Yesterday I found myself on a high road in the mountains with the snow beginning to settle on the road and the driving conditions becoming steadily worse. I certainly didn’t want to wild camp in those conditions with the risk that I wouldn’t be able to move in the morning, so I made my way to lower ground. Today the weather was completely different, with clear blue skies and the promise of it continuing throughout the day.
I’d found a campsite in a very small village called Røldal situated right on the edge of Røldalsvatnet lake and surrounded by high mountains. The facilities were excellent and it was run by a very friendly and welcoming farmer’s wife who turned out to be from Sweden and had moved to Norway many years before and brought up five children on this farm.
I set off early to explore the surrounding area and I was stunned by it’s beauty. It was the kind of landscape I love, with high mountains, huge lakes and enormous forests. I travelled around the area, known as Røgaland and made many, many photographs. I must say that when confronted by magnificent landscape like this, I do feel somewhat overwhelmed and find it difficult to capture anything resembling a true representation of it with the camera, but I’m here to try and do that, so I’ll keep trying.
I discovered a preserved farmhouse and outbuildings that was apparently typical of the ‘cotter’ or crofter farms of the 18th and 19th century in this area. Built in 1834, the farm had been occupied by the Røynevarden family until 1948 and was now in the care of a Norwegian organisation that strives to preserve the heritage of the area.
I spent the day driving around the area and decided to return to the same campsite that evening.
Straight after breakfast I headed to Borgund to see the world famous stave church there. The place was deserted as most things are at this time of year. I had to smile at a notice on the door of the visitor’s centre that said “Closed until April 2020”. The centre was a large building with lots of facilities inside for video shows and lots of souvenirs, etc. Are there really so few visitors at this time of year to justify closing the centre for so long?
Anyway, the church itself was available to look at, although I couldn’t get inside, which was a shame, but I’m getting used to the fact that places here are only open for a short time in the summer. I took quite a few pictures without the intrusion of lots of tourists which is a bonus I guess.
At almost a thousand years old, the church is exceptionally well preserved and is dedicated to the St. Andrew. It features lavish carvings including the roof carvings of dragons’s heads. The church here is one of Norway’s oldest preserved timber buildings.
There’s more information about the stave church at Borgund here
My next stop, not too far away the small village of Flåm. I was surprised to see as I approached the village, the same cruise ship I had seen in Geirangerfjord, the AIDA Mar. As before the huge liner dominated the village and its passengers seemed to fill the village shops, stuffed full of souvenirs. Flam centre is a good example of a place created just for tourists and in particular cruise ship tourism. The ships dock very close by in the deep water fjord (Aurlandsfjord) and passengers only have to walk 100 metres or so and they are right in the middle of all that’s on offer.
There’s quite a bit to see and do here like the Flåm railway. This will take you on a two hour return journey to Myrdal at the top of the mountain. Here are some facts about the journey
The Flåm Railway is 20 km long
It has 20 tunnels
It took 20 years to build
Approx. cost NOK 20 million (when completed in 1940)
The Nåli tunnel (approx. 1,300 metres) between Kårdal and Pinnalia took 11 years to build
In addition to the railway, Flåm can also offer a cruise along Aurlandfjord in the world’s first all electric carbon fibre cruiser, pictured below.
If you prefer, you can take your car (or camper van!) up the winding, twisting, hairpin bend filled road up to the Stegastein Lookout Point as I did. A specially built platform that sticks right out from the mountain side, gives you a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains and fjords. It was evening and well into the “blue hour” when I got to the top, but well worth the drive.
The journey back down to Flåm was ‘interesting’ with it’s many hairpin bends in the dark and an occasional meeting with large red deer stags in the middle of the road!
It was just about dark by the time I got down to sea level again and just in time to see ‘AIDA Mar’ leaving the village for it’s next stop on the cruise. These vessels do look spectacular as they leave port with all lights blazing.
It had crossed my mind this morning to return to a place near Geiranger called Dalsnibba Mountain Plateau but it meant a 5 hour round trip from where I was and though it was somewhere I wanted to photograph, I decided against it and instead headed towards Sogndalsfjøra through the mountains on route 55.
I joined route 615 and came to Lake Lykkjebøvatnet the morning mist was rising from the lake and I knew it was one of those moments when everything is right and you know you’re in the right place at the right time. I spent over an hour photographing this scene from every angle I could think of and the small details of reeds and plants in the lake.
