Saturday, 3 August 2013

More on Norway...

Anyway, to continue the story...

Heading first for Sand and then Sauda on the 520 we climbed 1000m as the road snaked its way through the enormous mountains, twisting and turning, like a twisty turny thing. We passed grass roofed summer huts (or were they winter ones?) nestled by small green lakes. Interestingly we overheard a Norwegian talking to a tourist about these small lakes in the mountains – called tarns in Scotland. Apparently they don't have a name for them in Norway, they're just called 'small waters'. Strange seeing as there are so many of them.

I want to live there!

The road then ended near Roldal and we turned north west on the E13 towards Sorfjorden. After passing through a 5 km almost dead straight tunnel which headed downhill, we continued winding our way down another 20-30 kms before coming to the head of the fjord at Odda. Turquoise waters gave way to huge sheer cliffs on either side of the valley and massive waterfalls tumbled down into the fjord.

We only did 170 miles but it took us 8 hours.

I've been to Scotland; I've been at Alaska; I've been been to Yukon and BC. Sorry guys I really think Norway may top even those great places. (So far) it doesn't quite have the space and enormity of Alaska and Canada but it has amazing scenery pretty much everywhere you look, great facilities everywhere and, as Tracy will bear testimony to, lovely hot chocolate.

If only it didn't rain so much.

Which it doesn't do when you're in a tunnel. So for 23 minutes we didn't get rained on! We passed through the world's longest passenger road tunnel. Who'd have thought that it was in Norway - specifically on the E16 north east of Flam.


Having started the day gawping at one of Norway's most visited waterfalls....


We caught another ferry and rode through some beautiful 'Lord of the Rings' type scenery - huge waterfalls cascading down the mountainside, as the road twisted its way up the valley floor. Occasionally we'd come across a small quaint Norwegian village all with wooden houses, painted deep red, or white or occasionally mustard yellow, often with grass roofs. And then another tunnel and then another fjord, and sometimes this...quite a shock I can tell you!

We stopped at Fjaerland. Population 300 but gets 300,000 tourists a year (almost all between June and September) Some because this place is the Hay-on-Wye of Norway. A Bibliophile's nirvana with dozens of second hand bookshops, but also because this is glacier country.


ONE man ONE bike ONE tent ONE glacier in the background

Tracy in her element. Stealing second hand books!

We camped for the night, in sight of continental Europe's largest (and most southerly?) glacier, but not before visiting the excellent Norwegian Glacier Museum, where we learnt all about ice, glaciers and global warming.

Little did we know how accurate that sign was!

Global warming - as witnessed by a retreating glacier. Caused by cows and the combustion engine.

Next day (Thursday? Not sure anymore) we moved north a little. A little, because the scenery was so amazing we just kept stopping to gawp at it. Another valley, another glacier, another waterfall.
Tracy had spotted a small campsite in the LP that sounded wonderful, so we headed to Olden and then along a minor (but sealed) road through yet more fantastic scenery to the very end of the valley. We were confronted with perhaps the best campground we have ever found!?

Set between two fingers of the glacier, Melkevoll Bretun campsite has lovely grass, flat pitches next to a raging river which is, in fact, icy water coming straight off the glacier. Above us we could see the glacier in the distance and over to our right was a massive waterfall. (I'm posting this blog before taking lots of photos of the campsite, which I'll add next week or on facebook)

And it was 'only' £18 a night and breakfast was just £5. There was even a free sauna (although, as nakedness is often expected in this part of the world I didn't partake).

We walked up to the edge of the glacier, passed by many tourists (mainly Chinese) who had taken a 'Troll car' (basically a golf cart) instead of walking for 50 minutes. This particular glacial finger has retreated some 500m in the last century and we followed the depressing signs back as they told us where it used to reach. But when we got to where it is today it was quite stunning. Tracy got very excited about picking up twenty thousand year old bits of ice (as you would) and put her 'scientist pose' on for the photo.

We're staying another night here.... might never make it to Nordkapp at this rate....

Scandinavian people.... Another thing I like about Norway, and Scandinavia in general I think, are the people. They are very friendly (and everyone seems to speak excellent English) and quiet and respectful. To generalise, I think we have more in common with Scandinavians (and Germans) than we may at first think. I mention this in my 'soon to be published book' (Had to mention it, sorry). When I was in the USA I commented on how we don't perhaps have as much in common with our North American 'cousins' as our common language might suggest. Just because we speak the same (or very similar) language doesn't mean we are the same. Whereas the British, Scandinavians and Germans do, I think, share many traits. We value personal space, are polite and friendly but in a non invasive way. I realise I'm on dodgy ground saying this as it's a massive generalisation. I don't mean to offend anyone. I'm just saying that it appears to me that we Brits are more European than we like to think sometimes and perhaps our 'special relationship' with Uncle Sam is holding us back from forming deeper relations with our true first cousins.

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