Sorry that this was not on a bike; it would have been great if it had been.
Why Norway? Well, my wife, Lisa, is Norwegian and we were due for a holiday there to visit her family, and attend a wedding. As a bonus, Lisa’s brother’s partner was moving from Tromsø (in the north) down to Drøbak (in the south) and since we were going north to visit Lisa’s other brother (who lives there permanently), would we like to drive the first partner’s car down. Would we what?
Lisa had gone to Norway a few weeks before me, and so we met on my arrival at Gardermoen (Oslo) Airport and we flew to Tromsø together. A nephew was waiting at the airport with the car (a VW Golf with a diesel engine) and we took it from there.
First we visited older brother, Harald on the island of Senja (3 hours from Tromsø). We stayed there a week, doing some fishing (I caught a fish!!), and hiking up a hill, picking berries, visiting WW2 German fortifications and drinking lots of beer. It was the time of the midnight sun, so we would continue drinking and talking until 2 or 3 am some nights, in broad daylight, not realising what the time was.
After a very nice stay on Senja, we set off on our drive south.
First we drove through the Lofoten Islands, where unfortunately torrential rain and low mist obscured the spectacular scenery. There were a lot of bikers there and I didn’t envy them. I spoke to a German biker (on a BMW 1200, what else?) as we waited for the ferry to take us back to the mainland. He was totally pissed off, with the weather, with the prices (more about that later) and with the fact he had to queue with the cars to get on the ferry.
Once we got back to the mainland, the weather improved, and as the news papers chortled, there wasn’t a cloud over the whole of the country – for two days! I spared a thought for my German friend and hoped he was feeling a little better. We drove from Bodø, down the E6 to Mo I Rana (that’s a town), and then to Trondheim, where we lived for 2 years, 34 years ago. That was more for nostalgia than tourism. After heading west to the town of Kristiansund to stay with a niece and family, we then drove along one of the scenic routes – The Atlantic Road to Molde. There was a peculiar bridge over a fjord that had a curious laterally-curved central span. This highway would have been a great ride on a bike.
Then we followed an even more superb ride for bikes, up the switchback road throughTrollvegen and Trollstigan. The scenery was spectacular and vertical. Waterfalls ran into the valley from every quarter, and the road was such that had I been on the Triumph, I would have been scraping alternate footrests on consecutive bends, all the way to the top, and down the other side.
We stayed in the picturesque town of Valldal, on Sunnelvsfjord, surrounded by skyscraper scenery.
The next day, we took the 2½-hour ferry ride along the fjord to Geiranger and all along the route the countryside was dotted with half-a-dozen abandoned farms located hundreds of metres up the mountainside. One can understand why they were abandoned (the farmers would have had to milk the cows and harvest the crops with one hand – the other hanging on for dear life) – I can hardly wonder why they were established in the firstplace. God knows how they carried the material in to construct the buildings.
From Geiranger there was another spectacular switch-back climb (oh, to do that on a bike!!). We headed first east to the town of Lom and then south west over the Jotunheimen Range, which harbours Norway’s highest mountain (Galdhøpiggen at 2469 m, but whose summit can be virtually driven to).
It was as we were driving along the high plains of this area that we received a flat tyre. We pulled over to the side of the road to change it, but you won’t believe this, there was no spare! (I later found out that not only was there no spare in our car, but there is no spare wheel in any new car in Norway). We were miles from nowhere, no towns, no truck stops, no farms, nothing; and certainly no mobile coverage. The only relevant land feature was a glacier about 1 km to the north; it looked quite spectacular, but of little use to us. I remember remarking that this was the third time I had been stuck on a mountain plateau – once in Afghanistan (bike out of petrol), again in Peru (taxi blew a gear box), and now here.
Anyway, to cut the story short, Lisa managed to hitch-hike to the next town (where there was mobile coverage), made a few calls, hitch-hiked back to where I and the car were and within a couple of hours a tow truck arrived. It took us to that next town that had a spare (used) tyre available (the driver rang ahead to the garage) and we were back on the road that night; making our intended destination at Hafslo, albeit a bit later than intended. And to think I was going to spend the night on that mountain. I suppose the speed of our rescue might almost justify the lack of a spare wheel - almost. (There was a bottle of latex in the car sparewheel well, and an electric pump, but the split in our tyre was too big for the latex to seal).
A good road for bikes; look at that scenery, look at those hairpin bends (Trollstigan)!
From Hafslo (a missionary-run hostel situated on a picturesque lake) we drove half a day onto Bergen. This took us through the world’s longest road tunnel – Lærdalstunnelen at 24.5km. After two days in Bergen (where we attended the wedding of one of Lisa’s nephews), we drove via Geilo to Gjøvik (to stay with a cousin) and on the last (11th) day on the road we headed south (in torrential rain) to Drøbak (on the Oslo fjord, 40 km south of the capital – famous for being the site where the German heavy cruiser, Blücher, was sunk during the invasion of Norway on 9th April, 1940).
In all we drove 2,900 km. A most amazing trip (but it would have been better on the bike – the weather not withstanding).
I had to agree with the German biker about the prices; they were eye-wateringly high sometimes. We would pay $200 a night for a room with bathroom down the hall and squeaky floor boards, fuel was $3.00 per litre (fortunately the diesel motor of the VW did 1100 km on a tank, but our petrol-driven car we have here – same make- still costs less to run); a chicken-and-chips-type dinner would cost $30 and $80 for an a la carte course at a fancier restaurant. Beer is $15 a half-litre (sold in pint glasses, but with the tide out). We paid about $300 in road tolls alone and that again, in total, for various ferry rides across fjords. Even Norwegians complain about their high cost of living.
So the moral here is that if you want a cheap holiday, then don’t go to Norway (unless you have family there).
But the scenery is spectacular, and it may be some thing that some people want to do before they die.
This car isn’t going anywhere (flat tyre) on Jotunheimen.