I'm not even going to apologise, it's just too embarrassing that this is my first blog since we were holed up in Portugal last May.
Please please forgive me, but I do come bearing gifts so perhaps you will! I also fervently hope that you've been following our adventures on FaceBook so you know we haven't disappeared off into the sunset.
Anyway - loads to tell you but now's not the time because I have a little pre-Christmas present for you in the form of my first e-Guide.
It's been a pleasure (sometimes of the head, wall, bang variety) and I am rather chuffed even tho I do say so myself.
Part I, there's one or two more to follow, is aimed at independent travellers who might be in a car or a camper. A circular roadtrip starting and finishing Marrakech.
Download it here, enjoy and please do let me know what you think!!
PS: Blog feed appears to have failed so this blog will be reposted. Apologies if you have received it more than once.
I can really only hope that you receive my more regular updates via Facebook and Instagram otherwise you might well think us dead and have long forgotten about our little jaunt!
We are not long back from our ten week sojurn in Moroccan and what an adventure that was - tales to tell indeed! Mind you, going on previous rates of blog productivity they may well be tales told from my bath chair to youngsters who may only know about flying cars and matter transporters #TooManySciFiBooks #StillHopeful.....
Did I mention FB and Insta as optional ways to keep track of us? The links are just to the right of the title of this blog post - above the box to enter your email to subscribe.
Anyhoo, we are now holed up in an off grid wood cabin in the hills above Lagos and bathing in water pumped from the bore hole using electricity generated by solar power and marvelling at the oven in which pizza can be cooked!
We are sleeping in different rooms, there is a washing machine, a fridge/freezer and some cats. We have a lovely young family as neighbours who took us to the local village yesterday for the Easter fiesta.
The plan is to stay a little while even tho I feel decidedly disjointed, not at all 'spaced out' as others have sometimes reported when moving out of the van into a house and somewhat disloyal to the intrepid Eileen.
I am sure I will adjust soon enough and in the meantime I will wash all the clothes and bedding and take advantage of power and internet to 'get stuff done'!
In the meantime have a look and a listen to our latest exploits!
The Route So Far is up to date:
Here are the soundbytes of our very first radio interview, given live from Seville a week or so ago:
So I'm really rather pleased to share that we have been featured on WorldTowning's regular article called "Inside a Traveler's Walls"
WorldTowning is the new venture of a family of four slow travellers, previously known as GoodieGoodGumDrop and I have connected with Jessica through the WorldSchoolers community.
Super excited for Jessica and her family's new venture and exceedingly chuffed to be featured by them.
Read all about us here goodiegoodiegumdrop.com/inside-travelers-walls-sarah-crofts/ and when you're done, have a look at the rest of the site. What Jessica and her family are doing is fabulous!
With a slight cliff hanger on the last blog and with you expecting weeks and weeks between blogs I thought I'd blind side you with a double whammy!
I left you as we emerged from the Traumatic Tunnel Terror #1, there are a more Triple Ts to come later in the Norway Chapter, and so we can continue.......
A few more minutes and then the signpost for route 63 on the left appeared and I turned off noting that actually the road didn’t look too ‘little’ altho it was un-edged and slightly narrower than the E road.
The post adrenalin euphoria was stoked by the complete head rush of seeing such incredible scenery stretching out before me. Pockets of unmelted snow and snow covered peaks surrounded us and the lake to my left was the most amazing cobalt blue colour. An almost maniacal laugh, possibly of hysteria, bubbled up as I urged Tabitha to take photos.
As we continued along R63 we saw the turn off for the private road to the peak of Mount Dalsnibba – from here you can see down into Geraingerfjord from the highest point. I’d heard it was a pay to play road and had yet more twists and turns – needless to say I did not turn off.
However, as the rush of surviving Triple T #1 and being stunned by scenery my thoughts turned to What Next…….
Oh yes, as surely as we had labored our way up and out of the valley on the Stryn side we were going to have to make our way down on the Gerainger side.
The descent started a few minutes later and my knuckles whitened as I gripped the steering wheel my stomach was in knots – before the road dropped away steeply and curved sharply to my left. The signpost told me it was a 1:10 and as soon as I had made the first bend the road again dropped away with a sharp curve this time to right.
A longer period before the next curve gave me time to look out across the enormous valley, I could actually see the Eagles Road that was the only road out of Gerainger on the other side – the air is clear this high up!
Remembering all that I had read and been told about descents like this I stuck to a low gear and tried my best NOT to ride the brakes for fear of boiling them.
