branch that we traveled into that was truly remarkable. At the head, a visitors’ dock at Vatlandsvågen, which was absolutely necessary because the depth was 33m (roughly 100ft) and it would have been impossible to anchor. The visitors’ dock will be fondly remembered as it is a rare find to have a grocery store (Joker), fuel dock (diesel & gasoline), and laundry all within a few feet of the dock and here we were in the middle of a mountainous fjord! All the amenities (water, electric, wifi) were also included in our dock fee which was a whopping 100NOK (12USD) per day; except showers, they always try to getcha for that little bit of hot water. The facilities at Vatlandsvågen were clean, lovely, and the manager at Joker running the entire show was accessible, helpful, and friendly. I asked him when it would get busy for the season since the docks were empty aside from four permanent local boats, “July,” he replied.
From Vatlandsvågen we had easy access to the trailhead for Grytenuten (“grr-eeet-nuten”). This hike was described as difficult, and that was entirely accurate! Certainly our winter flatlands of the Netherlands had not prepared us and we found several new muscles as we trekked up, and up, and UP roughly 8km to the 779m (2,555ft) summit of Grytenuten.
The hike was spectaclar; dramatically changing landscape and scenery the entire way kept us distracted while we sweated out each sip of water from our camelbacks and “Uh’ed” and “Ooh’ed” each step UP. Typical, that we’d ease into Norway. As we neared the top of Grytenuten, surprise waterfalls and pools would spring out from behind the rocks. Patches of snow were melting rapidly. At the top, we enjoyed a hearty snack and signed the guestbook. The views extended across the islands well beyond Stavanger, Haugesund, o’er the Folgefonna glacier, and neighboring fjords Vindafjorden and Josenfjorden. We met a fellow hiker, Norweigian who lived across the way in yet another fjord, who tackled the trail after finishing work that afternoon. It was his first time up Grytenuten too and it was fun to get acquainted. We talked just long enough for the summit breeze to have chilled our sore muscles and then bounded down feeling fit for at least 1/4 of a mile.
The following day, our cool down hike was a 6km trail/tractor road/public road ’round the lake, Grytevatnet. It was chilly, in fact, a north wind rushed down the fjord. “Gryte” means a kettle, or pot on the stovetop. Grytenuten is the pot and Grytevatnet the water poured down from the pot. We took advantage of that chilly north wind to sail away from the dock that afternoon and all the way out of the Sandsfjorden, flying the genoa and coasting along between 7-8 knots!