Our luck with the weather had expired, and we woke to light rain and miserable skies at the top of Trollstigen. We were so exceptionally thankful that we got to hike yesterday, instead of today.
Still, even with the grey skies, and precipitation, I couldn’t stop stopping to take photographs of the landscape. I was really, really wishing that I’d thought to buy another set of graduated ND filters. Oh well, I guess it’s still not too late for the second half of our trip.
We noticed a queue of cars, which meant we were approaching an attraction. It was rather flat, so I was genuinely curious what we were going to see. I didn’t manage to get a park on the first run past, but I did catch sight of what looked to be a huge water fall raging through a small canyon just below ground level. We looped around and got a park the second time.
They have built a beautiful walkway system that loops in and around the waterfall, taking you to see all the aspects and angles. It was fantastic, and once again showing us great Nordic design.
We were now driving through Valdal, towards the town of the same name. We’d heard that it was famous for strawberries, which seemed surprising to me. But, sure enough, from Gudbrandsjuvet all the way to the fjord at Valdal, there were farms growing and selling strawberries. We’d also heard that it was a large Polish community working on these farms, which also sounded surprising – and once again, we started hearing people speaking Polish, as well as seeing cars with Polish number plates. We didn’t partake, as they were pretty expensive.
We’d reached the end of the road, and to continue, we’d have to catch a ferry across the fjord. I was a little worried about what it would cost, but it turned out to be 112Kr (€12), which in retrospect must be a fixed price, as all the ferries we caught (and we caught a few) were about the same price. There were three ferries in constant motion shuttling vehicles across the narrow stretch of water, either loading, unloading, or in motion. We had hoped to catch the ferry all the way along the fjord and unload in Geiranger, however, that service has been discontinued, so we’d have to drive the rest of the way.
The views continued, traversing up another twisting pass, and between lofty peaks with a seemingly unlimited number of waterfalls plunging down. We had a sneak peak of the fjord in Geiranger, and we were excited with what we saw.
The road eventually took us to Eagles Nest, giving us our first real clear view of the fjord, and the dramatic cliffs that lined it. And you guessed it, there was a view platform that stuck out from the side of the mountain.
As much as I hate spending money – which now that I write it sounds ridiculous, because we’ve spent nearly €8000 already on this trip – I knew that the best way to see this UNESCO listed landscape was to join a boat tour. As I mentioned above, we were really hoping to catch a vehicle ferry here, killing two birds with one stone. There were two fjord tour options available, but we chose the longer of the two – 90-minutes and 250NOK.
The ferry wasn’t due to leave for nearly 45-minutes after we bought our tickets, but people were already queuing to get on – I guess they were hoping to secure a good seat. We boarded, and predictably, it was standing room only on the top deck. Left without a choice, we stood and enjoyed the view. I could sympathise with those that had queued, and were now having their views disturbed by my physical form, but these grumpy old American men were causing me to rage with their attempts at passive aggressive comments to each other – “What does it look like, I can’t see anything now”. I did my best to ignore them and enjoy the views, moving around as much as possible to minimise the time in front of a single person. Though, eventually I found a better place at the bow that didn’t block any of these miserable old bastards.
Anyway, their negativity didn’t dampen my enjoyment too much. The views of these towering walls with their adorning waterfalls were fantastic. Magical even.
The tour followed the fjord out to where it opened up and joined the neighbouring fjord. It didn’t feel like we’d travelled all that far, but checking on Google Maps Timeline afterwards, it showed that we travelled for 33km!
I was in a comfortable location for the return trip, and the Chinese tourists had gotten bored at feeding the seagulls (or they’d run out of bread). I could now relax and really enjoy the scenery, be that tiny farms that occupy impossible tracts of land high up the walls on the fjords, or the dozens of waterfalls that have carved deep gorges over the eons.
The tour included an audio guide (which was super cheesy), but it did give a little information about the people that were living here on these remote farms. They came here poor and desperate with no better choices for land, and this was all that they could afford. The land was so dangerous that they would have to tie their children to ropes to make sure that they didn’t fall over the edge to their deaths. But, the people here survived, and against the odds, some even flourished. I could just imagine how hard a life here would be, especially in winter!
The boat docked back in Geiranger, we had a quick walk around town, but we had no interest in what we saw, so continued driving.
The road twisted up and up, and was giving Gunter quite a hard time. Around half way up the mountain we stopped at yet another incredible view point. It’s hard to pick a favourite between this and the one as we approached Geiranger.
