Wednesday 12th July More mountains, fjords and some rain! 75 miles
A mixed day with some sun but also some rain. We enjoyed our view of the deep, dark valley across the water, making us think of 3 Valley Gap in Revelstoke.
Before 9.00, we were driving along beside Oppstrynsvatnet Lake and then the Stryneelva River to Stryn. It was all beautiful.
Stryn was a pleasant enough town, occupying the large flat area surrounded by mountains, some near vertical. We passed some nice weather-boarded houses.
It served as a useful place for us. We shopped first in a Kiwi supermarket, which was fine, but had very few customers. We then went off to get some LPG, and to locate the dump station. Then it was time to finalise the website, which always has its problems.
Having successfully done this, we set off for Loen, where we had lunch beside the end of long Nordfjord.
Just after this we drove through Olden, where we were surprised to see another huge cruise ship docked. All the usual 'grot shops' were here – we drove through as quickly as we could! The stop was presumably for the passengers to visit the nearby glacier.
We continued around the fjord to Utvik, which had pretty weather-boarded houses. We now left the fjord, and the incoming bad weather, and ascended on many hairpin bends with a gushing river beside us, to Mt Utvik. We had lovely views of the deep valleys.
Looking across Nordfjord near Loen
We came to Byrkjela, where we passed an interesting sculpture park before driving on down Vatdalen (wet valley), which for part of the time it was! It was very beautiful though, with steep sides, a rushing river and huge moss covered rocks.
The interesting Sculpture Park at Byrkjela
We drove on to Jolstavanet, where we arrived at 4.15.
The rain had caught up with us, but we did manage to walk across to yet another beautiful lake surrounded by mountains.
Yet another lovely overnighter, Jolstavanet
Thursday 13th July Fantastic scenery to reach Sogne Fjord 142 miles
We were both despondent to wake up to a wet morning, after hearing rain for most of the night. We left at 8.40 but it was difficult to appreciate the beauty of the scenery with the bad visibility. However, the weather improved and we enjoyed the near vertical cliffs and the extra voluminous rapids. We passed a mother sheep with her two little lambs.
Just before the town of Forde, we turned onto incredible route 13. It would have been much quicker to carry on south, but this roundabout route was stupendous! It was all lakes, waterfalls, gushing rivers and steep forested mountains, with a few scattered houses and grass roofed huts.
At Viksdalen we crossed the river. It was all very atmospheric. The extra good thing about leaving early in the morning is that there is virtually no other traffic about.
We stopped by amazing Likholefossen, stupendous rapids, which we walked across to. There was a narrow footbridge over the falls. It felt pretty cold – we warmed up with tea/coffee afterwards.
Views along scenic Route 13
When we set off again, we came to a large herd of goats on the road, unwilling to move – until a local drove by beeping the horn loudly!
The sun had actually come out as we came to a viewpoint for the eight hairpin bends ahead! They were as scenic as Trollestigen, and without all the traffic!
What do you mean you want to get past!
We descended on them to Dragsvik, on an arm of the Sogne Fjord. We drove along beside the fjord to Balestrand, where we stopped for lunch. The delightful thing to see here is the 'English Church', which was just gorgeous. It was called St Olav's, and had been built in 1897 in the stave style. An English woman, Margaret Kvikne, who had married a local, and had lived here, had wanted the church to be built. Sadly she died of TB before it was finished. It was wooden, and really lovely, with a carved wooden interior and stained glass windows.
Hard to imagine this idyll covered by snow this deep! (Gauge goes up to 5m)
And now for some more hairpins!
Nearby were two Viking burial mounds to King Bele and his wife, with a statue commissioned in 1913 by Kaiser Wilhelm 2 who visited Balestrand many times.
Beautiful Balestrand with charming St Olaf’s Church
The houses of the village had pretty gardens with delphiniums, hostas and day lilies growing in them. The only thing to spoil it all was an out-of-place large hotel and an unattractive council building.
We continued along the north shore of Sogne Fjord, surprised by the fields of fruit trees. We had to drive through several tunnels - one nearly 7 km long. At another we had to wait 15 minutes for works in the tunnel. Even so, we reached Lavik at 4.00, hoping to catch the ferry across the fjord. We were in luck, and with the usual lack of fuss we were beckoned on for the short crossing. People stayed in vehicles.
The burial mound of Viking King Bele
By 4.30 we were heading off towards Bergen, which we hope to visit tomorrow.
The sun was out as we drove on, driving through even more tunnels. We turned off at Matre onto a small road and finding a delightful place to stop for the night looking across to towering mountains and with swampy ground leading to a small pond.
