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In Norway 2010 PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

IN NORWAY SUMMER 2010

Margaret and Barry Williamson
August & September 2010

Following our 8,500-mile winter and early spring journey through Italy, Malta, Tunisia, Greece, Albania, Montenegro,UK_2010_(13).JPG Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, etc, we had to settle in the UK for a while. There was much to do. There were friends and relatives to visit from Hampshire to Clackmannanshire; passports, driving licences and MOTs to be renewed; new managing agents and tenants to be organised for our rented house. We had to move our home from Mercedes Sprinter to Fleetwood Flair (image on left); visit Cheltenham's Motorhome Medics for their excellent service, accessories and fitting of a new Pendle Bike Rack (also visit: Pendle Engineering). And, not least, Margaret's 95-year-old mother needed comforting in her Care Home just off Beach Road, north of Blackpool (not a mile from where Margaret was born). So, the end of spring passed us by and we finally left England on Midsummer's Eve, on our way to the land of the midnight sun.

Leaving the UK on the Norfolk Lines ferry from Dover to Dunkirk, we travelled slowly along the coast of the North Sea, through northern France (briefly), Belgium, Holland, Germany and Denmark, before taking the Stena Lines ferry from Frederikshavn (near Denmark's northernmost point) to Gothenburg in Sweden.

We followed the E45 (Inlandsvagen or Inland Road) for 1,110 miles (1,770 km) to its end in Karesuando, having crossed the Arctic Cirlce just south of Jokkmokk. In Karesuando we crossed the river Muonio into Norway.

For the full travel log of this earlier part of the journey, click: Holland & Denmark 2010 and In Sweden 2010.

Images of the Journey:

In Holland 2010    In Germany, Ferry Crossing the Elbe    In Denmark 2010

In Sweden 2010    In Norway 2010    In Finland 2010

Articles

Our Paul Hewitt Touring Bicycles   Our Fleetwood Flair Motorhome

From Flair to Sprinter     Summary of Tour of Southern Europe and Tunisia 2010

From Greece to Tunisia 2010      In Malta 2010      In Tunisia 2010

Lest We Forget     From Greece to the UK 2010 

Images

Pendle Bike Racks From Sprinter back into Flair

In the Greek Peloponnese 2010.  In Sicily 2010.  In Malta 2010.  In Tunisia 2010. 
In Igoumenitsa 2010.  In Corfu 2010.  In Albania 2010.  In Montenegro 2010. 
In Bosnia 2010.  In Slovenia 2010.  In Austria 2010.  In Germany 2010.

1 Dover-Dunkirk Ferry

2 Afsluitdijk enclosing the Zuider Zee

3Frederikshavn - Gothenburg Ferry

4 The Arctic Circle

5 Nordkapp

Scandinavia_Summer_2010_F.jpg

AUGUST 2010

(continued from In Sweden 2010)

Karesuando, Sweden to Kautokeino, Finnmark, Norway (via Finland)     Arctic Motel & Camping     €15     100 miles     1,020 ft

Crossing the bridge over the Muonio – the wide river that forms the Swedish-Finnish border fromSweden_(201).JPG the Gulf of Bothnia in the south to the Norwegian frontier in the far north-west – we passed a deserted Customs post from pre-EU days and left Sweden. EnteringFinland at the village of Kaaresuvanto, we turned right (south-east) on E8, immediately smoother and wider than the Swedish E45 which had brought us so far.

On a bright sunny morning we sooNorway_(119).JPGn passed a small campsite, then a Poro-Farm, followed by warning signs for reindeer (Poro). There was also a warning sign for cyclists but they are an extremely rare animal up here! Following the river, lined with birch trees turning gold, we reached 1,375 ft (420 ft) before turning left at 24 miles in Palojoensu. The quieter rd 93 led north-east, away from the river, for 16 miles to the town of Enontekio. On the way we met 3 magnificent reindeer: a pure white stag proudly leading a doe and calf along the road, quite untroubled by a motorhome with 2 eager Norway_(122).JPGphotographers.

