Published: August 14th 2008August 14th 2008
It gets mighty crowded up here!
Some visitors enjoying the view from Preikestolen
After spending three weeks in the UK to get over jet-lag, do laundry, see relatives, buy a new van, buy food and pack again, we caught the Newcastle to Stavanger Ferry on 27 July. On the boat we were introduced to crazy inflated Norwegian prices with beer costing £4.50 a pint! (Hot tip- if you want to eat/drink on the ferry, take your own food and beer. Sadly ours was on the car deck!)
From Stavanger we headed straight for the Fjords. Our first stop was the Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) which is probably one of the most visited sites in the whole of Norway. A distinctive 25m square slab of rock perched 600m above Lysefjord, it is undeniably spectacular, but we were not expecting the hundreds of people we passed on the path. We were glad to take a less well trodden route back to the campsite via a lake and a swim. From here we made our way via one ferry and countless tunnels to Hardangerfjord where it was the height of the cherry season. Morello cherries and apples are a speciality around here and it is hard to resist the many roadside fruit stalls. Looming above the fjord is
the Hardangervidda, Europe’s largest mountain plateau, most of which is more than 1300m above sea level and above the tree line. We had spent a day walking up here in 2004 and had vowed to come back and stay longer. So we packed our rucksacks with enough food for three days and had a fantastic time walking , camping and botanising . Once away from the main tracks we saw hardly anybody. The arctic alpine wildflowers were overwhelming. We even managed swimming a couple of times in the mountain tarns.
On our last day it rained rather persistently so the walk out was not that pleasant. Avoiding the tourist hotspots of Flam and Voss we continued north to Sognefjord via more ferries and tunnels. We found a tiny campsite near Balestrand in the heart of the most amazing scenery. We couldn’t work out why we had the site to ourselves, it was so perfect! Balestrand has a good network of “nature paths” and the weather cleared enough for us to climb up Raudmelen (972m ). It is mind-bending to think that at this point Sognefjord is 1100m deep (i.e as deep as the surrounding mountains are high!)
Not wanting to
Away from the crowds
Our first campsite on Hardangervidda, the only bit of flat ground around!
overdo the fjords we headed for Runde, an island on the Atlantic coast famous for its huge seabird colonies, particularly puffins, kittiwakes, guillemots and gannets. This involved yet more tunnels and ferries, and some spectacular bridges too ( they have linked Runde to the neighbouring islands with some high arched bridges, but you still need a ferry from the mainland to get there). This aside, it had a very similar feel to Handa Island on the north west coast of Scotland, or even Hoy or Copinsay on Orkney. Perhaps it was the presence of bonxies (great skuas) which helped to reinforce the similarity? Unfortunately we missed the puffins, guillemots and kittiwakes but had superb views of the gannetry and shag colony, and saw up to four sea eagles which breed on the island, feeding on other seabirds.
Coming inland via Alesund, we made our way up Langfjorden and Tingvollfjorden to Gjora where, due to the rain, the waterfalls at Amotan were spectacular. We also found a really good campsite with nice kitchen, showers and even Wifi!
Trondheim is located 63 degrees north , only 240 miles from the arctic circle, so we were very surprised to see quite intensive agriculture
Harteigen, the heart of Hardangervidda
The tiny setter of Viersdalen below Harteigen (1691m)
(barley and oats seem to be the main crops) and to find that the city is quite a sprawling place and very industrialised. We found ourselves heading for Sweden to find wild land and open spaces again. At the border, there was no band to welcome us (as in Fiji), no beagles to check our bags for drugs or vegetables (NZ), no retina scans, no fingerprints and intensive questioning of our intentions (USA), no confiscation of potatoes (Canada),and we didn’t even have to stop to show our passports! Only the different coloured roadsigns told us that we were now in Sweden.
The Jamtland region of Sweden is an area of forests, lakes, rivers and mountains. We sought out Valadalen and were soon enjoying good views of the surrounding countryside plus close sightings of reindeer and ptarmigan on Ottfjallet (1265m). Not many British people come this way, in fact at one campsite we were the first for the year ( and probably the last since 10 August represents just about the end of the season). Passing Trangsviken (home of the Trangia) and Ostersund (nearby Froson is home of the Hilleberg tent) we drove east to the Hoga Kusten , Sweden’s High
Coast. It is said to be the most attractive stretch of Sweden’s east coast and to resemble the Norwegian fjords. Having just come from there, we found it to be very different, but still beautiful. The most amazing thing about it is that the land is rising a staggering 8mm a year, bouncing back after the weight of ice was removed at the end of the last ice age. Since then it has risen 286m and is the fastest rising coastline in the world, and a World Heritage Site. The landscape is very strange with raised beaches, bare rock covered in stunted pine trees, and lakes which were once bays but have now been cut off from the sea. Here we had the slightly surreal experience of checking into a campsite by registering at the local convalescent home! Before you start worrying about us, Maviken near Mjallom is a both a convalescent home and a holiday with camping cabins and a small caravan site. We were the only people camping ( end of season) and for only 80 SEK (£6.50) the facilities were amazing. There was also a new wheelchair accessible path leading to jetties and BBQ area around the
bay which the campsite overlooked .This was once the site of a massive sawmill and port which closed in the 1920’s . There is hardly any evidence of it ever being there.
The sound of lawnmowers, shooting and the call of red throated divers. Ahh... this must be Lappland ! Fredrika is a small town on the southern edge of Swedish Lappland. Moving back west (don’t ask, but it is weather related!) we found ourselves in another fantastic, empty campsite on the edge of a lake on which we saw at least five red throated divers. We visited Bjornfjallet National Park (translates as ‘bear land’ ) which has to be one of the most bewitching places we’ve seen so far. Pine trees up to 450 years old, with the ground just covered in lichens, mosses and bilberries ( LOTS of bilberries) and bird species you’d really have to seek out back home such as black throated diver , crossbill and waxwing (Storlom, Mindre korsnabb and Sidensvans). Didn’t see any bears but apparently this part of Sweden has the highest density of brown bears in the world (the ‘bear-richest area’ as one of the tourist brochures puts it).The weather is still
People go miles to see this in Cumbria. Here it is all over the place!
very changeable so yesterday we decided to stay in a stuga (cabin) near Vilhelmina from where this blog is written. The decision was an extremely good one as last night it must have put down several inches of rain. And, if you are wondering why the towns here have weird names, apparently King Gustav IV Adolf’s wife was called Fredrika Dorotea Vilhelmina, and yes, there is a town called Dorotea just down the road!
There are more photos below