With over 36 hours of music lined up on a Spotify playlist, consisting of a strange collection of rock and roll, 80’s pop and to the chagrin of Holly, the occasional Eurovision bop, the long awaited road trip was finally here!
The day started off like all the others, with a train journey from Oslo to Lillehammer, until disaster struck with the horrific realisation that there was no Uber service in Lillehammer. Luckily, a short 20 minute bus was able to get us from the station to the car hire. Then we were fully ready to pick up our small, manual Toyota Yaris and get going. Which is why were a little confused to arrive at the car hire and see the small vehicle selection of a white Van, a Jeep and a hybrid, automatic, Toyota CH-R- the latter of which turned out to be ours. Even so, nothing could distract from the excitement of the road trip and we were off! Straight into the car park of the Kiwi across the road where Holly promptly called her parents for a crash course in how to drive an automatic. However, despite all of the initial worry, Holly soon got the hang of it and we are proud to say that there were no mishaps along the way - at least as a result of Holly’s driving. That being said, if you ever find yourself driving around Norway, be aware of the sheer amount of sheep warning signs that you will encounter, as well as the subsequent sheer amount of real-life sheep that you will have to avoid as they relax in the middle of the road. Luckily, the same cannot be said for the cow and moose warning signs- they still remain a mystery.
Our first attraction of the journey was the Borgund Stave church, however, the sheep when mixed with the careful driving and the need to stop at every picnic spot to take in the scenery, meant that we arrived once it had closed. We can say though with certainty that the outside of the Church was very impressive and looked just like the photos. I’m sure the visitors centre was very informative and worth a visit.
We arrived at our campsite very late and very exhausted, and whilst from the pictures, the campsite seemed quite rudimental, we were pleasantly surprised by the comfortable lodgings, and the incredible beauty of the surroundings. The only way to get to Laerdal is through a tunnel, and so the campsite is surrounded on three sides by mountains and the fourth by the mouth of a fjord. On our walk around the campsite we discovered a mini racecourse complete with a set of tricycles but, despite the numerous persuasive tactics attempted by Tamsyn, the mini tricycles remained undisturbed and no epic race ensued. Instead we settled for watching the sunset over the fjord before catching some sleep.
Admittedly, though we originally planned on leaving early, it was slightly harder dragging ourselves out of bed in the morning than we thought, and by the time we finally pumped the air tyres and left, it was already 1pm. As we thought it would only be a 4 hour drive, this wasn’t a problem until we ended up stuck in a traffic jam halfway up a steep mountain road. There was a silver lining however, as this was when Holly discovered her undying love for Spanish corn. After multiple conversations with fellow stuck travellers, granted only after they realised our inability to understand Norwegian, and the arrival of police cars, the caravan causing the traffic jam was freed from the side of the road and we were off again!
On a slight detour, we drove towards Sognefjellsvegen, on steep mountain roads. Holly’s skillful driving took us up into the snow, and stunning, but cold picnic spots that Tamsyn was finally able to utilise her trench coat for.
The detours and numerous stop and starts for views, meant our arrival to Olden, was late, late enough that all shops in Olden were closed… And thus begins our food troubles. We should really have named this blog the epic journey to find food. For it was epic. It began with a 15 minute drive to the next town over to raid a kiwi for food. After spending quite some time selecting our sandwiches, we finally got to the checkout only to realise that neither of us had the braincells to actually bring a debit card with us. So we unfortunately had to drive back to Olden in order to grab money. About 5 minutes before getting to the hotel, Tamsyn then had the realisation that Holly could have easily just paid using her phone, to which Holly immediately turned the car back around. You can imagine then, that by the time we finally got back into our hotel room, we were beyond ready to eat and get to bed for the long day in front of us.
