we start from Stavanger towards the Magma Geopark, through a patch of southern Norway that, on the map, appears to have been torn apart by a steamroller.
In the image of much of Scandinavia and the Finland, the glacial ages and their fruitful glaciers, like the thaws that followed them, bequeathed a vastness of elevations and steep valleys ridged and dotted with rivers and streams, thousands of lakes, lagoons, swamps, inlets, flooded canyons and the like .
The Bucolic Path to the Sokna Banks
The country road we traveled avoided them and used the advantages of the amphibious terrain with a precision and smoothness only available to the best engineering. By Egersund, at last, we were left with the North Sea. From there, we follow Sokndalsveien, the even more secluded and quiet road that runs through the last county of Rogaland County.
We drive through meadows that, to the obvious delight of woolly herds, the intermittent summer rain keeps them drenched, green and tender. Soon, Sokndalveien is confronted with the Sokna, a winding river fed by the torrents released by the great Steins and Eids lakes.
Instead of continuing on it, we cut to Strandgaten, an even narrower country road that emulates successive river contours. Submissive to the semantic coherence of the region, that almost asphalted corridor leads us to the imminence of Sokndalstrand, a riverside and seaside village that we thought we could translate as Sokndal Beach, in keeping with its past as a seaside resort.
Sokndalstrand: a village on the edge of Sokna and the North Sea
Now in pedestrian mode, we proceed along the alley flanked by picturesque wooden houses, mostly white, that delimit the aorta artery of the village. Closer to the sea, several of these homes have been converted into shops, cafes and restaurants that welcome visitors and give more meaning to their incursions.
They are embellished with flowerbeds and vases hanging with bright flowers. To our amazement, some of them have garden benches placed next to outdoor shelves filled with free and immediate reference books.
We come across strangers who no longer go to new ones. Unhurriedly, they take advantage of the benefit of the seats, but instead of dedicating themselves to spontaneous readings, they relax with the massage of the summer sun.
In these boreal parts of Europe, no one dares to take summer and sun for granted. This afternoon, unlike so many others, the calm seemed to be here to stay. A resident with a carpenter animal did not resist the opportunity.
He took brushes and paints and set to work freshly painting a traditional door in his establishment, with a whimsical geometric pattern that demanded all the attention possible. “But the original painting is from when? we ask you after an introductory greeting. "The door has been around for a long time, but here by the sea, the paint lasts as long as it lasts." answer us in a diplomatic tone. We realized that the conversation distracted the artisan. Not wanting to be responsible for desperate smudges, we thank you for your patience, say goodbye and continue on our way.
The Salmon Relay and the Sacrifice of an Evil Dalmatian
Nearby, a stone bridge with an arched span, probably older than the door, connected the two banks of the Sokna River. We crossed it, descending a small slope to a slab of rock already above the fast-flowing water of the river.
From that improvised perch, we can see the white-yellow-red sequence of semi-palafitic rear façades that became the village's hallmark and, in the extension of the houses, its threshold marked by the wider bay where the Sokna surrenders to the sea From north.
We sat for a moment enjoying the rush and eddies of the flow. Moments later, we notice the leaps of large fish. We remember it was June. We were witnessing the rush of salmon towards the icy and sweet waters upstream from which they were bred.
That wouldn't be the only surprise. Two girls come out of a house on our side of the river, pulling a dalmatian on a leash. Eager for distraction, they lead the dog to the sloping edge and give it a final push. The animal is forced to take a bath that would not be in its plans.
It swims against the current and comes out a few meters higher. He shakes as much of the freezing water from his mottled body as he can and runs as far as he can from the master lanes. We return to the cozy squeeze of Strandgaten. We walk to its junction with the parallel Ovregaten. Arrived at the seaside of the village, we return to the car and to the vastness of the Magma Geopark that we had proposed to explore.
By the Magma Geopark below
As it is not considered a national park, the Magma Geopark lacks the various entrances with porticoes characteristic of national parks. Its main geological and historical attractions are marked on the roadside by brown signs with their own names and symbols.
We returned to Route 44 which we had left at the gates of Sokndalstrand. We take a wide detour that takes us up rivers Sokna and – a few kilometers later – Sirebekken. With the great lake Stemmetjorna in front of us, surrounded by massive boulders of dark stone, we bend back towards the sea, until we are on the continental bottom of the Jossingfjord, a fjord as emblematic as it is historical in these parts.
There, the top of one of the cliffs that delimit the gulf provides a natural viewpoint. In addition to securing the view, it educated visitors on the importance of the abyss ahead.
The Martial Spark of "Altmark"
Second there, in the middle of World War II, the German tanker “Altmark” returned to his homeland through Norwegian waters that were still considered neutral but in which it did not seem to make any sense to be, diverted hundreds of kilometers from the normal route to the Germanic coast.
At the urging of British informants who suspected that the vessel was carrying Allied prisoners of war, the Royal Norwegian Navy investigated it three times without ever detecting the presence of these captives. Taking his faith in the word of the German officers in charge of the ship that the voyage was for commercial purposes only, they allowed him passage.
