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.

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Glaciers, Treebeards and Sheep!

Monday 14 October 2019

The first thing I wanted to do today was take some photographs of the Bøyabreen Glacier that I was parked next to. I wanted to get closer to the glacier itself, but due to the size of these things I realised it was much further away than I thought. Access was also difficult because of the steep walls of rock on the approach to it. Finally, I couldn’t see a way around the melt water lake beneath the glacier, so I abandoned any hope of getting closer and reverted, once again, to the 100-400mm lens to get close ups of the summit of the ice.

Bøyabreen Glacier from the glacier lake
Bøyabreen Glacier close up

About an hour’s drive up the road there was another glacier called Supphellebreen. This one came from the same enormous glacier that was out of sight in the mountains behind called Flatbreen glacier . There is a hiking trail up to the edge of Supphellebreen that takes about three hours (each way). There’s more information about this area at the FjordNorway website here. If you are planning a serious roadtrip to Norway, I recommend that you include this are in it. It is stunning.

The glacier is surrounded by rough scrub land dotted with old, twisted birch trees covered in tree beards, that I find really interesting.

woodland surrounding the Supphellebreen glacier

I continued on the E5 heading for Sogndal and whilst stopped for a brew in a rest area, I was closely inspected by sheep no. 66204, who I suspect was expecting some food!

Baa!

I arrived in Sogndal, quite a large town, and continued to a little village called Kjornes and booked into Kjornes Camping for a one night stay. I parked up next to the fjord and settled down for the evening.

Kjornes Camping with Sogndal in the distance.

Right Time, Right Place.

Sunday 13 October 2019

It had crossed my mind this morning to return to a place near Geiranger called Dalsnibba Mountain Plateau but it meant a 5 hour round trip from where I was and though it was somewhere I wanted to photograph, I decided against it and instead headed towards Sogndalsfjøra through the mountains on route 55.

I joined route 615 and came to Lake Lykkjebøvatnet the morning mist was rising from the lake and I knew it was one of those moments when everything is right and you know you’re in the right place at the right time. I spent over an hour photographing this scene from every angle I could think of and the small details of reeds and plants in the lake.

Lake Lykkjebøvatnet

I then came to a village called Byrkjelo in Nordfjord, where artist Stig Eikaas displays his creative collection of large sculptures. Some of the pieces are humourous, some are poignant and others memorialise characters from the area. They are certainly worth some of anyone’s time to observe carefully for a while.

From the sculpture park I could see the mountains that form part of the Jostedalsbreen National Park. The mist was rolling around the peaks and it looked fantastic.

Jostedalsbreen National Park

I put the 100-400mm lens on to get as close as I could to those snowy peaks.

It was now around lunchtime and in a village further on called Byrkjelo I found a superb local bakeri, BakearJon, selling huge cinnamon buns. Unfortunately they were only sold in twos and again, unfortuantely, they were baked the day before, so were being sold for 30NOK (c£2.60) for two! Well it would have been rude not to buy two wouldn’t it 🙂

I thought the day couldn’t get any better until I joined the E39 and drove into a very deep valley called Stardelselva and spotted a small tree, picked out by the sun, with gorgeous autumn coloured leaves between two green trees. Out came the camera again.

Stardelselva

My wildcamp site for the night was the parking area for Bøyabreen glacier. It might be the 13th of the month but this was certainly my lucky day!

Bøyabreen Glacier

Mountain Clouds and Sailing Ships

Saturday 12 October 2019

A cold grey rainy day when I woke up today in the rest area. I must comment on the facilities provided at this rest area, they are superb. Running hot water, very modern clean toilets and a large area to park in. Well done Norway and the Stryn Kommune. (These things are important when you’re living out of a van!)

…they were very clean and warm inside!

I started driving along route 60 then joined the 692 heading west towards Sandane. I’d decided to go to the western tip of this particular group of fjords and eventually to Fløra to look at the landscape that accompanied the fjords I would travel. 

Morning clouds on the mountains

As usual I was not disappointed. The mountains were high and covered in cloud that covered and uncovered the peaks. I stopped on a number of occasions get some images and a time lapse at one point. 

