An invisible border.
Narrower roads – shit that truck was close!
Yellow lines down the middle.
And hills, and views, and coast and, and, and there’s so much to see.
Real ones like we expected.
Huge sides carved by glaciers.
Choppy, freezing cold looking, ultra blue water.
Spirits lift, the road opens, and we’re glad to be in a new world, albeit just across a border.
Trondheim was our first city in a while and it was good to feel a throng of people around. It was as pretty as the ads say, as real as its detractors say.
The next night we’re back in the woods at Munkeby Mariakloster.
Perhaps Norway is short of ruins, but this little pile of stones doesn’t really feel worth hunting out, although as a camping site it was fine with two woodland walks, great toilets…
What the hell is this?
Am I turning into my parents?
When did clean toilets become a priority?
It’s a #vanlife thing perhaps. You avoid using the onboard toilet – and so those around you become more important.
Think of the last time a public loo excited you in Britain – I can’t actually remember it happening.
In Norway some are truly amazing.
A simple parking bay turned into a joy.
Riverside parking for four to six vans, loos, and a short walk along the river to town. Town? Well, a Coop and a homestore, a few houses rather more closely packed than usual.
Pretty picnic shelters along the river – fire pits provided, and free logs of course. This is Norway and there are lots of logs.
A stank up a small hill.
And most of all I’m excited by the shift in mood.
I worried that the sinking feeling I’d had in Sweden was me becoming accustomed to being surrounded by beauty. I countered that thought with the knowledge that I’ll never tire of Cape Cornwall – still my favourite place in the world. I now know that wasn’t the case. Too many trees get you down.
Ray and Mary, touring in a big van and on their way back from Lofoten, amble with us. I’m pleased when Ray mentions the pull of the road’s camber. Since getting into Norway I’ve checked the tyres so many times, you often have to wrestle the van into a straight line here.
Following the E6 has been good, but then after the Svijjege Lake we swung onto the FV76.
And everything changed.
Steep climbs to a 6km tunnel.
From bright sunlight to darkness.
Entered the tunnel at 16 degrees, came out the other side to 8 degrees.
Came out the other side to our first real fjord. Wow!
Saw this lair of a James Bond villain, that transpired to be a hydroelectric plant. That’s style!
There’s real driving to be done now, not just rolling with the road as you become accustomed to in Sweden.
We get to Bronnoysund, a decent sized town, but as is often the case it didn’t inspire. Modernish, commercialish, boringish. We press on to our first ferry from Horn to Anddalsvag. It’s misty rain and no view but no worries, there’ll be many more ferries to come.
In fact, a few hours after waking on Wednesday we’re on another, and now the sun is shining.
The beauty is hard to describe.
There are small green islands everywhere, and a load of little white ferries moving people and goods from one place to another.
Mountains rise straight from the sea, no gentle foothills here. Craggy. Sheer.
While the boats might only take 50 cars at a time they have to be big enough for freight too. This morning’s ferry has a café and we’ve had a sausage in brioche. It didn’t resemble meat that much, but it was a junk food treat. As was the cake and brown cheese that followed. Curious, but true.
Port changeover is super quick. We have just reversed into one port, the hull already open, a few trucks came on, and we’re off again in about 10 minutes. The slowing down takes more time than the actual stop.
We’re heading up the Helgelandskysten coast road to Bodo on a slow route with six ferries. Prices vary according to whether the ticket man decides to charge us as less than, or over, 6 metres. The price doubles so it’s worth a bright smile as we approach. The van is actually 7 metres long but the boat we’re on now charged us as a car.
Tired out we rolled into our overnight stop at Heliaga and what a stop over it was.
By chance we’d run out of energy at one of the very cool architect designed rest areas. This glass and concrete tunnel is the toilets, and outside it’s even better.
Minimal concrete tables and benches make me wish for sunshine – this one’s a fair clamber to get to and the health and safety police would have banned it at home. All this alongside a deep and very wide Aldersund Fjord.
The drama is turned up to 11 after the stop, and even bigger mountains soar over the tiny looking houses along the shore. I’d love sunshine, but actually the low cloud and misty rain suits it here just as it does on Dartmoor.
The next ferry stings us for full price of c.£66, but this one’s special – it took us over the Arctic Circle.
We sleep over near the Svartisen Ferry, which, had I not been knocked sideways by an evil cold we would have taken next morning. It’s a 20 minute journey, then a 3km hike, to Norway’s second biggest glacier, the 360 square km Svartisen.
But hey, every cloud and all that, the toilets were even heated here and had hot water. Cue big body and clothes washes.
As the low cloud lifted late in the evening we could see a lot of the glacier, especially through the binoculars which we remembered for the first time this trip.
On the weather app sunset was due after midnight, with sunrise only 30 minutes or so later.
Despite us both feeling rough we make it to Bodø and fork out £200 for the ferry out to Moskenes on Lofoten.
The first traffic since Gothenburg well over a thousand miles ago. And when I say traffic, I mean like Penzance on a busy day, nothing that hectic.
The rather surprising experience of having an unmarked police car driving at us down the wrong side of the road, and seemingly with no intention of pulling in, even though he didn’t seem in any hurry to get anywhere.
Regular automatic tolls. They’re a tad annoying, especially as you have to pay a toll to get to the ferry port, before paying through the nose to get the actual ferry.
Tolls are picked up and paid for on your card which at least means you don’t feel it. No point worrying about the cost, there’s rarely any choice. We decided before getting here that we’d get ferries and pay tolls as and when and not try to avoid them. I think it was a good policy.
Norwegian mountains aren’t gentle creatures. They soar dramatically from sea level to into the thousand metre plus range like walls looming before you. As a consequence, instead of mountain passes, roads tend to go straight through the obstacle.
Some of these tunnels are long – like more than ten kilometres long. At the entrance to each the height is stated, fortunately that’s not a problem. But as you get north to some of the older ones the width is stated too.
Our longest one today was only 5m wide. ArchieVan is just under 2.5 metres wide. The trucks thundering through the tunnels are well over 3 metres wide. We squeezed up next to the wall frequently and hoped Minty’s side wouldn’t get ripped off. The caution paid off, but it was exhausting.
And the Architect’s Toilet?
This route, the Helgelandskysten which follows the beautiful FV17 coastal road from Holm all the way up to Bodø has several architectural rest areas created with the coolest toilets you’re likely to see anywhere in the world.
I’ve mentioned a couple already – the last, by HZA, at Ureddplassen, is probably the ultimate. I’m sure many wouldn’t notice, but then a few passers by will stop and take more photos than pees.
For stop over points please see Minty’s Our Travels section of the site. I write the blog because I enjoy doing so, but it doesn’t half take time. Logging the stop overs separately seemed like duplication.
*The Namskoggan was a poor, but intelligent, relation to the Snorknatten. Tall, ungainly, and carrying the head of a long slain enemy at the end of one of his long appendanges, the Namskoggan would scare children from any distance.