River rafting in Sjoa through Heidal was an amazing experience!
Flying into Alesund to start the trip we rented a car and made our way down the country. We planned to enjoy the scenic drive and make a few fun stops before ending up back in Oslo for our return flight.
Our first stop was for two nights at the Grande Fjord Hotel in a small village called Geiranger. It’s located in western Norway at the head of Geirangerfjord. The scenery here is gorgeous in that classic, every photographer’s dream, kind of way. After two days of exploring the fjord and hiking to a waterfall, we decided to rent a motor boat and explore from the water for the day.
After spending most of a third day in Geiranger, we drove down to Otta to spend the night.
We booked a double room in the converted barn house. It wasn’t especially nice but it had a roof and a bed. Hell, they had cider to drink and teepees that you could camp in, so it could have been worse. Our room looked like a hospital dorm room with bunk-beds. The sheets were folded on the bed ready for us to make it up ourselves. That was definitely a first for us. The curtain that blocked out the perpetual sunlight of Norway in the summer looked like it had been converted from a child’s bed-sheet, covered in a cartoon galaxy of stars and planets. In a way, it sort of tied the room together,
The next morning, we had breakfast and checked out of the room before meeting up at the designated time and place.
We were given wet-suits, booties, and helmets to change into. Once everyone was ready, we loaded onto a big bus. The rafts were stacked high and strapped to a trailer that was pulled behind the bus. I wouldn’t have trusted it on a highway, but it was fine for the short drive to the launch point.
Everyone unloaded from the bus and we were given our paddles.
A safety briefing and demonstration was given before we were assigned our boats. Our guide/rudder named Peter had some additional instructions about how he would shout out his commands. He explained what they meant and what to do when we heard them. It was the important stuff that you really wanted to understand beforehand. It’s
Carrying our raft into the Sjoa River, we got to feel exactly how cold the water was before hopping aboard.
We can confirm that the water is very cold. We drifted down the river for a short while until we reached a point where Peter said we would do some surfing. We weren’t a very experienced rafting group, so I don’t think anyone had any idea what he was talking about. We knew he wasn’t talking about the surfing we were used to in California, but we just went with it. Everyone figured that we’d see what he was talking about soon enough.
We reached a spot where the river went over a long rock, creating a kind of back surge.
Surfing means getting the nose of the raft into the back surge deep enough, that you’re being pulled in the opposite direction of the main current. You must paddle hard, but once you get into that pocket of cross-currents, you’re rewarded. The river water gushes over you as the raft stays in place. As Mimi could tell you first hand, it was a chilly experience.
The rest of the day was spent navigating rapids and admiring some of the most gorgeous scenery that we’ve ever seen.
A lot of the names given to the rapids were in Nordic, but some were pretty amusing. Names like “Washing Machine,” “ByeByeBaby,” and “Faukstad-fall,” didn’t exactly instill confidence but they did sound like a whole lot of fun. We got drenched by rapids a lot, but the raft never flipped over. I’m not saying that I wish we had, but I do think it might have been kind of fun. We hope to go again and personally, I think we’re ready for some bigger rapids. When the scenery is that gorgeous and you can have fun riding rapids, it’s always a good idea to go river rafting.