Preikestolen / Pulpit Rock

Sometimes you get lucky …

IMG_4441We woke up in the middle of the night, 6:00am, pitch dark, Niki making grumbling sounds while I put on tea – it’s a full-service campervan this one. We had a good night’s rest at the marina in Jørpeland, which cost us 150NOK, but well worth it, and with substantial savings to be had – read on.

A light breakfast, we got the bikes ready and set off towards Preikestolen, our outing for the day. Only 9km away, with a small climb of around 400m, but far better value than the 250NOK for parking, or an equally outrageous price for the 10 minute bus ride.

On the way up, still cool, with very dense fog, we were passed by a number of people coming down who had made even earlier starts in order to see the sunrise. General disappointment with this, as by now the visibility was down to no more than 20 meters. A 2 hour walk took us the Preikestolen, but so wreathed in mist that we might as well have been 3 feet off the ground. Not to be rushed, we enjoyed our time watching other tourists taking advantage of the absence of vertigo, and sitting with their legs over what we knew to be a 604 meters above sea level – and that’s the fjord directly below us (oh, that’s 1981 feet for those non-metricated Luddites).

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And then the clouds broke up. And then the mist lifted – I need adjectival help on the views along the Lysefjord, over the Preikestolen itself, the mixture of cloud and reflection in the waters below – all while rediscovering my own sense of vertigo!

The scale is immense
Lysefjord, 2000ft down

The walk back was a little more crowded, given that busloads of school tours and others had been arriving – a bit of a China Yellow Mountain memory, for those who have experienced the mayhem of a million (yes, literally!) people on a single mountain.

My heart went out particularly to our German neighbours. The Germans may well have invented the current iteration of the walking stick – carbon, adjustable, soft grips, multi-colours, rock/sand/snow varieties etc etc. They use them with careless precision, a sort of Tetonic thoroughness in placement of tip, angle of incline, steady backward thrust, and all in silence. I can imagine their national pain when Spanish tourists come by, reaching down or up to their grips as no-one has explained that these are, indeed, the adjustable model. Click clack as the sticks are jabbed willy-nilly into cracks, onto rocks, spearing the occasional tree in passing. It’s like putting a choice lamb roast in the microwave – you can, but why would you?


Niki living on the edge

And then there’s this: A couple in full wedding regalia (albeit with her in hiking boots rather than high heels – sensible Norwegians!) beginning married life on a high … or is it on the edge? Time will no doubt tell.IMG_4521


Oh, and a big shout out to this kid and his friend – diving in Jørpeland harbour and pulling out dumped tyres – Good on you! I was so inspired I’ve picked up empty plastic bottles at each stop today.

Good on you, mate.

And to end the day … a lovely carpark right on the Lysefjord. Look at those views to our left & right, and all for free. Great job, Norway, on providing outstanding dumping/water facilities – UK listening??

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We are camped at a lovely little tarred area off the E39 on the way to Stavanger, outside Rommetveit, after leaving a verrrry busy Bergen behind. A tale to be told, though!

We were all ready to leave our delightful parking place from Gudvangen early in the morning in order to maximise our stay in Bergen. Early light breakfast and off we set. Turned right in Voss to head towards Bergen … road closed due to mudslides. OK, no real disaster, we’ll head further south and then catch a smaller parallel road up the Hardanger fjord. Missed the turnoff at Gravin and then immediately entered a long tunnel, complete with roundabouts!! Ignored the GPS voice of doom insisting that we ‘take the third exit on the next roundabout, kept going, eventually bursting into glorious sunshine. For about 6 seconds. Back into a tunnel with no opportunity to exit. Left said tunnel after another dwarf-like sojourn underground that went on for miles before exiting onto a bridge. Cost us €15 to cross the bridge to find a place to turn around, then another €15 to return back to the tunnel. Any chance Norwegian Tollroad operators are going to be merciful? Back underground for our two very long tunnels, then eventually turned off in Gravin, heading in the right direction towards Bergen.

Hmm, not that simple! Road narrows, then reduces to single lanes at every corner with no opportunity to see oncoming cars, buses, trucks – all that was missing was a caravan of camels.  OK, only 120km of this, we’re doing OK. Except that, far off on one of the promontories, I see traffic starting to back up. Found a place to turn at a ferry stop and headed back the way we came. Clearly every form of transport that was heading towards Bergen is now on this single lane – with interesting results.

And so we found ourselves in Voss. The town is much larger than expected, with a town centre almost 100m long and running down the better part of two streets, the whole lot carefully hidden behind roadworks and construction of a new gondola line that ends in the middle of town. On the upside, a quiet night at a carpark for €3, next to a huge park and lake made up for a day spent mostly underground, retracing routes and going, for the most part, nowhere.