If you go fjord viewing in Norway, you can’t leave the country without visiting the most famous of all, Geirangerfjord! Hellesylt was just a 1hr drive from our hotel in Olden, and so we drove down to the ferry port to catch a ferry to Geiranger. This was the part that Holly had felt most anxious about doing in the unfamiliar car, however, because of the helpful directions of the ferry staff and her pure skill, she parked perfectly first time. Success… until they asked her to switch to a different spot and her brain melted. Sensing her distress they very kindly (and much to the embarrassment of Holly) directed her to the much larger campervan spot where Holly then managed to top off her embarrassment by setting off the car horn with her head somehow. We secured two seats upstairs but because it was so windy, Tamsyn had to lock down Holly’s vacant chair with her legs which Holly very rudely rejected in order to sit downstairs in the warm. But whilst the weather conditions weren’t optimal, the journey was still gorgeous. The fjord is surrounded on all sides by towering cliff sides, and waterfalls cascading down into the water. Small abandoned farm houses lay at the bottom of these imposing cliffs, and Geiranger truly deserves its title as Norway’s most beloved fjord.
After parking up the road from the ferry port, we meandered through the small market-like port, picking up small troll figurines and attempting to try the famous local chocolate. I say attempt, as Tamsyn did not have the patience to wait in the small but extremely slow moving queue, and soon gave up. Instead, we went on the waterfall hike, just past the shops, which was brief but very wet. Was it the rain? Was it the waterfall? Or was it exhaustion from the large amount of steps it took to reach the top. Who needs the stair master when you’re in Norway.
Luckily the skywalk did not require more steps, and a 40 minute drive and £30 entrance fee had us on the top of a mountain overlooking Geiranger. The view was spectacular, or would have been if it wasn’t entirely covered by clouds. Though the pure entertainment of seeing Holly dance around in a poncho was worth the rather steep price. From there it was just a couple hours of driving through yet more tunnels, and stunning fjords back to the hotel.
Glacier time. Oooooh. After deciding that we had spent too much time sat in a car, we thought a hike would be the perfect way to stretch our legs. Obviously we had forgotten the horrors of Bergen. We had learned something from our mistake however and googled reviews of the hike. The consensus seemed to be short but steep. We arrived along with lots of other cars and coaches and began our ascent. We did well and managed to do 15 mins uphill before Tamsyn revealed that she needed to pee, and instead of going to the convenient café at the beginning of the walk, wanted to live life on the edge and wait the two hours until we would be back at the beginning again. I suppose this may have been a blessing in disguise as it certainly motivated her to walk faster. The route followed the fast flowing river which came from the meltwater of the glacier itself and was dotted with odd rock formations and small caves which were explained with signs and text. The glacier was beautiful and not even our burning legs could distract us from the scenery, with us staying as long as we dared before Tamsyn had to pretty much jog the rest of the way down.
We then made our way back to the hotel where Holly declared that was enough movement for that day and passed out, leaving Tamsyn to venture out on her own in search of food.
This leg of the journey was dominated mostly by eager attempts to spot an elusive reindeer, as the reindeer signs along the road got us far too hyped up. That, and the attempts by Holly to skip the Eurovision songs when thinking Tamsyn was asleep. I won’t lie and say by this point of the trip, the complete lack of space wasn’t ever so slightly coming into effect, as evident by the argument not just over the skipping of songs, but the issue of the puppies. Close to the entrance of our campsite, Tamsyn spotted a sign pointing to the Husky lodge, which after realising offered time slots to cuddle with husky puppies for a price, immediately begged Holly to stop at. Which Holly refused to do. Many times. Hence the argument. It was a relief then, to arrive at our campsite… until we realised that the reason there was no one around was that it wasn’t open yet. Unfortunately we hadn’t checked the check-in times, because who thinks to check these things? Not us clearly. There was a café back past the husky lodge that served apple pie and coffee, so we waited it out in comfort.
The cabin we ended up staying in was surprisingly spacious, as instead of one room in a shared space like we had thought, we ended up with two bedrooms in a private cabin, though it didn’t come without a cost. That cost being mosquitos. Lots of mosquitos. Aside from this and the discovery of Holly’s fight or flight response, which resulted in Tamsyn being smacked in the face on entry to the bedroom from Holly waking up from a nap, the evening was uneventful.
There’s not a whole lot to say about this day, it was a short drive from our campsite to the car rental in Lillehammer, and a uneventful journey back to Oslo. Yes I know, what a surprise, we’re back in Oslo! Luckily no bathroom battles this time, Hollys toes can stay intact. We spent the night in dread of the marathon of a train journey on the horizon, and Tamsyn stealing the duvet again of course. Though the strange presence standing over the bed in the middle of the night was new, thanks to a mysterious fight happening outside the window which Holly found very interesting.