Norway by Van – Part 1

Traveling by van, wildcamping almost all the time, and not having a set schedule or bookings is really a very different experience. It’s the first time I’ve managed to combine an Edelweiss tour with some personal travel, and the fact that Jolien managed to get 3.5 weeks off in between switching jobs, means it really feels like we have plenty of time, unlike last time in Spain and Portugal where there was still a short deadline.

The first day started off leisurely, we had pretty good weather so we went swimming when we ended up at the fairtale Villa Fridheim.

We had some rain and fog near Geilo the next days. We drove up to Prestholt and attempted to hike up the plateau, but the “easy” hike according to Norwegian standards was a little steeper than anticipated and it was so foggy we had no view at all. We cut the hike a bit short.

The next day we drove along one of the famous “Tourist roads” for the first time, The Hardanger road, one I hadn’t seen on the previous Edelweiss tours. Weather was a bit gray still, so we weren’t too inspired for photo’s yet.

Though plagued by mosquitoes in the evening, the rest spot near the dam turned out to be a good location to sleep, and we were greeted with some sunshine again.

You may have noticed the kayak on top of the van’s roof rack already: at the Simadalsfjorden we decided to use it for the first time, going back and forth across this very quiet, tranquil fjord arm.

We drove across the Hardanger bridge, which I expected to be free compared to the ferry crossings, but they had video toll for 150kr there, even more than the ferry would have cost! I’ve read it’s not a certainty that the bill ever makes it to my home adress though, so we’ll see about that.

Driving down a one way road towards Naustflot for the night turned out to be a good idea. Naustflot was lovely, mostly summer houses along a tiny road. We bought some waffles from some very shy Norwegian kiddo’s selling them by the road and went for a swim in the fjord. We thought about camping there, but a friendly local man told us people don’t prefer that near the houses, and pointed us to a parking at the end of a toll road in the forest.

We went for a hike up to the Oksen hut lookout the next morning, as the same man had recomended us. He said it was “very close by, just 3 turns up from the parking”, which turned out to be a 1 hour hike.

There I managed, for the first time, to snap some good pictures with the drone camera Jolien brought along from Belgium. Still only in Beginner mode, max 30 meters away though…

We drove along the fjords, on the way to Bergen, doing shopping along the way and getting acquainted with high Norwegian prices for food. Though like most things, being careful and looking beyond the first option can help a lot with saving money. We must have compared 3 supermarkets that day.

In Bergen I worked a bit, and Jolien went to visit town, as I’d seen it before. She came back earlier than I thought, not too impressed. Turned out she had completely skipped the 2 things I said were a must-do, due to “lack of connection” with the place. Oh well, on to more wilderness it would be.

The evening before we lost some time, having to drive back halfway to Bergen as some cupboards mounts had broken, and my wardrobe had fallen​ from the ceiling. Biltema, my favorite shop in all of scandiavia and perhaps the world, managed to save the day in only half an hour, with cupboards attached better than before. Even Jolien was impressed, she thought it would have taken hours to resolve.

We kayaked on a little lake with interesting islands the next morning, and then headed on.

I took a little road I knew from the Edelweiss tour, from Dale to Voss through Bergsdalen. I specifically remembered the collapsing suspension bridge I’d wanted to photograph when wizzing past on the bike; there’s never any time for all the places I’d like to stop at.

It’s never truly easy to find a spot to park for the night, often there’s people, or more likely summer houses nearby, and we try to be respectful, so this little turnoff next to the road was more than good enough.

A little stop, on a rainy morning at the Bordalsgjelet canyon.

We drove past some more highlights like Stalheim, where I took the van down, slowly, in first gear. Past more fjords with rain and clouds now and then, to eventually get to Aurland, where we’d be going up the exact same road I described in the intro of my last post.

Now, being able to stop and take pictures there as much as I wanted was really amazing. This place was just magic wherever you looked. Riding over it really fast in a motorbike is fun, but capturing it from different angles and in different light is at least as much fun to me.

