The first few days in Norway were the most challenging of the trip so far. The biggest challenge wasn’t anything externally – it was actually me and my nerves. I dealt with the actual challenges but felt anxious whilst doing it which took an edge of the enjoyment but only for a very brief while. I’ve got a book about mindfulness with with me. I’ve not really started reading it – but this has given me a spur on to actually reading it and more then that to start trying to practicing it. Maybe that’s what I’m meant to learn on this trip – that and of course the primary goal of having fun exploring with my Alf.
On the last night in Sweden there was a big thunderstorm with flash lightening. I wasn’t too impressed. I waited until it looked as though the storm had passed before Alf and I got into the roof tent. But it had only paused, it soon came back with avengance. Huge claps of thunder right over our heads, that would make me and Alf jump and bark (Alf did the barking – I may have let out the odd little squeal!). My friend Elaine called me in response to a text I’d sent and bless her, stayed on the phone whilst the worst of the storm was overhead. What a good friend she is.
Whilst I was jumpy, I did stay in the tent and eventually slept. The next morning I did feel better when a lady from nearby caravan commented on how bad it had been and that she too had been scared and particularly worried about how Alf and I had coped. She assumed we had got wet – but we had stayed dry all night – and I felt a bit better in the knowledge that whilst I hadn’t enjoyed it, I’d stuck it out and I wasn’t alone in thinking the storm had been a bit scary!
After a final shop in the very pretty town of Stomstad in Sweden, to stock up before we have to hit Norway, I got into the queue to board the ferry. I was really quite excited – in a few hours I would have reached the first main destination of the trip…. then a bird pooped right on the front of Beryl. It hit with a great big old splosh, all over the window. I decided to interpret it as good luck, I’d just got back in the van so it didn’t hit me and because I was there I was able to clean it off before it set in. It was a good omen – or at least that was the way I was going to take it.
The ferry over was easy – I even managed to sneak Alf into the bar – until he barked and gave the game away. It wasn’t an issue, we were able to sit in a sheltered area just for dogs and their owners. There were cages which you could put your dog in if you wanted to leave them. Of course I had no intention of doing that, Alf sat on the chair next to me!
I was also able to get Norwegian Kroner out at the info desk – so the problem of getting local currency was solved.
Each time I have arrived in a new country I’ve had a few nerves and that was definitely the case here. Whilst I’d been really excited getting on the ferry that excitement turned into a bit of nerves when I got off the ferry – this was Noway and there were mountains. The good news was that there was no one to stop and check how much wine I had secreted away in Beryl. Just a few extra bottles of course.
The drive from Sanjefyord, where the ferry docked in Norway, to Kongsberg – my first chosen direction wasn’t, to start with, too different from the drive in Sweden. But increasingly the roads became more windy as the road followed the flow of a river. Kongsberg was only an hour and half away – which was enough for the day after a two and half hour ferry ride. As we came into Kongsberg there was a huge cascade of water right in the centre of the town – with an incredible amount of water gushing through. I’d googled Kongsberg briefly a few days before but hadn’t seen any mention of it. In any other country I’m sure it would have been a bit thing – but in Norway I guess there are so many waterfalls this was nothing particularly notable I later learnt that it was quite famous with kayakers and rafters – I’m not surprised. After my one white water rafting experience, at the source of the Nile in Uganda, I will not be trying it again.
There had been plenty of campsites on the way into town – but I’d set myself the target of getting to Kongsberg so I continued on. I did think though that I was in this place of incredibly beautiful country and here I was heading to a campsite in the town . As it happened there were road works in town and I couldn’t quite find my way into the campsite. By this time I was getting tired (after a restless night sleep) and hungry so I gave up trying to get through the roadworks and found another campsite on the Tom Tom and headed to it. It’s times like this that the database of campsites I’d downloaded onto the Tom Tom came in extremely handy.
I drove about 15 minutes away from the town and into the wilderness – at least that is how it felt. On arrival at the site – there was no one – and I mean no one around. There were a few cars but no people. There was however a sign out front that said take a key for the cabins and someone would come round later for money – I guessed they’d do the same for camping, so I found a spot and set up camp.
It was a bit strange to be there on my own. The setting was beautiful, right by a river, with the sound of water water rushing over the rocks of a small rapid just upstream. But it was also a bit strange. There was a fairly big marquee set up, with nothing in it, a small army type vehicle and a trampoline. As well as some typical cabins dotted around.
Eventually a few people arrived – rather than campers – they looked more like they were all guys who were working away from home and staying in the huts during the week – that’s what I assumed at least. They said hi or nodded their heads but that was it. Eventually a man drove up and took my money – but he wasn’t particularly chatty – he did seem surprised though that I’d driven from London (its easier than saying Egham)! So it was strange mix of an incredible peaceful setting – which I enjoyed – mixed with a slight feeling of uneasiness.
