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In Norway: June 2011 PDF Printable Version E-mail


 IN  NORWAY: JUNE 2011

We Return to the UK for the Funeral of Margaret's Mother

Margaret and Barry Williamson
June 2011

3,125 miles (5,000 km) in one month by Sprinter Van

Continued from: UK TO NORWAY MAY 2011

Much of the month of June was spent travelling back to England for the funeral of Margaret's mother in Poulton le Fylde near Blackpool. We eventually returned to Bud, where we rejoined the caravan at the start of July.

Continued at: IN NORWAY: JULY 2011

Norway_Funeral_5.jpg

Map of the Route through Norway and Sweden

At Pluscamp Bud, Bud
Open all year, see www.budcamping.no and www.pluscamp.no.


We moved the caravan from Molde to Bud, agreed with owner Marianne where it could be parked (without power) during our absence, then settled on a pitch for one night. It was terrifically windy, as Bud lies at the end of a peninsula scythed by Atlantic gales, without benefit of a sheltering fjord.

There was much to do, answering emails and finalising arrangements, as well as packing the Sprinter with all we would need on the journey back to England (including a tent and camping equipment). We used the washer and drier (40 NK and 20 NK respectively), made a meal and had an early night, though it wasn't easy to sleep buffeted by the winds! More like winter than early June, except for the light nights, the sun barely setting.

3 June 2011 – To Storenga Camping, Minnesund, Norway – 290 miles
Open 1 May-1 Sept. The simple campsite, listed in the NAF guide at www.nafcamp.com/en/campingplasser/1073-Storenga-Camping, was open but unstaffed. A sign at Reception indicated the warden 'will call later for payment' but no-one came. Showers 10 NK. No WiFi.

Leaving the caravan tucked in a corner at Pluscamp Bud, we returned to Molde in the Sprinter van. From there rd 64 took us via tunnel and bridge to Solsnes, for the short ferry to Afarnes (costing only 80 NK without the caravan) and on through Andalsnes.

Then we followed rd 136, pausing at the impressive Trollvegen Rest Area. It was only 150 ft or 45 m above sea level but snow lay on the steep gorge sides: temperature 17ēC. The road followed the railway through a cleft and over a pass, climbing steadily above 1,000 ft/300 m with waterfalls tumbling down all around. As we headed inland, the sky turned blue at last.

After Bjorli, a small ski resort with camping, hotel and cabins up at 1,900 ft/575 m, the road crossed open country with wooded fells. Snow still lay above 2,000 ft/600 m. Lunch was a quick sandwich in the van, parked at the busy shopping area and Tourist Info in Dombas, at the junction of rd 136 and the E6.

Taking the Oslo-bound E6, it grew warmer as we headed south. This part of the Trondheim to Oslo highway is the old road along the Gudbrandsdal valley; enclosed and sheltered by mountain ranges, dry and sunny, it has been farmed since Viking times.

After 160 miles we paused at Kvam, spotting a cemetery on the left of the road with a cross and a pair of Union Jacks. It commemorates 54 British soldiers who died at the Battle of Gudbrandsdal in April 1940, trying to halt the German advance up the valley. A small War Museum stands across from the church. In Ringebu, 20 miles later, a famous Stave Church was signed left off E6 up a steep lane, though we didn't take it.

At 207 miles, in Hundefossen (north of Lillehammer), we passed the turn for an ACSI-listed campsite but decided to carry on. It was slow going – the E6 is no fast highway, it's a single carriageway with overtaking difficult or impossible in parts. After Lillehammer we crossed the Mo River bridge and noticed people bathing, it was so warm!

A 'By the Way' Diner at 277 miles, near Strandlyukkja overlooking Sjoen Lake, provided a good meal. The Dagensrett (menu of the day, including drink and dessert) was the best deal, though not cheap at 378 NK (about €52) for 2!

After another 10 miles we followed the sign to Storenga Camping, a simple grassy site by a lake with a couple of old locked cabins. The Reception was closed but campers were invited to find a place and pay later. The kitchen and toilets/showers were open, so we put the tent up, lit a mozzie coil and had a very peaceful night, joined by a sole motorhome.

4 June 2011 – To Heinos Camping, Tappernoje, Zealand, Denmark – 453 miles
Open all year, see http://heinoscamping.dk-camp.dk/.  Camping price (cash only) 100 DK + 30 DK for electricity. Cabins 300 DK. Token needed for Showers. No internet.

Waking at about 6 am to a sunny Saturday morning, we had breakfast in the open air, packed the tent and left by 9 am.

The southbound E6 was a narrow 2-lane road with sections of road works and diversions where widening was in progress.

Approaching Oslo it became a 4-lane motorway, with a toll at 19 miles (13 NK, or 26 NK over 3.5 tons). It broadened into 6 lanes, then 8 round the east side of the capital, with another toll. Continuing south, it resolved into a 4-lane motorway across a gentle landscape.

SWEDEN

At 115 miles, after a final Norwegian toll point, we crossed a bridge near Halden into Sweden. The E6 (now toll-free) was mostly non-motorway. The weather was superb, lupins blooming freely. Lunch at Hogstorp Service Station was an excellent set meal – a huge piece of fresh salmon with spuds, sauce, salad bar, bread, crackers, butter, water and coffee - all for 85 SK (about €10) each.