Enontekio is a good place to shop before Norway, where both food and fuel are more expensive. Road 93 turns sharp left to head north, while the town itself lies a mile east along rd 956. By the junction is a seasonal campsite, where we once spent a chilly night in a tent whilst cycling this area. In the town centre there is a bank ('Panki') for changing money, though it closes from 1 – 5 pm (and remember Finland is an hour ahead of the rest ofScandinavia). Parking alongside a large KKK supermarket, we soon refilled our larder, then crossed the road for an excellent lunch buffet at the Jussan Tupa Hotelli. Finland uses Euro currency and the meal was good value at €9 each for a self-serve selection of hot meat and fish dishes, vegetables, salads, breads, soft drinks, fruit & cream and tea or coffee.

Replete, we returned tNorway_(100).JPGo rd 93 (at 42 miles) and turned north for Norway. 16 miles on, in Palojarvi, there is camping by the lake, as well as the last fuel and store inFinland. At 65 miles, still up at 1,300 ft, we enteredNorway, past a disinterested Customs post. Norway is not an EU member and uses Norwegian Krone (approx 8 to the Euro or 9.5 toNorway_(102).JPGthe pound sterling), though Euros and credit cards are both widely accepted.

This is Finnmark, the northernmost of Norway's 3 counties and clearly not a priority for the highways department, rd 93 turning suddenly narrower as it rolled across a high plain with large lakes and small birch trees. A souvenir stall advertised 'Cheap Reindeer Skin'. Most of the traffic consisted of motorhomes and caravans returning from the far north on one of the favourite routes to NordKapp.

At 87 miles we passedNorway_(104).JPG the Fritidscenter motel/camping by a lake on the left, 5 miles before Kautokeino. Sadly, we had a bad memory of this site: bending our cycle carrier on a birch tree in August 1999! Continuing into the small town - the main winter settlement for Norwegian Sami – there are 2 campsites just before the bridge over the Kautokeino River. We chose the first, since the next, Adventure Camping, looked deserted. The 'Arctic Motel' (ie cabins & camping) was busy with Dutch, German and Scandinavian tourists of all kinds, including a motorbike & sidecar and a pair of sturdy male cycle-tourists. We were the only British – in fact, we've seen no compatriots since Belgium, 2 months ago! Our reindeer-farming hosts lit a fire in a tepee for the campers, spoke very little English and wanted payment in cash-money (Euros OK). WiFi internetNorway_(107).JPG was available in Reception, though we had no success with it.

Before settling in, we drove a mile over the bridge to the crossroads that forms the town centre, with a Co-op store, school and fuel stations. Kautokeino is known for the Juhls Silver Gallery, where a Danish/German artist couple set up home and studio in 1959. They still live and work there, selling exclusive jewellery, arts and crafts through shops in Oslo and Bergen, as well as at the Gallery. To find the place, turn left at the crossroads and follow the signs for 3 miles up a minor road that climbs high above the river, past a Sami Knives workshop. The bewilderingly exotic Gallery/shop/caf้ is open daily and Margaret had a look, whilst trying to avoid a coach party on a conducted tour. See http://www.juhls.no/ for a better impression.

Kautokeino to Alta, Finnmark, Norway     Alta Strand Camping     220 NK     85 miles     110 ft 

Our narrow road 93Norway_(113).JPG runs due north alongside the wide Kautokeino River, famed for its salmon. After 21 miles, rd 92 turns east for Karasjok and there is a rest area a little way along, hidden in woods on the right overlooking the river – a good place for a coffee break (or overnighting). We decided to drive to Karasjok the long way round, taking in some fjord scenery, and so returned to the junction for rd 93, turning north towards Alta.

The weather was showery, the road remaining above 1,000 ft with deer fencing to our left, while the thinly wooded river bank fell steeply away on the right. At 40 miles we turned off through the tiny village of Maze. Pausing opposite the single shop/caf้/petrol pump, outside the pretty wooden church, we noticed 4 reserved parking places for Priest, Organist and Church Members, indicating the size of the parish! Here the river divides: the salmon-rich Alta-elva rushes to theNorway_(115).JPG coast along the Sautso Canyon, claiming to be North Europe's largest gorge (7.5 km or almost 5 miles long, 420 m or almost 1,400 ft deep) accessible only by boat or serious hiking); while rd 93 follows the Eiby-elva, until they join before Alta to flow into Altafjord.

