Eftestøl - Knaben - Ljosland, 46,02 km, +1831 m
18. 7. 2022
MAP - DAY 6:
Today is the most important and the nicest day on the first part on my NPL journey. But I am waking up tired near Eftestøl into a sunny day after 5 hours of sleep. Same story again. Media. Insane pressure. I feel stupid to write it again, but that's just the reality. Today I really needed to start early, because I must get all the way to distant Ljosland and film many important places along the road properly. Which is SUPER hard when you don't have time. But I start moving at 14:20. Meeting a young badger just after a few meters. Cool little creature, he did not give a sh*t about me several minutes :)
Passing farms in the tranquil Eftestøl settlement. Many cows bathing in the river. Super lazy afternoon. On the last moment, I am deciding to not walk in the beautiful green valley of the river Litleåne, where I walked in summers 2019 and 2021. Instead, I decide to climb up the rocky ridge on the east side of the valley and walk on this ridge.
It is both amazing and bad idea. The ridge is so much harder and slower. But it is incredibly scenic. Walking here takes much longer, constantly up and down, compared to the very flat valley, with a nice fast trail along the river in the first half opf the valley leading to the cabin with sweet red currant.
From the first mountain I take last views to the dark deep forests in the south which I passed. Very nice proud feeling, so much energy and pain spent there. Here on this mountain you can clearly see the breaking point, where rocky Setesdalheiene starts. Just behind Eftestøl, thick forest stops, and I am entering a world of rocks.
I continue on the rocky ridge about 5 km. I pass several lakes and then run down to the start of the upper part of Litlådalen valley. This place is breathtaking!!! Absolutely stunning wilderness. Amazing curvy river, marshlands, rock faces on both sides of the valley, many small picturesque lakes and small waterfalls, wonderfully shaped pine trees, and that amazing "rocky running ridge" straight in the middle of the valley, where you can enjoy the best trail run you can imagine.
I am so happy that I can film it finally in good quality, even while being on the run. I am flying my new DJI Mini 3 drone. I am shocked how silent and agile this tiny beast is. Generally, my running backpack is not very light.
I have there, beside food, clothes and other gear, also a big heavy powerbank, Garmin inReach, small tripod and 5 different 4K cameras, for each purpose different one. I will go into technical details of each camera and its purpose later on this trip. My running backpack contains these cameras: GOPRO 10, Insta360 ONEX2, Sony RX100 Mark 7, DJI MINI 3 PRO and my 4K phone. Insane, how far the technology has come in the last years. Now I can be a filmmaker filming myself "in movement", totally independent and alone. WOW...
There is a trail in the Norgeskart map, but really only there. In reality there is nothing. Just untouched nature.
I wish I could stay here, but it is already super super late, when I get under the high rock slabs which you have to climb in order to get out of the valley to the mountains south of Knaben.
Last year I climbed and filmed here the climbing properly. Today I have no time so I choose easy line up on the left edge of the slabs. My Inov8 shoes magically hold in steep rock, so I am quickly up.
I am taking out the drone and make beautiful shots of the valley and also of some climbing. Time passes so fast here... I must return and spend here a few days without any rush.
After I climb all the way up from the bottom of the valley, I take a last glance towards south and then I start running on mainly rocky terrain towards the weirdest town I ever saw in Scandinavia - Knaben.
I have no time now, as I write this article now in the car before starting Day 8, to go into details. But Knaben will have a lot of space in the upcoming NPL film and book. When we came here for the first time in 2019 in late evening, the same path as I walk now, it was almost dark.
The abandoned dark mining towers of the Knaben molybdenum quarry suddenly appeared in front of us. It was a shocking view, like a scene from a quality horror movie. The highest tower with creepy dim light inside behind the window looked like a "burrow or laboratory of the Nazi Dr. Mengele during the Second World War" or like a residence of Helga von Bullow from the old game Wolfenstein. The only game I sometimes played when I was small. Totally creepy and cool.
Today, during a nice sunny day, Knaben looks much more normal. But still weird...
Knaben is an old mining village in the northern part of Kvinesdal municipality. Currently, the mine is no longer in use. The molybdenum mines were operated here from 1885 to 1973. Buildings and constructions are still partly intact.
At the time Norway was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1940, during World War II, the Knaben mines were the only molybdenum mines in Europe. The occupying German forces stationed about 1,000 men in the area, and established gun sites for anti-aircraft guns. The mine operations were the target for allied bombing twice in 1943. The first attack took place on 3 March, with 10 British de Havilland Mosquito strike fighters. The second attack was on 16 November, when 130 American B-17 bombers from the Eighth Air Forceattacked the Knaben molybdenum mines in a raid against Norway.
You can still feel the dark atmosphere here. I also found a few rusty fragments of the bombshells scattered on the rocks above Knaben. Very very very cool place which I simply had to add into my dream NPL path. And coming here across the mountains from the Litlådalen valley is a truly memorable experience.
Nobody is here, so I climb up on one of the mining towers. Very strong moment and different perspective. Here from the height, I see all the mess and garbage, hidden inside the old factory. Even creepier than from the ground.
I am filming a lot. It takes a lot of time and I know that there will is a long night hike across mysterious remote southern Setesdalheiene in front of me. But I do not care, I am happy that I can capture this place properly. I am also flying the dron into a cave on the other side of the huge quarry behind the towers and factory. I look forward to editing this footage.