The ferry across Sogne Fjord
Our isolated spot at Matre
Friday 14th July Bergen 57 miles
It was a disappointingly damp morning. We left at 8.30 and followed the E39 to Bergen along a beautiful valley and then by the fjord. The scenery was magnificent, although we drove through a lot of tunnels – at least 20!
At Knarvik we came to the first of two fine suspension bridges, with fjords all around.
Driving in Bergen became a nightmare, partly because we went through two more long tunnels, so Adrian's sat-nav stopped working. When we came out, by the time the sat-nav had started working again, we had gone the wrong way. It was also partly because so many junctions are missing (datawise) from the Norway map that the sat-nav was suggesting silly routes! The only good thing was the complete lack of traffic – on a Friday too!
We finally reached the motorhome parking area to find it full, so we joined other campers parking just outside the area. It was now 10.00, and although still grey, the weather was dry. (apparently it rains for 270 days a year in Bergen!)
It was about an hour later when we set off for Bergen, walking just down the road to catch the tram into the centre. The ticket machine wasn't working, so we had a free ride in!
We immediately went into a tunnel, but after that it was an enjoyable way to see where we were going. Although the tram was busy, we both got seats.
We alighted at the terminus and were immediately struck by the spaciousness of Bergen.
We made our way to Torget, the main square at the end of the harbour. This was formerly the fish market, and although there were one or two fish stalls, it was mostly (very expensive!) food stalls and touristy things.
We walked along the waterfront to Bryggen, where the wooden houses looked very attractive, painted different colours. There were narrow alleyways, and you could wander about amongst the old houses. It was really busy, perhaps because there were two huge cruise liners in! The sun had now come out, so it was pleasant when we sat on a seat to eat the lunch we had brought with us.
We arrive in Bergen and walk down to the harbour
We walked along the road called Ovregatan, coming to the funicular railway, which we'd hoped to go on. We waited for a short while in the long queue outside, then Adrian found that it was still a really long wait inside the building. We walked on, down delightful Lille Ovregatan Street with its attractive old wooden houses.
Bryggen - Bergen’s old town
We came to the cathedral, but it was all under wraps. We made our way back to pedestrianised Torgalmenningen cobbled street with its eye-catching fishermen's statue. This led to Ole Bulls Plass, another pedestrianised street, named after a 19th century heartthrob violinist who had been born in the city, as had Edward Grieg.
We walked down to large Lille Lungegaradsvann pond and enjoyed sitting in the sun until we caught the tram back. We had trouble with the ticket machine, but managed to get one ticket.
It was 3 o'clock when we got back to the van – other campers were vainly looking for places.
The fishermen’s statue and Ole Bull’s statue
Saturday 15th July Hardanger Fjord and onwards 120 miles
We awoke to heavy rain. At 8.40 we left to get water and to dump. The place was pretty inaccessible, being blocked by a rubbish skip. It was over half an hour later when we finally left. Adrian had chatted to a nice German man.
Adrian had been concerned that the journey out of Bergen might have been as stressful as the one coming in yesterday, but in fact it was fine. The roads were quiet and it was actually pleasant. We shopped in a Maxi co-op, then travelled on to the E16, turning off to route 7. We turned off this to look at the pretty village of Haga at the end of the fjord.
We then had to drive a long way before we could rejoin the road as the main road was in a tunnel underneath us.
There were plenty more tunnels today of varying length. Adrian was not happy at the automatic tolls which take £4.70 as you drive past, giving you no option.
We made a long descent to Hardangerfjord, some of it in tunnels, the rest as spirals!
We reached it at Norheimsund, where the houses spread up prettily from the water. When we stopped just afterwards at Oystese, the sun was out and we sat on a bench by the fjord for lunch. I put my shorts on and walked onto the white gritty beach, but by now the sun had gone in! It was a pleasant area, with a little park behind the beach and a white wooden church. However we were generally disappointed to see how inhabited this part is.
The pretty village of Haga
We went over yet another attractive suspension bridge before driving on a road up beside Fyksefjord with steep slopes up behind.
Sometimes the road was very narrow, with no warning signs to tell you, or give priority (and there were plenty of big vehicles coming the other way!)
At Granvin we headed for Voss. The countryside was less steep here, so was even more inhabited.
We were now following the rushing river with its constant rapids and the amazing Tvigefossen waterfall.
Suspension bridge across the Fyskefjord
At about 5.00, we pulled in to a rest area for the night just beyond Stalheim, beneath towering vertical mountains behind a tumbling river. We'd looked at another spot close by, but felt it a bit too vulnerable, being at the foot of the vertical scree rocks.
