The City of Oslo and back home

Day 9th : June 14th : Oslo

Our last day in Norway, and one full day to explore Oslo. We were not very excited about it and were thinking more about what  else we could have seen if we were still in the Norwegian Fjord county. May be we could have travelled beyond Geiranger and to the city of Trondheim or may be we could have spent couple of more days in Geiranger itself and explored the region doing more hikes and treks. 

But for all the could haves and should haves, we were in Oslo and we had to find things to do in here. So we quickly checked what all could be explored and charted out an itinerary for the next few hours.  

We cooked our last breakfast of this trip and ventured out. Today, for the very least, the weather gods were kind, it was warm and sunny, quite opposite to what we were used to by now. 

The first place we visited was the the Viking ship museum which had three vikings ships from the 9th century and were well preserved. It turned out to be a disappointment as there was nothing but these three ships and not much of any history lessons. The quintessential tourist trap. 

Next we went to the The Fram Museum, Frammuseet. It a museum celebrating the history of Norwegian polar explorers and I think this one is worth a watch. There other museums in the same area, but by this time we were done with them and retired in the Bygdøynes park just in front of the Fram museum. 

We spent a good two hours here, soaking in the sun and the listening to the sea waves making mild and soothing noises. Flew the drone to capture the Oslo harbor in its full glory under the shining sun and we observed many people retiring here in the middle of the day for quick lunch or to catch a short afternoon siesta.  

By the time we left the park it was already past afternoon hours and we were feeling lazy and sleepy by the warmness of the sun and the shades of the small trees under which we had oozed for an hour or so and it was time for home made all natural ice-cream being served just outside the Fram museum. 

We drove straight to our hotel afterwards, parked our car and walked towards the city center again and our destination this time was the Oslo harbor to see the Akershus Fortress and Aker brygge.  Both are decent and lively places to spend the after noon or the evening. Brygge is lined with multiple eating and shopping places and looks quite charming as the sun sets and the artificial man made lights take full control of the scenery.  The noble peace center is located here. 

As the sun was beginning to set down, we made our way towards the city center to see the Norwegian parliament building and the Royal palace. We never made it to the royal palace as we found our selves uninterested in exploring another dead structure, but we did make it to the parliament but couldn’t meet the prime minister, which left us a bit disappointed but we did saw many parliamentarians roaming around like normal citizens and with no one giving them any second looks. They are probably doing their jobs well and the citizens seemed to be happy with them , unlike ours 🙂

The whole evening was spent roaming around the city center and exploring places to eat, shop and explore.Finding a place to eat with in affordable prices was proving to be difficult but we did eventually find a shop with consumable burgers. As it was our last evening in Norway and as we had already spent a fortune on this trip, the last meal was not going to make much of a difference. 

With dinner out of the way, and as the time was already past 10 pm, we started our slow walk back to the hotel and we crashed to our beds thinking that we could have avoided coming to Oslo. We were completely knackered and had an early morning flight to catch and were consumed by sleep in no time. 

Day 10th : June 15th : Way back home

So, after nine long and adventures days on road, traveling from Southern Norway up until the Atlantic Ocean Road, which was the most northernly place that we visited and then back to Oslo, our Norwegian sojourn came to an end. With couple of more pictures, one as a tribute to the weather Gods of Norway and the other to our time in Norway.

The road trip which consumed approximately 7 full tanks of gas, 10 ferry rides, during which we drove approximately 2900 kms and with a sense of satisfaction, of ticking at least a few places off our combined bucket lists and with the feeling that we will remember our time in Norway with fondness, we were on our way back. An early morning 8 am flight from Oslo Torp and we were back from where it all started. Home!

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The long Drive to Oslo

Day 8th : June 13th 

Today morning, something was different. Today we were to leave the Fjord country and drive towards the city of Oslo and we were not in any mood to do so. By this time we had realized that, where we are right now, was the place to be and Oslo would be just like any other European city. But we had already planned for it and our stay was already booked and changing anything now would have come with big financial implications. 

So, we tried to delay our departure from Geiranger. The road today was long, around 450 Kms of it. 

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We started our drive to Oslo around 11 in the morning, but we knew that before we loose the Norwegian Fjords and the high mountains, we first have to drive towards the village of Geiranger and then from there climb the high mountains around it and probably also see a glacier or two or at-least a frozen lake.  

