Norway
Hordaland Fylke

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  • Day409

    Skiftessjøen Lake

    August 9, 2017 in Norway

    Our travels took us to the head of Hardangerfjord and up through the increasingly tight valley, following the white river that fed the huge fjord, the river itself being fed by many glorious waterfalls. The terrain became more and more rugged and we passed boulders bigger than houses. Eventually the landscape turned too precipitous to forge a path over it, so our course continued through it, in a series of tunnels that looped over themselves, allowing us to spiral our way up the steep mountain.

    Emerging at the top, we pulled over in a car park signed 'Vøringsfossen' and walked to a viewpoint where iron railings had been bracketed directly on to a natural stone platform. Peering over we found ourselves looking down what must have been several hundred metres of a sheer sided canyon. Several powerful waterfalls plunged down into a dark blue pool where the force of their impact caused a dense cloud of spray. We don't believe we've ever seen anything that compares to the scale of this before!

    From our viewpoint that looked out accross the canyon, we could see another that looked out over the drop at the head of the valley. We drove a few kilometres and finding the correct turning, parked up at the end of the road. There were works going on and viewing platforms, walkways and benches had recently been installed. We didn't think it was possible but the views from here were even more stupendous. The position we were viewing from allowed us to see the waterfalls more fully and get up close to two out of the three major ones. Beyond the plunge pool the white river snaked away along the flat but narrow floor of this incredibly deep valley.

    Leaving awestruck, we found ourselves on a plateau of sorts. While the terrain couldn't be described as flat, there were no longer dark towering mountains. We were over 1000m above sea level now and bright snow patches remained in protected lees and hollows. The land became boggy and meadows of white Cotton Grass began to crop up here and there beside small lakes, where the soft land had allowed a river to swell and bow out. We stayed in a restplace by one of these lakes. Amazingly it was still not raining when we arrived and there was somebody out rowing one of the tubby little boats we've frequently seen hauled on shore. There was a bitter wind so even before the heavy rain began to pelt the van we weren't tempted to launch our canoe.

    It was only once the low clouds rose later that evening that we realised we had parked facing the Harangerjøkulen glacier. Its gleaming white surface of snow had merged into the white of the cloud. It continued to play hide and seek with us as the variable weather closed in and cleared repeatedly during our stay.
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  • Day402

    Eikelandsosen

    August 2, 2017 in Norway

    Eikelandsosen, a town at the head of a fjord wasn't far away from our stopover of the previous 2 nights. It had drinking water, toilet and waste water emptying, a bin and a supermarket, so we were well set up to stay for 3 days as part of our new slowed down pace.

    We parked facing out to sea, adjacent to a fast flowing river estuary along which the occasional motorboat passed, traveling to or from the small marina upriver. Wooden board homes sat on spacious plots, as the land rose gently behind us. To our left were low rise flats with glass balconies, set back from the seafront.

    Unfortunately, as we were settling in, we realised Will's wallet was missing. After searching all the obvious places we concluded he must have left it at the supermarket back where we'd stayed the previous night. It was a high tension 25km drive back, but we had a lot more hope that we'd be reunited with it, than we'd had when Vicky left her wallet behind at Oktoberfest. To our great relief, the cashier produced the wallet as soon as Will returned!

    After arriving at Eikelandosen for the second time, Will got talking to a local. During the conversation he spotted a group of Harbour Porpoises occasionally surfacing in the fjord, their calves in tow. We learned from the Norwegian that every community is obligated to provide facilities for motorhomes. He said that some don't, but seemed (justly) proud of what his town provided. We guess it is a similar regulation to that in the UK, obliging councils to provide a site for travellers.

    We were limited by the sometimes foul weather but the morning of the second day was dry and warm so we took a hike up the side of the river to an amazing flood fuelled waterfall that we were able to climb to the head of. The remnants of watermills stood derelict from here on up the river course. The sound of the crashing water reverberated off the valley sides and proved deafening at points. Quite understandably the ground was saturated and many stretches of the path were boggy or even submerged. The signed point of interest along the route turned out to be a dried up waterfall. We stood at the base of more than 10m of smooth hard vertical rock over which a river once tumbled. You could see the rounded curves of the paths it had carved out before the water course was diverted. After leaving the soggy riverside route, we turned back towards the van along a country lane with occasional picture-postcard homesteads spread out along the way. Summer had been working its magic for some time and we sustained ourselves with foraged bilberries, raspberries and even redcurrants.

    During our time at Eikelandsosen we explored the town where we found a small shopping mall and enjoyed looking round a 2nd hand store which contained stock similar to UK charity shops (much of it excellent quality). There was also a lot of handmade lace, crocheted and knitted items made by the group of retired women who managed it. The town had a mixed population with first and second generation immigrants going about their business alongside indigenous Norwegian residents.