Eileen’s coachbuilt habitation area felt so very heavy as we went nose down the steep, short stretches. I nearly came to a halt hauling her around the bends and I could fairly feel the wrath of smaller vehicles, and bigger, as they were held up by my terrified descent.
I could only keep remembering the intermittent loss of braking incidents that I’d experienced 3 times in the 21 months I’d had Eileen and prayed that replacing the master cylinder, in spite of the garage saying it wasn’t necessary, had cured the problem.
My fear of heights came crashing to the fore and desperately tried not to look down, or out and focus simply on the next 100 meters of blacktop.
As a pull out approached I gratefully pulled over and turned off the engine. Only 5 miles to go but the Sat Nav was helpfully telling me how many more hairpin bends I had ahead.
I messaged a few friends for a bit of moral support. A guy who’d driven this road previously and a guy who has vast experience of driving coach tours across the alps and other challenging roads – in the snow even!
No way up, the only way was down and forever going forward and with their encouragement after half an hour so to let everything (and everyone (me)) cool down I set off again.
At least I had another 10 minutes or so before I built up my little Irate & Annoyed following of vehicles with much more confident (reckless?) drivers tailgating me.
Now, I know that I have a few fears and phobias that come into play in these scenarios. Several months further down the line I have a much keener understanding of how my fear of heights impacts in these situations – which isn’t to say I know what to do about it.
Others seem to tackle these roads without a second thought and whilst I’d like to be less terrified I’m not sure I want to be so blasé either.
As we finally pulled into the campsite at the bottom of the descent I didn’t feel anything but complete exhaustion. There was no relief or euphoria or sense of achievement of any kind.
As I witnessed motorhome after motorhome pull up outside reception and get checked in the stench of burnt rubber and over heating brakes got stronger and stronger. How many of those drivers had come close to boiling their brakes without necessarily realizing I wondered – especially the rentals……
Caught between two extremely steep and twisty roads it didn’t matter which direction you arrived from, you’d had a hairy descent.
Geraingerfjord itself was beautiful in it’s way but the enormous cruise ship docked in the harbor overpowered the natural spectacular of the fjord itself.
The village was simply set up for cruise ship tourists and it was insanely expensive even by Norwegian standards.
I’d planned a BBQ but see above (there was a piece of steak in the shop for £44 !!!!). I can’t now remember what we ate but it was likely to be something pretty uninspiring, I may have had a beer but probably not.
I fell into bed that night absolutely sure in the knowledge that I was not driving out via Eagles Road and I was not doing Trollstigen. Despite a few people telling me it was no worse, easier in fact, than what I’d already done that day.
It took a long time to get to sleep as the drive down was on a repeat movie reel every time I closed my eyes.
The only shred of relief I felt was that I wasn’t going to do that again – we would take the ferry out in a day or two.
No sense of achievement prevailed, just a dread knowledge that I could do it if I had to but I had no intention of seeking out anything like that again!
Addendum: several months down the line and I am no longer quite so petrified by roads like these. My fear of heights still kicks in on occasion but my confidence in myself and Eileen prevail. I still don't actively seek out difficult roads but I am less thrown when they present themselves :-)
OK so today it is November 22nd and we are on the Costa Blanca in Spain. It’s a slightly grey day and it’s been a bit wet, for all that we are still in shorts and flip-flops but including a jumper.
It feels like a long time ago that, in early August, we left Melkevoll Bretun in Oldendalen for our next destination of Geraingerfjord.
Norway presented me with the most challenge any country has since, it was our first country so perhaps that’s to be expected. Perhaps later, more recent challenges haven’t seemed so monumental because of the baptism of fire Norway was.
I was in a permanent state of agitation during that first month, I found the roads altho well made were narrow and often ran alongside steep drop offs or the deep waters of an icy fjord.
As we entered tunnel after poorly lit tunnel capturing glimpses of roughly hewn rock it felt like entering Mordor itself. We neither of us would have been surprised had Gandalf materialized in the road ahead! Listening to The Hobbit on audiobook fuelled our imaginations of course.
At times like this, on the road from Stryn to Geraingerfjord, I truly felt Bilbo’s reluctant adventuring despite this being the culmination of two years of dreaming and planning.
For the first time in my life I experienced a split second almost irresistible deep need to just stop – fight, flight or freeze – but it simply wasn’t an option to stop mid-tunnel with articulated lorries thundering towards me and Norwegian drivers tailgating itching to pull out and zoom past as soon as there was a sliver of room – yep overtaking IN the tunnel was quite usual!
