How we got lucky and chose Åmotan (“where the waters meet”) from among the phenomenal natural attractions in Norway outlined in our four guidebooks and countless online searches I’m not sure.
Perhaps it was this single sentence about it in Insight:
Between the head of Sunndalen and Grødalen, next door at Åmotan, a spectacular gorge, Jenstadjuvet, is the place where five valleys and their watercourses meet in three furious waterfalls.
Maybe because of one of these Google finds:
Niagra of the North, a little-seen spot home to some of the tallest waterfalls in the world.” Or, “Åmotan just south of Gjøra in Sunndal, and only 30 min from Oppdal, is very much worth a visit, as this type of natural water system cannot be found anywhere else in Norway, and perhaps in the whole world.
I wondered about our decision as Magellan coaxed our rented motorhome on its uphill strain on a narrow dirt road, the Fv314, which ended at a parking lot with a sign reading, “No parking for RVs,” unnecessary given its miniscule space.
Åmotan, we discovered, was a “villette.” Only a handful of buildings. (Magellan was disappointed the “bar” was closed for the season—he wanted a beer after that drive.) Lucky for us, a man looking forward to seventy (likely eighty given the spry youthfulness of Norwegians) whom I will call Mr. Veldig Hjelpsom (“very helpful”), got up from the chair on the front porch of his small inn/home and walked over to show us how we could park. It was one of those dog days in August, a sultry 27° that afternoon. But in Norway, this is off-season. Mr. Hjelpsom assured us no one else would be coming, except for his Dutch guests who were arriving by taxi.
Details about Åmotan, as I said, are scarce. We hoped to find something in Gjøra but like most visitor information centres in Norway, it was only a few posters and a map or two affixed to the side of a building. Empty was the brochure box at the Åmotanparking lot and confusing were the trail signs and map for the three routes. Mr. Hjelpsom to the rescue, again, and Mrs. Hjelpsom, too. She rousted up the last English brochure for us from their home. Poring over it, Mr. Hjelpsom told us we could hike in either direction, our choice, but he said if he were doing it, he’d start on the blue route, “To save my knees.”
My sister Margie once told me I had golden horseshoes up my you-know where. It’s true. And when I think about the many happy-go-lucky days of my life, our afternoon in Åmotan shines.
We followed the blue route up the mountain along the edge of the gorge, grateful for the dappled shade of the old forest of pine and birch. After two km of walking we came to the viewpoint for Lindalsfallet—considered by many to be the most magnificent of the three waterfalls, a spectacular force of thundering water.
The Åmotan gorge is a young landscape with valley-theft rivers, a geo-poetic term for rivers that reversed direction between ice ages. Magellan’s drone wouldn’t circle over Lindalsfallet because to fly over the cliff would put the drone in violation of Norway’s height restriction!
It wasn’t surprising that a recent slide had eroded the top portion of the fallet trail, forcing us to take a road to connect to the green route, a road that until 1953, children from south of the gorge walked on to school. No wonder Norwegians are so fit.
Out of the forest, the vault of sky was a startling blue, the intensity of the sun crayon-orange, colours so sharp and pure they pierced the power of my sunglasses.
A few months ago I came across the word refulgence, “a state of radiance, an embodiment of emotion”—the word that best describes my feeling about this hike in general and Brennbrua especially. Brua translates to bridge. At Brennbrua an old-fashioned wooden structure bridges the Lindøla River, water flows over an eternity of stones, water so pure Mr. Hjelpsom assured us we could fill out bottles. There are only two other places in the world we’ve been able to do that: Banff National Park in the 1970s and the FitzRoy hike in Patagonia a few years ago. In my mind’s dropbox of favourite days, I see the weathered Kvernhuset hiking hut with its grassy roof, the scatter of yellow wildflowers, the chorus of birdsong, the warm caress of the sun, the liberation of open spaces. Brennbrua jazzed my heart.
Not long before we reached the Lunlia farm, we caught a distant view of the second waterfall on the circuit, Reppfallet. Everywhere else in Norway that we travelled, the word “waterfall” was translated as fossen, the Latin derivative relating to “light.” Here they use fallet, a mix of Swedish-Norwegian etymology.
In the logbook at the halfway point, we were guests 531 for the year, so we estimate about 700 people hike the entire circuit annually. Many people, we learned, visit only Svøufallet, the waterfall closest to Åmotan, the one ranked among the 100 most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
At the top of the Lundlibakkan hill the landscape opens to a pastoral plain of flowery meadows, fresh-cut hay and open vistas. People live here year-round although the road is summer-access only. Norwegians have tilled the soil here since the 1600s. In 1882 five small cotters’ farms were bought and amalgamated into the main farm at Lundlia where we saw an old-style tractor, free-ranging sheep, cow paddies. Near Åmotan is the Jenstad farm with buildings dating back to 1780 and further west, Sveen and Svisdalen, two farms that we walked through on the yellow route, the last leg of our hike. (The Jenstad farm operates a tractor pull, “Feel Dare,” that transports visitors to Svøufallet and to another view of Reppfallet above their property, but it was already parked for the winter.) In addition to farming, the area provides a solid supply of birch firewood. Hunting reindeer, elk and deer is also popular here. To the north and east is a protected area connecting to Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park.
Walking down to Svøufallet was the most difficult part of the trail—I sidestepped to save my knee, the one with no ACL. The brochure says the terrain is “partly steep.” Oh yeah. A 23° grade on the first 300 metres of the 1.3 km strip down! Partway down we met the only person we saw on the trail, Britt, a woman looking forward to nineteen who lives on the Jenstad farm, almost jogging up the steep part with her dog, breathing like she was in a lazyboy chair. “I do this trail every day,” she told us. “I feel so lucky to live here.”
Our total elevation gain was 420 metres over 7.1 km that we covered in a leisurely 5¼ hours. Later at our campsite at Gjøra, sensuously gratified, Magellan with his beer, me with my glass of wine, I read the brochure Mrs. Hjelpsom gave us:
Åmotan is an unparalleled natural phenomenon in our country…a fan-shaped river system where seven rivers meet: Lindøla from the east, Skiråa and Reppa from the south, Grøvu and Geitåa from the southwest and Grødøla from the west…“We will not boast any more than this, only wish you welcome as a guest, hoping that you will take the time to experience some of the things that the area offers.
“It’s our Yosemite,” Mr. Hjelpsom had told us, proudly, rightfully so.
Nowak, Christian; Kluü che, Hans; Hug, Odin; Mecke, Andrea;ü Fischer, Robert. Marco Polo Travel Handbook Norway. Basingstoke, UK: Marco Polo Travel Publishing Ltd, 2015.
Tracanelli, Carine and Helsztyńska-Stadnik, Magdalena. Norway. Insight Guides. China: CTPS, 2018.