I love these mountains surrounding the fjord

I eventually reached Fløra and found it to be quite a large port town with a couple of old sailing ships moored up in the harbour. 

I had a look around and did a bit of food shopping and then began going back along the peninsula the way I had come on the route 5 and to a rest area called Eikefjord not far out of town to stay for the night. 

The Scariest Photo of my life!

Friday 11 October 2019

Today I had the scariest shoot I’ve ever had. I’d seen a particular location I wanted to try and photograph some time ago and I found it this morning. The light wasn’t perfect (is it ever!) but I thought it would be worth a picture.  There was one small problem. To get the right angle requires the photographer to set up the camera on the edge of a 1000+ feet high cliff. Anyway carrying my full photo rucksack and tripod I made my way to the point I needed to be.  That was fine until I discovered that I suffer from vertigo quite badly. I have never moved so slowly and deliberately in my life. I was on all fours because I just couldn’t bring myself to stand up. So it took me about 15 minutes to just get into position and set the tripod up then attach the camera with the appropriate lens. 

All in all, it took me around 30 minutes to get the image I wanted. I was glad to get back to a safe place, even if I did have to crawl. I hope you like the photograph. I’m very pleased with it, but I’ll be staying away from cliffs in future.

On a cliff edge!

I went into Geiranger to try one of CafeOle’s superb home baked cinnamon buns again because I reckoned I deserved it, but when I got there just after 10am the cafe was still closed so I went back up above the village and took the pathway down the side of the Storesfossen waterfall and got some photos. The pathway takes you back down into Geiranger so once again I called round to the CafeOle that I was happy to see was now open!

Eat cake……!

As I walked through the door the owner greeted me with a smile and asked me which of her freshly baked cinnamon buns I would like? I chose one and got myself a coffee and after a chat I went and sat by the window to watch the passers by outside. 

It didn’t take long to finish my delicious treat and I said my goodbyes to the owner and left to return to the Silver Fox. 

I drove over the mountains south along route 63 eventually joining the E15.

In the mountains I’d noticed icicles on the rock face creating really interesting patterns at the side of the road. I decided to turn around and go and photograph them, well it had to be safer than 1000′ cliffs!

I joined the E15 and headed towards Stryn and as I dropped into the valley and lower ground, once again I was overwhelmed by the colour of the birch trees that lined the road and the mountain sides. They were so vivid. Stunning.

I continued and pulled into a rest area at Stryn with good facilities and set up the van for the night. I was tired, having driven quite a way from Geiranger. Tea time, a bit of editing and blogging and time for bed!

Cinnamon Buns and a Cruise Ship!

Thursday 10 October 2019

Not a great sunrise this morning so off on an early start to make my way to Geiranger. 

Journeyed through some stunning landscape and came to a rest area a few kilometres from Geiranger situated at the top of a mountain with stunning views down towards Geirangerfjord. Flew the drone but not happy with the pictures I got. 

Made my way down to the popular viewpoint not far away and spent some time making pictures from there. 

Geirangerfjord

Even though it’s completely out of season, the tourists were arriving by the coach load from a large cruise ship that was moored in the fjord. 

Geirangerfjord

I made my way down to the small town and had a walk around. It’s a lovely vibrant place that obviously owes a lot to the visiting cruise ships. And why not. 

I found a little coffee shop, the CafeOlé, and when I asked the owner if she had a cinnamon bun, she said, “if you have 30 mins to spare, I’ll bake you one!”  So who could resist an offer like that 😁

Cafe Ole, Geiranger
Cinnaman buns – delicious!

I walked up above the village and took the pathway down the side of the Storesfossen waterfall and got some photos. It was getting dark by this time so I made my way in the van up to the rest area above the village on the route 63. 

There’s a superb viewpoint there that overlooks the whole village and I enjoyed watching the cruise ship AIDA Mar leave the fjord in the dark.

The AIDA Mar leaving Geirangerfjord
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Nysætervatnet Nature Reserve and Trollstigen Pass

  Wednesday 9 October 2019

Got up at 6.0am this morning. It was freezing last night but I was snug as a bug in rug with my quilt and blanket and didn’t need the heater on at all. It was still dark but there was a feint glimmer of dim light in the east. I had breakfast and got the camera gear together for a short hike. 

