8.22.2011

OH NORWAY

Mike and I have a serious love-hate relationship with Norway. The cost of traveling here and the rotten weather have beaten us down and we can't wait to get to Denmark where hopefully it will be a bit more pleasant. I know we shouldn't judge a country by its weather but it's hard not to; it's been cold and rainy every day since the last post, mostly a constant rain throughout the entire day, though once in a while it stops for a few hours and if we're lucky the sun even peaks out from behind the clouds for a few minutes before the next rain shower begins.  We have become thankful for tunnels, which we once hated, simply because it means we get a break from the rain for a few minutes.  We've discovered that they make a great place to eat lunch; though they're not any warmer than the bitter temperatures outside and they're not very peaceful with traffic roaring past, at least we're out of the rain which has lately been our number one priority.  Everyone tells us that this has been an unusually cold and wet summer; how could we be so lucky to have chosen this year to cycle here?
The sun peaking through for a moment.


Mike having lunch in a tunnel.

Though we find ourselves cursing this place almost daily for one reason or another, wishing we were back home in a warm, comfortable house or dreaming of hot tropical beaches, which neither of us really enjoy, both of us agree that Norway has been one of the most impressive countries, in terms of scenery, that we've visited on this trip. The northern part of the country was spectacular with its dramatic and varying landscapes but the southern portion, from Trondheim south, has simply blown us away, even with the crummy weather. I can only imagine how great it would be if the sky was always blue.

Southern Norway is fjords and mountains, not little ocean inlets and rolling hills but giant fjords that can stretch inland for over 100 miles and mountains that explode straight up from the dark turquoise waters. They are not extremely high mountains, with their passes reaching only 3,000 – 5,000 feet, but the fact that they start from sea level gives them a vertical relief that is truly impressive. This terrain makes for difficult cycling as we spend 2-3 hours climbing from sea level, over a wet and foggy mountain pass, then it's a freezing yet exciting and fast 45-minute drop back down to the next fjord only to do it all again. With terrain like this, you find some insanely massive cliffs, some of the biggest in the world, and equally impressive roads that switchback right up the side of them, many of which we've thoroughly enjoyed riding. I can't imagine how much fun the engineers had who got to design these roads, as literally you come to a vertical wall and just when you think there's no way to get over it, you see the road cut steeply into the cliff's side thousands of feet above and the vehicles making their way up or down the mountain looking like ants in an ant farm. It seems impossible when you look up from the bottom of the mountain, but a few hours later we always arrive to the top. From there we stand on the edge of these cliffs looking down to the water where the enormous cruise and ferry boats look like miniature toys and it takes a minute before we realize those barely visible yellow lines in the water are actually dozens of kayakers taking in the amazing scenery from far below. It quickly became obvious to us why this region of the wold is so famous for base jumping. The sheer cliffs beg to be jumped from, inviting you to fly and if I had a parachute I'd probably jump too. We partly expected, or maybe just hoped, that we'd see a person go buzzing through the sky in a jump suit, but sadly we didn't. Maybe on our next trip to Norway.
The Trollstigen - one crazy road. 

 Looking down on a fjord...can you see the kayaks?

We descended down that switchback road in the distance...and then we had to climb right back up the other side. 


Once we descend from the mountain passes, we get to take in the scenery from another angle, which is equally beautiful. From high above waterfalls come crashing down from what seems like the clouds as their origins are frequently hidden in the fog; the brilliant white water a beautiful contrast to the charcoal gray and black streaked rocks over which they fall. Looking towards the ocean from the head of the fjords, the mountains begin as midnight blue with each successive one turning a lighter shade of blue until they eventually fade into the same depressing gray as the sky and altogether disappear from sight. Even through the fog and rain this place is beautiful.
One of many waterfalls.


The wet weather makes camping rather miserable so we've had some interesting housing experiences over the past 2 weeks. Once evening, after we had been warned multiple times that day that the following day was going to be horrendous rain, we decided we HAD to find shelter for the night just in case we had to hunger down for a day. We didn't have to search very long before we came across an old abandoned shed along the side of the highway. It appeared to be an old structure that was once used for drying firewood as there was scrap wood strewn throughout the place. The shed was far from waterproof with holes in the roof and no walls but there were plenty of supplies laying around, including wood, cinder blocks, bricks and scrap pieces of tarp, so we went to work creating ourselves a home. Once completed we had a solid floor to set our tent on, a fireplace, table, benches, a more or less waterproof roof and walls to block the wind and rain. Though we couldn't exactly stand up straight when we were inside, it was quite a cozy, yet sometimes smokey house and even though the storm didn't hit with quite the fury we expected, we opted to stay a day in our for just because we put so much effort into it and it was so cute.
The shed as we found it. 

The finished product. 

Cari inside the fort.

Four days later we had a roof over our heads once again. After a day in the rain we stopped at a house to ask for water before we set up camp. The person who lived there was an old man who didn't speak any English but as he was filling our bottles a big red van pulled up. A guy hopped out with a 6-pack of beer for the old man and we got to chatting with him. Within the first 2 minutes of meeting him, we were invited to stay at his house for the night. “It's a huge old house with only me and hired hand living there. There's plenty of space for you, you can have a hot shower and dry out. It's about 3 Km in the wrong direction, but you're more than welcome.” We couldn't believe our ears. We always dream of something like this happening on days like this and it took us about a half a moment to take him up on his offer.

Oddmand and his hired help, Sergej, were absolutely wonderful. We got hot showers, comfortable beds to sleep in, our clothes were able to dry overnight, they fed us, we enjoyed our first beers and ice creams in nearly a month and we got to try, for the first time in our lives, fresh milk straight from Oddmand's cows. I was more than a bit skeptical as I don't really like to drink plain milk but it turned out to be amazingly delicious to the point where I even suggested to Mike that we buy a cow someday. He quickly shot down my idea but perhaps I'll try again in a few years. Oddmand was delighted to take us on a tour of his old house and the smoke shed, tell stories about his family members who immigrated to America and settled in Minnesota, especially after he found out that's where I grew up, and teach us about his farm which was build by his Grandfather in the early 1800s. This was our first time staying at an old Norwegian homestead and the similarities between there and Minnesota were amazing. The way people talk, the style of homes, the way of life; it was obvious that much of the Midwest region of the U.S. was influenced by settlers who arrived from Scandinavia long ago; and I felt right at home.
Cari, Oddmand, Sergej and Mike

3 comments:

Mom said...

The scenery is breathtaking!! I continue to look forward to time in Norway. Enjoy Jorunn and family. I envy you the opportunity to see the crash site. Love you bunches!!

NancyE said...

The Oddmand story and your discovery of the similarities between his lifestyle and your family's lifestyle in Minnesota are just wonderful. That's the kind of insight I love about traveling myself. Hope you have many more such experiences before your trip is over!

NancyE said...

BTW, those lovely red mushrooms with the white spots ... be afraid. Great pictures!