    Will particularly enjoyed being able to nip out in the dry spells and cast his fishing line into the fjord. He didn't catch anything, but a local fishing boat spotted him and gave him a good sized cod! He cooked it up in batter for a scrumptious meal of fish and chips which we ate with the last bottle of British ale we'd brought from home. Yum!

    Another bonus of Will's frequent sorties to the seafront was that he got chatting to a fellow fisher and Brit, Stewart and his young son and daughter who lived in Spain. Will initially tried to convince them he caught the big cod himself, but came clean after they caught a few Mackerel of their own.
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  • Day6

    Butlins on water!

    September 8, 2017 in Norway

    To mark our departure from Bergen we joined the enthusiastic entertainment team around the outside pool/deck for the sail away party.
    Credit to them for persevering through driving rain and blowy conditions. We took along our own 'coffee' and after a cup of that, singing along to Rule Brittannia etc was a little easier, although the flag waving would have required at least one more cup of coffee for me!
    Allison chose a G&T 'coffee' whilst the barista had a cabernet sauvignon 'coffee to help him into the proceedings.
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  • Day399

    Bergen with Cath & Dorothy!

    July 30, 2017 in Norway

    We'd been looking forward to today because our friends Cath and her Mum Dorothy were coming to the city of Bergen on their Scandinavian cruise and we were meeting them for dinner!

    It was late on the Sunday morning by the time we arrived and suburban life was in full flow. Some were out walking with dogs, kids or both. Others were doing DIY, maintenance or having a good clear out.
    Modern, concrete good quality multistorey housing with terraces was mixed with large homely looking wooden board buildings.

    Nearing the city centre the van rattled slowly along cobbled streets, passing large groups of tourists and the cruise ships from whence they came, moored at the spacious marina. The sightseers soon thinned out and it wasn't long before the streets were quiet once again. It took a bit of time to find a suitable parking place but being Sunday, it meant that many restrictions were relaxed. We parked up in a marked bay on dead end road up the hill by the University, overlooked by grand stone townhouses in pastel colours, that looked as if they were now rented out as student accommodation.

    Walking down to the centre, we passed the tall steepled, red brick, St John's Church. The morning service had ended and inside only a few worshipers remained while the candles were blown out. There was a rich smell of wood and looking up, we found ourselves under a beautiful dark wooden ceiling.

    A wide pedestrian thoroughfare led us downhill alongside water that flowed along channels inset in the dark grey pavement and steps, before sliding smoothly over a flat slate of dark marble to form a waterfall.

    The dockside was where most people were clustered. Running along one side was an indoor fish market. This was more like a market than the one at Trondheim; it had several sellers, each with beautifully presented arrays of seafood and fish on ice, on their slanted silver metal counters. Gigantic crabs, prawns, salmon and oysters (at £3.50 each) were all available to take away, but you could pay extra and have them prepared into a meal for you to eat at one of the wooden slat picnic tables, sitting on chairs covered with plush cusions and sheepskins. Alternatively you could laze away the hours with a cocktail on one of the large, low grey sofas.

    A corridor of outdoor market stalls ran perpendicular to the angular head of the dock, each counter covered with a smart maroon awning. These sellers focused on street food, with cups of mixed berries, salami selections and freshly cooked meats and fish to take away. Prices displayed were in Norwegian Kroner and Euros, the cost of the latter being even higher than the former!

    Skirting round the dock we saw an eclectic range of boats, from huge modern cruise ships to little tour boats. We passed another electric car ferry charging its batteries and took time to peer at the expensive leisure cruisers and the sleek lines of classic sailing ships, one with beautifully varnished wood, another that looked brand new and spotless in smart navy colours.

    The two long sides of the dock were very different, the south side with its markets, appeared practical with wide streets and modern buildings. The north side contained the well preserved Bryggen area, with its wooden board warehouses painted in rich reds, blues, greens and deep yellows. The area within this old town sector had wooden floorboards and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The atmosphere that pervaded the traditional working area was different from that outside, whilst the internal spaces were all occupied by tourist shops, these sold handmade lace, rich brown moose leather products and traditional knitted jumpers and gloves to name but a few. Cheap tourist nik naks had not been allowed to distract from the 'ye olde worlde' feel.

    We were going to go up Fløyen mountain on the cable car but the £9 fee and our aching feet decided us against it and we instead wandered around a garden area with a fountain spilling over rocks upon which bronze statutes were perched. A large lake stood nearby, around which greedy gulls perched, their beady eyes studying those passers-by who had icecreams. Vicky's favorite place in Bergen had to be the ornate band stand around which bright flowers bloomed. People sat out on the neatly cut grass enjoying a bit of Sunday rest and relaxation.