Here I switched the drone out of beginner mode, and it started to click a bit more. I went higher and farther than before, and the shots really do show the improvement. I wish I could’ve captured more, but fading light and rain and wind the next day prevented that.

We thought we’d be alone up there, or a few cars at most, but it turned out the “18th Paris-Cap Nord Photo Adventure Raid” had decided to make the same spot their home for the night, so we were accompanied by at least 25 other cars on a tiny parking lot on the highlands.

The next day I really wanted to see little old Fjaerland again, one of my highlights last time. It’s such a peaceful little place, and I explored it a bit more, seeing even more of the quirky secondhand bookstores that make it an official “book village”. We also managed to shower and do laundry for only 25kr at the marina facilities!

The next stretch of road we went through a bit faster than I wanted to. I’d hoped to stay at Lovatnet, but the road from Byrkjelo to Uttvik was closed, bridges were out due to floods from the mountains, possibly for months. No big deal for us, we went around, having to take a longer route and a ferry. I kept thinking how that would’ve been a big challenge on the Edelweiss trip, as it would mess up the fancy picknick plans we had on that exact section of the route.

We drove past Stryn, into what turned out to be the “valley of the campings”, there must have been 30 around, and I bet it’s the campground owners that put up “NO CAMPING” signs on every little turnoff ad potential parking spot. We kept going just to the base of the Stryn highlands, and found a small rest stop with some other campers.

The road over the Strynefjellet highland was just as amazing as at Aurland, Jolien lamented we hadn’t gone on for 15 more minutes to sleep up there. The weather was perfect and I got some great shots again.

The snow and ice had melted even more in the past 2-3 weeks, as no more skiing was possible there when we got to the summerski station.

I flew a lot again, capturing shots I was thinking of weeks before, flying over the ice lake there.

We drove on to Geiranger, on more famous “tourist roads” with great views. We decided to pay up the 130kr up to the Dalsnibba viewpoint. It was such an amazing clear view, the pictures just don’t do it justice, it looks like we’re in a studio standing in front of a printed background almost, haha.

Here’s the van driving through Knuten, “The Knot” an old piece of the Geiranger road long since bypassed, but kept alongside the new road. Another thing I had no time to explore before, but now had all the time to photograph it.

The next day in Geiranger, where we miraculously found a free spot across the water from a big expensive camping, we got the Kayak out again and set out to explore the fjord. I’d seen the Fjord farms from the cruise before, little houses high on the slopes above the water, and knew you could visit them. So we paddled nearly 6 km’s one-way to the first farm. We tried to dock at Skagefla, but the seaweed on the rocks made that impossible, so we had to dash across 800m of fjord (with sometimes ferrys and small cruise boats passing) to the other side. Jolien thought we were going to die, run over by a ferry, so she paddled for her life. We made it just fine, docking at Knivsfla was easy and we rested for a while, drying some clothes and shoes. We’re not so pro that we have proper waterproof kayaking gear.

The hike up to Knivsfla was a lot easier thankfully, it only took about an hour, and the slopes are nowhere near as steep as you’d expect looking at it from down in the Fjord. We’re really glad we went up there, the view was perfect, and we were all alone among the ruins and tiny little shacks. There’s all sorts of interesting stories about this place, about how children had to be tied from their wastes so they couldn’t wander near the cliffs, how the farm was abandoned 100 years ago due to danger of a falling rock that’s still there, or how 6 people have died here from falling and rocks over the ages.

I even flew the drone in the craziest spot so far. It still feels weird down under to fly a 1000 euro camera above a 250m cliff that drops straight into the sea. Gulp!

So now we just stayed at our first camping; finding a cheap shower turned out too hard, and we’re deciding where to go while I secretly write this blog on the superfast hotel wifi (we’re undercover in our fancy clothes in the lobby). 10 more days to go until we should get to Stockholm!

Here’s a preview of the route we took so far:


You can read the second part of the trip here.

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