Last look to Knaben and soon I am on a crossroad above the village, where I officially hit of marked trails. Very satisfying feeling. I feel so light now... No more bushwhacking. It's behind me. At least for some time.
I am filming the landscape and windmills above Knaben, creating and posting several Instagram Stories on the last signal, and suddenly it is 22:15. Cool, I am not even in half of my way today. The sun has just set when I start running towards Ljosland. I feel sudden spasms of happiness and gratitude and enjoy one of the best running of my life through silent Norwegian mountain landscape. Totally opposite feelings compared to the desperation exactly here in the year 2019, when I realized, in a storm, that such a complex filming project requires totally different equipment (which did not exist 3 years ago), budget and mainly motivated prepared team. Today I feel sooooo light. I feel strong and ready, I know I worked hard those 3 years to get here, despite all the corona shit game, which totally destroyed my business for almost 2 years. Which made this expensive project so much harder to organize.
OK... It is late, but I know the path. It shall be a marked trail, but in reality, after a hill named Knaberøysa, most of it is pure off-trail. No path at all, only blue dots painted sparsely on the stones. I know that I won't see them. I have maximum one hour of weak daylight. But I am totally calm, the weather is nice, I know the way, I have a map in my phone, absolutely nothing to fear about. I just don't have much food, but that's fine. It is about 25 km to Ljosland.
At Knaberøysa I am taking out the drone again and I am doing the shots of the surrounding dark landscape. You can see just the dark shapes of the mountains and the bright surfaces of the lakes. Very cool. I almost lose the drone, because, weirdly, it did not update the home point. So instead of returning home when low battery warning came, it started to descent straight down about 1 km from me. And I did not know where it was at all. Shit, another drone gone... I told myself. On the last moments, I boost the ISO to the max and recognize on the controller my position. I land the drone on my hand at 2% of the battery. Damn, I must be more focussed next time.
With very good mood, I start walking towards Ljosland. It is midnight, very dark, but I know the direction and I can still recognize a bit the terrain where I step. I still can distinguish whether I step on the grass, stone or mud. Since my childhood I was playing a game on my evening and night trips and later runs. I am always trying not to use a headlamp as long as possible. I am playing it also today.
We are in Norway, where there is a lot of light in the summer. But we are in the very south still. And it is already 19th of July, almost one month after the longest day of the year. But the sky is almost clear and in the end I don't have to use the headlamp at all! I love this game. And I love to move alone in dark Nature. I did it all my life in my home woods. You are invisible, and you become one with the dark nature around. You hear much more, and after some time, you can see so much! This is what lured me on this trip. So much time spent in wild nature, which makes your senses sharper. And also, everybody who finished NPL looked at least 10 years younger then before the trip! :-) No wonder if you hike in clean nature every day, eat berries, drink really clean water, disconnected from the mostly unnecessary artificial problems of our decaying superficial western society. NPL trip is the best universal illness therapy you can imagine.
I slowly walk through a very silent mountain plateaus, passing many lakes, climbing many hills, crossing several rivers... I feel relaxed. But again, it is slower than expected. I feel physically tired, so I do not push it. I also feel the skin on my feet is in the first stage of blisters. Which I absolutely have to avoid, because last year it slowed me down about 3 days. So I am taking it easy. I come to Ljosland when I come. Period.
It is getting brighter when I reach huge lake Storevatn. I traverse the north-east shore of it. It is much easier than the last times, because there is less water and I can walk straight on the stones which are normally under water. About 5 km before Ljosland I pass again nice open cabin, where I spent cold rainy night in 2019, when my phone and headlamp died and it was very dark and bad weather, so I could not get to Ljosland.
I continue, and when I reach the last saddle before Ljosland, the sun starts rising above the horizon. Very magic moment. But I feel a bit dizzy, my head is spinning last 3 hours a bit, I feel that I am probably missing some sugars or minerals, as I ate only some breads since yesterday morning and the day was physically very demanding. I have 6 such extreme days in a row in bad terrain behind me. I slowly run or hike down and exactly at 6 a.m. I am meeting Radka at a parking place above the lake at the end of the asphalt road above the Ljosland skiing center.
I eat amazing spaghetti and go to bed with peace in my heart... The first of a few biggest goals of my dream project is done!
I created a super hard, painful, sometimes frustrating, yet so amazing, wild and clean path from Lindesnes Lighthouse all the way to Ljosland in Setesdalheiene. Raw and pure part, exactly as I wished for a few years. There is only 540 meters of asphalt on this trail. 490 meters from necessary crossing of the town Lyngdal and then 50 meters from 9 crossings of the asphalt roads.
Most NPL hikers walk all the way to Ljosland on the asphalt road. It is 118 km of asphalt in the valley with about 1600 vertical meters. My path across the mysterious southern jungle is 162,5 km long with 7264 vertical meters across the best Nature southern Norway has to offer. Who will decide to walk it, has my deepest respect. I hope that the film we are filming will be more than strong motivation
Now, from Ljosland, I will continue mainly on trails, sometimes off-trail and on gravel roads all the way to approximately 1600-1800 km distant Sulitjelma in northern Norway, where the second hard part of Norway starts - Norwegian Yosemite. And I will try to cross it in the same style. There, it won't be just hard and unpleasant, but possibly also dangerous in some places. But it has time, it takes at least one month of walking and running to get there...
ASPHALT TODAY - 0 meters