The journey so far:
55 days on the road:
5180 miles driven by Tim
Countries visited 8
Number of ferry journeys 10
Tunnels approx. 120
Number of really really wet strikes 2
Gnat bites Tim 5 Janet 3
Monday was quite something. I thought we had got onto the Troll road, but it was just the route to it, (mind you the road to Geiranger was not to be dismissed lightly).
The campsite we stayed in was like a ghost town. We were virtually the only people staying there, but it was worth a look around. The people who set their ‘caravans’ up there bend the rules until they squeak. The waterfront ones (by the noisy river that kept me awake all night) were really developed. There was decking and awnings and Portacabins and… well, just look at what we saw.
So on to the Troll road. We got there and WOW, what a view, what a fantastic piece of architecture and eek, what a drive down. I counted 10 hairpin bends, stress levels not helped by the coaches coming up and the idiots parking to take photos in the passing places. It was still, however, not quite as exhilarating as the route into Gerainger. (Just as well, really, because I’m not sure I would have coped).
We drove on to drive along something I had wanted to experience for a long time.. the North Atlantic road. I had read about it in the Guardian and it sounded fabulous…We got there via ferry number 8, (most major roads round here are linked by ferries)
and it was very pretty, but not as exciting as we had been lead to believe. The Norwegian government have obviously put a lot of money into this particular route and want to attract tourists to it, I was glad I went there, because I would always have wondered otherwise, but it was just very pretty. Perhaps if you went there in a storm it might be a bit more compelling?
So on we went to Trondheim (lovely scenery, lots of trees, uppy-downy-bendy roads, tunnel number 100, beautiful lakes, yadi yadi yada)
and drove back and forwards through the city until we found the one remaining open campsite in Vikhammer. It looked tatty, but it had fabulous bathrooms and some tame bunnies hopping around.
On wednesday, we took the bus into the city centre (we got chatting to a very friendly local man on the bus, who was a fan of Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson, argh, what an image they must have of the UK) and spent half a day mooching around, and it is a very nice city indeed. It is well preserved, relaxed, bike-friendly and you can easily stroll around the centre, because it is so compact.
The last night in the Vikhammer campsite was ‘interesting’ to say the least. The trains (right next to the campsite) were legally bound (we think) to hoot as they went past. Did they have to it quite so loudly at 6 20 in the morning? Then there was the respectable-looking group of young German lads in the tent near us, whom we had seen playing healthy games and stuff. Did they have to sing and laugh quite so long after midnight and then be really noisy early the next morning?
Tim had heard a woman berating some chaps roundly for using the facilities on the first morning. I met her just as we were about to clear out and she said that they had a lot of problems with people coming in from outside, trying to use the facilities for free. The worst thing that she told me was that, the reason none of the lovely showers had doors was because they had a group of drunken Irishmen staying there, who trashed the lot. I made it very clear that we were English, but the lovely lady said that she does not judge people by nation, but by good and bad. She also found Tim’s lost shampoo for him. Nice!
Thursday we got up early and, after going to Hell and back (you just gotta!),
we headed north. It was obvious that we were passing through the ‘bread basket’ of Norway; lots of harvested fields. Interestingly, according to the bloke we spoke to on the bus to Trondheim, the weather has been very unusual over the last year; unpleasantly hot, someone caught a swordfish (5 ft long!), African birds have been spotted hanging about on Norwegian trawlers, the crops have been harvested weeks early and, there has been so little snow that there are likely to be water shortages.
Then in came the rain and we spent the day driving through trees, more trees and mist. We also noted the number of closed campsites and panic was setting in. It is legal to wild camp in Norway, and if you have a camper van it is very easy to do in all the numerous rest stops. Not so easy in a tent in the pouring rain. Eventually we decided to stop at a campsite just south of Mo I Rani, a little below the Arctic circle, that looked open, loo block unlocked etc. There were no other tents, caravan or camper vans….a little spooky and it didn’t take long for Tim and I to come up with a range of horror scenarios. Why were all those abandoned toys left by the sandpit? Would the monster come out of the lake? Are the townspeople going to come and eat us? Whatever was going on, there were clean showers, cooking facilities, hot water, and nobody to pay. Spooky! A nice young woman turned up at about 10 pm to take our money, so that felt weirdly better.
Then (after a very wet strike and an early start with NO TEA) we went on and north and after a very long, slow,windy and wet drive we went through the Arctic Circle. Yep we fell for the tourist trap and stopped at the Arctic Circle Centre, took silly photos(I felt a bit sorry for the stuffed animals), bought a pin, moaned they had NO TEA, (well I did, there was coffee, uggh!)
And then I gazed a while in the rain at the monument to the slave labourers, whom the Nazis worked to death to build the Arctic highway…. I had not realised until that point.
Then we went further north, still in the hammering rain, following the big trucks, which are a mixed blessing. They go very slowly up hill, but they do clear the rain off the road for you and you know there is nothing coming the other way through a tunnel if they can get through.
We made it as far as the Lofoten Islands by Friday afternoon, via a couple of ferries, and they are portrayed. It did, however, takes us ages to find a campsite and , as I type, we are hoping the tent will have dried out enough to be bearable….