Norway Pt 2
One of our favourite things about full time travel is meeting interesting people. During our time in Denmark and Norway we had met up with lots of fellow travellers, many of whom we follow on social media. It was August 2020, after the first lockdown and coronavirus had made meeting new people a little more difficult but up in Scandanavia things were a little more relaxed. The pandemic here had had less of an impact on people’s lives; villages and towns are further apart, there’s more nature to move around in and the government had been really strict within their own country and monitoring movement from others. We had timed our visit really well.
After Trollstigen we headed south through Geiranger, around the fjords and over the mountains. We found snow capped mountains and more crystal clear lakes. Again, the scenery was so perfect, it seemed surreal. We stopped at the side of a lake for photographs and even introduced Theodore to snow… he was NOT impressed at all and ran straight back inside the motorhome! He’s definitely more of a warm weather cat!!
Whilst travelling full time might seem glamorous it isn’t always ‘photo ready’ but it certainly does focus your priorities. For us those are: water, power and laundry! Whilst wild camping is allowed all over Norway the facilities for living in a vehicle aren’t as accessible as in other countries such as France, Germany and Spain. With all the driving we’d been doing our leisure batteries were constantly charged but we desperately needed to fill the water, empty the toilet and do some laundry! That meant finding a campsite, which we usually try to avoid due to cost, but we had no other choice: we had found three laundrettes as we were driving around and they had all been closed!
Lovatnet Lake had been recommended to us as a must see and we decided on staying at Sande Camping. It took a big cut of our budget (€75.22 for one night with power, water, laundry, row boat hire for 1 hour & a packet of crisps from the shop) but what an incredible location!! It was just what we needed after so much driving, Theodore loved relaxing right next to the lake too. The campsite is small, with not much room between pitches but it is right on the edge of the turquoise lake, in a valley surrounded by snowcapped mountains. The snow melts and the water runs down the mountains right into the lake. Of course we HAD to jump in for a swim! It was breathtakingly beautiful but SO cold!! Our swim only lasted a few minutes and the next day we took a rowing boat out onto the lake, a far more sensible option!
We made our way down to Innvik, Laerdalsøyri & Vestland taking a ferry from Mannheller to Fodnes where we were reunited with Tom, Liz & their young son Finn from RVenturefamily at Laerdal Lake. We’d previously met them in Denmark on the car beach and had been following each others alternative routes around Norway. They’d come across on the ferry from Denmark then Olso and clockwise up to the north. We’d taken the bridge to Sweden then anti-clockwise around Norway. After a (much warmer) swim in Laerdal Lake we camped together and had a BBQ before again parting the next morning and heading our separate ways. They are much braver than us and were planning on staying much further north, in Norway and Finland for the winter and Christmas whilst we would head south to find winter sun in Spain and Portugal.
Next on our list was the longest road tunnel in the world, the Laerdal tunnel. A crazy 24.5km long, (3 times the height of our little island of Jersey!). It’s SO long that it has coloured lights and pull in stops in three places through the tunnel. It cost a whopping $113.1Million and took 5 years to build! An incredible feat of human engineering and definitely worth a visit if you’re ever driving through Norway.
As we exited the tunnel we found Viking Valley, which turned out to be one of the best places to visit in Norway AND even made the list of our favourite paid places to visit in Europe! You can find the full list here. It’s an authentic village that has been built as Vikings would have lived, using contemporary materials and craftsmanship to construct the houses, fencing, gates, a longboat and even a blacksmiths. The staff are all experts in their chosen field; weaponry, construction, bead making, iron works, fabric making, agriculture etc and are enthusiastic to share their knowledge with visitors. We tried archery and axe throwing (which is MUCH harder than it looks!), joined the free guided tour of the village and spent hours exploring the houses and talking to the incredibly knowledgable staff. 197 NOK (€18.50) well spent! (The bearded hat was ours, I do have to mention that Viking helmets did not have horns on)
We continued our journey through Gudvangen, past money drop waterfalls, Vaksdal and onto Bergen. In Bergen we explored the old town on our bikes and took the furnicular railway up to the top of the mountain overlooking the town (€24.73 return for 2 adults). After Bergen we headed back out into the countryside to park up at a marina and enjoy another sunset BBQ at the lakeside.
All our driving through the mountains had taken its toll and we were in desperate need of new tyres, living in a vehicle is not without large expenses. We’d hoped to last until we were back in Germany, to save a little money, but safety must come first! €387 later and a chance meeting with Mads at his mechanics garage, we were back on the road and heading from Eikelandsosen towards a tiny beach we’d found on the map next to a tourist attrcation called ‘Rex Garden‘. It turned out to be a park with BBQ areas, seating, a volleyball court and grassed areas next to the side of the fjord. Further round was a beautiful tiered garden full of weird and wonderful carved wooden statues and a children’s park. That evening we swam in the clear waters of the fjord as we watched the sun go down. With all the craziness in the world, it was a moment in time that made us completely happy with our decision to travel full time & will be one travel memory we will remember for many years to come.
We really didn’t want to leave but unfortunately motorhome parking overnight was not allowed so we continued our journey toward Vestvika then on to Stavenger. Whilst talking to our fellow travellers, Stavenger had been recommended several times. Again we were thankful to have the use of our e-bikes to explore the city. A really cool town with a castle/fort on the hill, cobbled street old town and a huge park with fountains. Our favourite part though was the unexpected discovery of the ‘urban playground’ situated just outside the oil museum, built on abandoned oil platform and made from oil rig and fishing ‘scraps’. Covered in colourful graffiti and right next to the marina we weren’t sure what we’d found but we knew it was exciting… and provided us with so many opportunities for awesome photographs!
On our way our of Stavenger we stopped at the famous 10 m high giant Sverd i fell Swords. at the edge of the fjord. They commemorate the historic Battle of Hafrsfjord which by tradition took place there in the year 872, when King Harald Fairhair gathered all of Norway under one crown. The largest sword represents the victorious Harald, and the two smaller swords represent the defeated petty kings. The monument also represents peace, since the swords are planted into solid rock, so they may never be removed. Norway is just brimming over with fantastic photo opportunities!
Our last stop in Norway was one of our most memorable; Elgtun, a visitor centre with tame moose. We’d parked out overnight in their car park so we didn’t miss their small window of opening times, which you can find on their website. Even though it was pouring with rain we made our way into the centre, watched the very informative video, watched for the moose in the huge forest and waited for feeding time! One of the things we loved about Elgtun was the huge forest area that the moose have to themslves, where they can’t be disturbed by humans. It’s their choice whether they come out or not. The skies cleared and the sun came out just as staff brought out the food. There were 2 adult female, 2 adult male and 2 calves when we visited. At this time of year (August) the females were certainly in charge, fighting off the males for the food. During mating season, we were told, the tables turn and the male moose take centre stage. They are extremely impressive, large, powerful animals but as they have been hand reared at the park, they are also docile and happy to be hand fed… you can even feed them bananas with your mouth! Even though the weather was against us it was one of the best things we did in Norway.
The weather was changing, the summer was coming to an end and that was our cue to end our time in Norway. After a jam packed three weeks we had covered hundreds of miles, seen some of the most breathtaking nature in Europe and fantastic feats of human engineering, met wonderful people and experienced things we will probably never have the opportunity to do again. We were safe, we were happy but we were exhausted! The next question was: would covid restrictions allow us to travel down through Sweden and Poland to get back to Germany for the next part of our travel adventure?