Norway 2008

What did we do

I've been to a lot of countries, so to choose to go back to Norway after 3 years must mean that it's a great place to go.

10 of us set off on a cruise liner disguised as a car ferry bound for Bergen. After 27 hours and having little to do except eat and sleep we landed and kipped overnght at the YMCA. The first day brought a trip north on the express ferry to Askvoll where we headed east towards Forde via Dale, waterfalls and Fjords.

Heading north to Byrkjelo, we passed the magnificent Hudrafossen (waterfall) before climbing to Vassenden. Norway has fewer roads than most, especially in the west, however the road around the south of Jolstravatnet was not only highly scenic but pretty flat. All was to change the next day as the road to Stryn meant climbing over Utvikfjellnet. 600 metres of downhill was the reward as we followed the road next to Innvikfjorden. Half of us had chosen to visit Briksdal glacier, a road trip of 48km and a walk of 3km at the far end. As we raced the tour buses (from the cruise liners) down the valley, the glacier was always in view and was a grand detour.

Stryn YHA was extremely good, a great welcome and an even better supper. Having been bombarded by hale stones the size of marbles, 2 days previously, we set of in rain which continued on and off all the way to Geiranger, where we spent 2 nights at the Union Hotel. In an attempt to work off the all you can eat buffet we cycled the switchbacks on the Eagles Road for a misty view along Geirangerfjord, in itself a UNESCO listed area. Up, up, up we went the next day as we went through the tree, snow and cloud line to Grotli. This wasn't enough for Colin (300,000 miles and counting) who summited Dalsnibba, as the rest of us drank coffee and admired the frozen lake, hills and feet.

Grotli is one end of one of Norways 3 designated scenic roads and dutifully I rode the Gamle road in low cloud to the summer ski station. Built over 100 years ago, it's a marvel of engineering through the mountains. The Grotli hotel was one of our favourites and as if to smile on us, the sun rose the next day and we all appreciated the Gamle road in morning sun. Downhill now to Kvila, from the snow line to tree line and into wider valleys with any flat bit being cut for grass by farmers.

Kvila had a BBQ hut and we sat on reindeer skins, grilling meat and even the beer was cheaper at £6/pint. Off to Boverdalen via Lom with its impressive stave church. It was a short day, however 4 of determined to make it longer as we attempted the road to Juvesshytta. Now 600 metres to 1850 may not sound too bad, but the smell of burning brakes, worn out clutches and campervans seemingly going backwards only reinforced the internet blog from a Swiss cyclist (no mountains there then) who wrote 'it was the hardest climb he'd ever done'. 2 of us made it and I have the photo to prove it.

Norways other scenic roads includes the Sognefjellet over the Jotenheim mountains, and we did this the next day before staying at the mountain hotel at Turtegro. The cloud was low and it was misty. This was the second time I've done this road and last time there were no views. The forecast was great for the next day, so at 0500, alarm clock set, I climbed the 650 metres back up to the top and it was glorious, mountains everywhere. Back in time for breakfast and more of that caramel, brown Norwegian cheese, yum, yum, we descended to Sognefjord and rode the southern shore to Urnes, famed for its small but perfectly formed wooden stave church. Built on stones the Norwegians were brighter than the Swedes as the timbers didn't rot, hence surviving nearly a millennium.

The last two days took us further along the worlds longest Fjord via Sogndal to Balestrand and a final express ferry back to Bergen.

In conclusion, this is a fabulous country for scenery. Yes everything is expensive, red wine is £45/bottle, but if you stay in the hostels, eat basically or even use the excellent cabins it can be done. Unfortunately the ferry service finishes for good in September. If another re-opens, I'll be back.