Let the Jaw-dropping scenery begin!!!

Trip Start Jul 14, 2012
Trip End Jul 29, 2012

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Flag of Norway  , Western Fjords,
Friday, July 20, 2012

 After breakfast, we loaded up and started our drive to the beautiful fjords of Norway!. The further away we got from Oslo, the more beautiful and dramatic the scenery became. SteveB did all of the driving, as he is much more confident with the manual transmission. We hit a few rain showers along the way, but by the time we arrived at the fjords, the weather was nice (although once on the ferry, it was quite windy and cool in places).

The transition from Oslo to the countryside happens quickly and we soon found ourselves in rolling hills, cute villages, lakes, and farms. The roadtrip today involved a series of mountain roads and ferries across the fjords in order to reach our hotel in Balestrand. The drive from Oslo to Laerdal to catch the first ferry was largely uneventful, with intermittent rain showers. The highlight was all of the waterfalls we saw along the way. The closer we got to the Sognefjord, the more waterfalls we saw. They were literally on all sides and around every turn. Some were very tall, some were shorter, but with more water volume. All were great.

We arrived in Laerdal with plenty of time to spare for our ferry, so we just enjoyed the break and had a little food and drink. Before we knew it, the van was on the ferry and we were on deck enjoying our cruise on the fjords. Our trip would take us from Laerdal to Gudvangen in about three hours. We were just in awe of the scenery. The fjords are so beautiful, the landacape seems to be on such a large scale, and there is something to see in every direction. I'm not sure how many pictures were taken, but I know if was more than a few.

Upon arriving in Gudvangen we drove the van off the ferry and started the ride to Vangsnes, where we would catch the next ferry to Dragsvik. The drive between Gudvangen and Vangsnes includes a large stretch across what feels like the top of the world. It is very sparsely populated, has very narrow roads (a one lane road that actually has two-way traffic). SteveB did a great job driving us through all parts of the trip today, handling all the steep switchbacks and hairpins very well. Along this stretch of road, we came across a large flock of sheep along the road. We always like a close encounter with animals, so we pulled over for some photos. We quickly learned that these sheep are used to being fed by people and they came right up to us expecting some food. We had none in our hands, but they were sniffing all of us and making a lot of noise. Some were even licking our van. SteveB decided to get some pretzels out of the van and feed some of them to the sheep. Soon he was completely surrounded by sheep who were competing for the pretzels. It was quite a scene. As I was squatting down to get some video of all of this, some sheep started to come to me, thinking I also had food (which I did not). As they got real close, I stood up and backed up before realizing I had just stepped in sheep pee and sheep poop! This whole encounter was a lot of fun and really perked everyone up. This all happened in an otherwise very remote valley with a huge waterfall at the end of it. 

After driving a bit further, we came to the town of Vik (very picturesque) and then on to Vangsnes to get on the next ferry. After the ferry pulled up, we were waved forward by the ferry guy. As we approached, SteveB pulled up alongside the guy for further instructions. The gentleman said something to SteveB in Norwegian. At first, SteveB thought he knew what he was told and started to pull forward onto the ferry. A split second later, he realized he was just given instructions in Norwegian, stopped the van, and said to the guy "Do what?". It was the funniest thing. We were all cracking up and laughing out loud afterward and Steve took plenty of ribbing on the ferry.

The ferry ride to Dragsvik was only about 30 minutes. Once off the ferry, we only had a ten-minute drive to the hotel in Balestrand. We were staying at the Kviknes Hotel, a very historic hotel in Balestrand. By the time we checked in, it was around 9:30pm. We hadn't had any dinner yet, so we grabbed a table in the lobby lounge and ordered some food. Everyone was a bit tired, as it had been a long journey from Oslo to Balestrand. Dad was certainly exhausted, as at one point he tried to pour some Coke from his bottle, into a glass, and completely missed the glass!  

Time for some sleep!
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