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.........