Moving North in Norway
We have been told that Norwegians are really serious about their rules with hefty punishments for things like drinking and driving, speeding, traffic infractions and even expired parking. We notice that if we try and cross a street at a crosswalk then all traffic stops immediately. If we try and cross the street without a crosswalk, even just a few meters down from one, traffic almost never stops for us. Norway wants you to follow the rules. Because of this, we have been quite concerned about ever having our camper stopped by the police. We don’t think that towing a car is allowed for Norwegians. We may also be a little wider than is legal on Norway roads. We were stopped once a while ago by a single police officer. He had never seen a car towed without a trailer. He wasn’t sure about it, but after he checked the turn indicators and lights on the car he let us go. The other day we happened to get caught up in a very large police spot check. There were about 30 police officers and they were pulling over every single vehicle on the road. They then redirected every vehicle to separate areas off the road for further inspection. We were directed into an area that was normally used for weighing commercial vehicles. After checking our weight (per axel) they redirected us again to check lights and general roadworthiness. Then they conducted a breathalyzer test. Mike says it was the first time he has ever had to blow into one of those machines. Finally they took our passports and Mike’s driver’s license away to an office building to further investigate those. Again, the police had never seen anything like the size of our RV never mind us towing a car. They made us demonstrate the signals on the car when controlled by the RV. It sounds like this was a pain but actually the police were extremely friendly and nice. Multiple police officers, at different stages of this “investigation” took pictures of our vehicle. At first, I was concerned that they were sending the pictures to have our legality checked but based on the smiles and waves as they snapped away I think they just wanted the photos for their own facebook pages. They sent us on our way with strict instructions to thoroughly enjoy ourselves while in Norway. Nice folks.
Having an oversized, non-white motorhome really helps us to meet people in Europe. When we were in western Canada and the US other campers would say hi and chat a little but that was about it. There was more interaction in Newfoundland but everyone knows how extraordinarily friendly and hospitable Newfoundlanders are. In Europe people are fascinated by our motorhome and the fact that we brought it over from Canada. I have told Mike that next year we will practice sitting outside for a while in the evenings. Both Mike and I prefer sitting inside our “home” while reading or relaxing. We brought two sets of chairs for outdoor use with us and have never unpacked a single chair. I figure that if we sat outside we would have everyone in the entire campground visiting and talking with us at some point. We know this and we really like talking to the locals but we still don’t sit outside. We will work on this next year.
In all our time here we had never met anyone who had a real problem with us until this week. After taking another great ferry to Molde we stopped at Bjølstad Camping for the night. Mike wandered around the campground to make sure that we would fit. Since the camping area was on grass Mike wanted to verify that it was not soggy and solid enough for our heavy RV. It was no longer high season and the campsite was almost empty so there was plenty of room. As we went in to register the owner came out, looked at our motorhome, told us that it was a circus. He then asked how many people lived in it. When we said two he acted somewhat disgusted and told us that he wouldn’t have us staying in his campground. This wasn’t actually a problem because it was expensive and I had wanted to camp at a free location anyway, Mike had thought that it was time for a proper campground for a few nights. We left and found a free place to park not far away and had a nice visitor that evening.
As I have said previously nearly everyone that we meet has been great. On two different occasions recently, we had people in for the evening. One man was a truck driver and another man was a bus driver. Both of them recommended that we change our route slightly with the RV and if the weather was nice take the car on a specific drive they mapped out, through the mountains and around a fjord. The truck driver said that most tourists didn’t know about this drive and that we should allocate a full day for it. It turns out that this drive is on some tourist literature and is called the Aursjøvegen route. Our weather wasn’t great but we had driven the RV to Sunndalstor just so we could do the drive. We figured that as long as it wasn’t pouring rain we would go. It did pour in the morning but we waited until lunch. By then the clouds had risen to the tops of the mountains so we decided to give it a shot. You start out on a small old construction road and end up climbing almost 1,000 metres high in the mountains. Scattered in the hills we found many cabins, and some very nice homes. This was a really remote area and I don’t think that most of these properties even had electricity. As the deer hunting season had just begun, we saw quite a few vehicles parked helter skelter off the road down various tracks into distant hills. Later you descend much quicker around some hairpin bends and through an unlit (very dark) tunnel that spiraled downwards into the mountain. One body of water that you drive by is a 25 km reservoir for hydroelectric power. You are driving part of the way above the tree line. The scenery is very different, at times you can see far out into the valleys below and over to the surrounding mountains. It was very nice but it would have been spectacular if there had been some sunshine. It started drizzling again before we finished the drive. Most of the time we haven’t got caught in the downpours but there is often moisture in the air and you don’t dare go for a walk without a rain coat. Scandinavia has set various records this summer for rain and cold. One weather website said that “In Western Norway it’s been very wet in some places for 70 out of 72 days”. I believe it.
We got a surprise email one day from Anne and Oddvar who we had met our first night in Norway. They told us that they were watching us on the internet and that we were now traveling close to their home. They suggested that we stop in to see them for an evening. We did that and had a lovely time. It turned out that Oddvar’s company the next morning was launching a large cement salmon farm that they had just built in their dry dock. Mike was invited to go and watch and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. A few weeks ago Helge and Elin had taken us out to a running salmon farm and now Mike got to see the manufacturing and launching of one. I was invited but when I found out that this process would take quite a few hours I politely said no thank-you.