We were not wrong in our assessment and as soon as we started gaining altitude once we left Geiranger, the climbing and winding road seemed  a never ending uphill climb and the gradient was around 6% and it took us right on top of the mountains surrounding Geiranger and into Snowy terrain which ultimately led us to a frozen lake in the middle of summer, Djupvatnet

But that was not the end of the climb. From here we took the toll road, which costs a steep 150 Krone for a road which has a length of only 5 kms, and took us to the top of a mountain called the Dalsnibba and from there you can have a total unhindered view of the whole Geiranger region.

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Europe`s highest fjord-view from a road . The Dalsnibba.  The photo is not taken by us and only used for illustration.  As when we were there, it was so cloudy that we were not even able to see each other properly

But life is not fair to everyone, and we were in for a bitter disappointed. Because the view that awaited us was something like this 😦 . Here’s the link to the youtube video for Dalsnibba

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The Dalsnibba that we experienced

A few kilometers of drive from Dalsnibba lies the abandoned village of Grotli. It still has a functional lodge and hotel which dates back to the 19th century and still retains its old world charm. This place deserves a short stop or if you want to spend the night in the middle of no where this is the place to be.

We started our descent from Dalsnibba and followed the route 15 till the town of Otta where it merges with the E6 highway to city of Lillehammer  and leads further to Oslo.  

The drive from Dalsnibba to the town of Otta was an experience in itself. We found ourselves driving on mountain plateaus with frozen ice and lakes following us till we started loosing altitude.  and once we reached lillehammer, the road turned monotonous and after that we were mostly driving in a straight line, which can be among the most boring things that can ever be done and nothing to write about.

We reached Oslo around six in the evening, parked our car and checked in and checked out of our hotel in a breeze. We treated our selves to some snacks and cup full of strong brew and walked towards the city center which was only 2 kms from our hotel. 

I think one major thing that we have not talked about while being in Norway, was the number of electric cars, or let me rephrase, the amount of Teslas that you see on Norwegian roads.Its just astonishing and much so in Oslo, where ever third or fourth car is a Tesla model S. The reason for this is quite easy to explain as the Norwegian government heavily subsidies electric vehicles. There are no taxes, no registration cost, no toll taxes and free parking everywhere, I mean anywhere in Norway for electric vehicles and last but not the least, free charging.

So it should come as no surprise that record for the highest number of sales for a particular model of a car in a single month belongs to Tesla Model S in Norway. And mind you, its an expensive $ 70K worth, set of 4 wheels of luxury.  

The quest for Green future for Norway is the top priority for the Norwegian government, almost 100% of energy requirement is met from renewal sources.

But the irony for all this desire for green energy is not lost on Norway. Norway is among the biggest exporter of oil and fossil fuels in the world to developing countries like India and China. So their green future is eventually being financed by selling fossil fuels itself, the biggest pollutants know to man but its the main source of income for the government. Building their clean and green future by selling pollutants itself and every year expanding the drilling of fossil fuels. So, you can judge them to be hypocrites, I think 🙂 

Oslo in like any other European city, modern, planned, resourceful, clean with numerous restaurants and coffee shops and major brands lining up the city streets. Big green areas, parks and recreational spaces hodge the spaces around the Oslo city center.

Many museums and national monuments are there to to be seen and explored. But we were only interested in roaming outdoors. Sadly there is not much else to do in Oslo. The shops and resultants close early, so we found a place to eat and went back to our abode by 9 and that was all about our first evening in Oslo.

Geiranger and The Geirangerfjord 

Day 7th : June 12th

Today was going to be a long day or so we wished, as it was going to be our last full day in the Norwegian Fjord country and there could have been no better way to bid adieu to this beautiful part of Norway, then by visiting the most grandeur and historic and the most photographed Fjord of Norway, The Geirangerfjord.

So we checked out early from our camping site at Sjøholt and started our short drive towards Eidsal and then further onto Hesthaug Gard, our camping site for today.

The route also included our last Ferry ride of this trip and we did not even bother to get out of our car while on the ferry to have a look around from the deck. I guess we had enough of it and were a bit relieved that this was the last ferry ride for the trip. Ferry rides are generally slow, with heavy winds included and with accompanied rain. As they pile up the enjoyment factor inversely decreases.

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We quickly checked in to our camping site and drove straight towards Geiranger which was only twenty minute drive away.

This short drive of twenty kilometers may be the best scenic route we have ever driven on.  We thought to ourselves, if the journey was such, how the destination would be.

As we started our descent towards the Geiranger village, we saw  few vehicles parked on the side of the road and we stopped as well. This was in fact a viewing point known as Ørnesvingen, and we can safely recommend this as the best point to observe the magnanimity  of the Geirangerfjord and we captured this image.

