I do seem to have developed a real interest in lighthouses on this trip. I think it’s becasue of the remote landscape that many of them are built on. Today I visited the lighthouse at Lindesnes at the most southerly point on the Norwegian mainland.
There is an extremely good visitor centre there and the whole history of the place is fascinating and is described in the centre with a museum and a cinema showing a couple of very well produced short films. If you get the chance I thoroughly recommend you pay a visit. I did and signed the visitors book inside the lighthouse.
This lighthouse is still operational and is staffed by two keepers who work two weeks and two weeks off. I have created a video of my visit to the lighthouse and I will post that when I get home and have more bandwith to do so.
I continued my journey and made my way to the E18 to slowly make my way back to Sweden as I could see that the weather was really beginning to turn wintry and I didn’t want to stuck up in the mountains of this National Park.
I found a rest area in the Gjerstad kommune called, Østerholtheia and decided this would be a good place to wild camp for the night.
November already, means I have just 22 days left of this epic road trip and it seems to have gone by so fast, as I always knew it would. I have really tried to observe, appreciate and retain all the amazing places and landscapes I have seen. So here we go with the rest of the Scandinavian AdVANture.
Whilst driving along route 44 today I came across what seemed like an out of place war memorial. It commemorated four New Zealand airmen who died whilst on a raid on Jossingfjord just three days before the end of the war in 1945. You can read about the story in more detail here. This memorial is on an extremely steep cliff face where the road passes between two tunnels.
We must never forget how much sacrifice our freedom cost.
I was going to drive into Stavanger today to have a look around the town, but the closer I got and the busier the traffic became, I just went off the idea. I’m becoming very averse to large conurbations, busy traffic and crowds of people. I just prefer to be in areas of space and peace and, above all, silence, where I can enjoy the feeling of being at one with the landscape and just make images.
I turned around and joined the E39 south. I then turned off onto the 504 to head for the coast. My idea was to follow the coast road towards Kristiansand, rather than just drive on the E39 across country. I’m so glad I did.
My first stop was a tiny fishing harbour called Kvassheim that had an old lighthouse (I like lighthouses!). Whilst photographing this quaint and pretty harbour, I had the most amazing experience. A rainbow began to form in the distance, so I set up to photograph it. As the rainbow developed I could see where it began and ended, quite unusual I find. Then the rainbow began moving closer to me and continued developing until it formed almost a full circle and appeared to be just a few feet in front of me. It was amazing. The photograph doesn’t show the full extent of it but it was truly breathtaking. I was stood on the harbour wall and I could see one end on the left of the wall and the other on the other side of the wall to my right.
The little harbour and the lighthouse were like a place where time had stood still for quite a while as you can see.
From there I continued southward along the coast road. By lunchtime I had reached the UNESCO Magma Geopark (thanks to Google maps) and parked up to make what I thought would be a casual stroll around the area. However, I discovered that this Geopark is huge! It’s also quite unique in geological terms, though to be honest my knowledge of geology is not great, so I had difficulty in understanding the true significance of the area.
I did read though that the surface of the moon is made up of two types of rock anorthosite and plagioclase. Here at the Magma Geopark at Ytstebrød, Apollo 17 astronaut, Harrison Schmitt, studied anorthosite before landing on the moon in December 1972. The area is almost unique in being made up of anorthosite and is said to have a “moon landscape”.
I had a walk around the area for a couple of hours and made a number of images. But I noticed a storm approaching from the sea and after making the image below I quickly made my way back to the van about a mile away!
A little further down the coast I passed this rather bazarre piece of “art” at the side of the road, next to a replica wild west saloon.
I also came across this lovely piece of natural sculpture in the form of a tree clinging to the rock. I’m not sure if there was any life left in the tree but it reminede me of a bonsai. the textures of the tree and the rock were lovely.
I wildcamped in a rest area that evening with this lovely sunset to finish the evening off. A good day!
Yesterday was a domestic day. I washed all my clothes, washed the bedding and generally tidied and cleaned the van. I finished off yesterday with some catching up on this blog.
It was quite a bit cheaper to buy food in Sweden so made a visit to the supermarket first thing and got a few essentials in like chocolate and cake 😁. I filled up with fresh water and emptied the grey water and with all my clothes and bedding washed the day before I was ready to roll.