We unexpectedly come to Tvigefossen waterfall
Dramatic place for an overnight stop
Sunday 16th July A short but interesting drive to Flam 27 miles
We went immediately into a 11.5 km tunnel. At the end of this, in the short gap before the next 5km tunnel, a road led off to Undredal. We drove for 6km down a deep glaciated valley, following a rushing, gushing stream. We passed lots of goats on the road – the village is famous for its goats cheese. Undredal, is a tiny delightful village on Aurlandsfjord. Its pretty painted wooden houses have roses and honeysuckle climbing up them. We were dismayed to see a tour bus here, but after that had departed it was wonderfully quiet as we wandered up to the tiny white painted stave church and peeped inside. Apparently only 80 people live in Undredal, but there are many visitors!
Adrian spent a long time looking at our onward route and finally, after many problems with the computer, managed to book a ferry from Gothenburg to Frederickshaven in Denmark for Friday evening.
We sat outside with a cup of tea, but the day was very erratic, with much wind and rain, as well as some sun.
As we were going to bed, some men came down to fish!
Monday 17th July The Flam train then on towards Oslo 117 miles
Back at Flam station, we went into the (free) railway museum, which had masses of stuff in it, but was far too busy for us! We walked back to the campsite, getting to the Ixi at 11o'clock for welcome elevenses. Luckily book-out time wasn't until midday. By the time we'd done the emptying and filling it was nearly 12.00.
We now left Flam, going straight away into a tunnel! We were heading towards Oslo, via Aurland.
An enjoyable trip on the Flam railway
From here we weren't taking the road through the 24.5km Laerdal tunnel (the longest road tunnel in the world), but we did go through dozens of varying length on Route 50. At one we were told that there would be a 20 minute delay, but luckily it was only about 5 minutes. Many of the tunnels were badly lit.
We hadn't been prepared for a mighty ascent through tunnels and hairpins (some in the tunnels!) up a near vertical rock face. When we reached the top we stopped for lunch of beans on toast. Afterwards we walked along a short way to an old boarded up tunnel.
The start of the 24.5km Laerdal tunnel which we didn’t go through!
We carried on up to 1200m, to barren moorland, reaching the snowline. There were a few remote buildings and several sheep.
It was a long drive to reach Route 7 at Hol. It was much more inhabited here, with nowhere to stop at all. We'd have been happy to stop for the night, but couldn't even pull off to have a cup of tea. Eventually we found a small layby, and realised that we had just passed the turn-off to the village of Torpo, where there was a stave church.
We back tracked a little, and found the brown stave church right next to an attractive white church. As before, the graves in the churchyard were all beautifully kept, with flowers planted on them. The stave church looked lovely. We peeped inside, but at £6 each (and no photos allowed) we didn't go in!
Looking down after driving up the near vertical mountainside
Now we had the difficult time! With everywhere being so 'domesticated', there was nowhere for us to overnight. We even drove up into the hills for a few miles, searching for a parking spot which Adrian had, but it was filled up with wrapped hay bales, so we returned to the main road. Adrian had note of an 'overnighter', but when we got there, it wasn't obvious. In desperation, we stopped in a carpark by a supermarket in a small industrial estate at Nesbyen. It was nearly 6 o'clock, and Adrian was exhausted. He said that he was going no further! At least the sun was now shining!
The stave church at Torpo
Tuesday 18th July To Oslo 112 miles
How different and wonderful to wake to a blue sky!
The night had been really quiet with no traffic, and with no rushing river or waterfall behind us!
We realised that what we were parked in front of was a builders merchants and not a supermarket! We drove to the nearby Rema supermarket carpark to have our breakfast before shopping in there (for Adrian's tonic!) Afterwards we walked along in the sunshine to the little white church. Nesbyen had served us well!
It was nearly 9 o'clock when we headed off for Oslo on route 7, following the Hallendal valley. We passed the first picnic site (with just one table) that we'd seen for very many miles. After that we passed lots more. When we stopped at one to walk back to a little suspension bridge, built in 1905, it was sunny but very windy.
Nesbyen’s church against a blue sky!
We then passed the scene of a serious accident – the first accident that we have seen this time, which was very sobering.
We were driving past Lake Krodere. When we saw a nice picnic area, we decided to stop for an early coffee overlooking the lake. All was really pleasant until two tour buses arrived!
A new road had been built, with two long tunnels, and an automatic toll of £7. It was an easy decision to follow around by the lake instead, especially as we had plenty of time today.