In Helsingborg, at 370 miles, we checked out the upmarket Raa Vallar Resort campsite but it was extremely busy, with no rooms or cabins vacant and no quiet corner for a tent. Reluctantly (it had been a long hot drive) we decided to take the ferry over to Denmark and camp there.

DENMARK  

The Scandlines ferry crossed the Kattegat, from Swedish Helsingborg to Danish Helsingor, in 20 minutes. The boat was packed, with queues at the cafe and duty-free shop, and we finally realised that this is a public holiday weekend (Whitsuntide), which we heathens had forgotten!

In Helsingor, in the shadow of the castle made famous in 'Hamlet', both the Youth Hostel and the campsite were predictably full. The only option was to squeeze our tent into a narrow space on hard ground between two caravans, so we drove on.

Heading southwest on E47 past Copenhagen, we took exit 38 for Tappernoje and followed signs for a mile or so, to a peaceful little campsite on a farm, with plenty of grassy space and vacant cabins. Mr Heino made us very welcome and, as it was late, we took a simple cabin that consisted of 4 bunks, a fridge, 2-ring electric hot plate, table and chairs. We had our own sleeping bags and used the campsite 'facilities'.

5 June 2011 – To Hotel Diekgerdes, Cloppenburg, Germany – 254 miles
Open all year, family-run hotel and restaurant. www.hotel-diekgerdes.de. Double en-suite room €75, including generous full buffet breakfast. Free WiFi.

Whit Sunday was another beautiful day: too hot for driving busy motorways across Europe, but we had no choice. Back on E47, it was only 53 miles southwest to Rodbyhavn, the port for the Scandlines crossing to Puttgarden on the small German island of Fehmarn. The regular ferry took 45 minutes and cost 629 DK (over €80) for our 6 metre Sprinter. See www.scandlines.com/en. Again, the boat was crowded and we talked to a contingent of splendidly dressed Sikh gentlemen, who turned out to be a cloth trade delegation on their way home (to Bradford) from a convention in Oslo!

GERMANY

Highway E47 from Puttgarden crossed the flat sandy island, its beach ringed with campsites. After 9 miles a bridge to the German mainland carried the railway, 2 lanes of traffic and a footpath for cyclists or pedestrians.

Then E47/A1 turned into a long slow crawl with regular road works and traffic jams. It was very hot and service stations were few and far between. Stopping at the first services past Lubeck, there was a long queue to pay €0.70 each for the toilet (yes, we miss being with a caravan/motorhome!) Fortified by a giant sausage & chips each, we re-entered the fray and drove on past Hamburg, frequently held up at signs saying Stau (traffic jam). It seemed that the entire population of Germany's major port were on their way to or from Lubeck or Denmark!

At 247 miles it was a relief to leave the A1, at exit 63 onto B72 for Cloppenburg, a pleasant town where we knew a good place to stay just off the ring road (easily found using 'Lodgings' on the Garmin SatNav). The hotel, built and run by the Diekgerdes family, was almost filled by a coach party but we were given a super room in the guesthouse annexe, complete with WiFi, kettle etc and satellite TV that carried BBC World.

Margaret's brother phoned to discuss arrangements for the service, we caught up on emails and the news, then relaxed watching German TV: the splendid old film 'The Eagle has Landed' with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood dubbed into German!!

6 June 2011 – At Hotel Diekgerdes, Cloppenburg, Germany

After lingering over a sumptuous buffet breakfast (which kept us going all day), we walked into the town centre to shop, as Margaret needed suitable clothes for the funeral. Cloppenburg is a prosperous place and the charity shop (for the Catholic Social Women's Centre) had an excellent selection of high quality clothing that looked brand new! M was soon fitted out with a nice pair of unworn black leather shoes and an Irish linen 2-piece (pale green sleeveless top with black short-sleeved jacket) – total price €8.

Sadly there were no appropriate trousers or skirt in the right size, so we continued along the pedestrian shopping area and into a department store. A pair of smart black slacks on the Sale rail, reduced from €40 to €10, fitted perfectly apart from being too long. As we'd passed a tailor's advertising repairs and alterations, M bought the trousers and took them straight round. Luckily Barry was wearing a tee-shirt from Sedre Camping near Alanya Turkey and the charming tailor, Ufuk Esentac, came from Alanya! A warm conversation ensued and he promised to have the trousers ready for 10 am tomorrow.

After arranging a hairdressing appointment for Margaret, we returned to the hotel to make mugs of tea. It had been an incredibly successful morning! The afternoon turned rainy as M walked back into town for the haircut, leaving Barry to write emails.

Ufuk was not the only foreigner to have settled in Cloppenburg. The hairdresser was a young Russian-born woman who had come here with her family (mother and grandmother, of German descent, and Russian father). They are now happy to be able to visit her dad's relatives back in Russia but prefer life in Germany, especially the health service for grandma. Back at the hotel, M had a long talk with the friendly housekeeper, originally from Kazakstan in Central Asia. She had escaped, with her parents, at the age of 17 after WW2 and Stalin's purges.

