Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tolls and trolls

Largest of the Gerainger trolls
Looking a bit wild and woolly after sleeping in the car, I woke early to retrace the route 64 Atlantic Highway bridges for the third and last time. Today's destination was Gerainger, a village at one end of Norway's most spectacular fjords; getting there would involve several ferry crossings and circuitous mountain navigation.

First it was towards Molde, and then two ferries crossing towards Andalsnes, still part of route 64, until I could take the "tourist road 63" through Trollstigen, with one final ferry crossing to get me on the last stretch of road. With each ferry costing 50-100 NOK, and at least 6 of them in the last 24 hours for covering a comparatively short distance, you can see how quickly it can dent a day's budget, and also how Norwegians might prefer boat/air for any distances.

Mountains around Isterdalen

Isterdalen Valley

Looking back down Isterdalen

Finally turning onto route 63, I could see I had a beautiful sweep of the Isterdalen Valley ahead, before a steep mountain climb: the Trollstigen, or Troll's staircase. Sadly, as I approached that climb, signs warned that the road was closed. It took some time to work out an alternate route, which would take 2-3 hours, and I wondered why the road closure wasn't posted further back on the northern approach, saving drivers time and fuel (there was a stream of cars turning back at the same point). I see from the official webpage, that I missed the opening of the route by less than 24 hours.

The descent into Gerainger is quite spectacular, 600+ m above sea-level with a steep series of switchbacks to bring us down to the water's edge.

Eagle's staircase; Hellsylt
The village itself is OK although marred by an excess of gift shops selling souvenirs emblazoned with trolls, the Norwegian version of Ireland's leprechaun trade. Or you could continue the National Day's Disney theme and buy a laser-etched crystal with a picture of the Lady and the Tramp. Nothing says fjords like two cartoon dogs in love!

Gerainger car ferry
I misread the ferry timetable and was stuck there for 4 hours as the summer timetable had yet to start, so the service was halved. I used that time to look for Bergen accommodation online but was depressed by lack of options. It wasn't totally No-way Ole for dogs, but one hostelier grumbled over the phone: "it's not my rule".

Me and Kalle
On the ferry to Hellsylt, I met two holidaying Finns: Pentti and Kalle (the spelling is a guess, sorry!!). We shared duties spotting the remnants of farms perched precariously along the fjord walls. Apparently the children had to be tethered to prevent them toddling off the edge.

Along the road to Bergen (it now being too late to reach anywhere nearby) I found a campsite cabin at Byrkjelobrua.

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