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Geirangerfjord , covered with scattered clouds and the Geiranger Village at the bottom taken from  Ørnesvingen viewing point

The whole valley, covered with mystic clouds, snow covered peaks and the green vegetation on the lower parts and then the magical Fjord itself.  The mammoth ocean liners look like toy ships from such a height and they just put the scale of the fjord and the surrounding mountains into proper perspective. This was by far and easily the best view of our trip.

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And then this one. The fall visible in the distance is the seven sisters falls. also taken from  Ørnesvingen viewing point
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Taken from the port of the village of Geiranger with the ocean liner and its yellow taxis – feeding boats.

We spent a good part of the day in the village and exploring and hiking to the near by viewing points.

The best view was from the viewing point Flydalsjuvet, which is about 4 km of hiking distance away from Geiranger. You can also take your car and park it on the nearest parking to the viewing point along the main road.

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Taken from Flydalsjuvet viewing point. It was again a cloudy day

There are other viewing points as well  and an interesting one is Mehdi’s Viewpoint. From here you can see the deep Geiranger valley and hike to a nearby waterfall and the lake  Møllsvatnet and not many people know about it.

We did not do the Fjord cruise this time but it is off course recommended. We didn’t do it as it was overcast and raining, so instead we tried to reach for higher view points and hiking trails to put ourselves over the clouds. 

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The entire Geiranger valley was covered with thick clouds.

At the very end of the day, we hiked to a lake called Kilstivatnet near Hesthaug Gard. It was an amazing hike and we were rewarded with a entirely different view of the Geirangerfjord.

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So , with this we called this a day late in the evening. Geiranger was by far the best adventure of the whole trip and it was not over yet, as the next day we were supposed to travel to Oslo but via Geiranger and we had to cross the mountain peaks surrounding it.

The Atlantic Ocean road and Trollstigen

Day 6th : June 11th

With ominous looking clouds all around us we were wondering what should we do today. We were near Geiranger but visiting that would have been pointless as there would be nothing to see in these weather conditions. So we decided to drive a bit far and cover the famous Atlantic ocean road and subsequently the Trollstigen highway.

The Atlanterhavsveien or simply known as the Atlantic ocean road, one of the most beautiful and as well as dangerous (mostly in winters and in stormy weather conditions)  roads in the world. The ocean road was only a short drive of 90 KM.

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When we first saw the pictures of Atlantic ocean road, we thought to ourselves, that this could not be real. This has to be photoshopped.

The road is 100% real and a delight to visit in person. It is 8kms of awesomeness where human ingenuity meets nature’s magnanimity. To our good fortune, the weather had cleared up and it was bright and sunny when we reached there and we got the chance to take some good shots of the majestic road, making its way across the blue ocean and the tiny islands providing the necessary pieces of rock to make it possible. And we were able to capture some stunning shots.

This was a truly unique experience as we had not seen such a sight before. It’s in the extreme west of Norway and there is only Norwegian sea beyond the road. If you keep going west, you’ll reach Iceland and eventually Greenland. We are not sure of what usefulness this information is, but there you have it 🙂 . Supposedly, the road gets flooded and becomes dangerous during stormy weather. Luckily, that didn’t happen to us.

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Section of the road looking towards the village of Vevang

We spent quality time while were were there. Soaked in a lot of Sun as our bodies were running on a short supply of natural vitamin D over the last few days. We stopped our car near the Storseisundet Bridge. Its the best spot to observe the place, as you can climb the small hill on the side of the road to have an unhindered view of the road as well as the ocean.

The Trollstigen (Ladder of the Trolls)

Atlantic Ocean Road was our first destination but not the last one for the day. Around 2pm, we were ready for our next adventure The Trollstigen Highway, The literal translation, Troll’s path. We were going to climb the ladder of the Trolls itself today.

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Trollstigen, is a place so mesmerizingly amazing that it has the power to blow the wind out of your lungs owing to the sheer scale of the tall snow clad peaks dwarfing the valley underneath from three sides. It was 115 kms away from the Atlantic Ocean road, so we buckled in for the journey.

We stopped at the base from where the ascent starts to click some quick photos. There was this soundtrack again, a raging waterfall and a speeding stream. The water is clean and it is encouraged to drink from the stream. We filled our bottles and started the drive to the top. The word most commonly used to describe the highway is, serpentine, with a very high gradient of 10%. With a  high waterfall gracing the highway with its presence, the whole scene is exhilarating.

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Descriptor of Every point on the 8 curves of the road out of the 11 curves

While we were driving towards Trollstigen, we had an idea of what were going to see, as we had read a lot about the place, but nothing could prepare us for the shear scale of the the peaks surrounding the valley, and the steepness of the road that we had to drive to reach the top. The road climbs an altitude of almost 1300 meters from the base.