We visited the town of Ålesund and were told that there was a gorgeous view from the top of a hill in the middle of town. Everything we read talked about the walk up the stairs to the top. On our first evening Mike decided to drive as high on this hill as we could just to see what the view was like from the car. Well thanks very much to my husband. Neither of us like stairs and it turned out that you could actually drive up a narrow laneway right to the top where you could watch all the other tourists coming up the stairs. It was a great view and a great way to get there.
High season has been over for more than a month now. This means that many of the small towns are almost closed down and many of my cafés are closed. Museums and tourist areas are also closed in the smaller towns. Obviously in the big cities some things are open all year round. In one small town called Bud we didn’t see a single person walking anywhere in town, spooky. They have been installing the markers on the side of the road for the snowplows for a few weeks now. The trees are all in their fall colours which is very nice. In the area where we are they don’t have the reds that we do at home but they have all the different shades of yellow.
One of two top roads in Norway is called Atlanterhavsveien or the Atlantic Ocean Road. This is an 8.3-kilometer (5.2 mi) road that is built over several small islands which are connected by causeways and eight bridges. The Storseisundet Bridge is especially dramatic. The road opened in 1989 and was to be partially funded by tolls estimated to run for 15 years. Due to the popularity of the road the toll portion of the funding was actually collected in 10 years and the tolls were removed. In 2005, the Atlantic Road was named the Norwegian Construction of the Century. Since the road itself is a major tourist attraction there are a lot of places to pull over and park and do short hikes up the hills for even better views of the area. Mike and I did a few of these walks carrying our rain coats the entire time. The other top road in Norway is the Trollstigen which is a serpentine road through the mountains. Mike and I actually thought that we had been on this road because the pictures looked similar to a road we had travelled. We found out as we were leaving Norway that we were wrong and that we had accidentally bypassed this road/attraction which was too bad.
Rain or no rain we have managed to do a bit of hiking recently. We were in a section of Norway called the Land of the Waterfalls. This seemed very strange to us since you see waterfalls coming down the mountains everywhere as you drive. One of these waterfalls, the Vinnufossen, fed from the Vinnubreen glacier, started almost a kilometre high in the mountain. It is Norway’s tallest waterfall. Mike and I started walking up the mountain but, thanks to the wet weather, it was really rough going and very slippery. After I slipped and cracked my knee on a rock I said that I was done. Mike cut me a sturdy stick to use to assist in getting back down the mountain. It really helped. He actually kept going a little higher than I did. Later that afternoon we went on a hike to some other well-known waterfalls in the Amotan region. There is a sign to be careful on the path. Mike figured that calling it a goat path would be an exaggeration. The “path” was right along the edge of the mountain with a sheer drop in sections. Luckily Mike had made me that walking stick earlier. I could never have made it up and back without it. I was exhausted before I got to the waterfall we were aiming for. My legs were shaking which is very scary when you know that you have to go back down a steep, sometimes slippery mountain with a steep drop down the side. I was a little concerned. I did learn how much a hiking pole can help going up and downhill. My legs ached for 3-4 days after walking up to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) and back down. I don’t think they would have been anywhere near as sore if I had used a hiking pole.
We are currently in Norway’s third largest city, and probably our last city in Norway, Trondheim. The population here is just under 200,000. Trondheim is a large university town. It is nice to see so many people around. We are staying in a campground almost in the centre of town. We have walked a lot in the few days that we have been here. Today, our last full day in Norway, has probably been the best weather we have ever had. The temperature was in the mid 50s F (13C) and it was bright and sunny with almost no clouds in the sky. How I wish we could have had this weather when we were in the mountains and traveling around the fjords. Don’t take that the wrong way. It isn’t that the weather was terrible, it was just hazy with low clouds and drizzling a lot which obviously took away some of the views. The scenery was still lovely.
Trondheim looks to be a very nice city. There are a lot more shopping malls than we are used to seeing, probably because of the university students. They don’t look like ours, the outside of them is often the original buildings from the street with the insides all redone. Unlike the smaller towns most attractions were still open but on shorter “winter” hours. Like much of Europe, many of the buildings are built in a square with a private courtyard in the middle. We got to see inside a couple of these courtyards and some of them are lovely. Trondheim was originally called Nidaros. Nidaros cathedral is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world. The church was built starting in 1070, over the grave of Saint Olav, the king who united Norway and converted the country to Christianity (in many instances with some brutality). In medieval times, Trondheim was Norway’s capital and was the leading religious pilgrimage destination in Northern Europe. Today Nidaros Cathedral is where Norway’s kings are crowned. You can climb 174 steps to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the city. I was looking forward to that but somehow forgot all about it while we were in the cathedral. I remembered a few hours later but we weren’t going back.
The picture above is very representative of time in Norway. The clouds were often low and would sometimes get lower. If you were lucky they would rise during the day with the sun trying very hard to peak through. It was often damp but still good enough to go for a walk. You could appreciate the views but you knew that you weren’t seeing them at their best.
This will be the end of our visit to Norway. When we leave Trondheim we will head straight into rural Sweden. We are really hoping the roads are wider in Sweden!
Ha det or good-bye to Norway for this trip.
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