I have felt this ‘freeze’ lurch a few times since, mostly in Norway but also more recently in Italy.
Let me backtrack a little and explain how we ended up in this predicament……..
We had met a variety of people in Melkovell, one such group being a Scottish lady with her husband and their Beagle dog called Whoopee who were on a retirement tour in their MoHo (slang for motorhome, I was getting used to it slowly!). They also had her sister along for a few weeks. Lovely people who were the first native English speakers we’d met in Norway, they gave us lots of info about sourcing LPG (gas for cooking, heating and water) and tips on where to go and what to see.
I had been having my usual obsessive ponderings on how to travel to Geraingerfjord and whether to do the infamous Trollstigen and with their having come from the north I was able to ask a few questions.
They urged me to take the E15 to Stryn and then towards Otta and pick up route 63 at Skjak.
This road I now know to be The Gerainger Road. Constructed in 1889 for horse and carriage it is basically the same road today as it was then altho widening has taken place to accommodate cars, busses and motorhomes of course!
Emboldened by my successful foray off the main drag onto smaller roads in order to get to Melkevoll, which I had traced via Google Earth, I thought ‘hell yes I can do this’ and I deliberately did NOT look at Google Earth, it was time to put my big girl knickers on and get on with it!
So we set off in high spirits and had a spectacular drive back to Olden where we turned right for Stryn. Another lovely run to the small and vibrant town, I would regret not pulling over to stock up later but for now I wanted to push on.
The day was gorgeous and the scenery stunning and as we stayed on the valley floor I was able, for once, to enjoy the views of the lakes and soaring mountains to either side of the valley.
At the tiny village of Hjelle the road swung away from Oppstrynsvatnet and we began to climb out of the valley. Dropping down gears and hauling Eileen around hairpin bends I was able to glance out to my left and see the most amazing views of the valley we had just come from.
Whilst the Gamle Strynesfjellsveg, one of Norway’s famous Tourist Routes, continued on with even more twistiness the newer E15 took a wider sweep towards the new tunnel.
To this point I’d been enjoying the ride, going up has never bothered me or Eileen and I knew there was a tunnel coming up – thanks to the Sat Nav – so yeh, I felt pretty good about this one. I also have a feeling I knew this was a new road and tunnel so what was the worst that could happen right?
Entering tunnels is always a bit of an adjustment as you are plunged into darkness from the bright alpine clear sunshine and this was no different. As my eyes adjusted it quickly became apparent that this was a tunnel built with economy in mind – mostly of scale which I suppose translates to financial in the end.
The narrowest of tunnels yet and not far off the most dimly lit – a Norwegian friend (via the wonderful connection of FB) told me later that even he didn’t understand why they made this tunnel so narrow.
We continued to climb, not as steeply, and I hugged the right hand side as coaches and lorries thundered past on my left. As soon the oncoming lane was clear a car would overtake me and I would instinctively slow down to give them more room to cut back in. This then led to me losing momentum and ending up going even slower thus annoying the people behind even more so they became even keener to get past – vicious circle.
It was in the middle of this tunnel that I had that first fleeting irresistible feeling that I could not go on, I had to just stop right there that instant. It passed in a nano-second but it was unnerving to say the least.
Eventually we burst out of the tunnel into super bright sunshine and I was nearly blinded whilst my eyes adjusted but the relief was palpable!
Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment, cleverly entitled Must Come Down.........
We stayed at Melkevoll for several days, we might have stayed longer had we not be running low on supplies.
It was a great place to recover from the drama of the leaky roof and the never ending rain and the The Fish Supper of Shock - as it shall evermore be known.
The site was lovely, the views incredible, the sauna free and the washing and drying machines of epic and industrial size!
This blog is a visual diary of the days we spent hiking up to the glacier and our attempt to scale the behemoth that is Volefoss.
Sorry to give you a bit of a fright, I know you must have forgotten all about me and the veedubadventure story by now. It's been so long after all.........
So, sweeping past the cobwebs of neglect my blog shall keep slogging on much as Eileen does bless the old girl.........
Now, you may be slightly surprised (or not if you're one of the MoHo fraternity) that there are other intrepid Norwegian Explorers forging trails around the Fjords. Joanne and Craig of Our Bumble fame
had been blazing this trail for a while before us.
