( Originally Published 1881 )
THE scenery of the upper end of Lake Totak is impressive, the Raudland fjelds rising 2840 feet above its deep green water. From here the narrow. Songadal, in one place entirely blocked by immense rocks, wends its way in a north-westerly direction. While roaming alone towards the Songa Lake, in-tending from there to reach the mountain farm of Boerunuten, I was overtaken by a fearful storm. The rain was cold, and the wind was blowing almost a gale; the mist was so thick that I could not recognize the outlines of the mountains as landmarks, and I lost my way. As I was wandering, trying to find the path, I came upon a saeter, where I found two men from Lower Thelemarken, who had charge of some cattle. The sight was most welcome, for it was getting dark. They proved to be old acquaintances. Great was their astonishment when I entered the hut; they tried their best to entertain me, put more logs on the fire, and gave me of their homely food with delight. Kittel, a bright fellow, said, jokingly, "Friend Paul, this is the Kong's hotel ;" and we had a good laugh over it, for the place was very uninviting. Dirty straw on the ground was our bed, and the sheepskins were far from clean. They apologized for the poor accommodation they had to offer me, and said that, if it had not been so late, they would have taken me to a girl sorter,"which you know, Paul," they added, "is much cleaner than those belonging to men."
The next day, the weather having become fair, I bade good, bye to my friends and continued my hunting all alone, the district being well known to me. On the way I was suddenly startled by a heavy tramping, and a group of eleven horses, which seemed overjoyed at the sight of man, came towards me gambolling and frisking; they belonged to different sæters, and had been left to browse for the summer. One day it was dark when I reached a saeter, a plain stone hut, where I could see the light of a blazing fire through the cracks of the door, and hear the sound of voices. I knocked, and said, "Won't you open the door to the stranger?" Soon the wooden bolt, which is used to prevent the cattle from getting in, was drawn, and I saw two women, one a young girl of about twenty years, and the other older. The hut was clean ; a bed was perched high tip, and on one side was the fireplace; on the shelves were vessels containing milk. The women in charge did not compare favorably, either in looks or tidiness, with those we had met in the Hardanger saeters. This sæter had 26 milch cows, 20 head of cattle, and 2 horses. The place was on the bank of a mountain stream-the Valasjo—which empties into the Sanga Vand.
The journey northward over the Sauerfiot was very pleas-ant, as the plateau was undulating, the ground firm under-foot, and the morasses hard on account of the dry summer. Cairns of stones several feet in height had been placed at short distances apart, almost always in sight of each other, to show the way, and the country was covered everywhere with lichen.
Not far from Songa Vand is the lonely mountain farm of Baerunuten, where I was received with great kindness by the family.
The sudden cold snaps warned me that winter in the higher regions was coming. From Baerunuten I went into Grungedal, and found myself on the superb high-road which crosses from Hardanger,, to Christiania, intending to traverse the Haukelid fjelds to Roldal, and thence to Odde. On the way I noticed in. deep bogs large fir-trees—no doubt remains of extensive forests, where now young trees could not grow. The swamps in many parts of Norway are encroaching on the dry land.
The darkness at night in deep valleys overshadowed by mountains is so intense, before snow has fallen to cover the ground, and when the sky is cloudy, that sometimes one cannot see two steps before him ; I have myself, on several occasions, after moving a few paces from a door, been unable for awhile to find it again, and felt the same sensation of bewilderment that I have experienced in a blinding snow-storm.
From Grungedal, a poor district with a few farms, the road ascends gradually to the Haukelid fjelds, skirting many lonely lakes. On the shores of the Vaagslid Vand is the comfortable farm of Botnen, and farther on Vaagslid farm. The highest lake, and the last on the route, is the Staa, 3010 feet above the sea: there ended the road which is in the course of construe-awn ; the laborers had left for their homes, as at that late season of the year work had to be suspended.
On the shores of the Staa Vand is Hankelid peter, which is now a comfortable mountain-house, having been built by the Government for the accommodation of travellers. I reached the place just in time to escape a snow-storm, which lasted the whole of the night aid part of the following morning. It was the last day of September, and the year before at the same spot I had experienced similar weather ; the difficulty I had in crossing the mountains with my friends from Roldal came back vividly before me, for we had to tramp in the new-fallen snow, often sinking to our waists, and falling against the partly concealed rocks.
Friend Knut Bjorgufsen, who had now charge of the place, gave me a most hearty welcome : a good, honest fellow he is, and within the hospitable walls of the house the time was far from seeming long.
When the weather became fair he proposed to me to visit the farm of Havredal, on Lake Bordal, 2830 feet above the sea. I accepted at once, for Ole Ormsen, the owner, was a good friend of mine. Soon after this we started, and, after a brisk walk of four or five miles in an easterly direction, came to the place. Ole could hardly believe his eyes when he saw me. He immediately produced a bottle of spirits, of which he kept a small stock for special occasions; he drank a skal in my honor, and welcomed me to his farm ; a feast was then prepared, and it was late when we retired. To Knut and me was given the guest-room up-stairs, and we slept in very comfort-able beds. Ole and Knut came to the conclusion that if I wished to cross to Röldal I must hurry, or the snow might be-come too deep; and both were to take me there. After another day of feasting at Haukelid saeter, and the drinking of the last two bottles of Knut's port, early the next morning, with a clear sky, we started for Roldal, where we arrived before dark.
Lake Roldal,1200 feet above the sea, is in a deep hollow surrounded on all sides by mountains. At its northern extremity is the church, and farms are numerous on its shores. Ole and limit found themselves at home, for, like myself, they had here a number of good friends. Hearty was the welcome given to me by my comrades, who had crossed with me the year before; the same round of feasting was here repeated at different farms—at Rabbi, Hagen, Haugen,Yuvet,and others —where I had to tell all I had done since I had left. Among my friends was old Jakob, who loved to talk about literature and travels while his son-in-law was making boots; he was al ways sorry when I wanted to leave, and never failed to say, "Come soon again, and have another talk."
The road from Roldal to Odde is very steep after leaving the Iake, and traverses a broken, wild region, whose Iandscape delights the beholder; and after one of these abrupt descents (Odde is reached. There I found the inner part of the Hardanger fjord frozen for two or three miles, and the steamer had to lie: along-side the ice. Winter had come.