Norway 2005

Chasing the Midnight Sun - Jenny's travel diary [with random comments from Peter]

5th July  - Arrived in dry wheather Kristiansand in Norway and looked for a bank for some Norwegian Kronor and something for breakfast.  Found a very nice bakery/butchery with a lovely friendly owner who accepted our Euros and gave us money for parking the motorbikes while we looked for a bank.  She also gave us a free Norwegian cake with our breakfast.  She was so nice I bought her a little rose bush to thank her. [The lady was over the moon. Typical Jenny: a heart of gold.] We found a bank, got some money and then went to a motorcycle shop so I could buy myself some waterproof overtrousers.  I thought I might need them for Norway.  We then followed a main road North (the 9 I think) out of the populated coastal region.  The road was busy but nice following a river at times and through forest and farmland.  We had our first taste of the Norwegian speed limits with the maximum speed limit being usually 80 kmph sometimes 90.  However very often the limit was reduced to 50 or 60 or 70 for no apparent reason and for quite long stretches.  We took a little back road along a lake and I stopped to take a photo of two horses in front of an old farmhouse.  I was a little disappointed as in the viewfinder they seemed quite a long way away.  I took my photo and then started to take a photo of some wildflowers on the side of the road.  The next minute I had the two horses running towards me - they had jumped their skimpy low electric fence and come to say hello.  They were absolutely beautiful and very friendly, as well as being very nosey.  They were very interested in my motorbike, and they sniffed and muzzled and chewed just about everything on it.  If it hadnt been parked close to the road barrier, they probably would have pushed it over.  The barrier kept it up.  I could have stopped them but I was too busy laughing and taking photos.  It started to rain again, so I had to leave, but I had to shoo them away from my bike so I could get on it.  They ran off into a nearby field and started grazing.  It was a very special few minutes and I was absolutely delighted to have such a close encounter with these beautiful horses.  Unfortunately, Pete had ridden on ahead so he missed it. 

We continued on a little further and found a little campground on the edge of a lake with some little huts.  It was raining so we took a hut although it was quite a lot more expensive than camping.  Good decision though as it rained almost constantly that evening and the next day, so we holed up in our hut, did some washing, and tried to re-organise a little.  We discovered soon after leaving home that we had far too much "stuff" and that we needed to get rid of some.  We also discovered how expensive Norway is.  The camping is not too bad at about 11 euros per night, but huts and rooms in a youth hostel are about 40 euros per night.  Showers are often extra at more than 1 euro for a shower, and forget about doing washing.  They wanted about 8 euros for using the washing machine and dryer.  A can of beer costs about 3 euros.

7th July  - Left the hut and headed North again and made it as far as Utne which had been recommended to us.  [On the way North we soon found ourselves surrounded by snow. At a tunnel entrance the road was closed by a rickety barrier, road works. Right there a one lane road turned off and a truck driver pointed us up that way. He didn't need to point twice! We climbed our first Fjell, a mountain range no higher than perhaps 1500m, but with a climate much colder than what we are used to further South. The mountains are all rounded by glaciers from the last ice age, which gives them a strange appearance. Almost eerie. I guess that's what Antartcica must look like. After picknick lunch Jen decided to create a big peace sign in the snow. It didn't quite turn out, as you can see in the picture...]

[Something peculiar about Norway that I really like is the way they cover the roofs of their houses, big and small, old and new. Sometimes even on the bus shelters:]

The peninsula towards Utne was very picturesque, as was the town itself.  We continued a little further and found a lovely campground right on the edge of the fjord called Lothe camping.  One of the most beautiful campgrounds I have seen and very cosy.  Lovely day room in case of bad weather, and the facilities were all spotlessly clean.  We put up the tent and cooked up some chili for dinner and ate it sitting on a huge flat rock overlooking the fjord.  We watched the sun setting over the end of the fjord - not very spectacular but nice all the same and it lasted a very long time - a couple of hours it seemed.  We were getting closer to the polar circle and the days were very long.  It was still quite light even at midnight.   Met a nice German family camping beside us: Dirk and his wife with their three children.

8th July  Made a leisurely tour around the Hardanger fjord stopping regularly for photos and stopping for lunch at a town with bronze age rock engravings.  The main designs seemed to be viking ships and people.  We ate our lunch in the shade under the trees at it was a nice day and quite hot.  Continued on around the fjord and then crossed over to the other side.  Continued around the other side - very picturesque.   Stopped often for photos including at a very nice waterfall near Nordheimsund, with a little path up behind the waterfall.  Further on there was a nice bridge over an arm of the fjord and then we caught the ferry back across to Utne and returned to the camp for a second night.