Finally, we drove round to 'Netto' for supplies (fresh rolls and food for us; wine and chocolates for gifts in England).

7 June 2011 – To Camping Batenstein, Woerden, Holland – 181 miles
Open 1 April-30 Oct, see www.camping-batenstein.nl. Camping €15 (with off-season ACSI Card). Huts €41.75. WiFi €2 for 24 hrs.

A sultry overcast day followed the wet and stormy night. After another substantial German breakfast we collected M's black trousers (expertly shortened for €5) and headed southwest on rd 213, then rd 402 west to the Dutch border.

HOLLAND

Now we were on good Dutch motorways (toll-free, as in Germany), though again we had to pay €0.70 each at service station toilets. Not a good idea, as it encourages men to use the bushes instead and the truck parking areas are smelly! A48 west and A28 south took us smoothly to Utrecht.

Then we took A12 a short way east, to the Maarn/Doorn exit, to find an ACSI-listed campsite in the Utrecht Heuvelrug National Park (the Recr Centr De Maarnse Berg). However, the place seemed barely open and cabins were only available by the week.

On our way back to the A12 motorway we paused in the forest at the Pyramid of Austerlitz – a man-made hill topped by a tower, built in 1804 to celebrate a Napoleonic victory! (More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austerlitz,_Netherlands.) We enjoyed apple cake and coffee in the visitor centre and walked round the base of the thing, though we didn't pay to climb it.

On A12 westwards (for Rotterdam) we turned off at Woerden for another ACSI-listed campsite. The little site was set among streams and lakes, with good facilities and basic 'Trekkers Huts' for hire. The negative was the absence of parking space by the huts; in fact, we had to unload our van and leave it on the public car park, opposite the adjacent swimming baths. Not ideal, but it was getting late.

Strolling round, it was delightful to feed the Coots nesting on the water right behind our hut. The male took pieces of bread, one at a time, to feed to his mate and a single chick, who stayed sitting on the nest.

8 June 2011 – Ferry (Hook of Holland – Harwich) and on to Oundle, Northamptonshire, England – 160 miles driven

It was only 43 miles to the Stena Line terminal at Hoek van Holland on the north bank of the Maas (not to be confused with Europort Rotterdam, on the southern side of the Maas estuary). We boarded the mighty 'Stena Hollandica'ferry, which shares the twice daily crossing to Harwich with its sister ship 'Stena Britannica'. This pair, launched in 2010, claim to be the world's largest ferries, each able to carry 230 cars and 1,200 passengers. There are 538 cabins and the crossing takes 7 hours at 22 knots. See www.stenaline.co.uk.

Leaving at 2.30 pm (the other sailing is overnight), we treated ourselves to a daytime en-suite cabin with sea view, TV and free WiFi. It was a good crossing, only spoilt by poor food in the self-service restaurant. Barry's fish & chips were mediocre; M's pie was tepid and when sent back to reheat it was put in the microwave, complete with the salad garnish, and ruined.

Landing in Harwich at about 8 pm (British time), we drove straight to the home of a friend in Oundle, arriving around 10.30 pm to a warm welcome, bacon sandwiches and a late night. Thanks, Ian!

9 June 2011 – To Cleveleys, nr Blackpool, Lancashire – 203 miles

On a wet morning at Ian's house, M ironed her new clothes, polished the shoes and drafted some notes for her address at tomorrow's funeral service. Then we took the A1 north past Newark and Sheffield, and finally M62 and M55 for Cleveleys - Margaret's birthplace, where she had last visited her 96-year-old mother, Ethel Brown, in the Care Home in April.

10 June 2011 – A Memorable Day at Carleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire

The morning of the funeral brought rain and even hail, though by the time we gathered at Carleton Crematorium at 1.30 pm the sun had appeared. Alan and Margaret each gave a Eulogy at the service, Margaret focusing on her mother's life-long involvement with the Girl Guide movement, which spanned over 80 years since Ethel joined up in the long skirts of 1926! Margaret (a Queen's Guide herself) ended with a reading of 'Taps', sung by every Guide and Scout in the twilight of evening as the campfire dies down:

TAPS

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing near, falls the night.

Thanks and praise, for our days,
'Neath the sun, 'neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

We held the 'Wake' at the Castle Gardens Hotel in Carleton and later at the home of Margaret's brother Alan and his wife, Pauline (whose birthday it is today). It was lovely to meet old friends and long-lost relatives, who had travelled from Manchester, Oxford – and Kosovo!

11-20 June 2011 – Around England and on to Briarfields Touring Park, Cheltenham
Open all year, see www.briarfields.net/. Price according to season (ACSI discount card applies). Free WiFi.

Using the Sprinter van and the kind hospitality of friends on the North York Moors, in Huddersfield and near Leicester, we slowly made our way down to Cheltenham. Here we were able to spend a few days in our Flair motorhome, delivered to Briarfields with the help of the Sanderson family (who own and run the campsite) and our good mates at nearby Motorhome Medics.