I then came to a village called Byrkjelo in Nordfjord, where artist Stig Eikaas displays his creative collection of large sculptures. Some of the pieces are humourous, some are poignant and others memorialise characters from the area. They are certainly worth some of anyone’s time to observe carefully for a while.
From the sculpture park I could see the mountains that form part of the Jostedalsbreen National Park. The mist was rolling around the peaks and it looked fantastic.
I put the 100-400mm lens on to get as close as I could to those snowy peaks.
It was now around lunchtime and in a village further on called Byrkjelo I found a superb local bakeri, BakearJon, selling huge cinnamon buns. Unfortunately they were only sold in twos and again, unfortuantely, they were baked the day before, so were being sold for 30NOK (c£2.60) for two! Well it would have been rude not to buy two wouldn’t it 🙂
I thought the day couldn’t get any better until I joined the E39 and drove into a very deep valley called Stardelselva and spotted a small tree, picked out by the sun, with gorgeous autumn coloured leaves between two green trees. Out came the camera again.
My wildcamp site for the night was the parking area for Bøyabreen glacier. It might be the 13th of the month but this was certainly my lucky day!
Up at 6.0am, sorted the van and down through the tunnel into Hamnøy before breakfast and before sunrise. I parked next to the bridge on some spare land where there were already a number of photographers making preparations for the sunrise shoot on the bridge. I joined them and got myself a spot where I thought I could make a good composition. The weather could not have been better for a sunrise image and as the sun made its way over the horizon it lit up the face of the cliff overlooking the harbour. I was so pleased that my plan had worked out and all the elements had come together as I planned. I am so pleased with the resulting image. Yes I know it’s been done thousands of times before, but this is my interpretation.
I then moved down the road a little way and got a reasonable image of the tiny island of Sakrisøy with the rising sun now creating some great contrast and side lighting on the mountain above the village.
The Reinebringen Trail is a short, steep climb up 1560 stone steps to the top of the 448 metre high mountain of the same name. The reason why the steps were built (by a Nepali Sherpa team between 2016 and 2019) was because so many people were trying to climb the very steep mountain side to get the view from the summit. And what a view! It took me around 45 minutes to climb the staircase and when I got to the top I realised why so many people made the effort. It’s estimated that around 800 – 1000 people a day make the climb in summer, but on this day I had around twenty people around me at the summit.
So, after the serious effort of making the climb up to the summit of Reinebringen and the very, very steep decent of all those steps, I made my way back to the van that was parked a couple of kilometres away. There was some indication in the Aurora forecast that there may be a Northern Lights show tonight so I decided to return to Flakstad Beach where I might get a good view if the Aurora did show.
I set off back to Flakstad via Ramberg and decided to give it one more go at a composition there. I did make one image that I’m actually quite pleased with, so Ramberg is in the bag!
I arrived back at Flakstad just as the sun was going down and managed a couple of shots before it got really dark.
Then I waited. This time I was more or less on my own and it was much colder on this evening. Unfortunately on this particular evening, although the Aurora did show for a little while, it was nowhere near as intense as the previous occasion. Well, some you win and some you lose and so I retired to bed.
It had snowed a little during the night but nothing major and I went for a walk a little way up the mountain. As I mentioned yesterday, this was after all, a National Park.
The beauty of this country never ceases to inspire me and I’ve just run out of words to describe it. It seems that around every corner there is another piece of landscape that seems to be competing with the one I saw previously. This mountain forest was no exception and the weather was behaving itself for a change so I took the opportunity to make some intimate landscape images.
I’ve decided that I’ll spend a few days back on Lofoten and then head south so I made my way off the island and joined the E10 south and hoped to capture some good images on the way. I would stop when and where the opportunity arose.
I eventually found myself in a small town called Bjerkvik, a placed I’d visited on my way up to Tromsø. On that occasion I had camped on the marina but the facilities were extremely basic and they charged 150NOK for the priviledge. This time I decided to wild camp and found a rest area a couple of kilometres outside of town with a tremendous view overlooking the fjord and, to top it all, this evening’s sunset was very pleasant, as you can see.
Up at 6 to the sound of sleeting on the van roof. Looked out of the window to discover I had camped next to a large ship. It doesn’t look like fishing boat but it is working at something.
After breakfast set off to photograph the mountains just up the road, looking moody with sleet and cloud.
Drove past Sjøtun and got a picture of a house with a fishing boat and the mountains behind. Looked typical Norway.