Although today was a clear day and we expected many fellow travelers on the road, taking advantage of the clear weather, but to our surprise we didn’t see many vehicles climbing up with only an occasional car or biker making their way down or going upwards. We don’t know what the reason was, but it must have something to do with your heart. With every bend and every few meters of upward drive, you are more and more inclined not to look downwards and will try to keep yourself in the center of the road as much as possible and would not like to venture very close to the edge of the road as you gain altitude 🙂

The most stunning part of the road is the Stigfossen waterfall and bridge. Again, not many people or vehicles around 🙂 . We were able to stop and take a good look at the bridge and the fall itself. The force of the fall and the sound of the glacial water was both terrifying and beautiful at the same time.

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Once we reached the top, we parked our car on the newly built car park and rest area with few souvenir shops and a nice restaurant.  There are many viewing spots and newly created balconies which offer an enriching and never ending view of the landscape and on a clear day you can see as far as your eyes will allow.

Aman tried to get some drone shots from the top of the pass and almost lost it. The GPS signal was lost and the drone started drifting towards the waterfall. There goes $1200 down the drain, he nervously thought to himself. However he was able to regain control and land it safely.

Aman wanted to hike up the mountain further but the trail went on to 5 kms. So we decided to climb a little and see what’s beyond the cliff. At one point, he had to traverse the side of the cliff by clinging on the chains provided. That was a bit of adrenaline rush. A small mistake could have resulted in a very big fall.

We spent a good three hours exploring Trollstigen and savoring in the views and unwillingly started the drive back to our camping site as the day came to a slow end with memories of what we had experienced today. Trollstigen is probably among the most stunning pieces of natural wonders which you can experience anywhere on earth.

 

Long Drive, Camping and Majestic Alesund

Day 5: 10th June 

Today again we had a long drive ahead of us. Another 400 km of breathtaking scenery, where we would be hopping on to at least two ferries to cross the fjords that were trying desperately hard to cut our journey in its tracks 🙂

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Since Norway is a unique country, where the seas travel hundreds of kilometers inland and turn into Fjords, you never know where the road will suddenly end and a Ferry would be your only option to continue further. Therefore, a good professional GPS is a must have.

We were adamant that today we were not going to get bogged down by speed limits and narrow roads, as now we had gained a bit of experience on Norwegian roads and were quite aware of the kind of areas where we could be spot checked or stopped 👮.

So we choose our speed and took our chances wisely and were able to cover the entire distance of 400 kilometers in roughly seven and a half hours. We also avoided unnecessary pit stops and only took a break when it was really essential to get the blood flow going through our legs.

Along the way, as expected, we encountered dramatic Norwegian scenery, with mountains rising from the depth of valleys and lakes, reaching the heaven, where the clouds covered these peaks, as if challenging us to reach even higher over them to where these peaks merge seamlessly with the vast skies. The beauty of Norway cannot be described truly in words. Also no camera or video device can capture what you can see and experience with your own eyes, which was the most dramatic landscapes we had ever seen in our lives.

The roads were twisty,  the tunnels on the way were pretty scary, dark and narrow and with occasional closure due to the continuous and necessary repairs. Again today, as had been the norm over major part of our journey, the weather remained cloudy with not even an hint of sunlight during the entire length of our journey.

This was among the best views which we had the privilege to witness during our entire trip, among many others.
Few lucky land owners with their own personal waterfall
 

We reached our camping site around five in the evening, well ahead of our expected arrival time. Starting at around 9 in the morning and reaching with in 8 hours of drive time was really up to the incredible feat of breaking the speed limit barriers at all the stretches of wilderness which we encountered during this road trip without getting caught.

The Town of ALESUND: 

Alesund is a cluster of seven islands with two of them connected by a 3.8 km under the sea tunnel which is now toll free and it is an experience in itself to drive through, knowing that you are hundreds of meter below the sea. The rest of the smaller islands are accessible by small but beautiful bridges.

If you would have watched the show called “Vikings“, it would be interesting for you to know that “Rollo” the brother of the Viking king, Ragnar Lothbrok, hailed from one of these islands and there are two statues of “Rollo” in Alesund. May be more, but we could only find two.  So this place has a bit of Viking history attached to it.

