Tag Archives: vanlife

The last night of the Scandinavian AdVANture in Europe

Wednesday 20 November 2019

So here it is. My last night on the continent on my Scandinavian AdVANture. This epic journey is reaching it’s conclusion and I’ll be heading for Rotterdam and the ferry home tomorrow.

It has been life changing for me and has made far more of an impression on me than I envisaged.

I have been overwhelmed by some of nature’s most spectacular landscape and I have found that I am very much emotionally involved in the landscape and nature’s importance in my life. I have gained a very small insight into the way that Scandinavian people live, particularly those in the far north and the journey has reinforced my belief that travel is the most important part of any person’s education. If we don’t meet and communicate with other peoples and cultures, in their own country, then we become xenophobic and remain ignorant of the other’s point of view.

A couple of facts and figures –

After over 500 hours of driving I have covered over 14,100 miles (22,700 kilometres) and visited 6 countries, 4 of them twice and 2 of them three times!

Not forgetting that I have made the 12 mile walk to the most northerly point of the European mainland, Knivskjelodden, and raised £1095 for the Alzheimer’s Society in the process. I must say here that I am so grateful to all those lovely people who contributed to my donation pages. Thank you.

I do feel guilty about the amount of pollution I’ve caused by making this journey but when I compare it with the amount of HGVs on the road, my minuscule contribution is put into context.

I’m currently in a rest area in the small Dutch town of Zaltbommel (love that name, it could only be Dutch!) and I’m going to get my head down and leave early in the morning to make my way to Rotterdam.

I’m hoping to get an exhibition together sometime next year of the images I’ve captured and I’m creating a couple of different presentations of the Scandinavian AdVANture. Details in the New year.

Thank you Scandinavia, it’s been a blast!

Heading home

Monday 18 November 2019

Saw Fi to the airport to catch her flight home and I began the journey home.

This journey will take me three days and I’m now in a rest area just west of Odense on the E20 near a village called Skallebolle.

This part of the journey I’m not really looking forward to. The landscape is flat and mainly agricultural. For the most part of the last four months I’ve been on a real natural high and now I really feel I’m coming down to earth to return to my “normal” everyday life.

So I’m heading to Rotterdam via the fastest and easiest route.

Falsterbo, Kolabacken National Park, Skåne

Sunday 10 November 2019

After doing some research on everybody’s favourite search engine I thought it may be interesting to go to Falsterbo, and the Kolabacken National Park there. This is a long sliver of land that sticks out into Øresund just south of Malmo and the Øresund bridge. The Kolabacken National Park is a bird reserve and is famous for migrating birds of many kinds passing through on their long journey.

On the map above you can see Falsterbo Nature Reserve to the south. North of that, the E20 is the Øresund bridge, famous for it’s role in the TV series “The Bridge”.

Falsterbo, Kolabacken National Park, Skåne, Sweden

During the summer this area is also a sanctury for breeding grey seals and is closed off to visitors until the end of October.

Sunset on the Falsterbo, Kolabacken, National Park, Sweden

I have more content to place on this blog and will update it as soon as I can.

Lindesnes Lighthouse

Saturday 2 November 2019

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.

Lindesnes lighthouse on the most southerly point of the Norwegian mainland

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.

Return To Norway!

Friday 25 October 2019

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.

Kongsberg railway station

At 10.0pm I arrived at a rest area next to the Hjartsjå lake and bedded down for the night.

Border Crossing

Tuesday 22nd of October

After breakfast I began heading for Stockholm. It was going to be a long drive and I expected it to take two or three days.

I crossed the border into Sweden and after a few kilometres I had a change of mind. I looked at the map and saw that the journey to Stockholm and then to Malmo where I had to be eventually, was going to be more than a thousand miles further than heading down the Atlantic coast via Gothenburg then on to Malmo. I deliberated and decided it wasn’t worth it. The landscape in Sweden can be quite monotonous, consisting of trees, lakes and small rolling hills and is not the kind of landscape I enjoy.

I would also like to explore more of the Atlantic coast so I plotted a route and as I write this I’m having lunch in a rest area called Vassvikken.

Vassvikken rest area, a place to deliberate

I needed a campsite that evening so as usual I consulted ‘Campercontact’ and saw a place in a marina at Henån on the island of Orust. I thought the coastline might provide some interesting material from a photography point of view and I could spend the day tomorrow driving around the coast looking for good seascapes. 

So that was that and I changed course and got myself down to the island of Orust. The campsite I was heading for was not what I was expecting. There was a huge area avaialable to park in with electric hook up and good wifi. What made it really special was that clothes washing and drying and the showers were included in the price of 150kr (about £12). Brilliant!

First thing was a good shower, oh how I needed a shower!!

OYS Camper Parking, Orust, Sweden
OYS Marina Camper Parking, Orust, Sweden

Oslo and the Vigeland Sculpture Park

Monday 21 October2019

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.

Just one Tesla amongst 15 I counted in this small car park at Frogner Park

There is also a scheme too borrow these scooters to get you around the city.

A great day in Norway’s capital!

A Sunday Drive on the E7

Sunday 20 October 2019

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!)

What a location this house is in and the perfectly still water reflected it beautifully.
The mist floating over the top of the mountain here just made it for me.

A Bridge In Mist and a Huge Waterfall

Friday 18 October 2019

The weather this morning is looking really good. The rest area where I spent the night was adjacent to a magnificent bridge, marking yet another piece of superb engineering by the Norwegians. Hardangerbrua spans Hardangerfjord and this morning it looked superb as the morning cloud began to lift around. To me the cloud looked almost unreal and I took an hour or so to find the best view of the structure.

So I moved on and made my way along route 7 towards Oslo and I passed through the beautiful village of Eidfjord.

Eidfjord and the wonderful colours of autumn
Eidfjord quayside

A little further on I came to a spectacular natural phenomena that is Vøringsfossen. The Vøringsfossen Waterfall has a free fall of 145 metres and a total fall of 182 metres, and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Norway.

Vøringsfossen

To witness the huge volumes of water from the Hardangervidda plateau drop to the valley of Måbødalen below is an impressive sight in natural and idyllic surroundings.

Vøringsfossen

I spent almost two hours at this location and took stills, video and drone footage.

As I got back on to route 7 it began to sleet that added to the already snow covered mountains and I consulted “CamperContact” for nearby campsites. Geilo Camping looked good so I headed for it.

Sleet and snow on a mountain road is not good, time to get down to the valley!

When I got there, it was just what I was looking for and I booked in for the night. With good Wifi and excellent facilities, it was a good choice and doing housekeeping in the van was a good idea.

Bergen

Thursday 17 October 2019

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.

The King’s Road, Stalheimsfossen and Flat Pack Furniture!

Wednesday 16 October 2019

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. 

These information boards can be really informative.

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. 

Stalheimsfossen

I took some stills and then went back to get the drone. 

Stalheimsfossen

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. 

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.