The plan (yes I had a plan) was to drive north west, avoiding Oslo, and head to the mountains of the Hardranger National Park. Once there I could explore the area properly for about a week and take advantage of the good weather that was forecast for the next few days.
So off I went straight up the E6 back into Norway, then turned left on to the E134 and through the Oslofjord Tunnel which is pretty impressive as it’s 7.5 km long and goes under the fjord. It has very steep inclines going into and out of the tunnel, a magnificent feat of engineering once again.
I then reached Kongsberg, just passed Drammen, and I was going to stay the night there but it was just too noisy and urban so I made the decision to head up to the mountains this evening, or at least part of the way.
At 10.0pm I arrived at a rest area next to the Hjartsjå lake and bedded down for the night.
Oslo’s Vigeland Park, is the largest sculpture park in the world by a single artist, boasting over 200 pieces by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland
This sculpture park in the Frogner Park, Oslo with more than 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland (1869–1943) in bronze, granite and cast iron, including The Angry Boy (Sinnataggen in Norwegian), The Monolith (Monolitten) and The Wheel of Life (Livshjulet) really is a must visit place if you’re in the Norwaegian capital.
Vigeland was also responsible for the design and architectural outline of the park, which is one of Norway’s top tourist attractions, with more than one million annual visitors.
I spent a good half day there and became completely immersed in viewing the sculptures, all of which are life like and of people varying in age from newly born to near death. It is exquisite and my camera was constantly clicking, trying to capture the beauty and the expressions on the faces of the subjects in various materials.
Just to add to the overall gorgeousness (is that actually a word??) of the place, the trees were in full autumn colour and looked fabulous.
As the light began to fade it was time to leave and make my way out of the city. Oslo is a vibrant and busy city and I promised myself I would return when the opportunity arose, there is so much more to see.
One thing I must mention here, is the fact that Oslo is full of Tesla, and other electric vehicles. Having rarely seen a Tesla before, I was struck by how many there were. One can understand why when you see that all the bus/taxi only lanes are full of them, whilst we drivers of the great polluters queue to move a few yards. This is also something I’ve noticed in the rest of Norway, electric vehicles are everywhere and the recharge network is in evidence from the far north to the capital city. I feel it is something we should seriously try to address in the UK.
There is also a scheme too borrow these scooters to get you around the city.
I left the excellent campsite at Geilo and took to the E7 route heading south. The trees were just stunning in their autumn colours that seem to get more saturated as each day passes. Near a place called Nes in Buskerund Kommune I came to Lake Hallingdalselva where the reflection of the wooded area opposite was just exquisite. Once again I saw a house that seemed to have been built in just an ideal location. The whole scene just had to be photographed.
The silver birch trees above made a really good tryptic I thought (I may swap them around when I get round to printing them!)
It was a drizzly, miserable day when I woke up in the staff car park of the IKEA store near Bergen. I’d been awake since 6.0am when staff began arriving for work. I was going to take the opportunity of using the IKEA free bus into town which started the day 10.0am so I had plenty of time to have breakfast and get the van sorted out and park it in the main car park, where I felt it would be safe to leave for the day.
The bus journey into Bergen was excellent. The coach they used was very comfortable and each seat had individual seat belts, which the driver insisted everyone put on before starting the journey.
I got off the bus in the centre of town and began looking round. Bergen has a very old street on the waterfront, that’s apparently recognised by UNESCO as being of special significance due to the age of the shop fronts there and is a protected World Heritage Site.
Things were looking very damp this particular day and it was apparent that some of the buildings were definitely wonky due to their age.
I found Bergen to be a really interesting town with lots of quirky and old buildings like this one with a huge mural painted on the side.
I took a walk along the harbour side and came across the Green peace ship Rainbow Warrior tied up in one of the inlets. I have to say she was looking a bit worse for wear and exhibiting some obvious battle scars, but it was good to see she was still around.
Further along the quayside I saw some huge deep sea trawlers. I couldn’t get very close because that part of the port was fenced off, but they were very impressive.
