Today began with a couple of hiccups. First off, I was still feeling pretty ill from the evil fish sandwich I’d had the day before. (I was starting to suspect that Loki, the Norse God of Mischief might have been involved.) As a result, I wasn’t much help with packing, and instead dozed on the couch while Julie marshaled the troops and sorted supplies. Fortunately for me, the cat (Casper) had taken it upon himself to tend to me (and wasn’t taking no for an answer).
Second, a warning light had appeared in the car the day before, indicating some problem with the “tyre” pressure.
We were going to be driving in some remote areas today, so we figured we better have the car examined in Åndalsnes before we started our day. We drove into town and talked with the folks at Avis. It was Saturday, so the local garage that Avis uses was closed. Fortunately, the proprietor was nice enough to open it up for us to take a look. The mechanic couldn’t find a problem but also couldn’t make the warning light go away. We decided (since we had no other options) to keep our fingers crossed that the warning light didn’t actually indicate that there was a problem. (If only the fish sandwich had come with a warning light. Curse you, Loki!)
Our first destination today was Trollstigen, a stretch of road about 30 minutes south of Åndalsnes.
Also known as the “Troll Ladder,” this bit of Norweigian highway consists of 11 hairpin turns that climb from the valley into the mountains.
Julie was excited to test her Boston-honed driving skills on one of the toughest roads in Europe. Of course, that was before she knew that there was going to be rain, fog, and on the road with her there would be buses driven by the descendants of vikings. Much of the time, the road follows a ravine where a small river cascades through a series of impressive waterfalls. Before we started our ascent, we stopped to look at the white water and to size up the road.
Just below the clouds in the center of this photo, you can just make out a stone bridge, where the road widened enough for us to stop to take in the scenery. We were happy to pull over so that we could look back at some of the sharp turns.
The views of the waterfalls and the valley were simply spectacular, though sadly the pictures really don’t do this justice.
There is also a trail that climbs the pass, and we could see it on the far side of the bridge. The path snakes alongside the cliffs and waterfalls in the ravine, and chains were fixed to the rocks to give hikers something to grab as they climbed the steep, slick trail. Despite the rain, we couldn’t pass it up.
After a few minutes exploring, we hopped back in the car to drive the rest of Trollstigen, which was particularly exciting, as clouds and fog substantially limited our visibility. Once at the top, we stopped at the cafe at the information center, where we had a light lunch. Cassie and Julie had delicious cauliflower soup.
After lunch, we continued our drive, travelling through a mountain plateau. Even though it was the middle of summer, there was still quite a bit of snow up in the mountains.
Our ultimate destination was a ski lodge in the mountains outside of Stranda, where we would be spending the night, which was about an hour and a half away.
Along the way, we stopped at Gudbrandsjuvet, where the Valldøla River powers its way through a narrow series of gorges.
Walkways extend above the gorges and the roaring water. In one spot, rather than wearing down through the rock, the water took a shortcut and punched straight through.
It is a beautiful spot, but the original reason for the road to pass through this area was far more practical. The gorge funnels the river into a narrow opening, making it easier to span with a stone bridge. It looked like you could almost jump from one side to the other, but we were all pretty sure you’d die if you didn’t make it.
There were also beautiful wildflowers growing nearby.
Just an hour before, we had been standing in snow, and now there were flowers. The natural beauty in Norway is just incredible. It captured all of our attention and our imaginations. Between the rocks, the mountains, the fog, and the moss, you could understand how the Norwegian myths about trolls developed. Cassie seriously took the troll stories to heart…
We continued to follow the river as the road dropped elevation passing through the Valdallen Valley. (It seems in Norway you are always following a river up or down a valley.) Valdallen is famous for it strawberries. We stopped along the road and picked some wild strawberries. Our appetites whetted, we also stopped at little later at a roadside stand to buy some strawberries from some local kids.
On we went, on our way to our first fjord, Norddalsfjorden. The fjords in Norway were carved by glaciers millions of years ago and are technically part of the ocean, though they extend for miles inland. Indeed, if you measure Norway’s coastline with its fjords, it is about 18,000 miles long, but if you skip the fjords the coastline is less than a tenth as long. The water in the fjords is also unbelievably deep, often extending down thousands of feet. The deepest fjord in Norway is more than 4,000 feet deep. And the surrounding mountains are more than 4,000 feet tall. Our first glimpses of the fjords were cloudy but still breathtaking.
The highway followed the fjord as we wound our way toward Stranda. To get there, however, we had to take a short ferry ride. Woohoo! On the water, we could see more fjords branching off into the distance.
As night was falling, we reached the ski lodge. Another amazing day under our belts, and I was finally starting to feel better.