Fjords and Stave Kirkes in Norway

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Europe » Norway
July 5th 1974
Published: September 24th 2021
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After crossing the border from Sweden into Norway, it was then another 100kms drive on to Oslo through heavy traffic on a hilly forest road. We sneaked in and helped ourselves to a free shower and a tidy up at the Youth Hostel (a pricey 25Kr per night) but decided against staying overnight. We then had a night out on the town at ‘Club Remember’, where we had great company for the evening with local gals Else and Greta. We got away by around 2am, still in near daylight, to camp by the side of the road near Ekeberg Camping Ground.

I was up early next morning after a most unsatisfactory 4 hours sleep in the Kombi. There were no travel starters nominated at the Youth Hostel, so we made it straight down to Larvik. We took some time off for lunch and relaxing at Sandefjord and then on the water at Viksfjord. We took off again around 2pm as the sky darkened and rain began to fall. We passed through some fantastic fjord country where most of the road was bordered by water on one side and high mountains on the other, with many sheltered bays appearing from time to time.

There was plenty of hitchhiking company next day for the boys – first two somewhat dour Norwegian girls who we tipped off at lunchtime, and then much more lively company for the afternoon when we picked up Lise and Thorhild, who accompanied us all the way to the camp at Kristiansand, demolishing four bottles of beer and multi fags between them on the way. They then took us to the Hotel Caledonian cabaret for the night (entrance 10Kr), which really swung with a great band from Syria. That night provided us with our first real taste of ‘midnight sun’ with it being impossible to darken the inside of the Kombi, making sleep incredibly difficult.

I was pulled out of bed by Bob at 8am for an early morning ‘surf’ in the fjord just behind the campsite. It was a beautiful clear sky, and we just lazed in the sun, apart from a 10 second swim in the freezing water. However, it seemed it was a ‘normal’ European day, and by the middle of the day it was overcast then raining. We were joined again in the afternoon by Lise and Thorhild, who had by this stage lost their tent. We passed the afternoon chatting, getting a haircut from the former, and having a magnificent late lunch of smorrebrod (shrimp, ham, pork, salad etc), washed down with a local red wine, all prepared by the girls. The sun reappeared late afternoon, so we just lazed in the cove until dinner, then drove the girls into the cabaret. Our onward travel offer was rejected by the girls after we picked them up, but we did receive a very persuasive invitation from Lise to pay them a visit in Drammen the following weekend.

Stupidly, we decided to drive on a bit further that evening, given there was still a fascinating half light. We travelled along a very windy narrow road through mountainous forests, which provided quite a different background than previously. It was fantastically still at night, with the full moon shining over the water producing very sharp silhouettes. What with the very sharp bends, passing semis and unlit tunnels, it needed all your concentration to avoid mishap. Unfortunately, we were unable to do so, with my sideswiping a semi-trailer on overtaking, and later the roof being ripped off during Bob’s drive.

We finally reached Stavanger around midday, and despite the sun, it was very cold, especially near the water. The balance of the day was spent chasing roof repairs, servicing the van, an unimpressive bus trip around the city, shop wandering, and a drive out to Tananger to look at the oil rigs and see what companies were operating them. We set up camp off the road not far away, repaired the roof somewhat crudely, and had an early night.

We had a remarkably good sleep, given we were almost sleeping out with the elements due to the roof repairs. We changed into our ‘business’ gear early and travelled out for interviews in Stavanger with the various oil companies – Norsco, Shell, Barroid and Magcobar. The first two were not at all encouraging, but the other two, due to their Oz and US representatives respectively, were most informative, and suggested that we write letters to each of their Head Offices in Houston. Our other activity that day included banking, tourist info, and a rough quote from a panel beater of around 400Kr. Apart from that, we just sat in the car and watched the rain outside, and even occasionally inside, as the drips came through the cracks in the roof. A drink at Dickens pub and a parking ticket completed our day! We parked the car under some trees just near the old part of town (narrow streets but disappointing architecture) to sleep for the night.

The next day’s travel was a real trip out into the fjord country and away from civilisation. Most of the day’s drive was along narrow winding road, occasionally unsealed. We skipped around fjords on the edge of sheer rock cliffs, through tunnels and over bridges. It was very slow and at times we didn’t even make it into top gear. The weather was heavily overcast all day, with clouds hanging low, but surprisingly the rain held off. We started with the ferry to Tau, where we backtracked towards the Lysefjord and Pulpit Lodge. The rest of the day was spent ambling over the back roads and two more ferries, total cost of which was 58Kr (about $11). We pulled over on the side of the road for the night beside a fjord some 40kms from Odda.

The following day was a pretty easy day’s travel. We woke late and ambled up to a campsite at Odda where, in between lazing in the very hot sun, we cleaned the Kombi, our clothes and our bodies. The water there was ‘icy cold’ and required a saucepan full of boiling water just to convert it to ‘normal cold’! A tour around the Odda district produced the Latefossen Waterfall – very beautiful and powerful, sending spray right across the road – and in the afternoon, the Folgefonna Glacier. This latter provided us with a pretty solid 2-hour climb and reinforced just how out of condition we both were. The road towards Oslo mainly followed fast-flowing mountain streams as well as a number of long tunnels, the longest of which was 5km. We stopped at Roldal to check out a superb 12th century Stave Kirkje (built entirely of wood, with a steep tiered roof and elaborate woodwork)) and camped by the side of the road soon after.