On their recommendation I decided to head for a small site called Melkevoll Breton at the end of the Olden valley, on the edge of the Jostedalsbreen National Park and at the foot of two glaciers: Briksdals and Melkevoll itself.
I obsessively Google earth'd the route and had a few email exchanges with Joanne as to the condition of the road - this was to be my first foray off the superhighway that is the E39 (see earlier, frequent references to narrow, twisty and fast).
So yes, it was twisty, uppy and downy but there was less traffic and everyone who was on the road generally travelled more slowly.
As we cruised along the Olden Fjord I felt positively sanguine, being on the inside and therefore not too close to the water's edge was a factor of course!
Of course I was premature in my relief when the already narrow road was further reduced by roadworks with oncoming trucks. I felt sorry for the guy in front with a caravan on the back!
Eventually we arrived in Olden and after a quick stop to see if the local supermarket was any cheaper - we guage this by the cost of a triple pack of custard creams (it wasn't but we bought a supply anyway) - we turned off the 'main' road.
We were now about 10K from the campsite at the end of the road and I pressed on confident we'd be fine because Eileen is smaller dimensions than Joanne & Craig's van called Vin!
The Olden Lake was the most spectacular colour and I was hard pressed to keep my eyes on the road! Tunnels and bridges, sweeps and turns with lots of passing places and, thankfully, not much traffic kept me on my toes and gradually the Melkevoll Glacier came into sight.
We eventually arrived at the end of the valley and pulled in to the campsite where we were invited to choose our pitch as we wishes.
What an incredible pitch I chose, alongside a babbling brook with the Briksdal Glacier towering over over us on the right, the Melkevoll Glacier dead ahead and the amazing crashing and thundering of the Volefoss Waterfall to our right.
The weather had finally cleared and the next few days were to be spent hiking and chilling, Norway was showing us her gems once again............
Whoa! Caught you out there didn’t I? You weren’t expecting another blog update quite so quickly eh!
Well it seems only fair that I keep you on your toes as Norway seems intent on doing the same for me…………
The run to Forde from Bergen was dull, grey and wet and only lifted by the moody blue/black waters of the fjords we drove alongside.
As we plunged into the dark and narrow tunnels my choice of the Hobbit on audio book seemed apt - maybe Gollum would leap out on us......
The terrain became hillier and the road narrower as we travelled deeper into Fjordland and the Jostedalsbreen Glacier – the largest in continental Europe.
I was confident that Forde would ease my LPG concerns as I bounced into the service station shop to ask where I could fill up.
The woman at the till was vehement in her total and absolute refusal to believe it possible to re-fill a gas bottle. With her bark of “NO!” and “it is illegal” she brooked no further protestation from me and shut me down with “anyway the guy who does the LPG is on holiday”. I learned later that Norway (Scandi even perhaps) have a very prescribed fortnight for holidays – so that would explain all the deserted roadworks we’d been passing.
Tired and dispirited and undecided about how best to experience the glacier I pushed on a few more miles to a campsite I’d scoped out online for the night. It had good reviews and a heated water slide – so that was a certain co-pilot catered for!
In fact it turned out to be pretty shabby and the rain continued to drive down but the SPAR onsite was surprisingly cheap and the showers and kitchen were fabulous! We conserved gas and cooked a butter chicken in the kitchen which was delicious.
The “free” wifi was nearly as strong as the everlasting downpour and we’d found a bumper packet of custard creams for 170NOK, every electrical device was whacked on charge and we had a whole day in our PJs hiding from the weather!
On the morning of our second night I discovered the area around the roof vent in the bathroom was damp. As I gingerly pressed against the ceiling damp gave way to soggy, distinctly soggy in fact.
Bloody damn everlasting downpour had finally breached the camper and Eileen was taking on water!!!
OK, maybe that’s a little dramatic. We weren’t about to sink after all, it’s a campervan (or even a MoHo some might say) not a boat but the sinking feeling of dread and rising butterflies of anxiety certainly felt like we were under a very real attack!!!
More googling turned up ONE local caravan/bobil (camping or house car in Norwegian) repair place. I emailed then I Facebook’d them and within 15 minutes I had a reply.
Phew, I had optimistic visions of quickly popping in and whipping out the offending vent, drying out the ceiling and dropping a new vent in.
Bring it on!
Ah, no, they were closed for the holidays and he was away in Italy – I bet it wasn’t bloody p*ssing down in Italy!!!!
Right, no one else was going to fix this but me so off we went to the Co-oP Massive nearby where I bought some sealant. Try doing that in Norwegian – it’s both entertaining and frustrating at the same time!