The best way to soak in the wonderful scenery presented to you once you are in Alesund, is by hiking to a small hill , called the Aksla mountain or the Aksla viewpoint 

You can either drive, cycle or hike to the very top of the hill. The hike takes about 15 to 30 minutes depending upon your fitness level. The walk is quite steep but after every 50 steps you have a different view of the islands and as you climb up the hill the view gets even more dramatic. The best view is reserved for you from very top of the hill.

Also there a nice hill top restaurant on the Aksla mountain, where you can sit and have a quite drink or coffee and soak in the views in silence.

Since it was a Saturday evening and there was a football match (although a friendly one) between Norway and Czech Republic, so all the bars in the town center were full with people and rumbling noises and we merged ourselves with the crowd and enjoyed a pint and raised our voices along with the Norwegians for the victory of their team but eventually the match ended in a draw. We took one last walk around the town center and filled our bellies with locally made burgers. Since it was already close to midnight we called it a day and drove back to our camping site.  

We did not plan thoroughly to explore all the islands and did not give ourselves enough time but we consider these to be left unexplored  for another time in future.

We wanted to take a night time shot of the island in its full glory, but it never got dark beyond a certain point. Truly giving meaning to the term The Land of Midnight Sun. So we are using an image which doesn’t belong to us. All credit to the original photographer of this image.

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We might have to come back in winter to see this spectacle with our own eyes.

Bergen and Bryggen

Day 4: 9th June

Bergen: Good Hotel , Awesome family dinner and Bryggen( Another UNESCO site ✌)

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Bryggen: Unesco protected Heritage Site

Despite the slight drizzle(again!), our spirits were not dampened(get it? heh!) as we had only one full day to explore this beautiful place, Bergen.

At the city center, we had our first tryst with Fiskekaker at a quaint family run restaurant. As the name suggests, they are baked fish cakes. Juicy, salty and made with secret herbs and spices, it became our staple diet for next few days. Aman was determined to learn how to cook them at home, which he promptly forgot once he returned to US.

We visited the rather busy looking fish market in the city center. We were amused by a huge crab at a shop, ready to be cooked at a customer’s whim. The shopkeeper greeted us in hindi, Namaste! We were pleasantly surprised but still not convinced to eat that crab.

 

 

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Tourists in a huddle to avoid the puddle

We did not visit the the world famous Fløibanen, the funicular railway to the mountain of Fløyen, for a bird’s eye view of Bergen because of the bad climate and over clouded skies.  So we skipped it completely, but the views on a clear day are breathtaking and we would suggest to do this if you are in Bergen.

Bergen is also home to another Stave church, the Fantoft Stave Church. Although not as majestic as the Borgund Stave. Nonetheless, we had to pay a visit .

Fantoft Stave Church in Bergen. Originally built in the 11th century, but was destroyed by arson fire and rebuilt in late 1990s.

The Evening Dinner

The evening in Bergen was a memorable affair,  as we were invited for dinner at the home of our former university lecturer. When I say back in the day, it was good fourteen years back in time. We were excited to relive the period of our lives, that is missed most, by anyone throughout their lives. The college days.

We were expecting a quiet homely dinner, with us student folks, sitting quietly at the table and finishing up our meals like good kids and at the end of it saying our thanks for hosting us and calling it a night.

But it turned out to be an eventful evening which started at around 7 and went well past midnight. We were made to feel comfortable and welcomed and we slowly started to open up, with Mr Dheeraj, the man in charge of the house turning out to be quite a host and he had already planned everything to the brim.

We were also joined by couple of their family friends. We shared our thoughts about everything from politics to family, about India and the world right now and how it was for them, living in Norway and for us, our thoughts, and how they were being shaped by our Journey through this amazing country.

We had the most delicious and enriching home cooked food, that we could ever taste on this side of the world. Being this far way from home, we felt a sense of warmness and belonging that we always long for.  For this we will be forever indebted.

As always, all good things have to come to an end. We said our sincere thanks to our lovely hosts and their two beautiful daughters and waved our goodbyes and drove into the mist (Literally, as it was an overclouded night and clouds were quite low 💭   😇 ,  we are not making it up) hoping for clear skies the next day, as we were reaching the most awaited part of our trip.

 

Borgund Stave Church and Nærøyfjord

Day Three: 8th June 

It never really gets dark here in summers and the sun started to peek through our curtains in full force around 4:00 am. A quick glance at my phone and a brisk adjustment of the window curtains and I jumped back in the bed to wake up at around 8:30.

Today’s plan: Visit a Stave church as we were in Norway and to explore the region around Flam and take a ferry ride in the Naeroyfjord, which literally translates to The Narrow Fjord 😊.