A man came from the AA to replace the Sprinter's cracked windscreen, hit by a stone or golf ball as we drove down the A166 in Yorkshire (a dangerous county!) We made full use of the camp laundry and internet, shopped in Cheltenham and Gloucester and arranged an oil change on the Sprinter van, so it was ready for the journey back to Bud in Norway, to rejoin the caravan.

21 June 2011 – To Stranger's Home Pub/Camping, Bradfield, Manningtree, Essex – 179 miles
Open all year, see www.strangershome.co.uk. Camping Ŗ16 (+Ŗ2 elec). Pub meals and B&B available. Free WiFi.

Leaving Briarfields after lunch, we took A40 to Oxford, then motorways M40 and M25 and A12 towards Harwich.

We pitched our new tent (a Vango Velocity 2000 Airbeam) in a sheltered corner of the level grassy field behind the Strangers Home Pub, then went inside to linger over coffee. It's a delightful campsite, the nearest to Harwich ferry terminal, with plenty of space for caravans and motorhomes. Several touring cyclists were also camped there – British, German and Danish – and enjoying the pub's evening menu.

22 June 2011 – To Harwich for the DFDS Ferry 'Dana Sirena' to Esbjerg, Denmark – 15 miles driven

A lazy morning, with an excellent Full English Breakfast in the Strangers Home pub. In Harwich we shopped at Lidl and Morrisons, filled up with diesel and waited to board the 5.45 pm sailing to Esbjerg.

The boat was much busier than our earlier crossings, with a Reliant Robin Rally on its way to Scandinavia. In our cabin we had a picnic meal, the restaurant being extremely expensive, and watched the film offered on TV (Jeremy Irons as Prof Humbold in 'Lolita') It was a smooth passage, making good time with a back wind.

DENMARK

23 June 2011 – To Strandparken Family Camping, Aalborg, Denmark – 146 miles
Open all year, see www.strandparken.dk  Camping €15 (ACSI discount) inc 5-min shower. WiFi Hotspot available to join.ssss

Arriving promptly in Esbjerg at 1 pm, it took half an hour to unload the ferry. Thunder was forecast but we only met rain showers.

Heading north we took rd 12 via Varde, then rd 13 through Herning where we had a late lunch in Burger King. Continued past Viborg and joined E45 (free motorway) at Junction 32.  Exiting at J28, we followed rd 180 towards Aalborg centre, turning left at the campsite sign after the hospital.

Strandparken is a new modern site on the shore of Lim Fjord, with well equipped kitchen, TV room and free open-air pool. We put the tent up in a quiet area next to our own picnic table and made supper in the kitchen.

24 June 2011 – To Longerak Huts & Camping, Longerak, Norway – 42 miles in Denmark + 56 miles in Norway (plus ferry)
Camping 175 NK (+40 NK elec); cabins 350 NK. Free shower. No WiFi.

North from Aalborg to Hirsthals, at the top of Jutland, for the 12.15 pm Colorline ferry, arriving in Kristiansand at the foot of Norway at 3.30 pm. Colorline cross the Skagerrak twice daily, while Fjordline are more frequent and faster - check the best deal on-line.

It was a modern ferry with an excellent choice of food at the self-service cafe (from memorable prawn baguettes to burgers, pizzas, hot dogs or hot dinnersIn the Duty Free shops Norwegians were loading up with beer and other alcohol, as well as frozen food, bacon and groceries: obviously more expensive in Norway. ). Danish or Norwegian currency is accepted (the latter available at the bank on board - currently about 9 to the Pound Sterling or 8 to the Euro).

Also available is the leaflet explaining to foreign visitors 'How to Pay Your Toll Fee in Norway' in 3 languages. Basically, you log on to www.autopass.no to register a credit card and create an account, in which you deposit 300 NK if you are under 3.5 tons. This is valid for up to 3 months. Then road tolls (not just on motorways) are paid from this account when you drive through an automatic toll point, or 'Automatisk Bomstasjon'. This includes tunnels, but ferries are extra. You must register in advance, or within 14 days of passing your first Automatic Toll (which works on number plate recognition). We can confirm that 'any remaining amount on your account is credited to your credit card 3 months after the agreement period is concluded'. If you stay longer than 3 months, you must re-register. Motorhomers need to know that the tolls are higher (often double) for vehicles over 3.5 tons. Luckily for us caravans (or any other trailers) are free, so we were charged as a car/vehicle under 3.5 tons.

NORWAY

Arriving in Norway we took rd 9 up the Setesdal Valley to Evje, a mineral mining and fossicking centre. We checked out 3sites along Byglandsfjord (Hornnes Camping to the south, Odden Camping in the town and Neset Camping to the north) but all were crowded and very expensive.

After a few more miles along rd 9 we spotted a much more basic campsite on the side of Byglandsfjord – 'Longerak Hyttesenter og Camping' - empty save for a single caravan. It has simple cabins and a camping field, outdoor wash-up sinks (no kitchen), a basic toilet block with free hot showers, and a sign saying 'Site yourself  - man come for money in evening'. We put the tent up and made supper on the camping gas stove: sausages, instant mash and a tin of carrots. Perfect!