I made my way back to the centre and on the harbour side there I saw a fish stall and restaurant and thought I’d see if there was anything I could afford. I chose to have a bowl of their fish soup and it was absolutely delicious and contained a dozen scallops, prawns, pieces of lobster and crab, all in a delicious soup. It was served with bread and butter and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
So at 3.0pm I caught the bus back to IKEA and got back in the van ready to begin the journey to Oslo. I really enjoyed Bergen and would definitely consider going for a long weekend sometime. There’s plenty to do and see there. Thanks to IKEA!
On the road again I came to a large rest area with good facilities and decided to bed down for the night.
I woke up this morning surrounded by huge mountains. I’d parked up in the rest area a near the village of Stalheim on the E16 when it was dark and didn’t really see my surroundings. They looked very foreboding in the cold grey light of a rainy morning. So I had some breakfast and got ready to move on.
I’d only travelled a couple of kilometres up the road when I spotted a large waterfall on my left that definitely looked worth exploring. So I parked up and and looked at the information board nearby.
Turns out I was on the remains of the “Royal Road Between Oslo and Bergen” and the waterfall was Stalheimsfossen.
So I walked the 0.9 kilometre with the Sony camera and kit to see what I could see.
On reaching the waterfall it was quite impressive, being about 400 feet high and roaring, as the water plunged vertically over the cliff edge.
I took some stills and then went back to get the drone.
I filmed a couple of minutes of drone footage and then returned to the van to continue on the E16 towards Bergen. I passed through Voss and Vaksdal and arrived in Bergen around 4.30pm.
I found from “Campercontact” that IKEA, near Bergen , allowed campervans to stay overnight in their car park so I parked up there and discretely sorted the van out for a night stay.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I took a few images and made my way back to the van.
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.
I then made my way back to the same rest area for a good night’s kip!
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.
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.
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.
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“.
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.
I had spent the night at a campsite called Sildpollnes Sjøcamp in a tiny community called Valan, which sticks out on a small peninsular in the area of Vågan, Nordland. It was a really pleasant site and the location was very picturesque. There was a white church a few metres from where I parked the van and later, as I prepared to leave, I put the drone up to get an aerial view of the site. The water was completely still and the reflection of the mountains in the fjord was stunning.
I left Valan but stopped about a kilometre up the road at a rest area that gave a great view over the fjord and the harbour I had just come from. I spent more than two hours making images from all kinds of angles and perspectives. I watched as a small fishing boat returning to the harbour was dwarfed by the huge mountains in the background where it had been fishing.
The weather was perfect. I’ve been so lucky with the weather, it could have been so different had the weather not played the game for me.
Passing a tiny harbour called Nappsvågen I noticed three large trawlers moored up in a row with the afternoon sun lighting them up. Well I couldn’t miss an opportunity like that.
I had decided to spend a few more days on the Lofoten Islands before I had to start thinking about heading south, so I headed for Flakstad beach where Fiona and I had really enjoyed our time a few days previously. Also the Aurora forecast promised a bit of a spectacular this evening.
On arrival at Flakstad I headed straight for Skagsanden Beach (its real name) and the colours of the dying sun did not disappoint. The setting sun was lighting up the west face of Trolldalsvatnet mountain and using the 16mm lens I was able to get an image using the foreground rocks on the beach as leading lines pointing straight at the mountain. I really like this image.
There were quite a few people on the beach and many of them were on road trips like me. I met and got talking to a couple from Luxembourg/Belgium who were travelling together with no end date for their journey. There were also two German guys, one of whom was married to an Australian woman, who were all travelling together on a long holiday from their home in Munich. She was an excellent portrait and wedding photographer. Take a look at her work here. She was also a great talker!!
As the evening wore on and the sun sank lower creating beautiful deep yellows and then reds in the sky, everyone was getting more and more excited at the prospect of a really special Aurora show.
Sure enough around 11.0pm the Northern Lights spectacular began! It was just awe inspiring! The Aurora seemed to fill the sky and wrap itself around everyone. It was like a multi tentacled green monster about to devour whatever it felt like. Yet it also seemed that I could just reach out and touch it, even though it was many miles high, because it filled the sky it felt so close. This was certainly something I shall never forget.
And then it was all over. After around 30 minutes, everything just faded away. But everyone on the beach was just speechless. We all then went back to our vehicles to ponder on what we had just witnessed and how we could describe it to our friends and families. What an end to an unforgettable day.