It wasn’t just the situation that was making me feel uneasy – it was the next few days drive as well. I wasn’t sure what route to take the next day. I must have looked at the different option in the Tom Tom about 10 times – to the point of annoying myself. And there were only about three different options to take – not 10!
The next morning I went to have a shower – but they were a bit grubby and the lock wasn’t secure – I decided to with an extra squirt of deodorant instead. It wasn’t until I started the engine that I finally decided to go with the shortest route – a 6 hour drive from where I was to Bergen. I had no intention of doing it all in the day – probably only about 2 and half hours – I’d see where I was at that point.
To start with the drive was great. I kept telling myself I’d over reacted if this was it, no worries, I could handle it, easy. This is a Stave Church (medieval wooden churches) that I just had to stop at. Unfortunately I couldn’t get inside – which has been the case with pretty much every church I’ve stopped at.
After that point, the road started getting steeper and steeper heading continuously up. Once I reached, what I thought was the top, the landscape wasn’t pretty any more, in fact it was pretty desolate. Dark bracken, with pools of water, dirty patches of snow and with weird hobbit looking huts with moss growing on the roofs. It was cold and I could feel the adrenalin pumping through me. I kept driving and came up behind a big lorry. I wasn’t going to try and overtake – its a bit difficult at the best of times with left hand drive to overtake. But he was going slower than even I was – eventually a few vehicles came up behind me – they overtook both of us. So eventually I followed. OH MY GOD another car coming – on the brakes went and I quickly got back behind the lorry. At that point the adrenaline wasn’t just pumping through my veins it was coming out of my bloody ears! After going down hill a bit we went back up hill – the inclines and declines were getting steeper each time. I did eventually get past the lorry – I had no choice – he wanted me to pass – but this time I stuck close to the arse of another car and got through – phew.
Eventually we got to a place called Gheilo – this was the point that I had thought I might stop for the day. But it wasn’t petty, it was cold, and I just wanted to get down off the bloody mountain. I was hungry and poor Alf had been very quiet in the back for ages. So I stopped for a very quick bite to eat in the back. Alf didn’t want to get out – he just gave me lots of kisses – he must have sensed my nerves.
We got going again. I thought at that stage I must be over the worst – wrong! I didn’t realise I hadn’t actually started on the mountain pass at this stage – I’d just got up the bloody mountain. I then had to drive for about 40km across the top of the bloody mountain and each step of the way the snow increased until there was nothing but a growing wall of snow and frozen lakes on either side of me The landscape was pure white and the air was getting white too and thick. Before long it was pretty much a white out – I couldn’t see very far in front of me at all. I kept going – I didn’t have any choice. Talking to myself all the way.
I didn’t take many photos on the drive. There were places to stop but I just kept going. I have since found out that I drove past the second biggest waterfall in Europe – Ops!
I kept thinking at some point we will be going down – and then the worst will be over. I would have done it. Eventually there was a sign to show we were going to go down hill – by a hotel and tourist shop – having seen nothing for ages that was bit peculair. But the sign also had flashing lights on it. I decided best to stop and check it was OK to proceed. I asked in the shop – she said it was nothing to worry about – just to indicate it was a steep decline. Oh Ok.
In fact it was a steep decline inside a spiralling tunnel. I had wanted to go down – but not like this. Bloody hells bells. Eventually I was down – and within a few minutes there was a campsite – I pulled in. I’d had enough – I was shaking. I had to talk to someone – so I called Elaine again and ranted. After the rant and a beer I felt a little better. And once I’d calmed down – I called Mum and Dad too – yes Mum that was me calm!
I was at Eidefjyord, surrounded by the gigantic walls of the mountain I’d just driven across, with waterfalls cascading down them. On another day it might have seemed beautiful, but at that point, against the dark grey sky, it all felt a bit intimidating.
But after a while I realised there was an exhibition building over the road with a tourist office. After chatting to a very friendly lady there (and saying hello to the goat) I felt a bit better. She’d recommend a place to go to the next day which had beautiful blossom trees in it – good to do on a nice day.
The next day wasn’t nice – it was pouring down. I got up for a wee and went back to bed to read my book for a while. And luck would have it – I got a call from my friend, Free from Australia. It was good to talk and even better to talk about how we might meet up at some stage on my travels.
I probably shouldn’t admit this – but again I couldn’t face a shower – I was getting wet anyway from the rain. I know I know – but there was only me and Alf and he hadn’t had a shower either. Once I’d got up – I packed the van up quickly so we could get on the road again.
I decided to head straight to Voss, the weather wasn’t nice enough to look at blossom trees or to go on a boat trips – so I might as well make my way closer to Bergen. The drive was OK – through long tunnels – even one with a roundabout inside the tunnel. That through me a bit. There was a bridge too – but after the previous days drive I could do that – no worries!
