With our plans altered because of the closure of Gudvangatunnelen, we decided to make the most of our opportunity. Gudvangen is a hamlet situated at the head of the famous Nærøyfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and listed as the number one natural heritage site by National Geographic. With mountains towering up to 1,800m (6,000 ft), the fjord stretches some 18km (11 miles) and is a mere 500m (1,600 ft) wide at its narrowest point. This combination of height and width keep it almost entirely protected from the wind, making it an ideal spot for kayaking.
After verifying ferry schedules, we rented kayaks and paddled out towards the mouth of the fjord, stopping for lunch on a grassy knoll perched under a majestic waterfall. Along the way, we made our way past the tiny hamlet of Bakka, hugging the shore below one of the highest points in the fjord. The sheer scale of your surroundings makes you feel insignificant, the rockslides a testament to the constant instability and evolution of the surroundings. A brief rain shower gave way to brilliant sunshine, illuminating the granite cliffs and providing a stark contrast to the lush green foliage.
Back in Gudvangen, we only had enough time to repack our luggage before catching the last ferry of the day for our two hour journey to Aurland. It was bizarre abandoning our car meters from the tunnel which would have allowed us to make the same journey in a matter of minutes only two days earlier. Such is the reality of this inhospitable landscape but also the reason for its beauty.
The ferry-ride out of the fjord took us past the same spots we had kayaked. However, by now the weather had turned and we got a glimpse of the fjord in a brief thunder and lightning storm. Part way out we passed a small complex of buildings known as Styvi, trailhead for a popular hiking trail along the shores of the fjord and home to the smallest post office in Norway. A red light at the end of the dock signals for the ferry to pick up passengers. The boat does not even touch the dock, reversing thrust at the last moment and giving passengers mere seconds to jump on.
Near the mouth of the fjord is Lægdafossen, one of the primary waterfalls on Nærøyfjord, dropping a total of 575m (1,900 ft). Even more impressive is Kjelfossen, the 18th highest waterfall in the world at 760m (2,500 ft) and situated almost directly above the entrance to Gudvangatunnelen. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a suitable picture of the later because of a lack of proper wide-angle lense.