Continuing north, we climbed to 1,440 ft (900 m), reindeer now a common sight, grazing calmly on both sides of the road. At 53 miles Suoluvuobme had a few turf-roofed cabins to rent (and maybe camping), in a decidedly Norwegian climate zone. We'd left the soft undulating forested lakes of Sweden for a barren wilderness of treeless marsh, with snow-flecked mountains on the horizon. The river was still with us, widening into the natural 6-mile long lake Avzejavri, dark and brooding below the cloud-bruised sky.

Then at 66 milesNorway_(128).JPG the road began its descent to the coast, through a rocky gorge. An Elk warning sign heralded the reappearance of woodland down at 400 ft (120 m), the tree-line low at this latitude. A large rest area with tables by the river at 73 miles preceded road works, with a detour over a Bailey bridge. By Eiby at 78 miles, where the Eiby River meets the Alta River down at 160 ft (50 m), we felt warmer after spending weeks above 1,000 ft.

At Ovre Alta (3 miles before Alta) there are three all-year Caravan-Club listed campsites signed across a bridge on the right. The first, Alta River Camping, had some road noise and we preferred the pair at the quiet end of the lane: Wisloff Camping and Alta Strand. Both were the same price (cheaper and better kept than Alta River). When we came this way 11 years ago, all three sites were flooded and unusable but that was an unusually wet summer!

All the sites offered free WiFi internet but once again we had problems with connectivity: that is, we could get none.  

Alta to Russenes, Finnmark, Norway     Olderfjord Hotel & Camping     150 NK     72 miles     Sea level

Alta, home of the world's first northern light observatory (1899), is the 'City of the Northern Lights' and our kind host at Alta Strand Camping gave us a key-fob with a photo of Aurora Borealis. He said we'd have more Norway_(135).JPGchance of seeing the phenomenon in September, under a cold clear sky after midnight (very little chance then!)

We drove the last 2 miles of rd 93 to its junction with the E6 coastal highway, alongside the Altafjord. You can turn left (south) here for the Alta Museum & Cafe, where a pathway leads past thousands of prehistoric rock carvings at the World Heritage site, but we had walked these cliffs on a previous visit their website. Altafjord was also infamous in more recent history, as its southern arm at Kafjord provided a hideaway for the Tirpitz and other German battleships during WW2. There is a Tirpitz Museum at Kafjord, 20 km south of Alta, but only open from 1 June to mid-August, plus some weekends (http://www.tirpitz-museum.no/).

Turning right on the E6, we passed the Bossekop Center (parking and 3 supermarkets) on the left. The highway then bypasses Alta Centrum (bus station and Tourist Information) on the right. In a brief visit to the TI we collected a free guide and useful map of the 289 campsites run by NAF (the Norwegian Automobile Federation), also on www.nafcamp.no. Leaving Alta on E6 we passed the commercial fishing port, more shops and fuel, then crossed Alta bridge at 7 miles. On the left shortly after the bridge is Kronstad Camping, which looked very neglected and empty (though still 220 NK a night).

After another 7 miles the highway left the calm blue fjord and turned north-east, across another mountain plateau. Within 4 miles we'd reached 800 ft (240 m) and a small camp of reindeer herders, who preferred caravans to tepees. A 'Vegbom' (road-boom) was poised ready to close the road come the snow, as we climbed over bare moorland to Sennalandet at 1,270 ft (385 m). The only trees up here are telegraph poles; the only sign of life the reindeer, including beautiful pure white animals. Finnmark (Norwegian Lapland) has nearly 200,000 reindeer – for a human population of less than 72,500. The herds are moved north and to the coast in April/May, then south and inland in Sept/Oct.  

At 40 miles, having dropped gradually back to 800 ft (240 m) where short trees reappeared, we passed a little wooden church serving a scattered settlement of cabins for the hardy reindeer herders. A Sami woman outside a hut wore a bright red bonnet and long dress of red and blue: her normal attire, not a costume for a festival or to impress the tourists. She made a colourful soft contrast with the craggy beauty of this forbidding terrain. There was a large rest area overlooking a river 5 miles further on, a chance to pull off the narrow road: quiet now, closed in winter. Pausing, we thought of events here in autumn 1944, when almost all of Finnmark (including the centre of Alta) was burned to the ground during the German retreat, leaving people to face the Arctic winter with few buildings. Some of the refugees had to live in caves, while in Honingsvag (the nearest town to NordKapp) the stone church became home to the small population.