A fair description of my mood but it did make me smile too!
Back to the campsite for another unholy expensive night but a short break in the rain (didn’t last) enabled T to enjoy the heated water slide at least.
Time for me to face my fear of heights and scale the roof – it’s surprisingly high up there and of course the vent is on the opposite side to the rickety roof ladder.
I am absolutely sure I looked like a proper idiot scrambling up there with my bright green toilet cleaning marigolds (the marigolds to save my highly allergic hands from getting any worse than they already were (who the hell goes on a road trip when they’re allergic to steering wheels…….)), a jay cloth, some wet wipes and a small tube of sealant .
I put all my stuff at the top of the ladder then clambered over the roof rails, hanging on for dear life with my left hand. I shoved everything before me as I shuffled along the roof on my knees and forearms – low profile very important in these situations!
Cleaned the area, found the sealant nozzle blocked and half the tube already gone off so I ended up squeezing lumps out onto my finger and daubing/smoothing it around the offending roof vent seal and hoping for the best.
With relief I regained ground level and made even more use of the electric hook up by spending the rest of the day using my hair dryer on the bathroom ceiling.
Feeling thoroughly fed up with the weather and the worry of LPG and leaky roof I decided to skip the Glacier museum at Fjaerland and head instead directly to Briksdal Glacier.
So that’ll be the next, hopefully drier and more interesting chapter…………
Did anyone ever tell you that committing to writing a travel blog could seriously undermine your mental well being?
There's only so far I can hang my head in shame so let's just agree to ignore the empty wasteland of time that has passed since I last entertained you with trip tales shall we?
Feeling a little tired but quite chuffed with our hike the previous day we left Priekestolen having decided that Bergen would be our next stop.
Having retraced our steps back over Lysefjord on the little ferry I took a right turn into Stavanger with the plan to find some LPG. Before leaving the UK I had a re-fillable bottle system fitted. Supplied by Gas IT (www.gasit.co.uk) with the express intention to make it easier to refill my leisure gas supplies and also save money as traditional bottles can be hard to swap out when not in the UK.
Armed with trusty local info (eg: the 'net) I went in search of Shell garages harbouring a slight anxiety about how to actually perform a refill as my bottle was full before we left so I'd not had to fill up as yet.
Which leads me on to another source of anxiety: why had my bottle lurched from 'full' to 'half full' to 'reserve' in a matter of days! I could tell my bottle capacity because it has a handy guage on it.
Anyway, after hauling Eileen around several Shell garages who did not have LPG I gave up and pointed her north for the long run up to Bergen. The route included 2 more ferries of varying times from less than 10 minutes to about 30/40 minutes long.
I'd already been advised that going over 6m in length sends you up an entire price bracket however as we are only a smidgeon over 6m with the bikes on I cruised up to the first ferry confidently. The ticket booth guy immediately assessed us at 6.5m and the cost of that ferry came in at a whopping 432NOK!! Our next, and final, ferry of the day was actually the longest distance and I hopped out before the ticket booth and unloaded the bikes and put them in the habitation area, lo and behold this ferry came in at 255NOK. With the first ferry costing 88NOK and under that day's exchange rate we spent £69 on ferries alone!
Still, I guess it was a good way to inspect the new skylight and see that the solar panel was still there!
So, as we came back to dry land and blacktop we started the last leg to Bergen and the grey weather continued to close in with intermittent rain showers.
We headed to the Bergen 'aire' as recommended on Camper Contact (Parkings) app which is essentially a glorified car park with a large amount of van spaces but only half the amount of electric points. No facilities other than a chemical loo disposal point, a sink and fresh water tap but a great location for getting into Bergen town centre and all the sights of the city.
We arrived late afternoon and got a slot but no electric hook up and we still had to pay 150NOK for the overnight parking. I switched the fridge onto gas and hoped the bottle would not run out.
We settled in for the night as the heavens opened. The rain came down all night without let up! Some find the patter of rain on the roof a wonderfully cozy reminder of being safe and warm inside your rolling home, not me as it seems a new anxious and neurotic mindset has manifested itself as an unwanted stow-away on this trip!
We awoke to the continuing downpour and consequently did not head out for our sightseeing adventure until around noon-ish.
https://youtu.be/a5InVOSynIg - a video of the rain!
Eventually we arrived in Bryggan and headed for Tourist Info which was utterly over run by tourists - annoying but predictable I guess (insert crying with laughter emoji here).
