The Priest and Lyse's Bottom

After John's (fairly) early morning swim, the herons returned to contemplating their reflections in the unrippled waters of the bay, occasionally taking a delicate step forward to see if the view was better from a different angle. The three waterside houses, each with its quay, beach and freshly painted flagpole stood untroubled by human habitation. This idyll was suddenly broken by the throb of a helicopter which flew overhead carrying a bundle of planks which it lowered into the woods beyond the head of the bay, and then roared off to collect another load, and another. Someone was building a house and the builders were making their deliveries in the cheapest way possible. The herons departed squawking in disgust and we left too and nipped across to the entrance to Lysefjord.

Soon we were sailing under genoa alone between cliffs that towered 2000 ft above us. The gullies near the top were still filled with snow. On occasion, waterfalls plummeted down, their very height making them appear fine and narrow. Five miles up the fjord, a square of rock emerges in a vertically tapered wedge from the adjacent cliffs, mimicking the structure of a flying pulpit. This is one of Norway's iconic beauty spots called the Preikestolen - the 'priests rock' or sometimes 'pulpit rock'. Those with the nerve and energy make the 3 mile walk up from the last bus-stop and stand on the overhanging edge with the fjord nearly half a mile beneath them. We later found out that you could pay someone to help you jump off and glide down with a parachute and an instructor for company. Further up the fjord, the cliffs tower even higher and the fjord narrows. Here Norske Hydro have established a power plant buried deep in tunnels in the mountain; and a little community to service it at the head of the fjord - a place called Lysebotn.

Seeking bread and milk we went ashore; silence.

There were houses, all smartly painted, but as so often in Norway, no evidence of Norwegians. A German camper van drove down to the quayside, turned around and drove away. Eventually we split forces, with J & V striding towards a distant church steeple and R searching closely through the buildings for signs of life. Eventually he sighted two men reading newspapers in a cafeteria. "Goddag". Silence. "`Jeg vil gjerne en flaske melk". One of them looked up. "Do you speak English?" Fortunately this was one language that R thought he had mastered, so he was given to understand that the only place able to supply milk and bread was the campsite. Unfortunately this was closed as the season was yet to commence, and the lady there said the nearest shop was some way up the road. "How far?". "Oh, about 100 kms I think" she said. So a reluctant owner was eventually persuaded to part with 0.5 lt. milk for an outrageous sum in cash.

'Lyse's bottom' was the site in November 1942 of a crash landing by British commandos on a mission to sabotage the German heavy water plant near Ryuken in the Telemark region to the north-east. Those who survived the crash were all shot by the Germans, and a small memorial on the quayside records these events and the later death of the local Norwegian policeman who was executed in his place of work. Another attempt in '43 was more successful with the raiders making it down from their landing site in the mountains in the dead of the Norwegian winter. Most of the saboteurs made it out to the Swedish border. But the Germans rebuilt the plant, only to have it bombed in November '43 by an 142 plane raid organised by the US airforce - but even this was not fatal. In '44, the Germans decided to take their heavy water out of Norway, but this involved a ferry crossing. The remaining saboteurs placed a delayed action explosive charge on the ferry and thereby terminated Germany's attempt to build a nuclear bomb.

On our way back down the fjord alone amongst all that grandeur, we were buzzed by a helicopter of the Norwegian air-force, who hovered around us and quite probably read our name. A little later, the thin grey shape of a large Norwegian coastguard vessel manoeuvred menacingly through the mists, preceded by a police launch and followed by a black shape of a rib filled with men who were dressed as if members of the Norwegian equivalent of the S.B.S.. We were glad we had eventually registered our presence with the Norwegian Excise. That evening we crept as inconspicuously as possible into an anchorage at Derviga, a few miles from the fjords entrance.

Pleasure boats carrying imaginary Norwegians came noisily up to the quay on the far side of the bay and discharged their invisible passengers for a riotous evening in a hidden hostelry. J and V stayed up late and reported sighting some actual merry-makers returning after midnight. They got on the boat and then off it again and started searching under the jetty and in upturned dinghies. Maybe there are Trolls in these parts.

At Forsand on the entrance to Lysefjord, we found and used the local 'pant automat'. You put your old 'panter' in the machine which counts them and issues you with a ticket. You take the ticket to the nice lady at the counter who gives you Krone. So there you are Jane; our 'pants' were returned, not just turned inside out. (You will all know, of course, something we didn't, at least not initially; that is that 'pant' is the Norwegian for 'empties'. What a bloomer!)

After refuelling, reprovisioning and rewatering, we motored along to Fiskeviga, which lived up to its name by providing John with three cod in 15 minutes fishing, and then proceeded to the tiny island of Rossoy, a truly beautiful nature reserve (see picture) separated from its neighbouring island by an interestingly narrow passage, disguised by a missing buoy.

We had a late lunch on the quayside and later a fine barbecue. We were joined in the early evening by an outing from Stavanger's bible school who did not invite us to their party and much later by a Norwegian guy, Mikel, his Ukrainian girlfriend and German speaking associate, an East German business acquaintance and his friend, who did invite us to their party. We provided some whisky, they the wine and some toasted marshmallow and the conversation flowed in three languages till nearly 2 am when they left only because the Ukrainian needed to be at work by 7.

Amongst the recommendations Mikel made was that we should visit Hidle. This tiny island has a wonderful garden, marvellous palm trees, orange, lemon and pineapple trees, glorious tulips of all colours, nasturtiums in bloom, snapdragons and lily ponds. We were greeted by the non-Norwegian chef with "Have you made a reservation?". "Que?!" We came alongside. There is also a posh restaurant on the island. Their business model is to offer a package deal of garden tour plus five course luncheon for a modest 550 Kr per head - or slightly more than the annual subscription to the Haugesund Sailing Association. So we talked our way onto the island, and because we were such nice people, had a quick tour of the gardens before declining luncheon with promises to return.

So off we went to find our own beauty spot, and there V's and J's skills combined to produce deep fried cod in a beer batter with chunky chips. R's skills focused on the eating. The meal ended with the exotic Voltair cheeseboard of mixed Orkney and Norwegian extraction. An afternoon of maintenance led to an evening cruise up to the NE part of the Ryfylke. Much intricate rock dodging.

David Stanley wins the prize for his answer to the latest quiz; 'sportsdykking' is of course scuba-diving. (You didn't think it was anything else did you?). And the answer to Christine's special question was 'Nie og nei' - or possibly something else.

Best wishes from John, Vaughan and Robin

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