We slept that night outside and were up earlier than planned at 7am due to the start of rain. We pressed on along similar road to yesterday, along the E76, paying a 10Kr toll and passing through a tunnel of around 6km. We stopped for a couple of hours in the middle of the day near Amot, where we chatted for a while with a group of Norwegian cyclists. However, it went overcast soon after and then heavy rain set in for the rest of the afternoon. We had to stop off at one stage during the heaviest of the downpours to protect the damaged roof, but after that we pressed on to a spot just short of Notodden for the night. It was a pretty depressing evening – sitting in the Kombi playing cards and watching the roof leak!

We were away next morning by 10.30am for the short drive into Drammen. In the space of about two hours, we experienced several heavy downpours and also some very bright sunshine – typical European changeable weather! We left the Telemark region and travelled through more fertile farming country. The only highlight was our stop at Heddal for another Stave church – this one had a fabulous garden and even more impressive architecture than yesterday’s. I was not having a good run with bumper bars – later that day I clipped the back one again and pushed it further back.

After a modest dinner, we made our way up to the Hawk Club, as had been recommended earlier by Else and Thorhild. We digressed on the way via the Spiralen – a spiral tunnel right up the inside of a hill for a great panoramic view of Drammen. We made the club by around 8.30pm and sat on a couple of expensive beers. We managed some lively conversation with ex-American Anne until our two Norwegian lady friends put in an appearance at 10.30pm. Then it was a couple more beers before adjourning to chez Froken Gabrielsen (Thorhild’s home) for further drinks, talking crap, and discussing bed allocations until 3.30am, by which time it was getting light. Sleep might have been limited due the late hour but at least it was dry and warm after the last few nights.

We were finally up at 10.30am for a great Norwegian brekky of bread with egg, fish, cheese and apple jelly, along with tea and icy milk. We chatted until after lunch, when the girls took off for a hospital visit, at which time we decided the future in Drammen was pretty limited so decided to take off for the capital. A filthy storm hit us on arrival in Oslo and left us both pretty wet. We visited the Akershus Castle and Fortress, and also put in an interesting hour at the Resistance Museum. There was more rain before we made it to the Youth Hostel then into town for a stroll up Karl Johans gate. We decided to hit a movie and found “Serpico” which was good entertainment, even if a little overacted. Still for the same price as a beer, a movie is good value in Norway! Our night’s sleep was in a park just outside the Eksberg campsite.

We had a good night’s kip in the park this time and weren’t up and about until 11am. We made it over to Bygdoj for a museum stop – first at the Folk Museum and then to the Kon Tiki raft museum. Both were very good – the former containing furniture, dolls, tapestries, costumes and models of houses of various regions and eras, supplemented by attractive guides in national dress. Later that day, we made it back into the city for a general look around. We checked out City Hall (Radhuspladsen), the Royal Palace and the University, before making it uptown to take in the Vigeland Sculptures in Frogner Park – some amazing work in granite, iron and bronze, with more penises on show than I have had hot dinners! Then it was off for a night of folk dancing at the museum – good entertainment and great value at only 1.50Kr. Not so entertaining for me was the visit to an emergency dentist later that night for an inflamed molar, which lightened my pocket by 50Kr.

I had almost zero night’s sleep due to the constant throbbing from my mouth inflammation. We finally got up and made it down to the Youth Hostel to pick up Japanese guy Kaze for the trip to Sweden. We made it into town to the dentist by 10am and I was out a couple of hours later with a bloody sore mouth, only slightly relieved by painkillers from the chemist (dentist 20KR, pills 13Kr), and advice that further travel was inadvisable at present. We spent the afternoon in the Kombi sleeping, playing cards and watching the leaking roof on another dismal Oslo day in which the rain didn’t let up all day. It was too late to pick up visas from the Polish Embassy and we had no joy with cheap fares to Stockholm at the Student Bureau at the University. So we took in another Oslo movie at 8.30pm, this time the Newman/Redford combo in “The Sting”, which again was great entertainment. It was still wet as hell when we got out, so we parked the van in the middle of town under an overpass to try to keep it dry.

Fortunately, it was a relaxing night without incident. It was still wet on rising, which was earlier than usual, and I was down to the dentist by 10am and fortunately out by noon with the all clear to proceed to Sweden, after procuring penicillin tablets. Fortunately, there was no further charge, so the total damage for my treatment was around 100Kr (around 20 bucks). We finally set off from Oslo around 1pm, with Norway offering us showers right up to the Swedish border, which we went straight through at around 2.30pm…

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29th September 2021

Stunning beauty of Norway
This country has a pull, an allure to it. I hope to visit someday. It seems to offer a great deal of beauty and diverse countryside.

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