Tag Archives: tripofalifetime

Church, Train, Cruise Ships and a Spectacular View

Tuesday 15 October 2019

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
Flåm Railway

Find out more about the railway by clicking here.

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.

“Vision of the Fjords’

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.

Stegastein Lookout Platform
The view from the Stegastein Lookout Platform with golden trees in the “blue hour”

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.

‘AIDA Mar’ leaving Aurlandfjord.

Now I think I need to find somewhere to sleep.

Reflections, fishing boats and the great aurora light show!

Tuesday 24 September 2019

I had spent the night at a campsite called Sildpollnes Sjøcamp in a tiny community called Valan, which sticks out on a small peninsular in the area of Vågan, Nordland. It was a really pleasant site and the location was very picturesque. There was a white church a few metres from where I parked the van and later, as I prepared to leave, I put the drone up to get an aerial view of the site. The water was completely still and the reflection of the mountains in the fjord was stunning.

Superb reflection of the mountains behind Valan

I left Valan but stopped about a kilometre up the road at a rest area that gave a great view over the fjord and the harbour I had just come from. I spent more than two hours making images from all kinds of angles and perspectives. I watched as a small fishing boat returning to the harbour was dwarfed by the huge mountains in the background where it had been fishing.

The tiny fishing boat is dwarfed by the mountains behind

The weather was perfect. I’ve been so lucky with the weather, it could have been so different had the weather not played the game for me.

Passing a tiny harbour called Nappsvågen I noticed three large trawlers moored up in a row with the afternoon sun lighting them up. Well I couldn’t miss an opportunity like that.

Tied up in the afternoon sun

I had decided to spend a few more days on the Lofoten Islands before I had to start thinking about heading south, so I headed for Flakstad beach where Fiona and I had really enjoyed our time a few days previously. Also the Aurora forecast promised a bit of a spectacular this evening.

Trolldalsvatnet mountain lit by the setting sun

On arrival at Flakstad I headed straight for Skagsanden Beach (its real name) and the colours of the dying sun did not disappoint. The setting sun was lighting up the west face of Trolldalsvatnet mountain and using the 16mm lens I was able to get an image using the foreground rocks on the beach as leading lines pointing straight at the mountain. I really like this image.

There were quite a few people on the beach and many of them were on road trips like me. I met and got talking to a couple from Luxembourg/Belgium who were travelling together with no end date for their journey. There were also two German guys, one of whom was married to an Australian woman, who were all travelling together on a long holiday from their home in Munich. She was an excellent portrait and wedding photographer. Take a look at her work here. She was also a great talker!!

As the evening wore on and the sun sank lower creating beautiful deep yellows and then reds in the sky, everyone was getting more and more excited at the prospect of a really special Aurora show.

Sure enough around 11.0pm the Northern Lights spectacular began! It was just awe inspiring! The Aurora seemed to fill the sky and wrap itself around everyone. It was like a multi tentacled green monster about to devour whatever it felt like. Yet it also seemed that I could just reach out and touch it, even though it was many miles high, because it filled the sky it felt so close. This was certainly something I shall never forget.

And then it was all over. After around 30 minutes, everything just faded away. But everyone on the beach was just speechless. We all then went back to our vehicles to ponder on what we had just witnessed and how we could describe it to our friends and families. What an end to an unforgettable day.

Arctic Anniversary

Friday 13 September 2019

Today is our 22nd wedding anniversary!

(Most of this post written by FIONA Illingworth, whilst enjoying her well deserved holiday with me here in Norway)

9.45 am

In the bakery at Andenes. This building had housed a bakery since 1912. It appears to be the hub of this small town, as we have seen in so many other places. People come here and have coffee, eat a huge sandwich or a pastry and catch up with friends. It all seems very civilised. They are calm and quiet places. Bread and cakes are an important part of Norwegian culture from what we can gather. Each place has its own version of cinnamon bread for a start. There is a lot of choice of other cakes, but cinnamon bread appears the staple. The people here are solid, heftily built but not fat – no wonder with all the bread and cake they eat, combined with their love of the outdoors.