The E6 turned right at Skaidi (at 57 miles, down at 200 ft/60 m), where there was a large hotel opposite a fuel station with motorhome dump point, and a Sami caravan camp (not open to the public). A left turn on rd 94 leads to Hammerfest, which we've visited previously. The world's northernmost city, it claims to be the first to introduce electric street lights in northern Europe (1891) and now has the world's northernmost natural gas plant. It also has a Museum of Post-War Reconstruction, a monument to the people's will to triumph over the destruction of war.

But now our route was eastwards on E6 to Olderfjord. The road climbed again, reaching 785 ft (238 m) over the next 3 miles. Still climbing, we passed another 'Vegbom' with red lights ready for road closure and a warning of migrating reindeer (reindeer flitting!). Then we dropped to sea level at Olderfjord (71 miles) on the west coast of the large Porsangen inlet.

We turned left (north) on E69 (the road to Nordkapp), past Olderfjord store/petrol, to our goal: the hotel and camping at Russenes. This is the gateway to North Cape, offering caf้, hotel, souvenir shop and a rough campsite that has developed behind the hotel, with more camping space and cabins over the road on the shore of the fjord. All the coach trips, buses and other traffic bound for Nordkapp call here and hopeful students were hitchhiking near the bus stop.

The campsite was busy too, with a Norwegian camping rally due for the weekend. We were lucky to find the last space overlooking the water - and must leave by noon tomorrow. That was long enough to enjoy the tranquil view of clear ocean and mountains, as the tide ebbed and a beautiful young seagull (or was it a pintail duck?) nestled on the pebbly shore below our window. (See www.olderfjord.no).

Russenes to Skoganvarre, Finnmark, Norway     Skoganvarre Turist Camping     190 NK     58 miles     270 ft

Leaving Russenes before the gathering rally, we were too early to buy the fondly remembered salmon steaks from the petrol station/shop (not open until 10 am). We took the E6 east for 4 miles, then it turned south down the west shore of the wide Porsanger Fjord, dead calm today. There were even a few cattle and woolly sheep along our route, where a small crop of hay had been mown.

At 29 miles we passed the Stabbursnes Nature Centre & Museum (entry 50 NK), crossed the Stabburselva river and came to Stabbursdalen Camping a mile later. The Stabbursdalen National Park has hiking trails through the world's northernmost pine forest but the campsite was neglected and uninviting, with a few resident workers, and it began to rain. The sullen warden who turned up as we were leaving asked 200 NK – too much.

After another 5 miles a splendid rest area on a promontory overlooked the fjord and we paused to take photos, the dark rocky islets floating below like whales. Curiously, there was a chart in the layby for testing your eyesight (we passed).

At 40 miles we reached Lakselv (= 'salmon river'), a fishing port at the head of Porsanger, with a choice of shops and fuel as well as a small airport (confusingly named Nordkapp). In the centre of Lakselv we turned left onto rd 98 for half a mile to check Solstad Camping, which was firmly closed (in 3 languages) - on the last weekend of August. We thought how busy the Bank Holiday weekend would be in Britain, while up here the season is over and the schools are back in business.

Continuing on the E6, we followed the Lakselv river south, past a forbidding military base (Porsanger Garrison) at 52 miles – a reminder that Russia lies to the east. Six miles later at tiny Skoganvarre we found an excellent campsite on the right, complete with licensed caf้ and free WiFi internet.

Settled in before lunch, we had a quiet afternoon listening to Radio 4 (courtesy of laptop WiFi), roasting a chicken and baking a spotted dick (a currant pudding, for those of you not from England!)

At Skoganvarre, Finnmark, Norway     Skoganvarre Turist Camping

We spent 2 days at Skoganvarre, as the weather turned cold and wet, encouraging us to catch up with laundry, writing, photographs, emails and website management. The old school building in Skoganvarre is now a museum of the history of Porsanger, including an exhibition portraying World War II in the municipality. Sadly, it's only open from 26 June-8 August, except by prior arrangement. (www.riddoduottarmuseat.no) The German harbour facilities were in Porsanger Fjord

With almost no campers, the riverside cabins were occupied by a jolly coach party from Finland. 'Have you come for the fishing?' Margaret asked a particularly friendly chap, down by the river. 'No, for the drinking'! Fireworks and hearty renditions of old favourites (like 'By the Rivers of Babylon' in Finnish) cheered the damp evenings.

