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 :-)
Driver & Author