At Noresund we left the lake. We came to another picnic site beside a conifer forest at 11.00. It looked so inviting, that we set off to walk through some of the forest on a little path we spied. It was really pleasant with rosebay willow herb, and the path lined with tiny yellow cow wheat (we looked it up). There were lots of butterflies – fritillaries, pale clouded yellow and a minute blue one – lovely! We were whiling away the day well!
A 1905 suspension bridge
A lovely walk in the woods
A good free overnighter at Oslo!
Wednesday 19th July A day in Oslo 0 miles
We Left at 9.20 on a fine morning for a day in Oslo. We started by walking down the hill to the station. A train had arrived, but a couple were having difficulties in getting their tickets from the machine, so we didn't have time to get ours. We understood their problems when we tried to get our tickets, although we got the instructions in English. We bought one ticket by card (£1.70 seniors), but when we came to get the second, it said 'repeat transaction' and wouldn't work! We realised on our return that you had to press 'multiple ticket'. We bought the second one with money.
We caught the next train at 9.45, and really enjoyed the half hour journey to Oslo. The train was almost empty, and ran very smoothly, stopping at very many stations. We had views down over miles of forest at first, and then over the Oslo Fjord as we descended from 500m to sea level. Only the very last part was underground.
A couple near us were having fun with their baby, who was in a buggy. When we came to get off, I wanted to see this happy baby, so went to the door past them, as Adrian went to the one nearer us.
Disaster – my door wouldn't open! There was nothing I could do – the train started going again – and there I was – no money, no phone, no ticket! Adrian saw my horrified face when he'd tried to open the door from the outside. Luckily I don't panic easily. I alighted at the next station and made my way to a seat to hopefully wait for Adrian. I was then aware of someone beside me, and looked up to see the nice mum from the train. She said that she would wait with me. I was expecting to wait 15 minutes until the next train, but being in central Oslo, there were more lines so it wasn't long until the next train arrived – and there was an anxious Adrian! All was well, but it could have been very different!
At the station before a day in Oslo
Oslo - the royal box in the cathedral
We saw the ‘modern’ (1950) controversial town hall and looked in at the Nobel Peace Prize Centre before locating the ferry to the 'museums', on a peninsula across the harbour.
A boat was about to leave, so having purchased our tickets, we got on it.
Oslo - the Parliament buildings and the Nobel Peace centre
There are several museums in this area, known as Bygdoy. We wanted to visit the Kon Tiki Museum (I had seen the Kon Tiki in Oslo in 1964), as we have a fascination with Thor Heyedahl and have watched many things about him. There was also a museum on the Amundsen and Antarctic boat Fram, and another on the Vikings.
The Kon Tiki museum (again seniors rate £6) was more than enough for us! The actual Kon Tiki raft was there, plus the Ra2. There were many displays and artefacts of Heyedahl's various expeditions, with captions in Norwegian and English (we are lucky) We watched a short film (in English) about the expedition. Altogether it was just right!
Oslo’s ‘new’ town hall
On the ferry to Bygdoy
The Kon Tiki raft
Thor Heyedahl in his library
Later we had aperitifs and then supper outside, coming in at 8.30 when the sun went behind the trees. We’d chatted to the pleasant Belgian couple in the next van, keen cyclists, from Antwerp.
Sitting in the sunshine above Oslo
Thursday 20th July From Norway to Sweden 173 miles
Clear blue sky! I put on a dress! We ate breakfast outside and left at 9 o'clock.
We wound our way back down the enormous hill, passing the massive ski jump.
Getting through and out of Oslo was almost pleasant! We did go through many tunnels, but mostly the countryside was very green. The only annoyance was the automatic tolls.
When we turned off to visit Fredrikstad, for the first time we saw the police call over a car. Then in Fredrikstad we saw another police car – and we have seen none until now. The new town of Fredrikstad was sprawling with much road/bridge works and not attractive. Finding places to stop today was always difficult. We pulled in by the river and sat on two large rocks for coffee before driving past the large redbrick Domkirke with a leafy park opposite to Gamblebyen, the old town.
This was pure delight! We parked by the vast, colourful, neatly kept cemetery, with flowers again planted on each grave. We walked through this, coming to the walls of the old town, surrounded by a moat with ducks and a family of swans on it. We walked across the drawbridge to find ourselves by several streets of pretty wooden houses with roses growing up them. We came out to the river edged with lime trees. We walked back, reaching the Ixi at 12.15. There was a three day festival starting today, but all was very quiet.
Passing the international ski jump high above Oslo
We passed fields of ripening corn as we drove back to the E6, heading towards Gothenburg. We turned off again to Halden, just before the border with Sweden. The only picnic area we passed was two tables outside the petrol station! We had to make do with the supermarket carpark next door!
