From Alta to Boden
Thursday 11th September
8 weeks 4 days on the road
6432 miles driven by Tim
10 countries visited
Number of times we have had to show our passports 1 (guess when that was!)
We got going early on Thursday and drove straight south, heading for Finland. The route was fantastic at first, wiggling through a very picturesque canyon
and there were reindeer, very close to the road. Yeh! Well, I thought that but Tim was less impressed, because there were some actually in the road at least 3 times and you DO NOT want to hit a huge beasty like that at speed. The autumn colours were lovely and I was enjoying myself hugely,
until I realised that the view had not changed for ages and ages and …… Then on into Finland where all we saw was more of the same for MILES. We drove more than 250 miles and about 70% of it was very dull, but you have to stay awake otherwise you get this in the road ahead of you.
We stopped about 100 miles north of the Swedish border at Pello to let the tent dry out, and try a local Finnish beer.
We had heard that both northern Norway and Finland were full of biting insects and, due to the cold weather, we had been getting off very lightly up till then. You just have to look at the front of Camel to see just how many bugs are out there.
On thursday we drove on down to Tornio, back through the arctic circle and over the boarder into Sweden.
I wish we had more to say about Finland; I learned to say thank you (Kiitos) and the couple of people that we met were very friendly. The beer was drinkable, the food was a tad cheaper than Norway, there was an open campsite with reasonable facilities, but, we will have to go back there at some time, as we really learned nothing at all about the country by driving down the E8, along the border. That being said, the road was very good, we were virtually the only vehicle on it and there were no tolls the whole way. Consequently, we made very good time. Despite all the warning signs, we never did see an elk, dang!
Thursday night we camped by a lake in Boden, which is not bad at all and has the added attraction of watching people fish from the swans, weird…
Just in case you are interested in travelling through Norway here are some thoughts and random bits of advice about driving and camping in Norway:
So, after 15 days in Norway and 2638 miles on the road, I have to say that it is a delight to travel and camp in Norway. The people are friendly and welcoming, they seem to like us Brits, the campsites are generally clean and have good facilities and the roads are pretty good, on the whole (well they are after Iceland)(I suspect, nearly everywhere in Europe has better roads than most of Iceland). The countryside is beautiful, awe inspiring, romantic and exciting. There are loads of good museums and cool places to see, even if a lot of them shut at 3pm. Food and drink are very expensive (especially booze), so set a generous budget if you decide to come here.
Camping in Norway:
The campsites cost us between £30 and £10 a night for two people in a tent. You have to pay extra for showers, electricity and washing clothes, but all the ones we stopped at had a kitchen with reasonable cooking facilities, somewhere to eat and hot water to wash up with. It was quite difficult to find open campsites after the end of August, as many shut on the 30th, but we always found somewhere to stay (we generally start looking for a campsite at 4pm and have always found one by 6pm). If there is no one at the office in an open campsite, (you can tell one is open if the facilities are open with hot water) it is generally considered OK to pitch your tent and someone will turn up to take your money. Make sure you have a few 10Kr coins to run the showers.
Driving in Norway:
It takes AGES to get anywhere, as it is a very long country with low speed limits. Driving about 5 hours a day, we generally covered about 200 to 250 miles. The speed limits are low: under 70 mph to under 60mph on the motorways (more often single carriageway than not), down to 50 mph on the main roads and then as low as 20 to 30 mph in the towns and villages. The road surfaces are generally good, but, at this time of year there are loads and LOADS of roadworks. There are also people cutting the verges and others putting in the snow poles at the side of the road. Then there are the reindeer that try to catch you out.
There are tolls on many of the roads, especially on motorways and those with tunnels. Many of the tolls are collected automatically and you can pay for them in a variety of ways if you want. It seems, however, that the authorities here will send you the bill if you are a foreigner, there are no fines if you do not pay up front and it does not cost you more to do this. I am waiting to see how much it all cost us; I will not begrudge the money, because it must be a nightmare digging all those tunnels and maintaining all the roads and bridges that connect all of the far flung places that make up Norway. Ferry tickets really start to add up if you stray off the Arctic Highway to explore the coast. You do not have to buy tickets in advance; you just join the queue and pay as you go onto the boat. Typically the fare was about £10 to £15 for the car plus an extra passenger (the driver is included in the car ticket). Where the tolls are not automatic, they usually charge per person.
One point of interest (it drove us mad for a bit, until we asked someone) there are two kinds of number-plates in Norway. The green ones are for two-seater vehicles and they pay less road tax.