Whilst I had grand plans to fully absorb all the Unesco sights and sounds of Bergen Tabitha had spotted a leaflet advertising VilVilte, http://www.vilvite.no/english, a hands on science museum on the other side of town.
My sights had been set on the Hanseatic Museum but Tabitha won the day - we hadn't done anything especially kid focussed as yet so altho I was a bit disappointed it was only fair. Only having the afternoon (you can only stay in the aire 2 nights) I knew we wouldn't really have time for anything else.
Well, what can I tell you? If you have kids and you only do one thing in Bergen then this should be it. We both had an absolute blast! And the wifi was really fast and free!!
Despite being kicked out for 15 minutes after a fire alarm went off we managed to do everything at least once, several things twice!
Eventually we headed back to Bryggan on our 2nd tram of the day for a quick wander around the famous harbour front, during a brief break in the rain!
I'd decided previously that we'd have a treat of a fish supper in the famous fish market. Well, to be honest I wasn't massively impressed with either the harbour or the fish market but we were ravenous by now!
We wandered up and down shivering a bit and finally chose our restaurant stand. Tabitha ordered a basic fish and chips and I ordered a 'stick' with some bread and chips too. The girl asked about drinks and suggested a beer and a lemonaid and for some weird reason I said yes. She smiled broadly and told me that would be 480NOK, a grand total of £43 at the day's exchange rate.
I just about recovered to enjoy the meal and was grateful that the portion of chips was generous!
Another night in the aire tho I was less anxious as we'd scored an electric hook up point before going into the city so I wasn't cooking or using the fridge on gas.
The following morning in yet more rain we pulled out of town heading for Forde as I'd been assured there was LPG here! It was also on the way to the Jostedalsbreen National Park where we were going to hike to see our first Glacier.
That'll be Take The Weather With You Part II and I will endeavour not to make you wait 3 weeks for that exciting tale..........
To come: rain, rain, rain and more rain and an exciting climb, not to the glacier but to the roof for emergency repairs!
After leaving London on the 5th of July and leaving the UK on the 12th of July I have only managed one blog post – hangs head in shame!
Being a bit OCD on factual (but hopefully funny) chronological reports this situation has been stressing me out a little. No really, that’s how conscientious (anal) I am!
So much has happened, the day to day business of being on a road trip is exhausting and absorbing and I’ve lost enthusiasm for documenting our last few days before departure.
One of the objectives of this adventure was to step out of the stress yet still I am giving myself a hard time.
So, in a brave attempt to actually live what I speak I have decided to cover 3 weeks in one blog and get up to date!
A bit of a mammoth read to follow then, grab a cuppa, wine or a beer and some biscuits, nibbles or even some pork scratchings and read on………
I left you at T -2 if I recall correctly and those last couple of days involved a lovely day in York with two beautiful girls and a brief meeting with my mum and step-dad in a leisure centre carpark to receive my ADAC documents.
Monday 11th July was to be a ‘tying up loose ends’ day in Hull before heading to the port at Immingham for midnight. A trip to Go Outdoors to pick up a Cadac Safari Chef, a quick stop at Halfords to get a bike trailer hazard sign, ALDI to stock up on dried food items and the bank to do a change of address because over the phone wasn’t allowed.
Hull isn’t actually that easy to navigate and I spent too long umming and ahhing over the Cadac. Halfords don’t sell the signs, no one had a Ridge Monkey (don’t ask!), of the many Lloyds banks I tried to get to not one had convenient parking. Time was running out – I needed new PINS for my credit cards (threw the originals away during mental house clearing) and I couldn’t get them if I didn’t change my address!
Eventually the last branch I could get to, at 4:30pm, appeared on my right on a busy high street surrounded by narrow one way roads. Utterly exhausted of dragging this bloody beast of a van around these suburban areas of Hull in the heat of midsummer – yeh I know the North East hot for goodness sake – I despaired!
Five hundred metres up the road I spotted what I thought was a car park – it was but not a public one. Co-Op Funeral Directors, with one of their Directors in the car park talking to an elderly couple. They looked fairly jolly so I presumed they were not recently bereaved and there to organize a funeral.
I pulled in, jumped out and desperately asked if I could park for 5 mins while I dashed to the bank. Broad smiles matched his broad accent as he assured me “of course you can love, I’m a caravanner me’self so I understand!”
I was so relieved I even considered no longer calling them Shed Draggers……..
Mission accomplished, a quick dash around ASDA (I should have bought more packets) and a trip to Pizza Hut later and we climbed aboard for the drive over to Immingham.
