The secret house and the angry buffalo
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a journey all on your own without planning a single thing? Well, let me take you back to Norway!
It was my second day in Trondheim, a city I decided to put up my tent, just one night after getting mugged in the streets of Oslo. I was particularly excited to finally hike up a mountain and explore Norway’s wild nature. It was Sunday and since I had not planned any route and no possibility of buying a map, I just decided to go up.
The secret house
“An old man had once told me about a secret place behind that mountain over there”, André told me pointing into the distance. André was a local, roughly my age, who I had just met on the top of the mountain. “Let’s find that place!”, I cried out in excitement, knowing this was going to be something special. We grabbed our backpacks and off we went.
Two hours later. “There’s no way we’re going down there!”, I thought to myself. We had reached the mountain and were facing a steep cliff. André somehow convinced me that it would’t be that bad, so we slowly climbed down. Always looking for – well we did not know exactly what it was – a secret place. We had almost gotten to the bottom and I still couldn’t see anything. Stairs! There were stairs in the rock. We followed them to a small path and there it was: a fairytale-like little house built right into the mountain. It was so well hidden that you couldn’t see it from the mountain. Even now that we were down, it was still hard to spot.
We checked the door. It was open. We wandered inside and to our surprise everything was in best order. An old wooden table niceley decorated with red cloth and candles took up half of the room. In a corner there was a small stove and a pile of chopped wood waiting to be lit. Candles on the table, candles on the cupboards, candles everywhere! (This would have been the perfect place for a romantic date with a girl)
The hiking had made us tired and I was starting to get really hungry. We started to cook and as the smoke was coming out of the wonderfully-self-made chimney, a hunter came by. Surprised that we even knew about this place he explained us where we were:
„More than 60 years ago, during the German occupation of Norway one brave man decided to hide in the mountains all alone, to warn his fellow landsmen when the German ships would arrive. He built this small house in a way that no one could see him. Not from top of the mountain nor from the coast. Up to ten years ago no one even knew about this place and just recently a path was built.“
What path? – I thought to myself looking up the steep mountain. Apparently it had been even more difficult to reach this place some years ago. I figured the hunter knew a lot about this place and seemed to know nature quite well. So I asked him what kind of plants, mushrooms and berries I could eat here in Norway. I took some notes feeling a bit smarter. Nevertheless I was not planning on living solemnly on what nature provides me.
On my way back I gathered some mushrooms and cooked my very first non-instant soup since I got here.
The angry buffalo
„Kongsvoll“ the guy in the outdoor equipment shop suggested. I was looking for a place of adventures to spend my last four days in Norway. Kongsvoll would give just that. It’s an area of pure wilderness reaching from a deserted train station in the valley all the way up to Snøhetta, one of Norway’s highest mountains. In the midst of this rough nature you may find the infamous muskox. An arctic beast and survivor of the last ice age. Only recently reintroduced in Norway their total population is estimated to around 300 muskoxen. They were also said to be quite dangerous. Exactly what I was looking for.
When I bought my train ticket to Kongsvoll I asked the lady at the train station about this place and whether there was a supermarket (since I had once again run out of food). The lady laughed out aloud „Kongsvoll!?, There’s nothing but a train station. If you want to buy food you gotta do it now, but the train is leaving in 10 minutes!“ Challenge accepted. I ran to the supermarket across the street and grabbed as much as I could. Not knowing what I was getting I would later be surprised what a great choice I had made. Especially with the moose salami!
Next stop: Kongsvoll! I hopped out of the train and realized why the lady at the train station had been laughing. There was literally NOTHING! I had never seen such a lonesome trainstation in my life. No cars, no houses, no people. Luckily I met two hikers after a while and asked them for directions. Before I took off they warned me not to get too close to the muskoxen: „Avoid the lonesome bulls, they get aggressive easily. Keep at least a 200m safety distance! Any closer and you should start running or climb something. Either way, you’d still be screwed since the muskox can run up to 50km/h“, they assured me. (watch video of muskox high speed collision)
I accompanied the hikers for the two hours, then decided to continue on my own. Not because of their fast pace (Norwegian people run like hell), but I wanted some time alone. To reflect. To enjoy nature. And to write. I sat down on a rock, had some of the Norwegian candy and relaxed into the scenery. It was sunny and although it was freezing cold I could feel the sun warming my face. It was simply beautiful!
I don’t know how much time I spent on that rock, but I had a whole lot of energy when I continued my walk. I faced my first hill and started climbing quite fast. When I reached the top I couldn’t believe my eyes: There was a muskox bull no more than 50 meters away, heading my way. I immediately dropped my bag and ran down the hill. Not a smart idea. The muskox went after me and decided to park his big muskox ass right next to my backpack. And he did not seem like leaving any time soon.
There I was stripped away from all my stuff, watching this buffalo, not knowing what to do. I checked my pockets. All I had was my knife, a lipstick (read why) and a small cellphone for emergencies. I figured I was not going to use my knife and I couldn’t think of any way the lipstick would save my life this time. So I took the phone and tried to call my dad. I did not have signal throughout most of my journey, so I was happily surprised when my father picked up the phone. He was in a meeting. „Is it urgent?“
My dad is not how you would imagine the typical business man. He grew up on a farm, knows a lot about nature and loves to spend his holidays in South Africa where he follows his biggest passion: bow hunting.
„You gotta get yourself a long stick, at least 2 meters long, to be able to protect yourself!“.
„Dad, I’m way above the tree line. There are no sticks around here!“
He told me to pick up some rocks instead. I did as I was told, always keeping an eye on the bull.
„Just wait until he leaves and hope that he does not attack!“
I waited. And waited. I could already picture myself spending the night without my tent and a big buffalo to cuddle and keep me warm. He left. Eventually. I really needed to cover some ground now. But just as I wanted to head on, it started to snow. Huge snowflakes. Beautiful but cold! Facedown I tried to follow the path for another hour. Putting up my tent, the cold blowing wind was working against me. And when I finally got into my sleeping bag I couldn’t sleep. Not because of the cold. Not because of the fact that I was in the middle of buffalo country. But there was also something else. A constant noise was coming from underneath my tent….