Halden itself has a mighty fortress set on top of a hill. We walked through part of it, finding it very hot! It was a good place to use up children's energy, with lots of steps and climbing!
Charming Gamblebyen, Fredrikstad
We continued to Sweden on a pleasant small but winding road. We were in a bit of Norway which protrudes down into Sweden, so it was a while until we reached the border.
Just by the border there was a really nice picnic area, which in retrospect we should have stayed at. We walked across to a river, where there were falls further on.
The massive fortress at Halden in Norway
When we crossed into Sweden, there was no control at all.
We headed back to the E6, turning off to Lysekil so that we could visit the village of Fiskebackskil. We then found out that this involved a ferry crossing, so we returned to the E6 and drove several more miles, turning off on the right road. Adrian was dismayed to find how busy the road was.
We found a small parking area beside a nature reserve and pulled in. Having revived a bit with a cup of tea, we walked into the reserve. It wasn't the best for me, as it involved walking on a narrow board-walk above the boggy/swampy ground. There was a bird-hide up ahead – but this was up many steep steps!
When we reached the top, we looked out to swans and greylag geese on the water.
We stand on the bridge in Norway, looking across to Sweden
We climb to the lookout at Havstensfjorden Reserve to see lots of greylag geese
Friday 21st July From Sweden to Denmark 92 miles
It was a wet morning, so there were no visitors to the reserve before we left at 9.20.
We made our way to Fiskebackskil. This was a really pretty former fishing village. We parked near the church and looked in there first. It had a colourfully painted ceiling with model ships suspended from it and an opulent pulpit. It was quite lavish, owing to a benefactor in the 1700s. In the graveyard outside there was a grave to an English officer and a German soldier, buried together in 1916.
It was raining lightly as we wandered around the little cobbled lanes. There were no other visitors at this hour, so we delighted in the rows of prettily painted wooden houses rising up from the water. All had wonderful cottage garden plants – roses, hollyhocks, lavender, honeysuckle. It made us think of Robin Hoods Bay, or a Cornish fishing village. We wandered down to the water, then managed to find our way back, passing an attractive windmill set on the solid rocks. A star place!
Interesting Fiskebackskil Church
It was now 10.45. We drove across the river to view the houses from the other side.
We now made our way to Gothenburg, taking a winding rural route for most of the way, parallel with the E6. There were fields of cattle and horses.
Likeso much of Scandinavia, this part is made up of dozens of islands, so we crossed a lot of bridges. We stopped for lunch of soup, overlooking the water.
At Stenungsund we joined the E6, meeting it at a rare traffic jam just before a suspension bridge.
Adrian used his tablet to find the way to where he thought our ferry was leaving from. When we got there, we found the place empty – it was obviously the wrong place! More investigating, and he managed to survive the spaghetti junction roads (there is a road tunnel right under the whole of Gothenburg) and get us to the ferry terminal, so that we could suss out our ferry for later. We had a cup of tea while we decided what to do. Adrian then drove a short way to a carpark nearer the centre of Gothenburg. It was a paying carpark, with no Blue Badge spaces, and nothing to tell you how much until you put your card in. We decided on an hour's parking (£1.60) and set off to see what we could find. Even with 3 different maps, we spent most of the time trying to find out where we were! We did enjoy the wide, spacious streets, with many fine brick buildings and a lot of parkland. We managed to find our way across the canal and to the Domkyrkan – a domed cathedral all painted white inside – quite different in appearance.
Looking back to Fiskebackskil
A hasty visit to Gothenburg
Saturday 22nd July Lunch with an old school friend as we travel south. 147 miles
Reluctantly we left about 4.30 to drive a bit further. Just as we reached the motorway it started to rain heavily, with poor visibility. We pulled into a parking area at Skandeborg at 5.15 and decided to stay for the night.
We drank the last of our wine with our meal, bought from France 7 weeks ago.
We had to put the lights on when going to bed for the first time.
With school friend Val and her husband Erik
Sunday 23rd July From Denmark to Germany in variable weather 290 miles
Just as we set off to have a little walk around, there was a loud clap of thunder. We hadn't gone far when it started raining, so we returned.
A nice spot at Harpstedt
Monday 24th July More variable weather as we go from Germany to Holland 228 miles
It was dark under the trees. We left just after 9.00.
We drove along the road to Lidl. What a joy! Reasonable prices, and labels I could understand! We loaded up with more than we'd intended, including 12 rosebuds for €1.99.
We reached the motorway at 11.00.
Then it was a day of motorway travel. We turned off to dump, which was very necessary as the seal on the loo has broken. We then had some more bad weather, with really poor visibility. There were a lot of queues, luckily for us, mostly on the other carriageway.