The Norwegian weather is sunnier and less windy away from the coast. We'd just missed the Solstice but it remained light until very late. The only problem was the midges, which we smoked out with a mozzie coil.

25 June 2011 – To Saltvold Camping, Roldal, Norway – 135 miles
Camping 120 NK (without elec). Showers 5 or 10 NK coin. No WiFi.

Heading north up Setesdal valley, through Bygland (with church, shop, fuel and a folk museum), we had sunny intervals and no wind. Over the sluice bridge to the west side of the fjord, following the narrow rd 9, it was very quiet, with just an occasional caravan or camper.

After 28 miles we had coffee in a layby, with scenic picnic tables and WC, shortly before the Setesdalen 'Bomstation' (automatic toll point): 30 NK (60 NK for those over 3.5 tons; motorbikes free). On through Rysstad, a small village with camping/hotel, a silversmith's and another folk museum.

At 42 miles we turned off right, following a sign uphill for a mile to the Tveitetunet: a log-built farm and storehouse dated 1645, free to walk round outside. It is next to a super little quiet campsite/cabins that looked tempting, up at 1,250 ft/380 m, but it was too early to halt at 11.30 am. Returned to rd 9 we continued through Valle (camping, hotel, police and school), then turned off right at 50 miles, uphill again for 1.25 miles, to another charming old farmstead. The wooden buildings at Rygnestadtunet (at 1,375 ft/415 m) are open to visitors through July to mid-August (entry 30 NK, Senior 25 NK). When closed, as today, you can wander freely around and climb the stair-ladder to the outer balcony of one of the log cabins.

Back on rd 9, we climbed up the valley of the Otar between steep grey rock faces, wooded at the bottom and snow-flecked higher up. After 2 short tunnels at 1,675 ft/510 m, we lunched in a layby just before Bykle, a village at 65 miles and an altitude of 2,000 ft/606 m. Folk in national costume were gathered at the tiny wooden church, dating from 1619 - perhaps for a wedding or concert?

Hovden, at 81 miles, is a small ski resort up at 2,600 ft/790 m with hotels, cabins and youth hostel/camping. The chairlift up Mt Nos is operational only in July, plus the winter season. Then a 15-mile section of rd 9 ran high across the fells above 3,000 ft/910 m, edged with permanent snow poles, sometimes closed in winter. Descending a series of hairpins, we reached Edland at 99 miles, down at 1,900 ft/575 m. Here rd 9 met the E134, a busier east-west tourist route, marked by wigwams selling reindeer furs and, more usefully, a large Spar supermarket and fuel. This is the Telemark Region.

We turned left (west) on E134 and climbed again, with a short tunnel at 114 miles (enter at 3,175 ft/960 m; exit 3,350 ft/1015 m). Snow lay at the roadsides, then a longer tunnel (almost 3 miles) brought us to 3,600 ft/1090 m. The scenery was stunning, with empty fells bare of trees.

Arriving at Roldal, we were surprised to find 4 campsites. Three of them are down the first left turn before the village, along a lane leading to a stave church dating from 1275. The fourth camp is down a second left turn, on Seim Farm adjacent to a Late Iron Age Graveyard. Checking them all, we chose to pitch our tent at Saltvold next to the lovely old church. Our campsite has a grassy area for tents (with just an elderly male cycle-tourist camped), a good kitchen and a comfortable TV lounge that we had to ourselves.

At 1,283 ft/390 m, surrounded by mountains, it was incredibly peaceful. We photographed the locked church, which has an entrance fee of 40 NK when open during the tourist season or for Thursday evening summer organ concerts. It was an important pilgrim church in the middle ages and there are still organised pilgrimages on foot from Stavanger and Hovden. See www.hardangerfjord.com/en/Odda/What-to-see/Roldal-stave-church/

26 June 2011 – To Mabodalen Camping, Ovre-Eidfjord, Norway – 78 miles
Camping 165 NK inc elec. www.mabodalen.no/english/welcome.html Free showers. No WiFi.

Before leaving Roldal we went round to busier Seim Camping to see the Late Iron Age Burial Mounds in a grave field behind one of the oldest farms in the district. Originally there were more than 100 graves but most have disappeared, many after damage inflicted by cultivation. Today, 12 barrows are visible in the terrain and the Seim family (owners of the land, farm and campsite) allow free access. We also visited a free exhibition in the Old Barn, opened 10 years ago in co-operation with the local council and Hardanger Folk Museum: a fascinating photomontage with models of artifacts found in the graves, which put the site in context. 'Late Iron Age' here means the Viking Age, 800-1000 AD, before Christianity had reached this remote land. The dead were laid out uncremated, along with their grave goods (eg bronze or iron spearheads, swords, axes, shields etc; soapstone vessels; glass beads), and large mounds built over the graves.

From Roldal we followed E134, which snaked up for over 5 miles to a ski-lift at 2,600 ft/790 m. Here it entered some long tunnels before continuing northwest. At 11 miles we turned right on rd 13 (for Odda) and descended, pausing 2 miles later, down at 658 ft/200 m, to view the Latefoss – a magnificent waterfall cascading down and over the road. At 24 miles we parked in Odda (a lovely situation for an iron-smelting town) to eat our lunch.