The rest area was completely empty when I arrived last night but another camper van had arrived and parked right next to me. Why do people do that?!

I was in the Nysætervatnet  Nature Reserve so I took the path at the back of the rest area and began walking, watching the light all the time to see which of the mountains were going to light up in the morning sun first.

After a bout a mile the sun rose and I saw some potential images beginning to appear. The light wasn’t great but certainly worth a go. There are lots of small birch trees or perhaps they’re aspen, I don’t know how to tell the difference, anyway they’d make good subjects if I could find a good composition. 

Nysætervatnet  Nature Reserve

I took a few images and made my way back to the van.

Nysætervatnet  Nature Reserve

I intended to go and see the Trollstigen pass today so off I went .

Trollstigen pass is a unique piece of highway. I am amazed that, what was obviously just a pony track, has been made into a perfectly good vehicle roadway. You can see in the pictures what I mean. A very robust and extensive viewing platform has been built, together with a centre that explains the history of the road and, of course, a souvenir shop. You won’t be surprise when I tell you that the centre was closed and only opens in the summer months.

Trollstigen Pass

I then made my way back to the same rest area for a good night’s kip!

Autumn leaves, Arctic Circle Centre and Antony Gormley

Wednesday 2 October 2019

From the campsite at Straumen, after a good night’s sleep, I once again joined the E6 and headed south towards Mo I Rana. I’d read that Antony Gormley had a sculpture there that stood out in the fjord.

2.30pm Autumn leaves and a wreck

Where the E6 crosses the River Luonosjåhkå I parked up to look for a place to photograph the woods there but walked down to the river to photograph the beautiful colour of the trees in their autumn foliage.

The colour of the trees” foliage was amazing

However, right next to this spot was this old wreck that’s just been abandoned there. seems a bit strange that it’s never been moved, its obviously been there for many years.

Why?

3.30pm The Arctic Circle Centre

I couldn’t really drive past the Arctic Circle Centre when I saw it coming up in front of me now could I?? After all this was a momentous moment in the road trip. After two months north of the Arctic Circle I was now leaving the Arctic and really moving southward. I called in and found a huge souvenir shop! I was told by the guy behind the counter that they also had a 150 seat cinema in the building too, but like many things this far north, it was closed as from 1 September for the winter. So I had a look around and took the obligatory ‘selfie’ and went on my way.

Crossing the line at 66° 33′ N. And to think I was clean shaven when I started this trip!
“Silver Fox” outside the Arctic Circle Centre

5.0pm Mo I Rana

On arrival in the town of Mo I Rana, I had no trouble locating the sculpture and parked up to have a closer look. Mo I Rana is quite a big town and I didn’t want to stay overnight in the town. I wanted to get a photograph of Havmann and park up somewhere out of town for the night away from the traffic.

Havmann “The Man from the Sea” is a granite stone sculpture by the English artist Antony Gormley located in the city of Mo i Rana in Northern Norway. The sculpture stands proud in the “Ranfjord” in the city of Mo i Rana, which is often referred to in Norway as “Polarsirkelbyen” (in English: the “Arctic Circle City”). The sculpture is 11 metres (36 ft) tall, weighs 60 tonnes (59 long tons; 66 short tons), and according to Lonely Planet is “forever up to his knees in water, turns his back on the town and gazes resolutely out over the fjord“.[1]

Havmann by Antony Gormley located in the town of Mo I Ran

It was getting dark already and I thought a long exposure image of the sculpture showing its position in the fjord was the best approach.

It’s been an interesting day!

Reflections

Tuesday 1 October 2019

0900 Tømmerneset

Woke up to a fine morning and sorted the van out ready for travel. I’m now about two and a half hours drive from Bodø, so a gentle amble in that direction and see what I come across on the way. 

1130

A change of plan! Before setting off I decided to take a little wander in the area of the rest area and found a gem of a place made up of small pools containing water plants with really good reflections. I ended up spending 2 hours photographing small details. 

And so I made my way south on the E6 passing through Moan (I’m sure it doesn’t mean the same in Norwegian!), Sildhopen, Vesterbotn and Straumen where I stopped and checked into the Strømhaug Camping campsite, having decided it was time I had a shower!!