The road continued, with steep switchbacks up to 1000m above the fjord below. It was slow going, but thankfully as it was quite late, we had the road to ourselves, relaxing a little and not worrying about holding other people up. There was some stunning little huts up along this pass, too. Again, thanks to the roads being empty, we were able to stop in the middle of the road for some quick photos – with one nervous eye on the mirror to check for approaching traffic.
There was a toll road to travel yet further up to 1500m, however, the peaks of the mountains here were under the clouds, so there was no point driving any higher – maybe if it was a clear day.
It was getting pretty late, and the light was fading. We noticed a few other motorhomes squeezed into small rest areas on the sides of the road, so we did the same. It was beautiful up here on an alpine plateau, with small lakes, rivers, rapids, and an abundance of colourful moss and lichen.
We parked next to this large lake last night, which was still and calm, much like a mirror – how else can you explain something so flat, reflecting light perfectly? Anyway, it started raining during the evening, and was still raining this morning, so the lake was no longer mirror-like, but instead pock marked with the falling drops of rain. The skies were low and colourless, not filling us with much optimism for a day of driving along panoramic roads.
What we saw was still beautiful, with small villages at the bottom of enormous glacial valleys, with clouds clinging to the sides of the valley, obscuring the peaks.
We followed until we reached Route 15, which we turned right towards Stryn. There were a series of very long tunnels that were indescribably uncomfortable to drive along, wincing every time something larger than us approached, not having 100% confidence where the side of their vehicle was, nor the edge of our lane.
Stryn Summer Ski Area
We obviously survived, and unscathed, before turning off onto Route 258 towards the Stryn Summer Ski Area. The road was now single lane, with us having to stop on a few occasions to let people past. It was hard going to begin with, but soon flattened out, following a gentle series of rapids and eventually a small lake that was the source of the water. I’d laughed at the thought of going skiing in August, thinking how ridiculous that is (for the Northern Hemisphere), only to have that proven, as the ski resort was well and truly shut for the season, and looking decidedly patchy/grim.
From here the road was unpaved, though fairly easy going without too many corrugations to be concerned about. It was pretty, though the weather was dampening much of the beauty. There were more, and larger, alpine lakes, all a beautiful shade of blue. It was only a short stretch of road, but it felt like it took us all morning – probably a combination of us stopping to enjoy the view, us driving slowly to enjoy the view from the comfort of the car, and mechanical sympathy to not shake the interior fixtures of the van loose.
We rejoined Route 15, and the roads flattened, straightened and widened. It was easy driving, but we missed the scenery we’d been spoilt with. The pine forests, and agitated rivers were still beautiful, but they had no chance of comparing to the views in the high alpine region – regardless of the weather.
Lom Stave Church
We stopped for lunch here in Lom, parking just in front of this church, enjoying the views with some risotto that Risa made.
There is no need to mention that it was beautiful, as hopefully that’s obvious. The church is unlike any other style of church we’ve seen before, and it reminded me of a dragon, with reptilian scales and spiked adornments – though, maybe it was due to there actually being carved dragons on the sides of this wooden church.
Walking closer, the smell of oak was incredible, even after all these years, flooding me with memories of a very nice Japanese bath. The general shape was fantastic, rising like a beast from the cemetery, but the details were equally incredible, and it still struck me as strange seeing a Christian cross next to a carved dragon’s head on a church.
We didn’t go inside, as I was saving it for Borgund Church, which we’d visit in a few days time. Of course, in retrospect, this church actually looked like it had much more to view inside than Borgund’s, so if by some chance, someone reads this, and is thinking of visiting, it’s probably worth going inside.
We left the easy going road, and set course for more mountain passes along Route 55 towards Sogndal. It started along a wide-open glacial valley, beside a raging river, fed from all the waterfalls along the valley.
The further we travelled, and the higher we got, the more dramatic the views became. I could only imagine what this area is like during fine weather, because the distant peaks and glaciers looked epic – or, at least my imagination made them appear epic, because we couldn’t quite see the whole picture.
The visibility continued to deteriorate as we continued to climb, until it got to the point where we were driving inside the clouds, and had less than 100m of visibility. Occasionally there was the tiniest of breaks in the cover, and we could see the faintest outline of some dark jagged peaks.
We dropped over the other side of this range, and down into a wide, luscious green valley, and glimpses of sunshine. The valley continued to expand until we were back at sea level, and we were looking out at the fjords again. Tomorrow we aimed to hike up one of the nearby glaciers, so we did our best to drive as close as we could to Nigardsbreen before calling it a night, in one of the many small rest areas on the side of the road – we were just a little too slow to beat the dozens of German campers that had found some better locations, but I won’t get started on the hordes of German motorhomes over here!