Continuing north on rd 13, our next stop was at 41 miles in Lofthus where we admired Ullensvang Church, set among orchards of fruit trees overlooking the fjord. The stone church, built by Scottish masons in gothic style with pointed arches, was open and a helpful leaflet in English told of its history. Dating from 1300 (Catholic times), its bells are among the oldest in Norway. The tower was added during extensions in the late 1800s and it's known as the Cathedral of Hardanger. The interior, which seats 340, was restored in 1958 and is beautifully colourful yet simple. Some of the stained glass windows were a gift from English seamen, who had come to Sorfjorden (South Fjord) to collect a cargo of ice from the glacier. When their ship froze fast, the local people broke the ice and released the ship. The old wooden carved altarpiece from 1699, showing the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, has been restored. The soapstone font with copper basin is also very old. In the porch a board lists the names of all the clergymen in Ullensvang from the Reformation (1536) to present times. 

Outside, the churchyard contains historic graves, including Gunnar Olavson, a clergyman who died in 1380, his headstone inscribed in Latin. One famous stone, in memory of a local knight and magistrate, gives the date of death as '3 nights before Mikkelsmesse', Mikkelsmess being the day of the Archangel Michael on 29 September (English Michaelmas). So much of interest, brought to life by the leaflet, for which we thank the Church Warden.

The nearby Vicarage was built in 1863 and is still home to the Rector. Over the centuries, the clergymen of Ullensvang, who were also farmers and market gardeners, founded both fruit growing and tourism in Hardanger. They introduced potatoes and cherries, learnt to graft cultured apple trees and pears, and planted nurseries. Dean Hertzberg made his vicarage into a cultural and information centre, welcoming strangers and visitors. He also became an MP in 1814. The area remains Norway's largest producer of cherries and apples.

Moving on 8 miles to Kinsarvik, there is an older stone church (1180) but it was closed. At 59 miles, in Brimnes, there was a long queue for the ferry across to Bruravik and the road to Bergen, which we didn't need. A suspension bridge is under construction to replace it. On our side of the fjord, we drove through touristy Eidfjord without stopping and continued up rd 7 for a few miles to Hardangervidda Nature Centre at Upper (Ovre) Eidfjord.

From the 3 campsites here we chose the last one, opposite the large modern Nature Centre buildings. It was hard to find a level patch of grass or a hook-up that worked (handy for the kettle and included in the price!) but we finally pitched the tent and checked out the cafe. As it only offered overpriced burgers or pizza, we put a Fray Bentos Steak Pie in the campsite kitchen oven. Had we known the rainstorm that was to come, we'd have taken a cabin (price 450 NK)! Across the road, the Nature Centre was closed apart from its souvenir shop.

27 June 2011 – To Skresanden Cabins, Aurland, Norway – 121 miles
Cabins 450 NK (without linen). Free showers. No WiFi.

Packing up a wet tent in the pouring rain was no fun and we delayed leaving until the weather cleared a bit.

East on rd 7, the first 6 miles twisted through tunnels that climbed from 160 ft/48 m to 2,127 ft/645 m at Voringsfossen Cafe. Here there is free parking/toilets and a choice of walks for a good view of the waterfalls: a 2-minute stroll back along the road or a 5-minute path through the woods. As it was wet and slippery we took the shorter option, seeing a chilling memorial with a photo of a middle-aged man who fell to his death just off the track in July 2009.

We continued another 12 miles across the plateau of Hardangervidda to the top at 4,075 ft/1235 m. This plateau is the largest eroded plain in Europe, covering an area of about 6,500 km2 (2,500 sq mi) at an average elevation of 1,100 m (3,500 ft). The highest point on the plateau is at the top of the Hardanger glacier, which reaches a height of 1,863 m (6,112 ft). The landscape of the Hardangervidda is characterised by barren, treeless moorland interrupted by numerous pools, lakes, rivers and streams - a dramatic scene, even in midsummer.

At 38 miles, still high at 3,333 ft/1000 m, the station at Haugastol on Slotfjord marks the terminus of a line built in 1909. The country's highest railway, it runs northwest from here through many tunnels across the mountain range that splits southern Norway in two. The highest point on the line (4,032 ft/1222 m) at Finse Station has a railway museum.

At Ustaoset, by the railway, we parked for lunch by a shop/fuel station and talked with a friendly builder. Though from Northern Ireland, he has lived in Norway for 10 years with his local wife and their children.

Still on rd 7, it was northeast to Geilo (ski lodges and a lift) at 50 miles. Then 9 miles later we turned left by a stave church onto rd 50, past another little wooden church at Hol. Now our direction was northwest along a green wooded valley, dotted with old wooden cottages and goats' cheese on sale. At 90 miles we entered an unlit tunnel at 3,500 ft/1060 m, exited at 3,840 ft/1163 m and continued up the Aurlandsdalen.