I spent the rest of the day tidying the van up and giving it a clean inside (it has to be done sometime) and tidying myself up with a shower and washing some clothes.

The evening was spent processing photographs and writing this blog.

Time to begin the journey south

Monday 30 September 2019

Woke up to snowfall around the van. I guess the Arctic winter is about to kick in. More snow is forecast throughout the day here. Trying to decide if I should stay here and shoot some snow scenes (more snow forecast for the next two days) or head back to Norway and the coast, where it’s 10 degrees warmer. Decisions.

0900

Decided to play safe and head back down the mountains. The snow continued to fall and there was a distinct possibility I would get snow bound in Sweden. I returned over the border back into Norway. So I’m now on my way to Skardberg where I’ll get the ferry to Bognes and I’ll head down to Bodø. 

The journey down the mountain was fairly uneventful though some careful driving driving was required to negotiate some of the tight bends at the same time as large articulated trucks coming the other way! 

1630

Caught the ferry from Skardberg to Bognes that took about 30 minutes and then continued down the E-6, eventually stopping in a large rest area near Tømmerneset with half decent facilities. 

On the way I passed Lake Skilvatnet and got some nice images of the sun going down over the lake with some grasses in the foreground. Certainly worth working on when I get home.

Lake Skilvatnet

The rain, that seemed to be following me most of the day, eased off and I settled down for a quiet, but chilly, night. The temperature now falls to freezing and just below most nights. 

I wild camped that evening on the shores of Lake Sardnesvatnet. Very pleasant.

Abisko Canyon

Sunday 29 September 2019

Abisko Canyon turned out to be a really interesting place. On first arrival it looks like a great torrent of water is pouring from a hole in the rock but various, very helpful information panels tell you that at the end of the nineteenth century railway workers had diverted the river through the hole in the rock they had blasted out, in order to avoid the expense of building a bridge across a fast flowing river.

The man made hole in the canyon wall.

The rest of the canyon makes its way downstream for about a kilometre and on the banks there are a number of, what look to me like, alpine plants. I’m not very well informed on wild plants so I’d appreciate any comments as to what the plants are.

I’ve never seen these plants before. Any suggestions as to what they are would be welcome.

There was also a very incongruous looking symbol of the National Park. See the photograph below –

Also in the same area was a military museum informing visitors about the Defense Rangers of the local area, their history and equipment.

Let’s go to Abisko Canyon in Sweden!

Saturday 28 September 2019

Had a sleep-in this morning until 9.0am after staying up until 2.0am. I shot lots of photos of a brilliant aurora display and on returning to the van I did some catching up on the blog.

There were some lovely reflections in the fjord this morning of the cabins on the campsite that have been built in the style of the old rorbu or fishermen’s cabins.

Whilst having breakfast in the kitchen I got chatting to a Dutch guy who was also travelling. He had been on the road for two months like me but unlike me he had no end date. We got chatting about global warming and how it’s altering the seasons here in Norway according to the local people. I really enjoy meeting people on this trip and though it’s usually only for a few minutes, it’s encouraging to find so many positive people who just enjoying travelling.

I left the campsite at Brustranda Sjøcamping and thought I’d try something I’ve had in mind for a while – flying the drone under one of those beautiful modern bridges they have here. I did it and to be honest I was a bit disappointed with the result. I’ll try it again later.

I had contact with Tim Parkin on Facebook who told me about Abisko canyon just over the border in Sweden and I decided that that would be my next port of call. However it is a five hour drive!

The weather doesn’t look good for the next few days but I can’t do anything about it so I’ll just head over to Sweden and see what happens.

On the way I was struck by the glorious colour of the leaves as they turned from green to gold. Autumn was really kicking in now and I knew it wouldn’t be long before winter was upon us and I really must begin heading south.

I’m basically following the E10 off the Lofoten islands and towards Sweden.

On the way I past a memorial to…..well, I’ll let the memorial explain.

I had a look round for a while and tried to image the horror they must have gone through. War does such terrible things and in the end you have to ask what is the point of all this suffering?

I found Abisko Canyon quite easily and found a quiet place to spend the night.