    After returning to the van to sit with Poppy, we once again wandered down the hill to meet Cath and Dorothy at their hotel. We'd looked up a pub with good food and prices that were decent (for Norway).
    Pingvinen (The Penguin) was only half a kilometer away and we walked directly there through the heavy rain, catching up with Cath and Dorothy as we went.
    The pub didn't take bookings and it was lucky we arrived when we did because there were no free tables left. There were however, two friendly looking people sitting at a table for 6, so we asked whether we might join them and they happily agreed. They turned out to be British and really good company!

    There was all sorts on the menu, including reindeer, cod, moose and whale, but most dishes could be adapted for vegetarians. We both went for reindeer shank which was cooked perfectly and delicious with a hint of cinnamon. We'd decided this was the only meal we'd have out in Norway and so splashed out on beers. We chose the cheapest ale at £7 but it was Norwegian and tasted good. Cath and Dorothy are both great company and it really buoyed us up to be able to spend the evening with them, even if it did feel a bit bizarre just meeting just for dinner in a city so far away from the UK. We stretched out the time with another round of beer and walked back to the hotel, again sheltering under umbrellas. It would have been great to spend more time with them but our visit home in November doesn't seem too far away now and we are looking forward to spending time with many of our friends and family then!
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  • Day6

    Last port of call - Bergen

    September 8, 2017 in Norway

    Another day off the boat as we explored the city of Bergen. We even had an hour of sunshine!!

    Our first stop was the Floibanen funicular railway which chugged it's way to the summit of Mt. Floyen for panoramic views of Bergen below. Whilst there we walked to and around Lake Skomakerdiket before giving our knees a real pounding with a ~3km serpentine walk back down to the town centre.
    Bergen itself is an eclectic mix of old and new, demure and brash with the working port seemingly the focal point. We looked around a few shops housed in old warehouse buildings and we walked past a busy fish market ( I assumed it smelt!), visited some gardens, the University and Johannes Kitken church area before getting back on board for Allison to attend a talk on circulation, and for me to have a quick snooze before we both joined the sail away party which kicked-off as we set sail for Southampton.
    Tonight it's out with the DJ and dickie-bow again for the second black tie event of the cruise followed by a visit to the theatre to listen to the entertainment team cover some Queen songs.
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  • Day400

    Vågen harbour

    July 31, 2017 in Norway

    We had around 2 weeks left of our 2 months in Norway. Instead of visiting the South Coast, where many people would be holidaying we decided to cut the distance we needed to cover and take a slow journey towards the capital city of Oslo on Norway's eastern border. We'd covered a lot of miles since leaving Slovenia back in May and were looking forward to relaxing the pace and just 'being' in the country.

    Vågen, less than 50km away from Bergen was the perfect place to bed down for a few days. It was a natural harbour with a few moored boats on a private jetty. The restplace was out of the way and had an ample gravel car park, bins and recycling, nearby shops and a landscaped grassy area for Poppy. It also had a swing, a sandpit and a wooden board platform and seating area that Vicky had her eyes on for Pilates if the weather ever allowed it to dry sufficiently (it didn't).

    We spent a happy two days watching the rain and sun come and go and whisps of low cloud drift over the hills opposite. It was pleasing to see that a large proportion of the dozen or so leisure boats were taken out and made use of while we were there. Will spent a lot of time fishing between the downpours and managed to catch a pollack and a mackrel that he made in to fish pie. We were even treated to a rainbow that stretched over the wooded hills and reflected in the still surface of the sea. We left feeling relaxed and refreshed.
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  • Day405

    Bruravika layby, Hardangerfjord

    August 5, 2017 in Norway

    It was another short hop to today's stopover at a layby overlooking Hardangerfjord. The fjord itself is the site of part of the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon taking place that day, although the huge size of the fjord meant we weren't close to it. The race lasts all day and starts with competitors jumping out of a ferry loading bay and swimming through the cold water to the town of Eidfjord. They then cycle 180km through the mountains, reaching 1200m above sea level. Starting at 190m above sea level, the last leg involves running over 42km, ending up at the top of 'the local mountain' at 1880m above sea level. Sitting in our comfy seats, munching on biscuits topped with cream and wild rasberries we'd picked outside the van, we couldn't even imagine the level of fitness required to complete this feat of endurance!Read more

  • Day406

    Vikøy, Hardangerfjord

    August 6, 2017 in Norway

    Today's journey followed the side of the fjord and took us past a number of apple orchards. As those who follow this blog will know, the weather has been particularly wet in this region and the apples seem to be thriving on it!

    We actually drove past the rest area at Vikøy but decided to go back to it. We parked looking out over a shallow sandy bay with a private pontoon for leisure boats to moor at. There were covered and open air picnic tables and BBQ grills that seemed well used by locals. Behind us rose a tree covered mountain, down which fell a waterfall that looked like a white ribbon of silk rippling over the rocks.

