Camping Norwegian Style...

Trip Start Sep 06, 2010
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Trip End Apr 13, 2011


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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 1

As mentioned in the previous post, we were looking forward to a few days camping in the Norwegian wilderness. We hadn't been camping for a while and although we were expecting it to be cold, we figured we could just keep each other warm when the chill set it. We ended up hiring the car from the airport, figuring it made sense because we would need to get back to the airport on our last day anyway to catch a flight to Iceland. We had originally hired a Peugeot 107 or something and we were delighted to find out we had been given a VW golf instead. Diesel too! There were a few moments of consternation when the desk clerk asked us if we were dropping the car off at this airport (Gardemoen, which is about 50 km north of Oslo) or the other one, about 50 km south of the city. We hurriedly checked our itinerary and flight details and worked out that we were ok, that our flight was definitely leaving from this airport, although we could have very easily buggered that up without realising until the time came to check-in in a week’s time. Lucky escape.

We chucked our bags into the rusty red-coloured Golf and headed out of the airport. We’d decided that we wanted to make a big loop of Norway, heading quite a long way north and also venturing into the northern parts of Sweden for a look-see. Thus, we headed up the highway towards Lillehammer – or so we thought – we’d actually missed the turn-off and were making our way south, back towards Oslo! After collecting a toll we managed to find a turn-off and head back up the highway (collecting another toll going the other way!) finally starting our epic 5-day camping trip.

After putting a few k’s between us and the airport, we found a nice little place beside a lake (Mjsa) to have our lunch. It was clear that this would be a popular, and beautiful, place to swim during the Norwegian summer. A test of the water with just a tip of my finger confirmed that it was indeed much closer to winter than it was to summer – bloody cold!

Shortly after lunch, we pulled into Lillehammer for a look. Andrew was quite keen to see a previous venue of the winter Olympics, but, apart from what looked like a huge ski jump (complete with ridiculous slope) and a grandstand, there was little to actually see, so we pressed on northwards and began to look for a site to set up the tent.

All the way from Lillehammer, we searched for a suitable place to camp. We followed some roads off the main road but found very little. Eventually, we became a little desperate. Although the day was chilly, it was not yet uncomfortable, but the bruised twilight sky warned us that we needed to find somewhere sufficiently sheltered, set up the tent and light a fire before it got too dark. We drove a fair way off the main road and found a little spot within what looked like a pine plantation. It was not perfect, but as we drove a little past the spot, we realised that we didn’t have much choice. The clouds looked really pretty in the valley below – like stretched cotton wool around the surrounding hills. We set up camp and Andrew made a fire. We made our dinner crouched over our fire and warmed our tootsies up before we clambered into our sleeping bags. Stupidly, I only wore one pair of woollen socks.

 Day 2

I did not think I would survive the night. My feet lost circulation at about 2 am and nothing I did could get me warm again. I think I must have woken poor Andrew several times with my attempts to rub some life back into my tootsies.

We awoke early the next morning to find a layer of ice on the car and the tent. The surrounding grass was crunchy and we couldn’t pack up fast enough! We had discovered the previous day that the Golf came equipped with an awesome interior heating system, including some amazing seat warmers and we immediately put these to good use. We pressed our frozen fingies up against the heater vents and laughed about the temperature gauge on the dash which read -5C. I shuddered to think what temperature it had reached during the night!

We headed up the main highway Trondheim, taking in the gorgeous scenery around us. Although the actual trees and plants were far from Australian, there was a certain remoteness about the whole place which made us feel at home. The Scandinavian approach to camping is commendable. Basically, there exists a right to camp anywhere, so long as you are not in a designated no camping area or on priate lands, within 150 m of a construction. Simples!

Trondheim was quite a cute little town. We parked the car near the canal and the little houses reflecting on the water simply added to the charm. We walked up to the main cathedral called Nidaros Cathedral, which we didn’t go into the very centre because it cost money. However I was intrigued by the fact that apparently it is Scandinavia’s largest medieval building, and that some people reckon the altar lies over the grave of St. Olav (thanks Lonely Planet for the info). Since this was the guy who basically decided to convert all the Vikings to Christians I was curious enough to go into the little bit that was actually free, although I couldn’t see anything anyway (he didn’t come out of his supposed tomb to fill me in or anything...). We had a look for a stamp (not in the Cathedral, of corpse), but, being a Sunday, the shops were shut. We returned to the car empty-handed, save for the post-card to my grandparents that I had been unable to post and continued in our northwards quest.

Although we looked for a campsite somewhere in the wild, we struggle to find anything suitable. Not wanting to continue searching until late in the night, we pulled into a caravan site next to some train tracks – beggars can’t be choosers! Andrew, being the crazy man he is, went for a nice, long run, leaving me to sort out the tent etc.

When he came back, we had some yummy dinner, courtesy of the cooking facilities provided in the campsite and went to bed. Thankfully it was warmer than the previous night had been (it was nowhere near as exposed as it had been on that hill) and we ended up having quite a relaxing night’s sleep.