I spent the next few days chilling out in Voss, and you will be relieved to know I had several showers! We had a camping pitch right next to the lake – it was a beautiful spot.
On the second night there as I was sitting watching the sunset I got a tap on the shoulder. It was an english bloke, Kev, who had spotted Beryl’s english licence plate. He invited me for a drink in his caravan, with his dog Eddie. Several hours later and several beers later I clambered up to bed in the tent. It was the first time in weeks I’d had someone to really chat to – so I’m afraid I talked a lot! His mate Andy was trying to sleep, unfortunately between my big gob and the music he didn’t get too much sleep So he told me the following night, and proved it by repeating most of the conversation! He forgave me and we had a second night chatting and listening to music. They both live and work here – it was good to pick their brains about the roads and what routes I should take. There was a suggestion of going up to the arctic circle. I think I’m going to give that a miss – but it was brilliant to have a laugh and a natter.
The sunsets at Voss were incredible – not in their vibrancy but in their subtlety. They crept up slowly, from around eleven you started to see soft dusty pinks appear across the sky. With the light dancing off the snow making it glimmer in the light. It never really gets completely dark – even at 3 in the morning the sky is a bright midnight blue – more dusk that dark – and the sun is back up at around 4.30.
After Voss I had one night in a campsite near Bergen before picking up my friends, Debs, Emma and Charlie from Bergen airport. It was great to realise that I’d set out to drive to Bergen in 5 weeks and I’d done it – it was even better to know I was going to spend a week with great friends in a house near Bergen.
Alf and I were standing with a Happy 40th Banner to meet the girls of the plane. I didn’t know if Alf was allowed in the airport or not – but sometimes I figure just do it – and if someone doesn’t like it they will soon tell you. It was fine – which was lucky because Alf got very excited (and loud) when he saw the girls.
It has been a brilliant week in house on the hill in Lysekloster, which is half an hour out of Bergen. The house looks over the Fjord and the island of Lyson. It has a view that you could never, ever get tired of.
The island opposite was owned by the famous Norwegien violinist, Ole Bull (OK I’m saying famous because that’s what I’ve been told – I’d never heard of him – but then I don’t know many voilinists!). Directly opposite the house is Ole Bull’s very elaborate house, with a turret that was inspired by his visit to St Petersberg.
When we first arrived at the house it wasn’t quite ready for us so Roar, the owner, took us over to the island in his speed boat. We didn’t know quite what was going on – but just went with it – and next minute we know he has deposited us on the island saying he will be back in a few hours. A little random, but we went with it and had a look around the house and the island before going back to the our home for the week.
Part of the house we were staying in is a few hundred years old with a couple of modern extensions added. It is all built around the view, so that you can see it wherever you are. I was cheeky and asked if I could have the double room with en-suite, which the girls graciously let me have.
The weather has been perfect, which meant we could spend days sunning ourselves on the deck, sitting out enjoying the late afternoon and evening sun and watching the sun very gradually set. When the chill in the air got too much we’ve headed inside to a log fire. The best of both worlds – sun bathing and log fires.
There is even a rip wire in the garden – which the girls had a go on – I wisely took photos!
We’ve been out exploring locally, finding little swimming spots and walking around the island.
One day we headed out on a day trip to Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, which extends more than 200 km inland to the foot of the Jotunheimen mountains. It is said to be one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world – which I will quite happily agree with – it is stunning.
The trip started with a train journey up to Myrdal – the views from the train were stunning and this wasn’t the rail journey that was famous for its views.
The next leg of our rail journey was on the Flam Railway, which is a truly spectacular train journey and takes you past the Kjosfossen Waterfalls.
When we finally arrived in Flam, It didn’t feel like we had been on trains for 3 hours – there had been so much to see on the way the time passed very quickly. We had a few hours in Flam before we got on a boat back to Bergen. Flam might be small in size but it is big on views.
The boat trip back was fabulous. I love the feeling of wind in my hair. One of the reasons I wanted to come to Norway was because I’d loved the fjords in New Zealand and this trip reminded me so much of New Zealand. I could just sit there and watch the scenery pass by for hours – which in fact is exactly what I did.
It was just magical and all the better for being able to share it with friends.
It has been a brilliant week with my friends but tomorrow they go home and Alf, Beryl and I head out onto the road again.
Lovin’ the developing story, Thea! Jeez, I even felt I would have felt exactly the same as you during the scary parts – but the unfolding adventure just proves once again: it soon passes and the world is lovely and full of surprises again, once you get over them thar ‘hills’! Lovin’ it. But keep doing more of the same ‘Takin’ it Nice and Easy’ – and maybe the time has come when you need to start reading that ‘mind & things’ book you mentioned. Although just maybe having lived through all that so far, it’s got nothing to teach you that you haven’t learnt to handle already!
Thea, the tale of your trip is great! You are a lot braver than me!!
oh love it xxxx