Borgund Stave Church

The Church was built sometime between 1180 and 1250 AD and is among the most well preserved and the last few remaining Stave churches in Norway. The Stave churches are important Medieval Scandinavian relics and the Norwegian government is doing a fine job in trying to preserve this heritage. Among the 28 remaining Stave churches in Norway, this one is a must visit as it is the one which has been preserved and restored with great pain and effort.

Today the Gods were really smiling on us and had bestowed us with first day of proper day of sunlight since we had landed in Norway and we were able to capture some really good shots.

 

Village of Flam and Nærøyfjord – UNESCO World heritage site

Flam is a prominent place on the tourist map of Norway and a must visit place on any trip to Norway. Big cruise ships and ocean liners from various parts of Europe land up in Flam, after navigating through the Atlantic ocean and the Norwegian sea.

The Nærøyfjord,  the part of much bigger Sognefjord, goes on for around 200 kms from Flam before it reaches the Norwegian sea. A cruise ride through this stretch is a once in a lifetime experience

We parked our car near the Flam ferry terminal and got ready for our first Fjord cruise. I must say, this was on very top of our wish list. 

The Nærøyfjord has been rated by the National Geographic as the world’s number one natural heritage site along with the Geirangerfjord.

Once you are in the Fjord ferry, you would want your soul to be lost at this place forever. It was an awe inspiring experience. With the weather playing hide and seek, we were constantly traveling back and forth between  periods of sunlight and rain and that added to this mind bending experience.

 

There were numerous water falls, from the color of which you could make out that  in all probability, the glacier were melting their heart out into the Fjord. As if emptying their being/existence of all the sorrows and the Fjord as one giant melting pot absorbing all what is thrown at it and in return it gives back to us the pleasure of gliding over its heavenly waters. This ride will stay with us for a long time to come.

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An interesting incident happened before we could do this ride. We had set Nærøyfjord as our destination on the GPS and we overshot the village of Flam and it took us literally to the middle of the fjord, with the navigator saying out loudly “LEAVE THE ROAD”.

At this very moment we realized, why we have to agree and sign off a written agreement, each time we start our navigators; obey the rules, road signs and above all respect the road 😅. While we were in the middle of the Fjord( I mean on the side of it) we clicked this, our would be ferry, gliding past us. Flam is not to be missed and skipping it would leave your trip to Norway unfulfilled and incomplete.

Overnight we stayed at a camping site in Myrkdalen, Norway. The only reason to chose this place was that it was a comfortable 120 kms from Bergen.  The place was on the top of a mountain and was essentially a ski spot. It still had snow, but not the soft powder required for skiing. But we were happy to be here as from here we had full and unhindered view of the valleys and mountains down below.

 

Pulpit Rock and The 12 Hour Road Trip

Day 2: June 7th

Preikestolen , Pulpit rock or Preacher’s Pulpit in English, is a huge rock on the side of the Lysefjord. It is one of the country’s most spectacular photo subjects. The hike to Pulpit rock is relatively hard but the satisfaction at the end makes it worth it. We woke up early today and had a wholesome breakfast. Considering the long drive and the tiresome hike, we stocked up on sandwiches and water and left the hotel around 8 am.

The weather Gods were angry, the clouds were dense, dark and here to stay. And to make it more ominous it was raining intermittently. 

The Pulpit Rock’s base was a good one hour drive away and we were hoping that the weather on the other side of the Fjord, looking towards North East from Stavanger might be bright and sunny.  This short drive also included our first ferry ride across a narrow Norwegian Fjord.  We watched the Ferry engulf our car in its hull as if being eaten alive by a monster.

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Ferry rides are an integral part of any road trip in Norway. To cross a waterbody, there are two options; drive along the sides of the mountain(if a road is available) or take the ferry. First option is lucrative until you see the time it adds to the trip. So choosing the ferry ride is a no brainer. Also have we already mentioned that Norway is expensive? So are ferry rides. Bridges are a rarity, and for a good reason. They are ugly and expensive to build.

We reached the base of the hike around 10 am. Summer days in Norway are long, really long. In the northern parts of the country sun never sets. It is known as Land of the Midnight Sun for a reason. Anyways I digress, we had ample time to do the hike and still make to the hotel in time( or so we thought).

Drone Shot of the Pulpit Rock

The first part between 0 KM and 2.0 KM was the real test of our zeal.

Hike to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock)

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The total distance of the hike is only 3 kms. Easy as you like. Until you see the rise in elevation. The whole ordeal was made a bit more challenging by the inclement weather. By the time we descended to the base, sporadic drizzle transformed into a torrential downpour.

