Sunday, 8 August 2010

Something Missing

Written 8th August

You know when you get that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that everything is just about perfect but you're just missing one thing. Well after the roads we've driven on over the last two days, it is clear, that thing is the Midget. And even I'm feeling it.

Don't get me wrong I love my little van and wouldn't replace it for the world, but just when we thought that Norway couldn't get any better, it suddenly did, and all that was needed was the midget as a little red cherry atop the glacial icing of the mountainous cake.

Yesterday dawned bright and clear (not that we saw dawn of course but you get the idea) as we set off the find the so-called Trollstigan (Troll's Path), route 63 between Andalsnes and Valldal.

And it was every bit as steep, switch-backy and fabulous as we had expected.

Heading southwards, the just-slightly-wider-than-single carriage way road clings to the side of the mountain, zig zagging ever upwards, alongside and then across the 180m drop of the Stigfossen waterfall.

The road at the top is currently a messy snarl of building work and unclear parking places where they are building a shiny new visitor centre but the viewing platform is already in place, a glass-fenced, grating-floored, vertigo-sufferers nightmare, suspended over the vertiginous drop. It's fabulous.

And packed full of people. The whole place reminded us enormously of Stelvio Pass in the very north of Italy - you remember, Top Gear's last top driving road before the Transfagarsan. Have I already told you about that? Forgive me if I have but I will again anyway.

Like Trollstigan, going north to south over Stelvio takes you up the switchback side and then a fabulous coast down the wide sweeping curves of the far side. And like Stelvio, the top of Trollstigan is complete with tat shops and food stands, although sadly lacking in jolly austrians selling cheap(ish) bratwurst and sauerkraut - mmm that was delicious. At Stelvio, we sadly didn't get the weather we did here - and curiously there are more motorhomes at the top here than motorbikes, whole chapters of them at Stelvio - but in the Midge we powered up the road, nipping round the slower traffic on the bends with a roar of the engine - even those who were clearly intent on hogging the middle of the road deliberately couldn't stop us. Such fun! If you go to Stelvio, and you really should if you have either a motorbike or a small sports car, you also have to complete the set with Gavia, a slightly lower but less touristy and more wide open and desolate pass just to the south, on a tiny road between Bormio and Ponte di Legno. Just beautiful.

Anyway, it was not quite the 'powering up the hill' experience in Jules and I don't think Top Gear have been here - presumably the cost of petrol for the types of cars they would want to drive would be more than the license payer could bear! - but it was no less impressive.

And it just continued getting better! Down the otherside to Valldal,

a short ferry hop across the Nordalsfjorden to Eidsdal and back on route 63 to Geiranger, this time along the Ornevegen, the Eagle's Highway.

This road wends its way gently (ish)

back up from sea level

to the viewpoint at 680m

- where we stopped for a walk

and spent the night in a little pen of sleepily grazing motorhomes -

and then careens down into the Geirangerfjorden,

a startlingly deep and narrow gash in the landscape which is inscribed on the UNESCO list - we haven't been anywhere UNESCO for ages!

Like a rollercoaster, no sooner you're down

than you're headed back up again, with a fabulous view across the town to the fjord and the road you just wound your way down.

And then it's onwards

and still upwards

to the mirror-still lakes and endless reflection of the glacier which is higher still

and alongside the rushing turqoise torrent of meltwater 

No mountain tramping today, lots of ground to cover, so onwards across the plateau to Lom and then along the Sognefjellsvegen, route 55 to Sogndal, which, against all expectations, was even better still.

Another gentle wind up through the valley to 1,400m where we found ourselves crossing a wide open landscape of simple epic proportions.

A full panorama stretching out before us, complete with barren granite mountain top, rolling blue glaciers and startlingly green hillocks scattered with crystal clear lakes, all under a vast expanse of cerulean sky. Glorious.

Will has found a new photo stitching tool so this might just give you an idea....

indescribably awesome.

And on and down - another switchback road - back to sea level where we are parked up on the shores of the Lustrafjorden with our fourth and final fresh fish supper.

The perfect end to a perfect day.

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