On our last night a convoy of German motorhomes invaded the space, displaying maps of their tour to Nordkapp and (very sensitively) flying patriotic flags. They didn't appear to notice we were there – or much else.

Skoganvarre, Norway to Karigasniemi, Lapland, Finland     Tenorinne Camping     €20     46 miles     490 ft

Less than 2 miles south of Skoganvarre down E6, we spotted the 'cultural heritage' sign with parking on the right for the 'Lasarettmoen': the ruins of a large WWII German hospital deep in the forest across the river near Banak, the site of their largest airport in wartime Scandinavia. The car park has an information board in Norwegian and English, with a marked trail to the scattered remains: about 0.75 miles return, starting with a new suspension footbridge across the Lakselv river (don't look down!)

This - the largest field hospital in Scandinavia, for German casualties from the whole of that area as well as the Northern Russian front– was, like everything else on their retreat,  burnt down and blown up by the Germans themselves in 1944, leaving nothing of use to Russians or locals. It remains as they left it, now a maze of rusty bedsteads and pipes, broken-down trucks, crumbling concrete, smashed pots, collapsed tunnels and bunkers – all overgrown in this peaceful woodland setting, with bright berries and fungi underfoot and reindeer prints along the tracks. A pleasant walk in the sunshine ended at these sombre ruins and we returned in silence, until we were cheered at the sight of a fox using the swaying river bridge.

After lunch in a sunny rest area at 8 miles (at 750 ft/230 m), we passed another 6 miles later, overlooking a lake up at 1,100 ft (333 m). Well south of the Arctic fjords now, the mountain plain was less bleak, more wooded, and it felt distinctly warmer despite the height (13บC outside at 2 pm).

At 32 miles, down at 520 ft (158 m), we reached Karasjok, a town beating Kautokeino as Norway's Sami capital, since it's also the seat of their parliament. The population of less than 3,000 is 90% Sami-speaking and the area is also home to 60,000 reindeer during autumn and winter. Old Karasjok church (1807), Finnmark's oldest surviving wooden church, was the only building the Germans left standing in the town. There is also an open-air Sami Museum, as well as 'Sapmi' – a Sami Cultural Park with multi-media show, restaurant, tourist information and live reindeer (www.sapmi.no). We didn't visit either of these, since we'd recently seen the excellent Swedish Sami Museum in Jokkmokk – but we did meet a woman in traditional costume and red bonnet, shopping in the Co-op supermarket.

After Karasjok the E6 swings north and east to its final destination of Kirkenes. Instead we joined rd 92, which turns right for Kautokeino (with a good campsite half a mile along on the river), or left to Finland – our direction. Following rd 92 east along the Karasjok River, a wooded valley with haymaking along the banks, we passed Grensen Camping a mile before the Norwegian-Finnish border. Entering Finland on a bridge across the Inari/Teno River at 45 miles, we then turned immediately left opposite the border post, on rd 970 into Karigasniemi.

The village has a couple of shops and fuel, then a small tourist office/cafe shortly before the first of 2 campsites. Tenorinne is a delightful place overlooking the river, with good facilities in a 2-storey log cabin and a cosy reception/caf้. The gentle owner was very helpful – he closes in mid-September and doesn't have internet, though it's available at the tourist office at €1 per 30 mins. We were also reminded to put our clocks forward one hour.

The campsite price quoted includes a €2 discount for Scandinavian Camping Card holders (card on sale for €7 – cheaper than in Sweden, where we bought ours). Our experience is that most Swedish campsites demand the Scandinavian Card, Danish and Norwegian sites accept either a Camping Card International or a Scandinavian one, while members of the Finnish Campingsite Association usually give a discount for the Scandinavian one. The free guide/map to camping sites and holiday villages in Finland is available from any of the FCA members, or at www.camping.fi  

(continued In Finland 2010)