Bristol Canoe Club - Norway Trip 1996
See our Club Magazine (Autumn 1996) for a write-up of the trip, with some pictures!
15 members of Bristol Canoe Club, plus two 'hangers on', ventured to Norway in July 1996 for a bit of white water paddling. Standards varied from a few who hadn't done much grade 3, to a couple who wanted to paddle grade 5 every day.
Some of us had problems with holiday availability, so we only managed to book a week's holiday. We left Bristol on Friday 12th July, and arrived back on Monday 22nd July.
We had decided to go to the Oppland region, about 100 miles north of Lillehammer, after studying the Elvepadling book: Elvepadling, by Flakstaad and Ongstad, White water Canoeing Guide to Southern Norway - ISBN 82-90674-00-7, published in 1987. This lists loads of rivers, mostly grade 3 to 5. The Oppland region still has lots of water listed for July. Earlier in the year it is worth going further east, where the rivers are glacier fed.
The Elvepadling book is not quite so detailed on river descriptions as some other guides, but it includes a lot of other detail like water levels and seasons.
It turns out that this year the Oppland region didn't have much snow, so the rivers were fairly low. There was still a little bit of snow left on the mountains, but mostly the rivers were rain fed rather than glacier.
Monday - River Sjoa
On the first day we started with a warm up on the Sjoa. We did about 10km grade II+ (III-) to III+ (IV-). Actually, the water level was low, so this was nowhere harder than III. This was a great introduction. The Sjoa is bigger than it looks from the road, but straightforward. It reminded me a little of the River Usk in Wales.
Tuesday - River Lora
We did about 10km, grade III (IV), IV+ (V), and III-IV. Again, the low level meant it was only just a grade IV. Some of our group opted out of the second half, but the rest had a fun paddle. It flows through a small gorge, with lots of rocky shelves and undercuts, so care is needed. Justin got the award for hand-surfing a stopper and missing 4 pairs of paddles which were thrown to him!
Wednesday - River Atna
Again, about 10km, but the road along the river is closed to the public, so the car shuttle has to go the long way round. Grade III, then III-IV, then II-III. A bit thin at first, then a few grade 4 rapids which took a couple of our party by surprise. This finished with a long-ish section which slowly got easier and easier.
Thursday - River Jori
The Guide book says 'one of our favourite rivers'. We can see why. 11km through a severe gorge, grade IV (IV+). This was still a bit low, but certainly testing. It reminded me a lot of the Upper dart in Devon, but in a gorge. One paddler had severe problems after swimming, and decided to portage most of the rapids, which wasn't easy. We ended up paddling her boat down most of it for her, while she walked around each rapid. You really need to be confident on grade 4 for this. We got on the water at about 2.30pm, but didn't manage to get off until 10.30pm! Luckily it is still light then. Three people walked out from about two-thirds of the way, by climbing up to a side road - no easy feat! They left their boats by the river for the next day.
Friday - River Jori and River Sjoa
Three people went back to the Jori to paddle the boats down the last section. This was excellent fun when no longer tired!
We all decide to re-do the Sjoa, to give our 'beginners' a chance to relax a little. This was great fun again. The river had dropped again, but this just provided more play waves.
Saturday - Sjoa canyon
We had to start our return journey, but a contingent headed off early to do the Sjoa Canyon, which was on the way home anyway. This is not much further up river, but is in a gorge, grade III-IV (IV+). This was easier than they expected, and great fun.
Fun rivers. Don't take beginners - the guide book doesn't give much less than a grade IV. There are loads of other rivers you can see from the roads, but you don't know whether they disappear into grade VI drops just around the corner. So we stuck with the guide book.
The only other paddlers we really saw were on the Jori, plus rafters and a couple of kayaks on the Sjoa. There is a slalom site on the Sjoa, but we didn't manage to get a close look at it because of the lack of time.
In July it was still daylight at 11pm, and it never got completely dark. This meant that late nights and late mornings were the order of the day.
We don't have a minibus, so we arranged a convoy of 5 cars. The Ferry from Newcastle to Bergen takes about 24 hours, and goes three times per week. Cost is 320 for a car load, or 400 with cabins. The cabins sell out early. The Ferry company are strict on the height limits of 2 meters. This makes it tricky to get 4 boats on a roof rack! We also took a box trailer.
The speed limit in Norway is 80kmh (50mph). The Norwegians mostly stick to this, so you can't really go faster. It is not very easy to overtake - you have to just relax and chug along at 50.
Bergen to Sjoa was 8 hour's drive, almost non-stop. We did a total of 1800 miles per car, round trip from Bristol, using between 150 and 190 petrol per car.
We were originally intending to camp, but decided that camping kit plus canoe kit would be a bit of a squash. We managed to book a great cabin, with 30 bunks, fairly near Sjoa, which is pretty central for the paddling. We booked through Norsc Holidays in Dorset (Tel: 01297 560033, web: http://www.norsc.co.uk, email: email@example.com). They were very helpful. The cabin cost 57 each for 15 people. We stayed the final night in some 'Hytte' (cabins) at a campsite on the way back to Bergen. These cost a total of 5 per person per night. For this many people you really need to book in advance!
Food and Drink
Food was pretty expensive. We took all our non-perishable stuff with us. We only ate out once, which was good at 8 each. We took loads of beer and wine with us (don't tell Norwegian customs!). It turns out that beer in supermarkets wasn't too expensive. Food on the Ferry was quite pricey.
The total cost worked out at less than 400 each, plus whatever we spent on the Ferry.
Great fun. We'll certainly go again. Next time go earlier in the year, and for longer!
Conor O'Neill - Bristol Canoe Club. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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