In the lead up to Norway, quite a few people had told us it was a beautiful country and boy did Norway deliver. Although the weather wasn't really playing ball and our exchange rate didn't really cope with the Norway prices, we thoroughly enjoyed our road trip through the land of fjords and Vikings.
Deborah and I met up in Oslo on the 25th of July. Deborah came in from Scotland after spending a few days in the northern highlands with her friend Fiona. I came in from the Netherlands after spending a few more days in holland with Rijk and Hanny while Maaike travelled ahead to Canada with Rijk.
We had a simple plan for our road trip: travel to "Trolltunga" to get a taste of Norway's fjord lands and travel to the Lofoton Islands to see northern Norway in the artic circle. Between these points we followed some of the magnificent tourist drives, playing every day by ear camping at interesting places and driving on when the rain set in. The weather is certainly a factor when travelling in Norway. Of the 14 days there we probably had 2 days of blue skies, a few ok days where the sun would come out from time to time and the rest mostly overcast with regular drizzle. It didn't keep us from doing what we wanted to do but at times we did get a bit tired of the wet and clouds.
The fjords are absolutely magnificent; with some stretching inland as far as 150 to 200km the landscape of South Western Norway is dominated by steep cliffs towering out of the dark tranquil waters. The shores are narrow and dotted with small fishing and farming villages. In between the fjords the roads rise sharply to the highlands which even in mid summer seemed to be stuck in winter with plenty of snow and half frozen lakes. The contrast of these two landscapes was mind blowing and presented an ever changing landscape. Deborah was like a child in a candy shop with more photo opportunities than you can poke a stick at. Literally every where you look there is a view or a detail that is worthy of lining up your camera.
The Troltunga hike (10 hours return) was an absolute highlight. The first 4 kilometres are pretty steep and we were a little bit surprised that we had to hike through quite a bit of snow, but the weather was great on this day and the views superb.
It has to be said that the Norwegians are the masters of road building; Especially tunnelling through solid rock. Never have I seen soo many tunnels - some as long as 25km. (That means you are driving in the dark for about 25 minutes!). More than once you exit the tunnel to find yourself on an equally impressive bridge cutting over one of the thousands of fjord tentacles. And if you can't go through the mountain you simply drive up the cliff face using large numbers of hairpin curves. Driving here is an absolute blast! And remember, when driving in the tunnels, don't be surprised to find under ground roundabouts and turn offs too!
The second part of our road trip took us about 800 kilometres north to the Lofoten Islands. Although these islands are about 200 kms north of the artic circle, the climate is somewhat tempered by the Gulf Stream making it slightly warmer than other places in the world that are this far north. More importantly the combination of glacier, wind and ocean forces have created an island group that is very beautiful; especially the outer most Moskenes Island which almost solely consists of steep mountains, fjords and lakes, dotted with idyllic fishing villages and connected by some of Norways most impressive roading magic.
In Borg, Lofoten we also encountered some of Norway's iconic viking heritage. We were lucky to visit Borg on the opening day of the annual Viking festival at the Viking museum. This meant the reconstructed Viking long house and Viking ship came alive with dozens of Vikings and Viking families demonstrating the Viking farmers way of life. A real "step back in time experience"; albeit a bit light on the raping and pillaging bit
Despite the somewhat dodgy summer weather we encountered and the high cost of living (to us with our NZ dollars exchange rate, almost everything including every day groceries is about 2 to 3.5 times more expensive than at home) we absolutely loved Norway's scenery, with Troltunga and Moskenes Lofoten as the two must see highlights.