9th July  Headed back to Utne and crossed back to the northern side and then on up to Foss.  We eventually found a beautiful spot to freecamp on the edge of the lake.  Met some motorcyclists Peri and Steffen on a mountain road. 

10th July  Found fantastic scenic back road (258) road over a mountain pass.  Took lots of photos.  Pete tried to take a small road and fell into the snow with his leg pinned under the pannier.  He managed to dig his leg out and get the bike off himself.   Stayed at a nice campsite just before Stryn, right on the edge of the lake.  Met Helene and her hubby an-ex motorcylist and their two girls Mia and Lisa. 

11-7  Camped right on the edge of a lake with beautiful view.  Long sunset and no real darkness.  I was able to take a photo of the lake and my motorbike at midnight without flash.  The next day we rode up a lovely valley towards some glaciers.  Met up again by chance with our newly met friends Peri and Stefan.  Walked together with them up a very beautiful valley to one of the glaciers then back down.  They were camping in the valley so we said farewell and returned to our campsite by the lake.  They were heading in the same direction as us the next day but we didn’t see them again.  We made a side trip up another nice valley, Kjendsdal, where a village had been buried by a rockfall from the mountain above.  A ferry boat which was on the lake at the time was thrown  several hundred metres onto dry land.  The wreck is still visible today.  Also stopped at a quaint little church on the way back.   At the camp we were invited for dinner by a friendly couple from Oslo.  The husband was French, and the wife half French, half Norwegian.  We spent a nice evening with them and their two gorgeous little girls.

12-7  Packed up and headed off to find the ferry from Geiranger to Hellesylt, but not before organising a treasure hunt for the girls.  The ride to Geiranger was very nice passing over green mountain passes with waterfalls and breath-taking panoramas including a spectacular view down over the Geirangerfjord.  The ferry trip had been recommended to us, and it was well worth the money.  The ferry passed through beautiful fjords with huge cliffs on each side and numerous waterfalls on each side.  There were also seagulls flying beside the ship and I got some good photos of them flying.  We found beds for the night at Hellesylt youth hostel.

 13-7  Left Hellesylt and headed for the renowned Trollstigen pass.  A wrong turn in a town landed us in some suburbs where we saw some colourful gardens.  Another stop to see a very pretty place where a river was rushing through some tight turns in a rocky chasm.  Then the Trollstigen pass.  The road dropped steeply down to the river valley twisting and turning in numerous hairpin bends following the path of an enormous waterfall.  At the bottom, the turquoise river passed through a lush mossy forest and around huge river boulders with tall cairns of rocks balanced precariously on top.  At the bottom the valley widened out and the river flowed into a lake.  We had trouble finding a campsite, but finally found a nice spot in a forest near a lake with the permission of the curious owner of the property.

 14-7  Started heading north towards the Lofoten islands.  Stopped at a small port and photographed some ducks with ducklings.  Rode through a forest to a nearby viewpoint to see a panoramic view over the fjords.  Next came the Atlantic coast with numerous small bridges hopping from one rocky island to another.  Several short ferry trips also needed.  We finally found a tourist camp with a cabin available for a reasonable price right on the edge of the Atlantic coast.  The sea was almost dead-flat calm which was very pretty.

 15-7  Decided to stay there for a day.  Went for a walk around the coast and discovered some nice colourful rock-pools with snails, red sea-anenomes, and transparent jellyfish with purple centres.  Long and beautiful sunset that evening.

 16-7  Made some distance north, passing by a pretty house with grass and flowers on the roof, and a very scenic fjord.

 17-7  Found some nice dirt country roads including a very beautiful mountain pass following a river.  Also passed some pretty lakes.  There was quite a scarcity of campsites despite the area being very scenic, and we eventually headed off down a small side road and found a small patch of grass on the side of the road.  Nice view over a fjord and another very long and beautiful sunset.  I needed a wash and had a rather invigorating one in the sea nearby.