At Osnabruck we turned on to the E30 motorway, which was much quieter. We stopped for lunch soon afterwards.
At 2.15, we crossed into Holland – and for a while it was sunny!
We drove past Arnhem, took a wrong turning and did a 'motorway' tour of the place. Later we turned off to find our stopping place for tonight, and being in Holland, soon passed a traditional windmill!
Lovely overnighter by Loevestein castle, Holland
Tuesday25th July Full Circle – back to Calais 195 miles
We enjoyed the 'big sky' of flat Holland, on a pleasant morning. We'd awoken to hear the cows mooing.
We left at 8.30, and drove back over the 13 speed humps! We'd been aware of the number of notices – but only in Dutch.
In the evening we enjoyed a colourful sky as the sun went down.
On the various stretches of water we saw a variety of ducks – swans, coots and herons. It was nice driving through the rural countryside on tree lined roads until we rejoined the motorway.
We stopped to get diesel before starting on the motorway at 9.00. Half an hour later we were in Belgium. It drizzled as we got there and then rained for a while – it seemed that just Holland was free of rain! It was unpleasant getting past Antwerp – both the weather and the volume of traffic. We sat at a picnic table in a grubby, tatty rest area, which didn't change our long-held opinion of Belgium! We can remember thinking the same in 1965!
We were soon into France, where the illegal immigrant problem led to an uneasy feeling. We pulled into a service area for lunch – most of it was barricaded off, and police sat in a car.
We left at 1.50, and headed for Calais, where Adrian went into a wine store, as he had done on our outward journey.
Then it was a visit to Carrefour, where we bought some cheese, and got some diesel.
We made our way to a parking area we'd stayed at a few years ago, but it didn't seem suitable. We drove to 'Flot Bleu' campervan parking, where we'd stayed on the first night. Registration and entrance was as difficult as we remember, with the controls a couple of feet off the ground!
Once parked, we had a cup of tea outside, although it had now become cloudy.
Adrian booked the ferry for tomorrow morning.
Nice image as we drove back to the motorway
Back to square one - cheers to a great trip!
Some Impressions of Norway
Beautiful scenery, variable weather!
No darkness in Summer
Expensive – about twice British prices
Much snow in the north
NO MOSQUITOES when we visited!
Tunnels are part and parcel of road system – we must have gone through 300
Easy going, trusting feeling
Big fish industry, but found little fresh fish to buy
All bins/mail boxes had a roof (snow?)
Lots of speed cameras
Very low speed limit in towns (30kmh)
Little evidence of police
Traffic restrictions, but saw no traffic wardens
Lack of road markings
Very trusting (fee paying etc)
There were a few birds as we walked back to the van.
We sat outside for our aperitifs and then for supper. Two birdwatchers came down – one had recently been to Hemel Hempsted to visit friends. Later another man came down, and went off into the reserve, puffing a cigarette. He came back and shovelled gravel from a pile behind us and put it in his car. After a while he came back and collected another lot!
A few notes on Scandinavia from our trip
High prices, low temperatures!
Some beautiful scenery
Found some wonderful places to overnight
Never any hassle
Doing washing the most difficult thing – had to resort to campsites
Very easy going feel
Overall Mileage - 7077 miles
Nights away - 54 7 - paid sites 47 - freebies
Wednesday 26th July The last stretch 169 miles
We were up early and left at 7.35 for the ferry on a misty morning, with the sun rising as a red ball.
There were lots of checks at the terminal, including a lady coming in to search the van.
The crossing was on a tatty old boat. We went up to the deck on what seemed like an old works lift. The ferry was eerily quiet with lots of things, like the toilets, barricaded off. There was not the usual nice view of Calais as we left, all was misty and grey. When we arrived at Dover, we descended by stairs, and had a lot of trouble in finding the right deck!
We had a short lived bit of sun as we arrived at Dover at 9.30 (10.30 to us), then it turned to rain. We were enjoying listening to our travels in Alaska in 2002, and realised that we'd missed our turning. Hence the horrible journey in bad visibility was made even longer, added to by all the hold-ups on the M25.
Seeing more queues ahead, we turned off at Wraysbury to join up with the M4. We arrived at Elm Gable at 1.15, which was 2.15 to us, so we were well ready for something to eat! We were greeted by Simon & Manolo and then Millie. Later Emma, Ruby & Felix arrived. Our other children and grandchildren are all coming too for a family weekend.
We'd had a great time, particularly if we thought of it as an out of season trip!
