It had been a great week with my friends over from home; but Monday came around all too quickly. After a brief visit to Bergen, Alf and I said goodbye to the girls and got back on the road – we had a date with one of the Hurtigruten ships in Trondheim. At least that was the plan, however it didn’t quite work out that way . . . .
Bergen is beautiful, lots of quaint of wooden buildings, little cobbled streets and a fish market to die for – if not at the delicious food at the prices! But this is Norway and it’s the price you pay for such a beautiful country.
After a delicious shellfish platter, Alf (my dog) and I said a tearful goodbye to our friends. Well ok I was the only one with tears! I pulled myself together and it soon felt great to be back in Beryl, just me and my Alf.
As it was already reasonably late in the day I only planned to drive for an hour or so before finding a campsite.
Whilst I’d got my confidence back on driving on the Norwegian roads I was going to take it easy and stay on the main road, the E39. Whist not as scenic as the national tourist routes – it was a lot easier and still pretty stunning with lakes or rivers appearing with each new twist and turn of the road.
As you leave Bergen, there were are a few bridges to cross – one of which I’d spotted when we were on the boat coming into Bergen the week before. When I started this journey most bridges would send a flutter or two through my heart, but now I was beginning to take them in my stride. Ok I still talked myself across some of them but I didn’t hold my breath and my heart rate didn’t increase (most of the time) – so progress really.
After an hour or so I had turned off the main road to find that nights campsite. We moved onto a single lane road that first went through fields of buttercups, then moved onto the edge of the fjord and of course over a few more bridges. The campsite was about 13 miles down this single road – it was worth it – the location was stunning.
The water was in some places was an amazing emerald green and in others an incredible turquoise. And we had the added bones of our very own little deck and beach. Perfect. It was peaceful too – we were the only people camping there that night. I would have gone for a swim but it had started to cloud over – so I gave it a miss, instead I watched and listened to the funny little birds that were all around, which I later found out were Oystercatchers.
The next morning we slowly packed up and got back on the road. The drive back along the fiord was even better the next morning, because I wasn’t tired and knew what to expect. It wasn’t long after I was back on the main road that I had to get on the first ferry of the day. It’s a bit strange to start with when a road simply ends and you have to get on the ferry or turn around – there are no other options.
The drive was pretty easy by Norwegian standards, past some beautiful lakes all in various different shades of green and blue. or alongside a river where the water was still crystal clear and alternates from perfectly still to rushing over rocks. The strangest site that day was a lone man roller blading down the middle of the road – dressed head to toe in black lycra with a bright yellow back pack. It did look strange and he was obviously travelling some distances as there wasn’t anything around us for miles and miles.
We had a short break to have a quick look at one of the many waterfalls we past along the way. Now whilst I had an issue with driving over bridges, my little Alf isn’t to keen on them either. To get to this waterfall you had to walk over a bridge, admittedly it was a bit rickety and Alf was having none of it. So we looked at the falls from the other side – in Norway there are so many waterfalls I didn’t feel the need to force him over it.
I relied on the Tom Tom POI’s to find the campsite that night – it’s actually quite fun to just randomly select a site from the location and not knowing anything about it. At the start of the trip I spent time searching online for the best campsite – but actually less information makes it a lot easier to make a decision and I hadn’t really found a bad campsite yet. And that nights campsite was far from bad – I was right on the edge of the beach and once again had my own decking.
As soon as we got there Alf had a paddle and we found the best stick yet – so good in fact we kept it with us for a few days. Now the funny thing is Alf won’t deign to chase a stick out of the water – but in the water he loves it. And this is only a recent development in the last few years; I’m pretty sure he learnt to love the water from watching my friends springer, Tigger play in the water. Sadly Tigger isn’t with us anymore but whenever I play sticks with Alf in the water I think of him.
Throughout the afternoon and evening the scene in front of me evolved; the tide moved out and the light and reflections changed. With each change I felt I had to take another photo – it was going to be fun sorting them out and find the best one. I keep thinking less is more but I can’t resist taking another. My photography style is one of quantity with the hope by some random chance there will be one or two of quality.
The evening also had an unexpected bonus of some company. I shared a few glasses of wine with a lovely Norwegian lady called Gry. It turned out to be a great night sitting watching a truly beautiful sunset and having a good chat discussing all sorts of things.
The next days trip took us into Aalesund. From our camp was about a 1.5k walk into the town – well it was supposed to be – I took a wrong turn and it turned out to be a lot longer. Not a problem normally but it was a bit much for Alf especially as it was hot. So we did our usual trick of finding a bar and having a beer – a £9 beer – but it was worth it to let Alf have a rest.
Aalesund was pretty but I wasn’t blown away by it. We were a bit late to look in the shops and anyway I’m not buying anything on this trip, especially not in Norway where everything is so expensive, so it was better to avoid them than be tempted. My intention had been to get the bus back to the campsite, but whilst waiting at the only bus stop I could findI was joined by a very drunk man and after about 15 minutes I decided it was best to move on. Alf was tired so it got a lift back some of the way and typically the next day I found that the bus terminal had just been round the corner – oh well.
As I was packing up the next morning I got chatting to a fellow camper who pointed out that there was a beach just below the site. Instant change of plan – I didn’t actually feel like driving that day anyway – so instead Alf I headed down to the beach and chilled for the day. At one point there was a group of school children – and the girls took a real fancy to Alf so for about half an hour he had about 10 young girls giving him cuddles.