 18-7  Wound our way further north along the Atlantic coast via more bridges and ferries.  More beautiful fjords, lakes, and mountains.  A small detour found us in a pretty little bay with a decrepit but picturesque boat shed.   Some more dirt roads led us to Bodø, the jumping off point for the Lofoten islands.  We arrived at the ferry terminal at about 7 pm only to find that the next ferry was after midnight.  More than five hours to wait, and the ferry was due to arrive at about 4pm in the morning.  Amazingly enough there was already a long queue of people waiting for this ferry.  We spoke to an interesting German motorcyclist who knew the islands quite well.  But after a half an hour or so we decided we would rather stay the night at a campground and catch another ferry the next morning.  We found a campground 10 kms north of the town near the sea and were treated to another long and beautiful sunset.

 19-7  Were lucky enough to have a huge sea eagle fly right over our heads just as we were getting ready to leave for the ferry.  These birds can get very big with a wingspan of over 2.5 metres.  We arrived in time for the ferry but unfortunately and surprisingly they couldn’t manage to fit us on.  We were quite disappointed because it is usually possible to squeeze a couple of motorbikes onto a ferry.  We watched the ferry sail away and then over breakfast, we contemplated whether to wait there half the day for the next one, or whether to ride further up the coast to the next ferry and hope to get across faster.  We opted for the latter and enjoyed a nice ride up the coast and had no problems catching the next ferry along.  En route we saw a large mountain which was completely bare of vegetation.  Stopped at a nice spot on the side of the road and Pete brewed up a coffee.  We couldn’t drink the coffee fast enough as we were descended upon by swarms of large, very persistent and very irritating flies which tried to climb up our noses and in our ears and even into our coffee cups.  We were quite surprised as we in really in the middle of nowhere and we couldn’t understand why all these flies would be there.  After a short wait we boarded the ferry for Lofoten.  [Vesterålen, actually]  Rode through some very pretty scenery to another ferry which had just left.  It was 9.30 pm and starting to get dark.  We were wondering where we could camp when out of the blue a Harley arrived at the ferry terminal.  It turned out that Ståle was a local guy and so we explained that we had just missed the boat and asked him if there was anywhere nearby to camp.  We were told to follow him.  He had heard us ride past and knew that we had just missed the boat and had figured that we would be looking for somewhere and he had ridden down to the dock to help out.  He led us to a field in front of his parents' house where he was staying and told us we could camp there.  It was a nice spot with a view over a little harbour, and the field was full of freshly cut hay.  We set up our tent and had a quick salad for dinner.  He invited us up to his parents house for coffee [at about midnight!] and we spent the rest of the evening talking.   He gave us some tips of where to go in Lofoten and then we hit the hay literally.

20-7  Next morning we packed up, waved goodbye,  and hot-tailed it down to the ferry so as to not miss this one.  As it happens I had time to return to the harbour and take some photos before the ferry arrived.  Very nice trip through the Lofoten fjords to the next island.  Had breakfast at the ferry dock.  Then headed off through some lovely scenery:  turquoise bays, green fields, yellow and purple flowers.  A small detour led to a pretty port with a field nearby full of purple flowers.  Further on, a nice bay with a shipwreck.  And then a lovely ride out to a fishing village on an island.  We had lunch on the docks as it was quite cold and windy and that was the only sheltered spot.  The village was very pretty but also quite touristy and there were even tourist buses driving through it.  We eventually arrived at a campground which seemed to be reasonably sheltered as it was very windy and a little cold.  We found the most sheltered spot we could at the campground and set up our tent.  Then the wind changed and we were in the wind anyway.

21-7  Spent the day exploring the little fishing villages on the island.  Each one, very pretty and each with its own distinct character.  Returned to the campground. 

 22-7  Another day to explore the Lofoten.  More beautiful bays, green fields, jagged mountains, fishing villages and ports, and bridges.  We were particularly amused by the seagulls in the Lofoten which were very noisy and seemed to speak a different language over there.  We saw many chicks in nests, and the antics of seagulls fighting for comfortable roosts for the night.  It was also interesting to see the wooden drying racks for drying cod for export.  We also saw cod drying on the racks in some villages.  Then we finally made it down to the southernmost village on that island which is named simply “Å” but with an accent on it so it is pronounced “awe”.  Then back to our campsite. [End of Jenny's diary]

 

[The following is from Peter, written almost entirely from memory]

Much has been said and written about Hurtigruten, aka The Postboat. The line serves almost the entire coast North of Bergen and I'm sure it must be an awesome trip. But, it is also quite expensive. If Ståle gave us one good tip then it was this one: take the Hurtigruten boat from Svolvær to Stokmarknes. What a fascinating trip it was, passing through lots of narrow passages and little islets with only one or two houses on them. The boat was very big, but it only had a loading ramp on the side. We couldn't drive right in, rather we had to ride onto a lift, which lowered us and the bikes into the bowels of the ship. It's not a car ferry... During the trip the boat entered the Trollfjord, a very narrow passage. To our great surprise it then stopped, turned and nosed against the rocks, where a seaman performed something, which we couldn't see. Presumably, he drank out of a waterfall or some such touristy sillyness.