Bårds Bakeri, Andenes

11.45 am

We had a walk around Andenes. There is much new building going on – a new hotel opening next year and work is ongoing in a new visitor centre at the Aurora Space Centre.

Aurora Space Centre

But much of it seems down at heel. We have seen more houses empty and/or with peeling paint today than before. We have been wondering what work is available for the locals. Once you have accounted for the emergency services and other public sector, the army, the fish farms and tourist trade … what else is here? The surrounding areas beyond town are made up of farms … mostly small family farms, so I expect they will offer limited work opportunities.

I suspect we are not seeing the place at its best. The tourist season ended on 1 September, so many things (such as some of the restaurants and galleries) are closed now for the winter. But I have to be honest, even so, Vesterålen does not appear nearly as impressive as its big brother, Lofoten.

Sunset at Nøss …

We are in a small carpark not far up the road from Nøss, a spot that John discovered on a phone app he has used a lot on this trip, (Camper Contact) which details lots of sites, paid and unpaid. We tried another one earlier on, where we had a go at cleaning the solar panel on the roof as the leisure battery has flattened on us a couple of times recently. It has to be said that we are charging a lot of batteries and devices and the sun hasn’t made much of an appearance lately. The car park was fine but there wasn’t much of a view so we decided to move. I am glad we did because here we can look straight out to sea and there is a beach where we went to do a piece to camera. Fiona wore a Norwegian hat, in which she looked completely ridiculous. She tried to write the dates of our wedding anniversary in the sand, but didn’t do a very good job. She needed a long stick to avoid messing up the sand with footprints. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Beach near Nøss
Sunset at Nøss

More information about Skulpturlandskap Nordland (Artscape Nordland)

I picked up a brochure in the tourist information office today that provides a lot more information about the sculptures we have seen dotted about Lofoten. This is a county wide initiative, inviting international artists to take part from19 countries, including Norwegian artists (so not as first thought). Nordland is a province of Norway. From the name, you’d think it was the northernmost part of Norway, but in fact it forms the middle section. There are 36 sculptures all together, two of them are by English artists: Anthony Gormley and Tony Cragg. We won’t get to see either of their artworks as they are in places we don’t have time to visit. There are 5 artworks on Vesterålen and I am particulary keen to see one by a Norwegian artist called Kjell Erik Killi Olsen. His piece is at Bø, in the south western part of the islands, and is titled The Man from the Sea. Perhaps we will do that tomorrow.

There are 5 art pieces on the Lofotens and we managed to see 3 of them – not bad going!

The idea of the project is to reflect the fact that the landscape shows traces of struggles through time. Each piece is designed to take up its own place in the landscape and to create a new dimension in the landscape. Some of the ones we saw worked really well; others spoke less to me but perhaps they will appeal to others.

Wild Brown Bears

Saturday 3 August 2019

This was to be one of the highlights of the whole road trip. I arrived at the Wild Brown Bear Lodge early and excited. The staff are a really friendly bunch and the facilities there are very good. Here are a few photos to illustrate.

After a detailed briefing in the small, well equipped Briefing Room, I was taken to the hide with about 8 others, most of whom were staying for 3 or 4 nights in the Lodge. We had been given a packed lunch and fruit juice to keep us going through the night and I’d brought some of my own food too.

I had a hide to myself (No.1) and I sorted the place out to the way I wanted it, so that I was ready should the bears appear. I had views on three sides and by 6.30pm I was sorted and settled. 

Just after 7.0pm the bears began to appear and were quite close to my hide. I was surprised by how quiet they were and how fast they moved. One side of my hide looked across a small pond towards a group of rocks and during the evening it became apparent that this group of rocks were part of the bears natural pathway. 

Between 7.0pm – 10.30pm I saw a number of bears and photographed them. It was thrilling to see them relatively close up. A light brown and a dark brown one stayed in the area for over an hour. I saw a total of 7 different animals. 

After about 10.30pm I had no further sightings and it began to get too dark to photograph so I went to sleep about midnight. Woke up at 4.0am but see anything until 6.10am when I caught some video of a light brown bear. Great stuff!

What a night!