We did eventually make it to Bergen on Friday when the road opened. Hmmm, how to describe? A very pretty town that tries hard to live up to the overweening pretentiousness of colourful houses photographed in great light, and in the absence of 5 cruise ships that, combined, literally quadrupled the town’s population. Add to that the expense of absolutely everything, and the day took a little more effort than it could have. We eventually had a beer (€18) in gorgeous sunlight in front of the old town (15 houses on one street) and Subways (€12) at the docks. This seemed a better option than local crayfish (lobster) at €130 per kg. That’s going to cost you around €200 a crayfish, or NZ$350, £180 or ZAR 3200. And that excludes the fried chips!! In perspective, last year we bought 30 crayfish in South Africa at $2 each …

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One other thing that is noticeable in Norway is that every place has a plethora of museums. Bergen must have 12. And they are pretty awful – sorry about that. For example, we took a tour to the Rosencrantz tower (captain from Denmark, in charge of Norway, friend of Hamlet etc etc) – We might well have looked in 12 or 16 rooms, all but three were bare! Even those three seemed to have some afterthought stuff trucked in. One room had large posters explaining a sea battle between the British and Dutch involving the Rosencrantz tower. Apart from the posters … two cannons. That’s it! Another two rooms had a cannon each – neither of which, by the way, were used in land battles. The tour cost €12. To get into the next building – part of the same complex – was going to cost another €9, for more empty rooms. This is a pattern throughout Norway, and inclusive of the various Viking exhibitions – large rooms with 8 items. I get the idea of creating alluring tourist attractions – but then they should be alluring. I feel the next time a cultural exhibition catches my eye I may well enquire as to the number of items on exhibit before forking out another €15 or so. Hmm, I did say early on that I’m sure to offend each country as we meander across Europe …

Apart from all the above, Niki loved Bergen.

Today we did have a rare opportunity – a free event! We had a great morning at the composer Edvard Greig’s home. They host an annual international pianist competition in an amazing recital hall built at his villa. We spent a couple of hours listening to gifted young pianists who just brought the venue alive -and what a setting!

Greig Music Hall
Niki & Greig
Edvard & Nina’s cemetary

Jostedalsbreen Glacier

I know, I know … I’ve really got to stop doing this!

After a really interesting drive over what turned out to be the flat part of Trollstigen, we swept over the plateau, all 150 meters of it, before commencing our descent down the winding reverse side, towards Geiranger. If there’s a fjord that seem to be the archetype, Geiranger has to be it. The roads across this section are so winding as to be a bit of a headspinner. Add to that the fact that you don’t know whether you are at sea level (fjord), lake (somewhere above sea level … maybe), heading towards the coast, or not. I’ve a couple of friends who would, no doubt, point unerringly in some direction and state, without hesitation, ‘Of course that’s North-East’ … Aaron T! Not me. (Hover cursor for captions).

Coming down towards Geiranger – what a view – we found a carpark with a large section marked No Parking, and 3 spots with a ‘P’ sign. We had a chat with a lovely guy from Argentina who has been travelling since May (Where do these guys get the money?) who vacated the P area, and we moved in. So happy to have a room with a view across the fjord, and dry and warm as the drizzle started again. Our two companion vans – not so lucky, clearly lacking an onboard loo, and necessitating numerous walks across the road to some track in the bush. So instead of heading off to our intended spot at Dalsnibba we, of course, settle back and enjoyed another taped episode of ‘The Terror’ (Great book!!). Woke in the morning to find the No Parking area filled two deep, and enterprising bivvy set up on the central grass of the turning circle, cars with tarpaulins stretching from door to grassed area – sagging under the weight of the night’s rainfall. We just have to get better at ‘reading’ the no parking signs, but at €60 a parking ticket these are expensive lessons.

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Carpark at Geiranger
Not a bad view 🙂
Looking across Geiranger

Another day, another Trollstigen, up to Dalsnibba – and this really was up!!, and then down to Stryn, before climbing again to our present campsite at Mekevoll Bretun. Hmmm, how to put this … Camping at Geiranger (€0) what just outstanding. Camping at the base of the Jostedalsbreen glacier is a different order of magnitude. Glaciers ahead and to the right, waterfalls to the left, our van is parked meters away from the terminal moraine – WOW!

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I took advantage of the sauna, which is on for 2 hours every evening, and then bowed to peer pressure from a full sauna to exit and have a swim in a glacial pool right at the door. I think this is why some Scandinavian countries have a vodka issue – you have to have a couple to get the heart going again. In fact, enjoyed the cure so much I’m intending to replicate the process tonight. Followed that this morning with an easy hike up through the forest (avoid the main hiking trail!!) to the glacier itself and spent a couple of hours just drinking in the scenery. We are also surrounded by interesting and nice neighbours – A couple with a 2 yr old child, older Belgium couple etc etc – had some great chats and guided campervan tours!