There was some more rain in the night, so this morning there was water in the dry waterfall opposite. We had showers/hairwash before eating blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Adrian had spoken to a Frenchman who had stayed in his van here, and was going to England. We left at 9.15, continuing through the deep gorge with vertical sides. Amazing waterfalls fell from on high. We stopped to look at Gudvangen on narrow Naeroyfjord. The tiny place was packed out with people from the many tour buses. It looked astounding, with so many waterfalls falling from a great height – a sure match for Milford Sound! The book had described it very unfavourably, so it wasn't as bad as we'd expected.
The sun had come out, so we enjoyed sitting at a picnic table with our tea/coffee. We drove back up the valley, and after the next tunnel we arrived at Flam. This is where we've booked a train ride from in the morning, so after checking out the station, we made our way to the campsite, arriving at 11.45. This was pleasantly laid out, in terraces, with the steep mountains towering up behind and with many long waterfalls.. (We tried to ignore the huge cruise ship tied up right next to the station!) Apart from being here for tomorrow's trip, the other reason we had come into a campsite was to do the washing! We went to suss that out, but by the time we'd collected up our washing and walked back down, both machines were in use! We prepared lunch, then all was fine and we got the washing done, walking each time past the pretty mass of wild flowers all around.
There was tumultuous rain in the night, and it was still wet in the morning. We felt for all the tent campers in their tiny tents. We were up at 6.30 in order to be ready for our 8.35 trip on the Flam railway. As we walked down to the station, we spied a little bit of blue sky! A nice young chap printed out our ticket from our online booking, then a few minutes later we were on the train. We managed to keep the seats opposite us free until the last moment, when a mother and her teenage daughter took them. The mother spent the journey enthusiastically taking photos, while the girl looked most disinterested and embarrassed by her mother, often looking at her phone. As they got off at the end I heard her say 'that was cool'! We cringed when a man and dog took the seats opposite, but after an initial bark, the dog sat silently with doleful eyes. We started by travelling past our campsite, where we tried to make out the Ixi. Information on the train was given in Norwegian, English and German. Initially the line was edged by astilbe flowers, which seem to grow well here. We passed huge boulders at the foot of immense vertical cliffs, with waterfalls galore. The scenery was stupendous. At the half way point, there was a double bit of track, and the train passed us from the other direction. It looked like a green caterpillar with a silver head. The train stopped at Kjosfossen waterfall and we all got out. It was dramatic enough, but we became aware of singing, and realised that a lady in a flowing red dress was prancing around and singing on a derelict building near the falls! She must do this several times a day for each trip! She was representing the spirit of the mountains. As we walked back to the train, it was difficult to know if the damping we could feel was from the waterfall or rain! At the end station, Myrdal (where it met the main line from Oslo to Bergen), many people alighted (some to cycle back down) so we moved seats to look out the other side for the return journey. Again we had superb views, and went once more through the 20 tunnels as the line wound its way 20km back down the valley.
We sat at a wonky covered picnic table to have lunch in the warm sun. I had put on my shorts! We soon joined Route 16 into Oslo. This wasn't very pleasant with many tunnels, a lot of traffic, roadworks and a 'ring road' to contend with. We stopped to get more diesel before finding our way to the overnighter which Adrian had sorted out, after first looking at the nearby railway station for tomorrow. We had driven past the vast skiing complex of Holmenkollen, with its gigantic international ski jump. We were pleasantly surprised to find that our carpark at Voksenkollenwas quite open, surrounded by grass and overlooking conifer trees. We sat outside for our cup of tea and later for supper too!
Once outside, we walked down to the cathedral - this station was actually very conveniently placed! The large cathedral had a very colourful painted ceiling. It had a Royal Box, which was a very grand affair. Outside was the unimpressive Stortorvet Square, which had several flower stalls with the worst plants for sale that we have ever seen! Not cheap either! The city displays, on the other hand, were very attractive. Oslo appeared very spacious with wide streets and pleasant buildings. We walked past the Parliament Buildings and viewed the Royal Palace in the distance.
I went to purchase some notecards, which were reasonably priced, whereas most things are exorbitant (I'd noted the high prices in Oslo in 1964!) These were even better, as they came out at half the price! With the change, we shared an icecream outside before catching the boat back, in the sunshine. The day hadn't turned out as hot as forecast, but was pleasantly warm. We've been very lucky with all our visits to cities. We walked back to the station passing the castle and some buildings from the old town. The journey back was uneventful. We climbed the steep hill back to our parking place and enjoyed a reviving cup of tea, sitting in the sunshine. It had been a good day!