A series of tunnels and hairpins zigzagged down through rain and mist to Aurland, almost at sea level. We checked the campsite (Lunde Camping) but its cabins were basic and cost 500 NK. The Tourist Info (opposite the old stone church) gave us 2 other choices, the nearest being Winjum Cabins. They are 1 km beyond Aurland, up the steep and narrow Snow Road (the old road to Laerdal, closed in winter and now replaced by Laerdal Tunnel). We did make it to the entrance to Winjum but it looked deserted and overgrown, with low trees.

We returned to the third option, Skresanden, not a campsite but a group of fishermen's cabins for rent that we'd passed about 2 miles before Aurland. A good choice, providing a very comfortable cabin with heating and TV, and the key to a separate toilet/shower shared with one other couple. The verandah overlooks the river with a view of a waterfall. What more can one ask – except for the rain to stop!

28 June 2011 – To Bispen Camping, Near Lom, Norway – 141 miles
Standard Cabins 350 NK (without linen). WiFi in Common Room by Reception.

After driving 2 miles into Aurland to shop, it was a mile back to the roundabout (opposite Lunde Camp) to take the Laerdal Tunnel. This, the world's longest road tunnel at 24.5 km (over 15 miles), is new, well lit and FREE of charge! A nice surprise all round - progress marked by 3 large emergency turning areas, at the quarter, half and three-quarter points, it was much less claustrophobic and intimidating than the alpine tunnels we know.

Exiting the tunnel at 19 miles, we turned left at the roundabout onto rd 5 northwards, rather than E16 to Oslo. There was a shorter tunnel (7 km or nearly 5 miles) on the way to the Fodnes ferry, reached after we'd driven 28 miles with 20 of them inside tunnels – a good way to keep dry! The short crossing to Mannheller cost 80 NK for the Sprinter van + us (ask for the Honnor rate for Seniors) – cash or credit card, as usual.

There was another tunnel before reaching Sogndalsfjora at 38 miles, a busy town at the head of Sogndalsfjord with nowhere to park. Turning right onto rd 55, we stopped for lunch in a rest area, just past a garage which we noted had Autogas (LPG – not common in Norway) and a toilet-emptying dump.

The road alongside Lustrafjord climbed, including short tunnels, to over 1,000 ft/300 m at Gravhauger (a ski place). On the way, near Hafslo, a 15-minute ferry crosses the fjord from Solvorn to Urnes, home of Norway's oldest stave church dating from about 1130. The wet weather discouraged us from this side-trip. Rd 55 was narrow, sometimes single track with passing places, as we continued through Luster village, which has an old stone church and a cable car. The Lustrafjord is well named, with its lustrous green hue of glacier melt.

After Skjolden at the head of the fjord, we immediately passed Eidsvatnet, a beautiful little turquoise glacial lake at 73 miles. A mile later we paused to photograph a surging waterfall opposite Vassbakken Cafe/Camping. Continuing northeast on rd 55, now called the Sognefjellet Road, this narrow twisting 'Road over the roof of Norway' was staggeringly beautiful. It zigzagged up past Turtagro Hotel (2,950 ft/894 m) at 88 miles, with a rest area and viewpoint 2 miles later at 3,800 ft/1151 m, looking across the Jotunheimen National Park and glacier. Up here, above the treeline, ice floes still floated on the tarns.

On reaching the top (4,680 ft/1418 m) at 99 miles near a ski hotel, the road hair-pinned down a 1:8 gradient, past another hotel with basic camping, then descended more gently.

At 130 miles in Lom (stave church and museum), we turned left onto rd 15. The 2 campsites we passed in the next few miles were both very basic and we continued to Bispen Camping (listed in the NAF campsite guide www.nafcamp.com/en/).

This welcoming campsite had a choice of comfortable log cabins. Our standard cabin had a kitchen corner (fridge, sink with hot water, 2-ring electric hotplate), heating, double bed and 2 attic bunks. The de-luxe cabins at 600 NK also had TV and en-suite bathroom. We spread our wet tent out on the verandah to dry and took a woodland walk in the evening, when the weather improved a little. Still high at 1,352 ft/410 m.

29 June 2011 – To Ytterdal Camping, Eidsdal, Norway – 75 miles
Cabins 350 NK (without linen). www.ytterdal-camping.no/engelsk/  

After driving 7 miles west on rd 15 we stopped at a Co-op (pronounced 'coop') opposite the large Camping Donfoss (and a mile past another campsite, Furuly). We bought bread and raisin buns, enjoyed free hot drinks and biscuits in a corner of the supermarket, then walked over to stand on Donfoss Bridge and photograph the swollen River Otta. It was raining once again.

The Grotli Motel 20 miles further on is for skiers, up at 3,000 ft/909 m. Continuing across the windswept treeless plateau, there was snow on the tundra though the road was clear. At 35 miles (up at 3,071 ft/930 m) we turned right on rd 63 for Geiranger, rather than the easier route straight on through tunnels. Opposite a rest area just before the turn we saw our first reindeer of the journey – a small herd, some standing in the snow. Climbing the narrow road, edged with snow and frozen tarns, we passed another hotel before reaching the top (3,425 ft/1038 m) at 40 miles.