IMG_3994On a sour note – I think the various Trollstigens have caused our SatNav to self-destruct. We’ve tried re-setting, updating, disconnecting… No go. We do have an atlas, with Norway covered in4 pages, so not exactly high definition (I know I’m confusing epochs), but there’s really only one road from here to there, and I’ve tracked down an audio shop in Bergen, 4 days away (depending on the Navigator), so let’s see if we can get this thing sorted or replaced. Been less than impressed with some of the routing options! But until then, we’ll end up somewhere beautiful, without a doubt.

Åndalsnes & Trollstigen

We are parked at the top of Trollstigen, a hop & jump from last night’s stop in Åndalsnes, and what a trip this has been. Seriously – when you think you’ve seen beautiful, and then it gets better!!!

Following our overnight stop after our musk ox walk (let’s hold on ‘safari’ please) at the carpark we made our way, at a sedate 70km/h, down to Åndalsnes, breaking away from the major E6 route. We headed into what looked like grim weather, but apart from some light drizzle and low cloud, oh and a 75km/h crosswind, we weren’t too badly off. Very light traffic made things easier, now that Norwegian schools have started. We had no idea of what to expect along the route, so imagine our surprise as the road descended, the cliffs ascended, and we found ourselves at the base of the Trolls Wall, Europe’s highest vertical cliff! I think this was made even more spectacular by the low, broken cloud, which gave glimpses of sheer walls, leftover snow, tremendous waterfalls and gigantic bowls carved out by glaciers. Hidden peaks and the grey cloud & rock simply added to our sense of awe. We took some time out to stop at waterfalls along the way, came across this stunning church, and generally had the best 2 hour drive of our lives. Who knew it was going to get better? The Romsdal Valley has just completely blown us away with beauty on a scale that I’m not sure we’ll see again. Knowing Norway, I’m bound to be wrong.

Church, Romsdal Valley


Åndalsnes has a bit of a history, being central to Norway’s efforts in 1940 to keep their gold reserves out of German (and British) hands, with a tale of falling bombs, sinking ships, a Norwegian royal family and various derring-do, all quite inspiring. The town itself is worth its place in the Norwegian picture card icon, although there is little to do in the town itself. Having a newly discovered fear of heights, both Niki and I avoided the key current activity, mountain climbing … the real thing. The beautifully designed climbing centre/info has a fantastic indoor climbing wall – paid for entry only, so I’m going on the oodles of pictures on the wall. A very quiet night spent in a free car park next to the railway station (love Norway!!), and then, next day, off to Trollstigen.


I’m going to post a short video of tunnels and passes to give some idea of what this looks like while driving – Navigator’s view of course – I’m not even taking a hand off the wheel for the obligatory wave at oncoming campervans. In any case – a few photos of the Trollstigen should explain why this road is iconic.

Visitors Centre, Trollstigen
The road …
Colour co-ordinated for the survival photo
Lookout, Trollstigen
Navigator’s reward

So we are parked on a bit of a slope – water won’t drain out the shower too well, and both Niki and I are fighting gravity (not old age wrinkle slumping stuff, but the real thing), but on the up side I get a cuddle when Niki rolls downhill tonight…

Oh, and bumped into Dave K at the top of the mountain!


Oppdal and a run down South

A little gripe to begin … DO NOT use melamine cups that come with the lightweight camping tableware for tea or coffee! Last night Niki had just said … “We’ve only got two cups left” when Crack! There goes cup 3, leaking coffee all over the kitchen – again. I’m reduced to using a folding cup that still gives off soup aromas from last year’s cycle trip.


We are currently overnighting in a parking area (No Camping) next to the E6 climbing out the mountain pass from Oppdal towards Dombås. We’ve taken advantage of a great weather forecast – which has proven entirely accurate – to spend the day on a musk ox safari. So, sore feet (not really used to walking this much), but feeling really good relaxed out in the sunshine, particularly as the forecast is for more rain tomorrow. The temperature came down to 0° last night – not being Norwegian I’m going to assume that summer is now ending …


We’ve rushed a little across Norway’s boring middle bit, from Mo I Rana past Trondheim to Oppdal, which is situated in Norway’s hilly bits – the highest mountains are in this region, although not as dramatically vertical as the areas both north and south of here. We were very keen on seeing musk oxen, introduced to this region in 1947, after some less successful previous attempts. There are over 230 here now, and their survival seems assured, as evidenced by the need to cull, and the guide selling musk ox fried sausage! Great day out, very knowledgeable young guide, great group, sunshine, mountains – what’s not to like.

Oh, and then there were the musk oxen …

At the end of the tour everyone else took off. We looked around, decided we had nowhere important to go, and so we’ve settled in for the night. This is at least partly my recognition of a very grumpy navigator who voiced her displeasure of spending 2 full days on the road and wondered where we were rushing to. Good question, no answer, so we’ll enjoy Nachos with pulled pork, salsa and the trimmings in a truly delightful setting. Coming up – some interesting roads and nervous driving as we approach Geirangerfjord, Trollstigen and Dalsnibba.

Not bad for a free site!