Day 3

We again woke up early, to a crisp morning, although it was nowhere near as cold as the morning before. The previous evening when we had pulled into the campsite, there had been no one on reception (as it’s off season) and just a number to call. We didn’t really have access to a phone, so we thought we would pay in the morning. As it turned out, there was again, no one around. Noting this, we packed up quickly and scarpered, like the brave and honest campers we are.

We stopped for breakfast in a cute little spot. It was the edge of a little fjord lake thing and was famous for having Norway’s version of the Loch Ness Monster. Needless to say, we saw nothing that looked like that at all. We did, however, find a cute little toilet which had two long drops inside, facing each other from about metre away. Although it is nice for couples to do things together, we concluded that ‘his and hers’ long drops weren’t really our thing, went separately and then continued northwards towards a place called ‘Mo i Rana’.

We stopped and ate lunch outside a little town (whose name eludes me) and I swear, it was the windest, coldest, most blustery place on Earth. Even Andrew had his puffy jacket on. I had some soup and Andrew made a sandwich of which he was extremely proud. Apparently it tasted every bit as good as it looked, but somehow I’m not all that concerned about the possibility of him taking on a job at Subway when we get back home...

I don’t quite know when it happened, but we made a decision to camp in the Arctic Circle. I was so terrified, considering that I reckon 20C is a cold day, but also a bit excited because it isn’t something you do every day. With this in mind, we headed up past Mo, into the Arctic Circle. The change in the scenery was amazing. Instead of pine trees lining the hills around us, we entered a landscape which was flat (we had climbed a fair way) and barren of most trees, save a few bushes here and there. As we headed further up, we saw snow and ponds which had iced over. It was beginning to get dark and our search for somewhere we could stay became more and more urgent. Finally, we pulled into a rest stop (which you technically aren’t supposed to camp in) and drove along a path to a little, sheltered clearing. We managed to find a place with only a few roots (there were heaps everywhere) and covered in lovely, cushioning, mossy undergrowth. We set up the tent, Andrew lit the fire and we had dinner. The little area we had found within the Arctic Circle actually provided us with a warmer night’s sleep than the first night!

Day 4

Day 4’s morning was grey, frosty and crunchy. After we packed up the tent, we had a little look around the area. There was a beautiful, big lake which was gradually freezing inwards from the edges. It looked amazing. Glassy and beautiful, but there was no way I was going near it!

We drove southwards, towards the ‘Polarsirkel’ marker and towards civilisation. We turned off at the information centre marking the Arctic Circle and took our pictures in front of the old and new markers and also a statue showing all the different ‘Kommunes’ (roughly translates as a ‘county’) of Norway . We climbed to the top of the hill nearby and laughed at the hundreds of cairns built over the hillside. Fun to make, but possibly annoying for hikers! We ate our breakfast next to the car and fooled around with snowballs and ice so thick and clear you could use it for (temporary) windows, finally heading southwards again.

We saw some absolutely breathtaking landscapes on our way down. We stopped near a rushing river for Johnsen to have a bite to eat and a few 4wds drove past, the first with a trailer containing a huge, dead moose. It was sad to know that this majestic animal as no longer going to roam the Norwegian wilderness, but on the other hand, I knew that not a scrap of it would be wasted and that the hunters would be saving a lot of the meat to get them through the approaching winter.

That night we pulled into a little place which absolutely stank of cow dung. There was no one around to pay so we just ate our dinner and went to bed with the thought that if there was someone there in morning, then we would sort it out.

Day 5

As it turned out, there was no one about the next morning, so again we left - naughty us! We figured that if they couldn’t be bothered taking our money, then we couldn’t be bothered giving it to them. At the very least, it was 7:30 and we weren’t inclined to wait around until 9:30 which is when a sign told us the reception would be open again. So we left.

Out of all the days, day 5 was one of the most beautiful. We weaved our way through and around the western fjords, taking two ferries and about 5 tunnels to pass through. We stopped many times just to jump out and take pictures – of lakes, glaciers and mountains. We could fill an album and name it simply ‘Day 5’.

As we journeyed around one of the largest fjords in Norway, Sognefjorden, we went through a tunnel 25 km long, called ‘Laerdaltunnelen’. At two spots within this tunnel, a cave had been hollowed out, and the area filled with a pretty light blue lighting. We weren’t sure what the exact purpose of this area was but perhaps it was just to keep people from becoming bored as they drove through the tunnel.

As the day wore on, we were treated to a stunning sunset over the hills and we found a nice campsite. For the first time, we were actually able to pay and we had a delicious dinner and treated ourselves to a sauna before flopping down into bed, ready to get up fairly early for the drive into Oslo airport.

Day 6

The drive to Oslo airport was relatively easy although we didn’t have a huge amount of time to spare. When we got out of the car at the airport drop off, we hurriedly grabbed all of our stuff and tried to make the car slightly presentable. Unfortunately all of the driving we’d done had coated the car in layers of mud and dirt and we did our best to get it relatively clean again. Luckily, we handed the car back with no problems and checked in for our flight to Iceland.
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