WOW! Norway is impressive. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Slartibartfast, designer of planets, wins an award for the Norwegian fjords. We know now that the award was well-deserved.
Janice was impressed by the scenery between Kristiansand and Stavanger; Gary, who visited Stavanger 24 years ago, knew the coast would become more spectacular as we travelled north.
Gary re-lived parts of his visit to Stavanger by suggesting we drive down to Lysebotn (at the end of Lysefjord) and then catch the ferry to Forsund. We drove through a lunar landscape at the end of the fjord, and then viewed its vertical nearly 1,000m (3,300′) granite walls from the bottom, during the ferry crossing, and from the top at Preikestolen (“Pulpit Rock”). The hike to Preikistolen is challenging (8 km/5 miles in total with a climb of 300m/1,000’). Amelia made a friend the night before our hike and was thrilled to meet her at the top. It took us 2 hours and 20 minutes to hike up and then we spent the whole day at Pulpit rock and glacial lakes along the path with Amelia’s friend and her family. Amelia rated the experience 10/10 (a high score usually only achieved by water parks) and she has been enthusiastic about other hikes – especially if their completion is celebrated with expensive Norwegian ice cream!
At a tourist office, we picked up a brochure for “Fjord Norway” which stretches from Stavanger to Ålesund. Even though we usually travel slowly, and we only have a period of 90 days in the Schengen zone, we decided to head north through the fjords to Ålesund. Then, when we reached Ålesund, we decided to continue to Kristiansund – and then the Lofoten Islands.
Norway has a number of National Scenic Routes, which we have followed as we have driven north. Our favourite routes have included the magnificent mountains and glacial lake Røldalsvatnet, Hardangerfjord (covered in orchards), the bleak, windswept Hardangervidda plateau, driving up to Gaularfjellet Utsikten from Balestrand, road 776 from Høylandet, and the Kystriksveien route (Fv17, Coastal Route), especially the island of Leka, Torghatten (hole in the mountain), and the Svartisen Glacier. We still have Trollstigen and Geirangerfjord ahead of us, as we plan to see them as we head south.
The mountains make for narrow, twisty roads with lots of tunnels – they are often dark, and the walls are unsurfaced as they have been hacked through solid granite. Gary guessed we had driven through 100 kilometres (60 miles) of tunnels but then as he thought about it, he figured that we often drive through 10km of tunnels a day, so we have easily driven through 200km (120 miles) of tunnels in these four weeks! A couple of tunnels completed 360° turns inside the mountains and the most amazing so far was the tunnel near Eidefjord with a roundabout in the middle!
Norway is a paradise for wild camping. Lay-byes next to a fjord or lake, picnic areas, and visitor centre parking areas are often available. It took a couple of nights to get used to this new (to us) way of camping but now we are quite happy parked next to a quiet road with an amazing, always-changing view. From our overnight parkings we have seen dolphins, glaciers, sea cliffs, farms, forests, ferry docks, and harbours and we have barbequed, had beach bonfires, and even done a ‘polar plunge’ into a fjord.
Summertime is berry time and we have collected our share of wild blueberries and raspberries. Amelia has fallen in love with cooking after watching “Cook with Amber”. She suggested making parfaits and frozen yogurt bark with wild berries and some of her other favourite Amber recipes for the trip have included peanut butter energy balls, guacamole, carrot pitas, salmon sushi hand rolls, and rice balls.
Some of Amelia’s other favourites have been the heated swimming pools which also have water slides. She also enjoyed visiting the island of Leka and investigating the mystery of little Svanhild, who as a 3 ½-year-old in 1932, was apparently taken from a coastal farm by a sea eagle. She was found 7 hours later, mostly unharmed, on an inaccessible ledge in the mountains below a sea eagle’s nest. Ornithologists still question whether a sea eagle could carry her weight but, having seen the location of the ledge where she was found, it is difficult to imagine any other explanation.
A pleasant surprise was meeting up with motorhomers Linda and Steven; they used the same dealership as us to buy their motorhome and have been travelling in Europe for the past 2+ years. When we contacted them after reading a post on their blog about Norway, we were just 10km apart. They were heading south and we were heading north but we were able to meet for a quick coffee in Brønnøysund.
Originally, we had planned to spend about four weeks in Norway. Well, we have been here four weeks and we are still heading north. The scenery is so amazing that we are compelled to see what is in the next valley.
We have an idea of where we might turn around and head south but who knows? What will the next 4 weeks bring us?
Read Part II of our summer trip here