    Much of the time we spent there was rainy but Poppy enjoyed getting out for short stretches and wetting her paws in the gentle waves. We stayed 2 nights and on the first morning the skies held back and we were able to take the canoe for a short trip up the coastline that was dotted with dwellings, possibly holiday homes, sitting in their own spacious plots of land, several with boat houses, a pontoon or some means of making it easier to get in and out of the fjord. Sitting in the canoe, looking around us, the sight was magnificent. The valley was huge, its slopes on a shallow gradient as they left the waterline but curving quickly up to snow capped mountains behind the habitable land. It was when looking at one of these that we spotted a glacier high up in the distance. It was too far away to see details or the beautiful blue ice we knew to be there, but its white mass was unmistakable. Looking at it later on the map we discovered it was the Folgefonna glacier.

    We paddled around a couple of uninhabited islands that looked as if they'd been conserved for wildlife. A few black and white Oyster Catchers with their long orange beaks perched on outlying rocks while Herring Gulls squawked a warning to stay away from their brown speckled chick that kept its head low, blending into the stony surface. Skirting round the far island, we even saw a herd of 5 goats stationed there, keeping the foliage under control.

    Back in our little bay, Will dropped Vicky off before paddling out to fish. She wandered around the shore and took a closer peak at some sturdy old boat houses, built from weathered wooden boards with rooves made of very large slate tiles; a feature we've seen a lot of in this region. Will stayed out for another hour, in which it inevitably began to rain. However, he ended up catching 7 fish! 4 Mackerel, 1 Pollack and the biggest fish he's ever caught, a beautiful Cod measuring 56cm. The 7th fish we needed Vicky's Dad's help in identifying, but we think it was a Grey Gurnard. We ate a couple of the Mackerel that evening and froze the rest which we reckoned would give us meals for 6 more days!
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  • Day408

    Kvernabekken Park restplace

    August 8, 2017 in Norway

    We set off feeling positive because for once it wasn't raining! Our journey continued along the steep bank of the huge Hardangerfjord. When we stopped for lunch we found it was warm enough to enjoy sitting out on one of the restplace benches, with Poppy on her rug watching the other visitors coming and going.

    Norway's landscape is so extreme that many Norwegian roads need to be incredible feats of engineering. Before we found our overnight spot, we drove through a tunnel for nearly 8km and after navigating the underground roundabout, emerged directly onto the Hardangerbrua suspension bridge that sat high over the fjord, stetching more than 1km over the deep water. The end of the bridge plunged directly into the side of the mountain and another tunnel took us to the Kvernabekken Park restplace where we spent the night. From here we were able to take a short stroll and look down on to the bridge we'd just travelled over. In the evening, Will explored further and took the footpath down to the start of the bridge. He turned back at this point but could have walked across.

    Apart from the refuse collectors blasting their radio out at 7:45am the following morning, it was a peaceful night's stay.
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  • Day398

    Garden Centre restplace

    July 29, 2017 in Norway

    Heading towards the city of Bergen we stopped at Lavik where there was a petrol station that provided filling and emptying facilities for the van. The services were free if you bought fuel but 25NOK otherwise. We didn't need fuel but were happy to pay £2.50 considering all the free overnight spots we'd been making use of. While we waited to fill up with water, we spotted a new Tesla supercharger car park over the road. There were 10 charging stations for Tesla electric vehicles as well as four Type 2 charge stations provided by the petrol station! We'd read just that morning that Tesla were releasing a 'mass production' electric car and it got us thinking. After a little research we found out that Norway has the most electric vehicles per head of population in the world! Incentives such as bus-lane access, free city parking and toll-free travel for electric cars have helped to bring the percentage of new electric vehicles to 27% of all new cars registered in Norway, with hybrids making this up to 42% last month!

    Lavik sat on the side of a huge fjord so we drove on to the car ferry that would take us across to Ytre Oppedal. It was only once we were out on deck that we sensed the ferry was different to others we'd used. The loudest noise was emitted from two large fans and there was less vibration than normal. This prompted us to look around for chimneys but we couldn't find any. We suspected it may be an electric ferry and upon further investigation we found a display telling us that we were on Ampere, the world's first all electric battery powered car and passenger ferry! Given our interest in sustainable technology we were understandably excited!

    Home for the night was at a restplace opposite a garden centre. The rain came in intermittent torrential downpours but in one of the dry spells, we had a wander around the centre. As expected, everything was a lot more expensive than it would be back home but Vicky persuaded Will to shell out £5 for a chrysanthemum to cheer up the plant shelf.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Hordaland Fylke, Hordaland

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