Motorhome adventures in Norway Pt 1
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Denmark, far more than we expected, but now it was time to head to Norway. We could have taken the ferry from northern Denmark over to southern Norway, without crossing through Sweden but we wanted to cross the Øresund Bridge. Callum had done it before with his friend but wanted to show me. It was another thing to tick off our ‘must do list’. It was expensive, costing us €123.50 and more diesel than taking the boat, but definitely worth it.
We still weren’t sure if we’d even be allowed to cross into Sweden with their Covid restrictions in place. We had done so much research on the internet and the that latest we’d been told, from other travellers who had driven the same route recently, was that we could drive up to Norway through Sweden but we couldn’t stop. That meant a gruelling 9 hour drive through Sweden, strategically detouring through only safe ‘green zones’ so that we would be allowed to cross into Norway. All we had to do was stay calm and explain that we’d left Denmark that morning, we even had a diesel receipt to prove it if necessary. Just as we approached the border I saw a wild moose grazing a little way away from the side of the road and was so excited that by the time we arrived at the border crossing I could just about tell the border control officer that “yes, we had been in Denmark that morning” and “no ,we hadn’t stopped in Sweden”. He very confused about why I was acting so strangely until Callum said “Sorry, she’s too excited. She’s just seen her first moose”!
We were finally in Norway! It was the beginning of August, 6 weeks later than our original plan, thanks to Covid delays, but we had made it! Hopefully the Scandanavian summer would hold out long enough for us to explore enough over the next three weeks. After our long day driving we just needed to relax and unwind. We found an urban park up near Mysen with our park4night app. It wasn’t in the greatest neighbourhood (we did some litter picking) but it had a water refill point, black & grey waste emptying and even free electric hook up (this is like finding treasure to a motorhomer!) After 2 weeks of wild camping in Denmark it was a welcome top up to our supplies.
We drove through mountains and valleys, breathtaking views at every turn. Our next stop was at a beautiful lake near Kongsvinger. We ate dinner and breakfast outside next to the lake and watched the geese swimming on the lake and some locals brave the icy mountain water for a morning swim. This is what we’d been hoping for from Norway.
We’d had a couple of days to rest and recuperate so we were ready for our next challenge. We had read about ‘the second highest road in Norway’ which involved a steep ascent up a gravel, one lane ‘road’ to the top of Tronfjell, a 1,666 m (5,466 ft) tall mountain. From the information we found online it was recommended for use by 4x4s but we had found one photo of a (much smaller) motorhome at the summit. That was enough to entice us to give it a try. As we approached the base of the mountain track (you couldn’t really call it a road) we met a silver transit sized camper van at the bottom who looked as if they were weighing up their chances of getting to the top. We waved as we drove by. Their expression immediately changed to “if they can do it, we certainly can” and off they went. We let them pass us just in case we needed to roll back and didn’t want to hold them up. In our 3.5 tonne, 7.5 metre motorhome, we were certainly going to be much slower than them!
After nearly a year on the road and approaching 15,000 miles driven, Callum is practically a motorhome driving professional. He expertly handled the (lack of) road, the tyre tracks left by previous users and the increasingly steep angle of the road. Only once did we think we weren’t going to make it as we hit a patch of mud in too high a gear and had to roll back down the hill to gain traction with our front wheel drive vehicle. To make things even worse it had started raining and the fog was rolling in, to make the visibility even worse. We were nearly there though. I counted down the hairpin bends as we approached the top… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… We made it!! The silver van was waiting for us at the the summit and the driver jumped up as we parked up “I didn’t think you were going to make it”. Neither did we!! You can find that drive up on out YouTube channel. Try not to hold your breath.
Unfortunately by the time we arrived at the top of Tronfjell the view was entirely obscured by the fog. We decided to sleep at the top and wait until the morning- one of the best things about driving around with your bed in the back is you can sleep anywhere! We’d expected it to be cold, but we weren’t prepared for it to drop to -6°C overnight. I cooked dinner in the oven, to warm us and the van up. We put on multiple layers and went to bed with hats, gloves and scarves on. We woke up at 4am to catch the sunrise. It was a mere 7°C inside the van and -1°C outside but what a view!! We could look down on the valleys below and even see over the top of neighbouring mountains. It was one of the most magical things we’ve ever seen and totally worth the drive up. You can find our drone video here
The drive back back the mountain was equally exciting as this time the fog had disappeared and we could actually see over the sides. After a bit of sheep wrangling at the bottom we were on our way to our next stop: the famous Trollstigen. Sometimes called the “most dangerous road in Norway” we were pretty excited to drive it, especially after our escapades up the mountain at Tronfjell. Trollstigen is a popular tourist attraction due to its steep incline of 10% and eleven hairpin bends up a steep mountainside. During the top tourist season, about 2,500 vehicles pass daily. The road is narrow with many sharp bends, and although several bends were widened during 2005 to 2012, vehicles over 12.4 metres (41 ft) long are prohibited from driving the road. At the 700-metre (2,300 ft) plateau there is a car park and several viewing balconies overlooking the bends and the Stigfossen waterfall. Stigfossen falls 320 metres (1,050 ft) down the mountainside. The pass has an elevation of approximately 850 metres (2,790 ft).
Before we decided to try it ourselves we met up with Pete and Brydee (@Champers and Campers) who also live full time in their motorhome & travel with their dog Molly (check out their podcast). They had just driven down Trollstigen from the other side of the mountain and had a bit of trouble with their brakes on the way down. After a quick BBQ and meet up with them we decided to wait until the next morning to try it ourselves and would go up before sunrise when the road was at it quietest. This turned out to be a great decision as we had the whole road to ourselves and drove up and down it a couple of times, getting some fantastic drone footage, before anyone else was awake. The roads were as challenging as we’d expected but the views and the waterfalls coming right down the mountainside were so much more impressive than we had imagined .
We explored a bit more at the top then had a little sleep and some breakfast before we were joined by Richard, another fellow motorhome traveller. The sun came out. It was a warm, clear, beautiful day. We spent the rest of the day swapping travel stories and watching the sheep as we sat by the river bubbling down the mountain. It was a perfect way to spend the day and we’re so glad we met up with Richard. He’s been to so many places and had so many tales to tell! We spent the night in the camper car park next to the information building and the next morning we parted ways with Richard, ready to resume our exploration of Norway & sure to meet again one day.
The other end of the Trollstigen road runs through Geiranger. It’s a steep climb up the mountain then an equally steep decent down into the valley and the fjord harbour of Geiranger. The views from the top of the mountain, over looking the valley and through the fjords are just breathtaking. To get back out of the valley it’s another climb back up and over the other side of the valley through more tiny, narrow winding mountain roads. With every turn Norway had shown us picture perfect views, since we’d entered from Sweden, but this area in particular was just incredible. The vistas at times didn’t look real, they were so perfect it felt like we were on a movie set. It was overwhelming at times, to be surrounded by such beauty and the constant driving (over mountains and through tunnels) did take it out of us, but what an experience! Something we’ll likely never see again. Definitely one to tick off your bucket list!