Days 9, 10 & 11:
Yesterday was another travel day. We got to the airport at about 2 AM. We slept until 6, and got then got all packed..which was a little embarassing considering we were parked in car rental return and using the chain seperators as a clothesline for our wet clothes. We got on our flight, and of course, Andy left his phone and headphones on the plane. Currently trying to figure out an affordable way to get them back, since we won't be returning to Oslo airport.
Anyway, after a few close calls, we made it to Stavanger and to our hotel. We stayed at the St. Svithun, a hospital-hotel hybrid type thing. We were in dire need of a shower so we were pretty excited to finally get there.
Today we took the ferry to Tau and the bus to the trail head of Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock. Pulpit Rock is a 1,982-ft sheer cliff over the Lysefjord in southern Norway and is one of Norway's most-visited sites. It takes about 2.5-3 hours to get to the top. It was showering on/off all day, but the weather changes so often we weren't too worried about it. We met an Israeli-American on the ferry and hiked with him all the way to the top. He was really cool.
We got to the top and the view was amazing, but hindered by the fog. It's no wonder it's one of the "best views in Norway." It is actually extremely scary sitting near any of the edges, or even laying flat. You can literally feel your body reacting to the threat of falling and your stomach turns into knots, urging you back. We got a few photos when the clouds cleared. Overall, the hike was really easy! But my legs have just had it. This was our last hike. Our Israeli friend had to catch a bus, so he raced down the mountain and we made our way down without him. When we got to our hostel, we found that he left us a note, too :)
The girl in our hostel we shared a room with, from Belarus, was also really nice. We talked for a few hours about how different eastern Europe is from the U.S. (particularly Russia). It turns out that we are the first Americans she has ever met! That sort of feels like something I'm proud of, to literally be the best representation of your entire country. She told us all about how difficult it is for to travel to certain places, especially the U.S., and how it takes a lot of years, money and luck and sometimes even carefully constructed lies to be able to get a visa just to visit. Americans absolutely take for granted the power of the U.S. passport, and do not realize how open the world is to them. I feel badly for her, and others like her, who only want to explore but are limited because of politics. Additionally - American's aren't in tune with how great their gas prices are!
It's such a great experience meeting strangers abroad, especially from other countries. It's easy to get complacent at home, and keep to yourself, but there are so many people in the world, and so many things to learn. Backpackers and hikers generally all want the same thing: a multicultural experience. So many people want to know you, know where you are from and just be your friend. On my 2nd "long" trip, I think I've determined that you will absolutely meet more new people and have more meaningful experiences while traveling for even a week's time than you would at home, in a year, or even more. The backpacking culture is a motivating element for world travel and I intend to keep it as a long term life goal to explore it more.