We made our way back to the van, and drove to an area the lady at the ferry terminal had suggested to Adrian to park while we had our supper. We drove over to the terminal and were soon beckoned to our position right at the front of the ship. We were disconcerted to see that the floor was really flooded so it was a nightmare for me to make my way past all the vehicles to the stairs. (Adrian thought later that it had rained heavily on the previous crossing as the top deck was flooded too). We were on the lowest levels, so that meant very many stairs to climb! The ship seemed to have masses of passengers and not much suitable seating. We found two seats, with a bonus socket for Adrian's computer. Apart from the loud and mostly unpleasant music, we settled down. The port area of Gothenburg seemed to go on for ever, before we passed some of the many islands.
Time went surprisingly quickly – much of it was spent on working on the website. We were surprised to see darkness fall well before we docked at 11.45. It was disappointing to find the floor still wet as we made our way back to the van. We were first to drive off the boat, except for three cyclists and two motorcyclists. This didn't help in finding anywhere to stop in the pitch darkness – something we hadn't seen for weeks. Adrian had one or two ideas in mind, but it was impossible to make anything out on the wide, straight dual carriageway. We turned off so that he could look on the sat-nav, but this didn't appear to be working! Things were getting dire, and we were both very tired. We drove on, passing a campsite sign, and there on our side of the road was a sign for a picnic area! Heaven – we pulled in and got to bed as quickly as we could – it was 12.30.
The night had been quiet. We left at 8.30 on a greyish morning and were soon heading south on the motorway. It was quiet at first, as we drove through the rural countryside. There were plenty of rest areas – at one we were able to get water and to dump. It got busier as we drove on, then just before we were due to turn off, we came to a hold-up for an accident. We edged forward slowly at first, then came to a standstill. Eight various emergency vehicles drove past. We phoned Val & Erik to say that we had been delayed. We waited for almost an hour, then all was clear and we drove on. After turning off the motorway, we followed a pleasant route past fields of ripening corn and bales of hay, to Silkeborg, with the sun even shining. Things still weren't easy though, as, just before we reached their house, we came to a 'bridge out', and had to drive a long way round! We arrived at Val & Erik's at about midday, and spent a delightful time chatting and having a delicious lunch in their lovely garden. I even spoke on 'skype' to another school-friend Kath, in South Africa.
The morning was grey, with rain. We enjoyed a boiled egg for breakfast with toast from the last of the bread. We left at 8.30 and were soon back on the motorway. The nice thing on a Sunday is that lorries aren't allowed. We drove through the pleasant but unremarkable Danish countryside, stopping at a service station for diesel. I bought some 'Danish pastries' with the few Danish coins we had left. There was an ominous black cloud up ahead, and it soon began to rain horrendously. This always unnerves me, so we pulled into the next rest area for an early coffee . Back on the motorway, it was still unpleasant as the spray made the visibility difficult. At 11.00 we crossed into Germany. There was no control our way, but cars going into Denmark had a very long queue. We soon turned off the motorway looking for a supermarket. We had been looking forward to shopping in a country which wasn't quite so expensive, and had used up nearly all our reserves of food.
We passed an enormous shopping complex, but found to our dismay that everything was closed on a Sunday, including Lidl and Aldi! At the next petrol station we were able to buy some filled rolls for lunch. It was good to be able to speak some of the language! Then we got into roadworks which went on and off for at least 30 miles and the going was very slow. We soon went through a very long tunnel under the river Elbe at Hamburg. There was a traffic jam in the tunnel, which wasn't nice for me!(on reading our 1988 diary, it was very similar then!) When we came out, we took a wrong turn, but luckily it was soon righted. We stopped at an exceedingly busy service station hoping to buy some booze for tonight. We settled on getting a large can of beer. It was warm and sunny now, but it was all really crowded and noisy, and there were no tables to sit at for our cup of tea. Back on the motorway, it was a frustratingly slow journey with hold-ups for mile after mile of roadworks. Back on the motorway, it was a frustratingly slow journey with hold-ups for mile after mile of roadworks. Therefore we turned off earlier than intended to drive on tree-lined country roads past neat villages to a motorhome stopping place under trees at Harpstedt, reaching it at 5.15.
There were a lot of waterways. We pulled in to a large carpark which was to be our overnighter. We couldn't have hoped for more – a large, empty carpark beside the River Waal. The sky had been vary variable, but we set off to walk up to Loevestein castle. This was delightful, as we walked past the large barges on the river as far as the castle entrance. We passed a coot, and later a heron. There was a moat around the castle and golden rod lined the river. There was a small white beach which we walked down to, and I put my feet in the water. The sky had been dramatic, but in the sun it was pleasantly warm. We came back and had our drinks outside, and later our supper too, although the clouds appeared just then.