Still suspicious, the British decided to carry out their own investigation. O destroyer "HMS Cossack” tried to intercept the “Altmark”. As a result, the German ship's officers sought to hide the boat in the depths of the Jossingfjord. O "HMS Cossack” followed him, however, already with instructions to capture the enemy ship even though, as it happened, the “Altmark” and the vessels escorting him threatened to fight back with torpedoes.
Fearing to compromise its neutrality altogether, the Royal Norwegian Navy refused to participate in the British approach. O "Altmark” ended up running aground. Despite some resistance, the British forced their capture after which an allied officer shouted at the tank: “are there any Englishmen there?”. Following the response, the British released 299 Allied prisoners.
Seven German sailors were shot and eleven wounded. The Norwegians, these, were especially affected by the fact that the British had – in what the Nords considered a mild mood – their neutrality at risk.
With some reason. The incident will have convinced Adolf Hitler that the Allies would never respect Norwegian neutrality. Aware of the strategic importance of this Scandinavian country, just two months after the incident of “Altmark” (in April 1940), Hitler ordered the operation to proceed Weserubung that would guarantee the achievement not only of the Norway as from Denmark.
The Evil of Four New Zealand Pilots and Navigators
In 1945, at the end of World War II, New Zealanders John Mostyn Brightwell (2 years old), Edgar Joseph Foy (23 years old), Graham George Parkin (24 years old), Royden Leslie Nugent (22 years old) would also lose their life on the Jossingfjord.
On April 14, they were part of the “Dallachy Strike Wing“, formed by 20 Beaufighter fighters with the mission of attacking German ships: the fast star”Adolf Lüderitz” and the tankers “Schleswig” UJ-1430 and M-496.
Two of the Beaufighter fighters that were just flying out of the fjord collided with each other and crashed. In the grip of the canyon, none of the crew had time to eject. Graham Parker and Royden Leslie Nugent managed to land the RD463 at sea below. They abandoned the plane and climbed into a small emergency boat.
Shortly thereafter, another rescue plane dropped a larger parachute boat. However, the boat did not detach from the parachute as it was supposed to. It was blown away by the wind from the airmen.
The next day, the squadron returned and was immediately attacked by German planes. None of the New Zealand pilots would be seen.
jossingfjord: Norwegian grandeur of Stone
Today, the memorial installed there contributes to the lithic solemnity of the place, a 3km verdant gorge that stretches from the North Sea uphill, surrounded by imposing cliffs that have taken us again and again to the Californian imagination of Yosemite.
We return to the road. We cross the tunnel conquered to the colossus of anortosito below the lookout. From the exit of the tunnel, we contemplated an entire slope covered with countless fragmented rocks of the same material that seemed to balance in a heavyweight struggle.
A steep zigzag takes us to the back of the fjord. There, with some effort, we came upon a duo of houses set under the concave bottom of one of the cliffs, a set long known as Helleren.
Helleren's Opportunist Homes
These convenient homes were built around 1920, shortly after the road reached that end of the world. They built us poor families who, despite the harsh winters, managed to survive on a combination of farming, raising sheep and fishing.
Unlike most Norwegian houses, the owners paid little attention to the quality of the ceilings. The protection from rain, snow and wind provided by the cliff insert proved to be so functional that roofs would do little good.
On the opposite side of the fjord, next to a slope covered with sharp rocks but, this time, carpeted with lush moss, we find a strange stretch of railway, arranged in the form of a ramp pointing to the sky. On tiptoe, we conquer the old trallebanen.
The top of that eccentric structure of wood and iron gives us a view almost as majestic as the viewpoint at the entrance to the fjord. It also reveals to us the lake of a dam that was once supplied with parts and supplies by the wagon deployed there.
Toca-e-Foge Incursion in Vest-Agder Province
We continue in a stronghold with a strong photogeny of the immense Norwegian Magma Geopark, a natural domain that extends for hundreds of kilometers in all directions, in a gray and green vastness, sometimes coastal, sometimes inland, with anorthosite and related rocks.
We head south. We slipped into another fjord, even longer, so long and deep that the Norwegians used it to demarcate the boundary between two of their regions: Rogaland and Vest-Agder.
Along the Midtbo road that serves it, there are hamlets and riverside villages formed by red and white wooden houses, served by boats and providential rowboats.
End of line at Midtbo Road End
We arrived at the coastal end of Midtbo which, aware of the value of their retreat, residents mark it as private to avoid the successive incursions of summer tourists. As we take a slow U-turn, we watch a family disembark from one of these boats, carrying dozens of bags of groceries.
Taking into account the eccentric morphology of the area, it pays off for residents to cross the fjord in 5 minutes to a village with a supermarket on the other side, instead of getting into a car and driving for half an hour or more.
We had stretched the exploration day to a somewhat insane limit. In such a way that the late sunset was announced and gave way to clouds as dark as pitch, because the summer night in these latitudes is still there. We arrived at the Egersund shelter at almost midnight. We rest what is possible for us to rest.
The next morning, we would continue the discovery. Of trollpiken, of the Brufjell caves and of so many other whims of these magmatic and lunar confines of the Norway.