We started slowly, taking careful steps as the terrain became more challenging. From paved path to broken stone chairs and man made wooden bridges, the hike had it all. The hike constitutes of a sequence of elevations. There was a point in the hike, where we had climbed a rather steep set of stairs and were enjoying a flat path, we saw a huge cliff and thought to ourselves, there is no way we are climbing that. But guess what, we were wrong. That ascent was a mixture of rocky stairs, steep rocky stairs and most importantly, non existent rocky stairs. This was going to be the most difficult part of the hike.

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The easier path before we crossed the grueling mountain behind us.

We took a brief break, clicked some pictures and made for the final leg of the journey. There are times in the life where you are truly speechless in awe of the moment. This was one of them. The Pulpit rock, in all its glory, teasing us to take a look down the edge. Which, when we did, we had our hearts in our respective mouths. Now I get why people get vertigo. We made a point of staying far from the edge, unlike some of the daredevils who must have had the metaphorical balls of steels.

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Our Moment at the top of the world aka The Preacher’s Pulpit

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Mission Accomplished

 The 12 Hours Road Trip (To the Norwegian Fjord Country)

The Drive from Pulpit Rock to Flam, the home to Naeroyfjord

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After spending an hour on top of the rock itself, we reluctantly descended as we had a long road trip up ahead which would take us well and truly into Norwegian Fjord county.  To the world famous and designated UNESCO world heritage sights. The likes of Flam and Geiranger and the picturesque Fjords, Naeroyfjord, Sognefjord and the mightiest of them all, The Geirangerfjord.

But all these were planned for another day. Today we had to cover 400kms, amounting to what was going to be among the most scenic drives we had ever undertaken in our lives. By European standards, the drive should have taken 3-4 hours. But we overestimated the Norwegian highways and roads, which are narrow, dangerous, at places virtually non existent and sometimes barely wide enough for two cars to pass safely. Add to that the omnipresent speed limit of 60 km/h and you have your own living hell.

Nevertheless, stunningly beautiful and mesmerizingly magical, the entire road journey was worth the tiring drive.

We barely avoided hitting ourselves against a bare mountain side, as a truck refused to allow us even an inch of the road, bringing us to a screeching halt. As we regained our senses back and tried to pull the car out of the ditch, the car made a loud noise and we thought as if the entire right side of the car was scraping against the rock face and is ruined. But to our relief, it was only the loose gravel under our wide tires, that was getting crushed. 😇

The frequent tunnel closures really frustrated us. The road infrastructure in Norway is archaic in comparison to Switzerland or Italy.

A proper waterfall had eluded us thus far. We had either a glimpse or heard just the sound of one. This was soon to be changed. The sight of the waterfall cured all the fatigue we had from the hike. The milky water, raging speed and amazing sound was a spectacle.

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We restarted our journey with renewed fervor. The slow road was a little more tolerable as we crossed a gorgeous mountain pass.
 

Another breathtaking view awaited us at the end of it. We had been riding alongside a river for a while now and the landscape was getting monotonic.Right then, Norway switched gears and lo and behold, there was this huge waterfall, falling into the aforementioned river. We had to make another pit stop.

The Låtefossen Waterfall Near Odda. The real force of the waterfall could only be felt when you are physically there and in summers. In winters everything freezes up and the waterfall is reduced to just a thin stream.

The town of Odda was a refreshing break during this long journey. We stopped to fill our bellies and buy essential groceries for next few days of camping the we had planned.

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View from our restaurant in Odda. If you are planning to tame the mighty Trolltunga, this is the place to camp.

The full trek to Trolltunga will take anywhere between 12 to 15 hours. We could not do this hike as the hiking season to Trolltunga starts only after 15th June and we were early. So plan ahead if Trolltunga is your calling.

Anyhow, we reached Laerdal around 12.30 am and were presented with this view right outside our camping site. 

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Trip to Norway: The Fjord Country

In the winter of 2016,  we decided on undertaking a road trip, different from any other trips we had done so far. Among those were the exotic Italian Amalfi coast drive, The exhilarating Pacific Ocean road from Los Angeles to San Francisco, the memorable Death Valley Sojourn from SFO to Las Vegas and the drives through Swiss, Austrian and Bavarian and Italian Alps.

But this time we wanted it to be different, something which we had never seen before and something which would stay with us for a long time. We had already short listed our destination and it was to be Iceland. The island which has been shaped over the millennium by erupting volcanoes, drifting lava fields, moving ice, thundering waterfalls and huge glaciers. The Icelandic wilderness would have challenged us to survive on bare essentials and provided a chance to observe the nature at its most raw form.

