We woke a little earlier today, as we had a ferry to catch and didn’t want to be late. Our plan was to drive south from Stranda to Hellesylt, where we could catch the ferry through Geirangerfjord on our way to Geiranger. We arrived in plenty of time, which gave us a chance to walk around a bit and admire the views down the fjords.
We also had a chance to pop into the gift shop, where Lydie and Cassie made a friend.
Soon, it was time to get in the car and drive onto the ferry. Geirangerfjord is one of the most amazing fjords in Norway — one of only two Norwegian fjords that are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (The other is Nærøyfjord, which we plan to hit in a couple of days.) It was a cool cloudy day for fjord watching.
Though the views were better outside, we took breaks inside to warm up, too. Fortunately, there were plenty of windows on the ferry.
Geirangerfjord is one of the most visited fjords in Norway. And for good reason. The fjord is about ten miles long, and is deeper than the Grand Canyon. In places, the the water is almost 2,000 feet deep. The mountains around the fjord are thousands of feet tall, and there are massive cliffs that plunge down into the water. Waterfalls spill down many of these cliffs.
Photographs do a poor job of conveying the scale of the cliffs and waterfalls, but the boats help a bit. The ferry in the photo above is huge but tiny compared to the cliff and waterfall in the background. Below, you can see a motorboat in front of another epic waterfall.
The ferry took a little more than an hour to reach the small town of Geiranger at the end of the fjord, where we found a little restaurant for lunch. Some of the buildings in town sported turf roofs, complete impressive crowns of ferns.
After lunch, we continued east, climbing up out of the fjord on a steep road with lots of hair-pin turns. Near the top, we pulled over to look back at Geiranger and its ridiculous fjord.
The road then led into a high pass through the mountains, where there is a large nature preserve. We could see a stream snaking among some massive rocks, and had to stop to scramble around a bit. Near the stream, we found a good place to make a cairn, which was something we had not done since Cornwall.
We didn’t exactly have a great reason for making a cairn, but in retrospect I think it’s a great thing to do when travelling. There’s a desire to leave some mark of your passage, and cairns are a non-destructive and aesthetically pleasing way of doing just that. I mean, who doesn’t love a good cairn?!
We continued our drive east, making our way towards the Videdalen Valley where we planned to drive the Gamle Strynefjellsvegen, which roughly translates as “Old Stryn Mountain Road.” “Fjell” is Norwegian for “mountain.” This remote valley is only accessible between mid-June and early October. (While I’m on the subject of translations, “Videdalen” is Norwegian for “Wide Valley,” so I suppose that calling it the “Videdalen Valley” or “Wide Valley Valley” doesn’t make sense.)
We turned onto the Gamle Strynefjellsvegen at its eastern and higher end, passing through harsh mountains.
As we headed deeper into the wilderness, the amount of snow increased, and we soon reached a series of half-frozen lakes. The Chiclets ran off to explore.
Near the water’s edge, the girls asked if they could climb out onto the ice. Not. A. Chance. They had to settle for throwing rocks to see if their parents were right that the ice might break.
We continued our drive, passing massive snow drifts that gave us some sense of the impassability of the roads during the winter.
Oh, and that was our sweet ride through Norway. Eventually, the road started to descend through a valley where the snow had already melted, following (as usual) the course of small river as it spilled through rapids and over waterfalls. We stopped at one particularly large waterfall to get a closer look. Lydie and Cassie were not happy with me for standing partially in the water during this photo.
Maybe they’ve got a little more sense than I do. We explored the area a bit more. Cassie got in touch with her zen, looking upstream and looking back to where we had been.
A little while later, Lydie did, too. Ever the yin to Cassie’s yang, Lydie looked down the valley, where we would soon be driving.
We had a good distance left to drive, so we piled back into the car. Eventually, we reached the main road again, which we followed down to Innvikfjord. The weather continued to be a tug-of-war game between the sun and the clouds. From time to time, the sun would peak out, only to be pressed back by a quick shower. The sun passing through the rain over the fjord was spectacular.
But shortly after this break, the rain won out. For the rest of the day, we drove through fog and showers. But it was still beautiful. We drove through mountain valleys, littered with boulders calling to mind again the Norwegian troll myths. By early evening, we reached the small town of Skei, were we were staying at the Thom hotel. We ate in the hotel restaurant, and the girls enjoyed a swim in the hotel’s indoor pool.
Travelling across the fjords and fjells of Norway continues to amaze and delight us.