Then continued in the direction of Sommarøy island. Stopped in a rest area just before the bridge to get some panos of bridge and nearby islands.
A bit of excitement when an air ambulance landed at the Sommarøy Hotel together with a road ambulance. Patient taken away by road.
Brought back a few memories of a previous career
With the excitement over I headed south to a small bay and got pics of the distant snow covered mountains of Kvaløya
Took some shots from under the Sommarøy bridge with boat passing under, but the light was rubbish so they’ll probably go in the bin.
During planning about 6 months ago, I had seen a place called Oteren and I decided now would be the time to go there as it is more or less on the way to Lofoten and I’ve decided that I will spend a few more days exploring the Lofoten islands before I begin the journey south.
I can’t find anywhere to park the van to get good shots of the mountains around Oteren, so I’m going to find a place to stay for the night and make some detailed plans for the rest of road trip.
I’m now back at a place I camped at about 4 weeks ago called Lullefjellet Naturreservat at Skibotn just off the E6. It’s in a forest, surrounded by high mountains and very quiet. This’ll do!
(Most of this post written by FIONA Illingworth, whilst enjoying her well deserved holiday with me here in Norway)
The site of our wild camp last night was stunning. There were three vans parked up overnight. A couple of Norwegians next to us, must have been easily in their 60’s, were out under their awning almost all night, the bloke feeding a small wooden fire whilst his wife read the newspaper. Completely mad! Having said that, the weather looked and sounded far more foreboding from inside the van than it actually proved to be when we went out ourselves to take some video and stills. The start of the sunset was beautiful but then low cloud on the horizon deprived us of a final peek at the sun going down behind the waves. It was magical to be out watching it unfold.
The sun is shining this morning and we are heading across to Langøya to camp at Myre, which is on the outer side and facing Prestfjorden out to the north west. The campsite has good reviews and is somewhere new. John suggested the campsite at Bleik but I fancied a change of scenery.
It is good that the sun is out; it brings out the fabulous autumn colours. There are so many shades of green, yellow and red. The leaves are slowly turning and I’m sad to say that I think I will miss the best of it. John is in search of a single yellow or red tree against the green backdrop of other trees but we haven’t found one. All the trees are turning around the same time so there are few lone trees standing out from the crowd.
We had a wonderful drive through fabulous autumn colours from our wild camp just outside Nøss in Andøy to Myre. We have had mixed weather this afternoon … rain showers followed by sunny spells, with plenty of rainbows. I have never seen so many rainbows in such a short space of time. I am glad we gave the Versterålens more of a chance.
I think we were both tempted to give up on them yesterday as the landscape, though beautiful, appeared nothing like as breathtaking as the Lofotens. But, actually, though it is a gentler landscape, it is truly beautiful. Today we were blown away by the autumn colours, reflected well during the bright sunny periods. We could easily have been in the Trossachs or the Canadian Rockies.
The sea on the outer side of the islands can get quite rough and we watched some significant waves crashing against the rocks in Andøya first thing. When the sun is out it looks lovely but there is a cold breeze. I managed to go out for a run in Myre this afternoon. It started to rain just as I planned to go, but I waited half an hour and, lo and behold, the sun came out again. I found I could run along very quiet roads the whole time and just saw a glimpse of Myre before I turned back. Apparently, Myre is a modern fishing village and its port is one of the world’s biggest exporters of seafood. I saw a large factory out of town, presumably where all the seafood is processed, but other than that there was nothing to suggest this accolade!
The campsite here is excellent. After my run, I had a brilliant shower and had to turn it down a bit as the pressure was so strong! This evening I have cooked meatballs in the kitchen: all mod cons and very clean. It is good to be able to save on the gas in the van. I worry that John will run out and he cannot buy more cooking gas in Norway as they don’t sell it here (because it freezes in the winter).
I have managed to persuade John to attempt The Queen’s Route tomorrow. This is a 15km circular walk along a marked trail. It is classed as a hard route mostly due to some steep sections I think. It is called the Queen’s Route because HM Queen Sonja walked this route in 1992. In 2015 it was voted amongst the top 10 most spectacular hikes in Norway. It is just up the road. How can we not give it a go? I am sure we will both be fine with it. The route is between two fishing villages, Stø to the north and Nyksund slightly further south. On one leg of the trip you follow a coastal path and on the other you follow a mountain path. Sounds awesome and I can’t wait. The walk is said to take between 5-8 hours. Knowing us, stopping every hundred metres or so to take photos, it’ll probably be the 8 hours!