All this time during the voyage it never got dark, there was continuous twilight, the sky remaining red even at midnight. Having passed under the bridge we disembarked around 1am, crossed the bridge and continued up the coast, looking for a spot to pitch our tent. On the way we temporarily overtook "our" ship and waived goodbye. The crew waived back (no kidding). Unfortunately, it DID get dark, because the clouds covered the sky and it started to rain. We decided to turn around and head back to Stokmarknes, as we had spotted some campervans beside the road. We ended up pitching our tent a bit out of sight, down from a car park on the coast. Not far enough out of sight, as it turned out. When I got up the next morning a woman's face appeared over the edge of the car park and she shouted Hello. Very friendly and strangely familiar, I thought. Then a second face popped up and I realised that I knew these two! They were two friends from WIMA Holland. Unknown to us they were also travelling Norway on their bikes. They told us that they wanted to go whale watching and we arranged to meet up with them again in Stø. We pitched our tent on the stoniest site I have ever camped on. The others boarded the MS Leonora for the whale watch trip, but we decided against it, as the weather seemed rough with a lot of wind and it was also quite expensive. We went seal and bird watching instead with a burly guide in his inflatable. He sure enjoyed giving his two big outboard motors the sporns and took us out to a rocky island, where we watched many big sea eagles watching the nesting puffins. There were also a lot of seals on the rocks.

As it turned out we had made the right choice: the whale watch trip was cut short, because the captain decided that the sea was too rough for the tourists. No whales today. We bade farewell to our friends and headed to Nyksund, a semi-abandoned fishing village. Looks like it's being reconstructed for tourists...

We left Vesterålen and continued on our way North. After a gas stop we spotted a strangely clad young man and stopped to talk to him. Turns out he was a wandering tradesman from Germany!

 Early on in this trip we had decided that we might be too late to see the midnight sun, which had by then retreated way up North, and that we wouldn't go to the North Cape. Suddenly Jenny changed her mind and announced that she wanted to go North to see the midnight sun. Unfortunately, the further North we got, the more dark clouds descended, making the peaks of the hills disappear and ahead it looked like we were riding into a black wall. It looked like the only sunshine we were going to see was of the liquid variety. Being worried about not finding a place to sleep and not relishing the prospect of pitching the tent in the dark and rain I decided at 22h that I would not go any further North, but rather stay right here in the camp ground and pitch the tent while it was still dry. A short argument ensued and Jenny took off in a huff. I pitched my tent and turned around the next morning, all the while hoping Jenny would have cooled down and return. She did, but, having lost time on the road and finding accommodation, it was too late and I was already on my way South. Sorry, there are no pictures of this part of my journey: Jenny had the camera, I had the tent.

While Jenny continued on her adventure to the North Cape, I took the next opportunity and crossed into Finland. This I found rather boring on the road (I'm sure there are interesting things to see and do, but they aren't obvious...) and it started to rain, so I just continued across to Sweden. In the border town of Karesuando I looked for an ATM to get myself some Swedish Kronor, but there wasn't one. On to the next town, Övre Ordal, no ATM either. I was sent to Svensk Kassaservice (State Bank?), where they put my Credit Card into the old manual Zip-zap machine to give me a cash advance. Hey, this is even more backward than good old NZ! Lucky it wasn't a weekend or I would have run out of money and gas.

Next stop the Youth hostel in Gällivare. Strange place: a stately old hotel, borded up and derelict, in front of that a bunch of barracks serving as YH. The next day it rained, so I booked myself into a trip into the underground ironmine. Very impressive, over 400km of underground roads, ranging from two lane highways to steep and unlit gravel tracks. The ore crusher is like something out of a Mad Max movie. A big cast iron funnel, in the centre of which slowly moves and rotates an excentric conus. When big rocks fall into it and are crunched it makes an eerie noise and the ground shakes.

The rest was a rather uneventful blast through the Swedish interior and down the coast to Uppsala to meet up with Rick and Erika in their new home, awaiting Jenny's arrival.