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!!