But all this would have to wait for for another year, date, time and day. Due to circumstances beyond our control, which would have severely limited  our ability to be in extreme wilderness for an extended period of time, we had to change our plans and the eventual destination. The road trip was still on paper, but we had to pinpoint a location on the map which would, if not exceed but at least match our aspirations.

The place we put our pin on the map was to be Norway, The Fjord Country and the land of Million Waterfalls. The country shaped by the Trolls. Where the mountains and the rocks, it is said, come to life in the form of Trolls and this is they (it is assumed in Norwegian folklore), who have shaped the Norwegian Fjords, mountains and lakes over millenniums,.

When the humans are in their slumbers during the dark of the night, the Trolls come to life, They hide behind tall mountains and in deep fjords from the humans. Trolls are as much a reality as the views and out of world landscape of  Norway. It’s not possible for nature to shape itself in such a heavenly form without an external stimuli and that external stimulus must be the Trolls of Norway. Or maybe it was the aliens, who knows. It was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime journey.

The Route

The rough travel route that we were going to follow was supposed to look like this, but we took so many diversions and detours that it’s impossible to put everything accurately onto a map and eventually we ended up traveling in excess of 2900 Kms.

First day, June 6th: Arrival

We landed at Oslo Torp. The airport is a hub for budget airlines including Ryanair, Wizzair and others. Also, the car rentals here are cheaper compared to the main airport in Oslo.

Although we had planned for this trip for long and done our due diligence. Still the excitement of living through all that was planned on paper was a bit too much  to handle and as we were collecting our rental car, we were arguing( more of an animated discussion) with the assistant over car we were being offered and the one which we had booked. We hesitantly took the car keys of a humble Opel Astra.

Did I say humble, the car turned out to be a bit of surprise. The top of the line, 2017 model, fully loaded Opel Astra Elite. With a high resolution media console, an inbuilt GPS. The car even had lane assistance, collision detector Tech, radar controlled cruise control and a magnificent 8 alpine speaker musical tech with apple car-play and a 200hp engine. We got more than what we had bargained for.

A magnificent start to nine days of travel through the Norwegian country, driving hours along the banks of lakes and fjords, climbing mountain passes, mountain plateaus, and tackling the twisting, grinding and hairpin highways. During which we were to dive deep into the valleys and the Norwegian Fjords and climb back on top of mountains where frozen lakes and glaciers awaited us in the middle of summer. We were ready to GO!

The City of Stavanger

Our first destination was the city of Stavanger, a short distance of 450 km away. Third largest city of Norway, a port town with booming oil economy. Our purpose in Stavanger was  a night’s halt before we do the ultimate  trek to Pulpit’s rock or Preikestolen as it’s known in Norway.

But the drive to Stavanger turned out to be an adventure in itself. Although we were still in the Norwegian lowlands, the landscape was just mesmerizing.

 

Our first pit stop costed us $70 for few burgers and some grocery. Alongwith came the realisation that this trip is going to burn a hole in our pockets.

In the evening we visited the port of Stavanger. The port was lined up with traditional Norwegian bars and pubs. We thought of taking a stroll along the coast for a short walk to freshen our legs which were paralyzed due to the long drive and have a drink later. This turned out to be a mistake as we came to know later that bars do not serve alcohol after 10 PM. Bummer.

Lesson learnt: Never delay the consumption of alcohol.

All alcohol-sale ends at general stores at 8 PM, Monday-Fridays, and at 6 on Saturdays. You cannot buy alcohol on Sunday at all. Deal with it.

The grocery Stores in Norway only sell beer and ciders, and the volume of alcohol is no higher than 4-5 %. If you want hard liquor, you have to go to Vinmonopolet, which not le located close to you and sale at Vinmonopolet ends at 6 PM Monday-Fridays and 3 PM on Saturdays.

This came as a shock to us. As we were coming from Poland and US, where alcohol is easily available any time of the day.  So we could not have any drinks on our very first evening in Norway but we did manage to take some good shots of the Stavanger harbor.

 

The evening in Stavanger was a sedate affair. We had some food (after over an hour of disagreement over it), roamed around the small city center, clicked the quintessential touristy snaps and went to sleep, dreaming about what was in store the next morning.

Sadly our hotel in Stavanger, which we had booked with much care, keeping in mind the price and the location turned out to be located next to a hospital.

During the night we were woken up twice by the loud noise of a hovering helicopter as if it was going to land right above our heads. It felt as we were thrown right into the middle of a Black Hawk Down situation. But we sincerely hoped that whoever was brought in via the air ambulance, should make a full recovery.