I spent that evening getting to know Yvonne and Gilbert and their son Felix from Luxembourg – the same people who had point out where the beach was. They told me all about couch-surfing which is where you can stay in people houses for free – sometimes literally on their sofa other times you get a room – depending on what they have to offer. It was also interesting to hear their views about home schooling which is something they were passionate about and which was obviously working well for them and for Felix. We shared some wine and cheese – a strange norwegian cheese which was more like a kind of caramel butter than cheese. It didn’t really go with the red wine – but I persevered! I might look at couch-surfing at some point in my trip if I want a break from camping and if I will definitely try to get to Luxembourg to visit them in their farm house.
For about 10 minutes that night the light changed and the mountains opposite took on a red glow making it look very different.
We continued going north the next day, when our first stop was in Molde. This was where I made the decision on whether to take the atlantic road or to keep to the easy option of the E39. The decision was easy in the end, I didn’t really like the look of the campsite at Molde – there was nothing wrong with it – I just knew that Norway had a lot better to offer. So I headed along the coast to Bude – the start o the atlantic road.
The coast at this point was bit different, more craggy than big mountains. I didn’t know quite where I was going to stop for the night – but there were a few options so I just kept driving. I pulled off the main road to look at one campsite – and was lucky enough to a deer gracefully run across in front of me. I didn’t stop at that site but it was worth the little diversion to see the deer.
The site I stopped at was great – it was very small and basic just a field in front of a little bay. I tried to go for a swim – but the water was very shallow so it was more of a dunk than a swim – but refreshing nonetheless. The campsite gradually got busier as the afternoon went on – and one set of campers included a couple of cavaliers – even another ruby to my Alf’s delight.
I spent that evening putting together a play list on my iPod – my friends Deb’s suggestion for on the atlantic road to help me get over the bridges. At one point I got a bit carried away and found myself dancing in the rain. It felt great – so what if I looked a bit weird to my fellow campers. As the rain cleared away a rainbow formed right over the top of Beryl, it was magical. It was a brilliant evening – I felt fantastic and just loved being where I was at that point in time – in the moment.
The atlantic road lay a head of us in the morning; it was a great road and turned out to be easy – it think it will take a lot to top the mountain pass and spiralling tunnels. The road basically joins up lots of tiny islands – with a few curving bridges and some low ones. I enjoyed the drive but I was glad it was a calm day – apparently some people head out on stormy days on purpose – that definitely wouldn’t be me!
I stopped for a brief wander around the town of Kirstandsand before heading off towards Trondheim. I have to say Bergen was the best town / city I’d visited in Norway.
After another hours drive I found that nights campsite. It was about 10 miles off the main road and down steep hill to another bay. There were more locals camped here than travellers – which turned out to be very handy indeed.
For some reason that night I started to panic about the next leg of the trip. I hadn’t been worried about it before but the more I started to think about the 700k drive back from the Lofoten Islands where the boat was going to take me – I started to panic. It was past the article circle for gods sake. I had planed to drive back through Sweden as the roads were meant to be better but when I read about the area – swedish lapland – it all sounded extremely remote and suddenly that was starting to scare me a bit. As ever I called on my friends and had a chat with Debs and she calmed me down. I took her advice, poured a glass of wine and put a movie on. The next morning, I decided to travel back down through Norway to Trondheim and then head into Sweden from there. I broke down the journey into stages and found campsites at each point.
Once it was broken down into steps it no longer felt intimidating. I jumped in Beryl ready to get on going, the nerves from the night before overcome. But Beryl had other ideas – she didn’t want to play and wouldn’t start. Nothing, nadda.
I knew I had diesel – I never go below half a tank and I hadn’t left the lights on – the battery wasn’t flat. That was the extent of my knowledge. Thankfully some of the guys in the campsite came to my rescue and as luck would have it one of them was a mechanic. After about forty five minutes they managed to get the van started. I was so very very relieved – we were in the middle of nowhere.
The guy said he thought it was something to do with diesel pump – he’d had to manually pump it to get it going. Whilst he’d been looking at it, I’d been on the phone with the breakdown service in the UK as well as Eva from 321&away, where I’d bought Beryl. Eva is the owner and had said to call her with any problems – so I did!
Luckily once it started – it was running fine – I could stop and start her again. But it couldn’t be relied on to do that the next morning – my breakdown service were going to find me a garage in Trondheim so I headed off. The problem was thought that this was Sunday and I was due to get on the ship at midday on Monday. There was no way I could go into the remote north with any problems with the van.
So by the time I actually got on the way to Trondheim things had completely changed. It was extremely unlikely I was going to be getting the ship – unless I could get the van fixed by midday. When I checked in with the breakdown team later that afternoon they told me it was a national holiday on Monday so I wasn’t going to get into a garage until Tuesday – so that was it the voyage was off.
Having got over my fear and decided to make the trip I could have been pissed off at this turn of events but instead I just decided this was the way it was meant to be. I spent three nights in Trondheim, I moved camp after the first night. The fist site was OK – but there were some permanent campers there and it just didn’t feel right – so I moved.
The second site in Trondheim was better and I met the first set of campers from England since I’d been in Norway. A lovely couple who helped to relax me as I was waiting to get the van fixed. Luckily the mazda garage managed to fit me in on Tuesday afternoon and I passed the time in between wandering around Trondheim and having lunch at a great little bar.
It turned out the problem was with the glow plug – and was fairly easily fixed. I can’t tell you how much of a relief that was. On what turned out to be my final night in Norway I had entertainment courtesy of some kite surfers – amazing – as well as a beautiful midnight sunset. Far better than TV any time. Thank you Norway.
Norway had totally lived up to all my expectations; the fjords were dramatic and magnificent and I had camped in some of the most amazing places. But with the change of events, I decided it was time to move on and head South through Sweden.