Oh and a last minute small fortune on travel sickness pills and wristbands to augment the ginger nut biscuits – how had I not considered sea sickness as the 27 hour crossing on a freight ferry (aka effin HUGE boat!) loomed large!
Even the gorgeous sunset casting the Humber Bridge in a soft orange glow couldn’t detract from the fear I felt as we drove over it. My hands gripping the wheel and my heart pounding I have a blindingly obvious thought – with my fear of heights what the bloody hell am I doing going to Norway?!?!?!
Too late now………….
Driving onto a freight terminal at 9:30pm at night on a Monday is a weird thing – it’s a bit spooky as it’s just you and one lorry and everywhere seems deserted.
We settled in to wait to board about midnight they said, closer to 2am it was and by then we had an estate car and a van towing a glider trailer to keep us company.
During the wait all the containers around us were towed on board, there was only one “proper” lorry. It never occurred to me that the containers would be dropped at one end, shipped and then picked up by a lorry cab and driver at the other end!
So I was waved ahead to swing around to the ship but before I could drive up the ramp I was flagged down: just swing around and reverse on along that edge of the ramp luv the guy said. Reverse onto a freight ferry FGS, along the edge of the ramp FGS? My pathetic plea to go up the middle then move across to the far right lane was met with kindness, no one sighed and huffed at the incompetent woman driver and they got a nice guy to walk alongside and guide me back.
Then we were escorted up 7 levels to our cabin, very cosy with bunk beds and ensuite bathroom. We crawled into bed and were asleep before the 3am departure with the instruction that breakfast was at 7:30am till 8am.
And so began our time suspended – twenty-seven hours (more in fact as we docked at 8am the following day) without any contact with the outside world. I slept and read my book and slept again. The food was pretty dreadful, the boat rolled and lurched but I didn’t feel at all seasick. Poor T on the other hand didn’t like it at all – she survived on ginger nuts and was pretty subdued the whole time. Overnight it got pretty rough and as this enormous boat lurched and thumped I couldn’t help but think how heavy the seas must be to make it lurch so heavily. Luckily T slept thru the whole thing!
I could have stayed on that boat another day – the absolute isolation was wonderful to me. I could do nothing, there was nothing to do and someone else was driving. The total lack of responsibility was delicious and over too soon!
Gothenburg’s rocky outcrops of islands heralded our disembarkation and we hurried down to Eileen and jumped in. Engine started first time and we rolled off the ferry and onto Scandinavian soil as my mind mantra “on the right, on the right’ began I cast about looking for the exit.
Eventually we found our way and I hopped out at ‘passport control’ only to impatiently waved back in to the van as he opened the barrier for us – not a passport was shown!!
So off we went – find the E6 and go left was the plan. I’d decided to find a nice campsite on the west coast and we ended up near Kungshamn for a couple of days where we had stunning weather and I spent my time doing more ‘shake down jobs’. Oh, and eradicating nits – see earlier blog post!
During which time an old work colleague and good friend pinged me, come up to Arvika on your way to Norway and see us he urged.
So we did! My first spontaneous act – it wasn’t in the plan and it felt like a long way out of our way and the husbilplats (house car parking – a Swedish Aire or Stellplatz) didn’t get great reviews but it would be great to see Clive and meet Eva.
Friday night saw us parked up by the lake and enjoying a drink in the bar by the husbilplats soaking up the sun with fantastic company! Clive had given us a short tour and taken us to see their gorgeous boat.
Saturday we cruised town with Clive and revised the plan to go on the boat that evening – the weather wasn’t great. So we spent a gorgeous evening at Eva and Clive’s place being winded and dined, showered and hula-hoop’d and generally spoiled and pampered!
The next day we set off for Norway – two countries in the space of 5 days! We had fun at the border jumping back and forth over the line and then we were off and immediately we felt the difference in countried. The roads were narrow, twisty and fast!
We were heading to the Bobil Parkering (Bo – house, Bil – car) at Oslo Marina and I was confident we’d find it quite easily.
I was wrong – the tunnel system going into Oslo was our first Norge tunnel and it was quite a shock. Very narrow, very fast and very dark! My eyes aren’t great in low light and the yellow backlit signs with black writing just don’t work for my eyes and sat nav signal fail underground caused me to miss our exit.
We eventually got back on track, I refused the sat nav’s instruction to go up a small and steep road but I then ignored it when I saw a sign for the nautical museums and ended doing a 3 point reversing uphill turn on a narrow lane – smelly clutch and disapproving glances all round!