Then the road snaked downhill (gradient 9%) for 9 miles until we parked alongside the tour buses by the entrance to Geiranger 'Natur Park', altitude just 285 ft/86m. It was still pouring with rain (and the Nature Park had an entry fee) so we just ate our lunch and watched the passengers from 3 cruise ships that stood at anchor below in Geiranger Fjord, alongside the Hurtigrute coastal steamer and local ferries. Matronly Americans and camera-decked Japanese made their laborious way up the hill, wrapped in plastic pac-a-macs or huddled under umbrellas, their summer holiday clothes and sandals most inappropriate for fjordland! We almost felt sorry for them.

Continuing north, we passed a pair of campsites (one before, one after Geiranger harbour) before scaling the 11 (yes eleven) hairpins of the Ornevegen (Eagle's Road). There was a magnificent view of the fjord, seen through the cloud bank of vapour from the boats and cruisers below, before reaching clearer air. It still rained, as we met a bus coming downhill right on a bend and overtaking a pair of sturdy Polish cyclists. Somehow it missed them. At 54 miles, now at 1,750 ft/530 m, we squeezed onto the Eagle's Wing viewpoint by a waterfall and looked down on Geiranger. The tiny ferries and kayaks looked like insects skimming the surface of the water.

We reached 2,000 ft/606 m before dropping down to sea level at 65 miles in Eidsdal, intending to take the 10-minute ferry across to Linge. However, as we waited for the ferry, Barry noticed that the Sprinter's front right tyre was going down! We retreated to the campsite just before the ferry, took a very nice cabin and enlisted the help of the friendly young woman in Reception. Luckily we'd passed a garage 5 miles back, along the road to Geiranger, so Barry pumped up the tyre and she phoned the garage to check it was open. Strangely, the taciturn owner of Eidsdal Garage could find nothing wrong with the tyre! He took it off, checked it thoroughly and refitted it – which cost us 200 NK, and some anxiety for the next few days. It never went down again!!

Back at the campsite, rain still poured and a thick mist descended. The cabin had a separate bedroom with 4 bunks, sitting room and kitchen area with hot water, fridge and 2 electric hotplates. A good Co-op store was a short walk away, by the ferry.

30 June 2011 – Return to Pluscamp Bud, Bud, Norway – 81 miles
Open all year, see www.budcamping.no and www.pluscamp.no. Price charged 235 NK per day including electricity and free WiFi (good signal throughout the site). Pluscamps have a loyalty card, giving every 8th night free.

With the Sprinter tyre still firm, we checked the location of the next garage along our route, then drove straight onto the Eidsdal-Linge ferry for the 10 minute crossing. In Linge we turned right on rd 63 for 3 miles to Valldal and its garage. The tyre pressure was fine (40 psi) but we decided against continuing over the Trollstigen (= Troll's Ladder), a narrow serpentine mountain pass road with an elevation of about 2,800 ft/850 m, which we drove many years ago before it became a tourist object. Instead we returned past Linge ferry and west on the alternative route, rd 650. Through short tunnels we climbed to 1,132 ft/343 m, then down again.

Along rd 650 in the village of Stordal, thanks to our Lonely Planet guide (which does have its uses), we stopped at the unassuming whitewood Rose Church. Built in 1789 by volunteers, on the site of the earlier medieval stave church (from which the restored pulpit, font and crucifix remain), the interior was decorated in 1799 by 2 local artists, funded by the villagers.As it is only open from mid-June to mid-August, 11 am-4 pm, we were privileged to see it.

Entering the low-ceilinged church, we were met by t he official guide: a charming 16-year-old lad from Alesund, speaking perfect English (entry 35 NK, seniors 25 NK, including guided tour and leaflet). The colourful naive baroque-style painting covers the walls and pillars with decoration and biblical scenes, including a very Scandinavian-looking David & Goliath. Our guide pointed out the Danish flag on an old model ship, showing this land was once ruled by Denmark. The church is now used for concerts and cultural events on some summer evenings: see www.kyrkjehola.no/ for the programme (in Norwegian).

Continuing north to Sjoholt at 32 miles, we were back at sea level on the northern shore of the Storfjord. Here we turned right onto rd136/E39 to complete the long loop back to Molde. The road climbed gently for 5 miles to a hotel/camping at 1,000 ft, then descended to sea level at Vestnes. At 50 miles at Furneset the ferry for Molde was ready and waiting.

A mile or so east of Molde ferry along E39 there was a large parking area (signed 'No Camping, Parking max 24 hrs') with several motorhomes settled in. We stopped to eat our lunch, then drove back west into the town centre to shop at the giant ICA supermarket and get cash and diesel. Then it was east again, past Kviltorp Camping where we had learnt of the peaceful passing of Margaret's 96-year-old mother on 1st June, just a month ago (it felt like a lifetime!)

Turning left at the roundabout on rd 64, it was less than 30 miles back to Bud (including a short tunnel with a 20 NK toll). Our caravan, waiting patiently in a corner of the muddy field, was soon towed onto a pitch with ocean view. The weather was cool and grey but at least the rain had stopped and tomorrow it is July ... with a new month and a new journey ahead.

Continued at: IN NORWAY: JULY 2011