So, eventually we arrived at the Marina and found a slot in a large car park along with about 200 other motorhome. A pretty spot with showers (10NOK a pop) and toilets in a portakabin, electric hookup and water to hand all for the princely sum of 300NOK per night!
Norway is EYE WATERINGLY expensive!
Over the next couple of days we made good use of our Oslo Pass (transport and museums) and visiting the Kon Tiki Museum (Thor Heyerdahl swoon, teenage crush and Kon Tiki obsession), the Flam Museum, (un)fortunately the Norwegian Pop Museum was closed (T disappointed but I was not!) and actually the best museum was the Munch Museum.
On our one week anniversary we headed out of the city to hug the west coast heading towards Stavanger to do the first of the Norwegian tourist drives at Jaeron.
I cranked out 380 miles that day, had a credit card refused for diesel and went round a nasty one way system 3 times looking for a bobil parking that I couldn’t find.
The roads are narrow and fast, there’s hardly any dual carriageway and the tunnels are frequent, badly lit and emerge onto high bridges.
I lost my water tank filler cap and got flagged down by a concerned Norwegian who thought I was dumping fuel as I swung round roundabouts.
Eventually we found a campsite who, altho full, found a corner for us to stay and I produced an omlette for supper and we fell into bed with me feeling pretty overwhelmed and anxious.
The following day we headed for Ogna via a Co-Op to stock up on food - £51 for not a lot of supplies!!
Two nights at the beach and 10 days in I did our first washing.
I also checked the gas bottle and found the guage had dropped from full to ½ full – eek! So to add to my worry list was the need for LPG and another new experience as I had yet to fill it up for the first time.
I have, in the last week, discovered that refilling LPG bottles in Norway isn’t an easy task, that the gauges on the bottles are not accurate, that Norway closes for a holiday period and anyone who might help you find a filling station or agree to let you fill at the pump is on holiday.
Day 21 (today) and I still don’t have gas……
Right! I really needed to get my mojo going here – things weren’t going according to plan!
Saturday morning we left the beach despite the weather being amazing, we took the Jaeron drive and stopped to enjoy the views whilst keeping our destination in mind.
Priekestolen aka Pulpit’s Rock, a rock plateau that soars 600m above Lsyefjord – an iconic Norway box that I had vowed to tick. I had recently read a blog describing the heartstopping path that led out onto the rock, after the steep 2 hour hike to get there, and was not at all sure I would actually make it on to the rock itself.
This fear of heights was really beginning to weigh in on every aspect of the trip but I was determined to give it a go.
The road to Jorpeland involved our first secondary road – kinda narrow and slightly nervewracking – to our first ferry. Luckily they believed me when I said we were 6m including the bike rack and we paid 88NOK for the 10 minute crossing.
Over the fjord and off the other side we began a good climb out of the village towards the Priekestolen campground I had chosen. Suddenly we were on the outside of the road with a sheer drop down towards the fjord below and my heart was once again in my mouth. Truly this road is benign but it was a nightmare for me! We turned off and with one lurching hairpin bend made it to the campsite.
The following day we got the shuttle bus to the foot of the path and with a backpack full of supplies and spare kit we set off at 10:15am.
What a hike it was, steep steep steps hewn out of stone and laid by Sherpas made it possible to climb but it was still hard work. The sun beat down and we were red faced and sweaty by the time we emerged into a swampy meadow with a wooden path laid out.
On we trudged as we met early birds coming down with more and more tourists joining the throng.
Higher we climbed and the views were spectacular and eventually were were only a few hundred metres away from the plateau.
Anxiety levels rose but I kept going and the narrow path I was expecting wasn’t nearly as bad as my imagination had made it. It wasn’t great either of course, but we were able to hug the rock and find ways to avoid visually acknowledging the sheer drop the fjord below.
Super proud of ourselves we enjoyed our lunch and took loads of photos and watched the throngs as they arrived and left.
We made the hike up in just over 2 hours and the hike back down in just under 2 hours.
It was declared a two ice cream/2 beer day as a celebration which we thoroughly enjoyed!
Bergen next stop………………..
Authors note: I’ve decided there’s too much to tell for one mighty blog post and at 6 pages this one is quite mighty enough!
Bergen, Rain, the world’s most expensive fish n chips, the coolest museum and a soggy bathroom ceiling will all feature in the next exiting installment!!
Driver & Author