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Norway in a Nutshell and Farewells

Rent A Wreck

My last day before leaving this stunning country my mate got to play tour guide in true fashion. We rented a car and toured around the region, visiting stunning gorges, driving crazy hairpin bends and exploring ancient churches.

First of all it was the hassle of trying to find and rent a car. Turned out many places were out of cars except for the delightfully named, Rent A Wreck. Yves had called the day before to ensure they would be open for us to sort everything out. We wondered around the far side of Voss until we found it, sort of down the road under a bridge over the way sort of thing…and it was closed, a full 2 hours before they had told us they would be. Go figure. Yves called and they said they would send someone. About 20 minutes later they called us, apparently the guy had left ’cause he was bored and now could not return, got to love Norway, so we were just going to do it over the phone. No problem they would leave the key for us in a box for the morning. What could go wrong!

Surprisingly nothing, and we got the car in the morning and went off to explore Norway in a Nutshell.

Exploring Gorges

The day before leaving we took a hike behind Voss to explore the local gorge. Absolutely beautiful!
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Beautiful flowers at the gorge

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Waterfalls

Our first stop was the Twin Falls, Tvindefossen, it was the dry season but still amazing, right off the side of the road. Huge signs everywhere asking that no one steal the slate rocks….
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Stalheimskleiva

Our next stop was on top of the Stalheimskleva, a stunning view of the gorge below. Unfortunately the hotel, that boasts a wonderful collection of artifacts, was closed due to a convention. But we still enjoyed the view.

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The gradient is so steep and the 13 spectacular hairpin bends means only downwards traffice is allowed, and it makes one hell of a ride!

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Viewing a Fjord

Then it was on to see a fjord, truly stunning!

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Norwegian Brown Cheese in Vingerstad

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In Norway they have this… how do I explain… interesting… different… unique… yeah let’s go with unique, cheese (or cheeselike). They take the leftovers from cheese and curd, and boil it more, till it becomes a thick paste like substance, then they fill molds and compact it till it kind of looks like a wax model, then they eat it! There are truly no words that I can find to express how it tastes…

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But it is beautiful here

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On To Flam

I had heard about Flam before and was quite excited to visit this Norwegian town…. until Yves explained that the “town” was in fact more of a cruise terminal than anything else. A few tourist shops and a spectacular brewery.

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stunning interior

stunning interior

Stunning exterior too

Stunning exterior too

Tunnels Everywhere

When you drive through Norway you will discover tunnel after tunnel after tunnel. Some go through mountains, some go on the side of cliffs, some go under lakes… but they are everywhere. We went through the longest one, 24.5km, which actually has special lighting in certain sections to wake you up, that replicates daylight. It is so big they even hold activities like concerts inside.

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Heading into the tunnel

Heading into the tunnel

The blue light in the distance

The blue light in the distance

Inside the blue light

Inside the blue light

TO BE CONTINUED…

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2014 in Travel

 

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Lofoten Bound

Trains, Planes and Automobiles

To get to the Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway, above the Arctic circle, you can take a boat, a train or fly. The boat can take upwards of a week as meanders through stunning fjords and rugged coastlines. The train isn’t much better time wise and you get stare at endless forests and lakes as you go through tunnel after tunnel. The final option is to fly, being based in Voss we hoped to fly from Bergen, only an hour by train. However, it turned out that train to Oslo and flight from there to Tromsø was the most economical and timely way to go. So after Yves finished work, we hurriedly packed clothes, tent, sleeping bags, pads, wavered on how to smuggle gin through customs (opted not to) and headed to the train station.

The plan was a 6 hour odd train ride to Oslo, followed by a quick transfer (8 minutes between) to the airport train, crash in the airport and 8.25am flight in the morning. We hit a snag when an accident on the tracks forced us to be detoured by bus around that section, adding almost an hour. Of course this meant we missed our 8 minute window. Luckily, the conductor assured us there was another train precisely 9 minutes after our arrival heading to the airport. Great, no worries then.

We got to the Oslo train station, checked the boards for the appropriate train (which was actually 11 minutes from then) and caught it with no problem, direct to the airport within 20 minutes. At the stop we hit our next snag, there was a barrier turn style requiring a special ticket to get through to the actual airport… looking fairly perplexed, we stood in line behind a gentleman who was paying copious amounts of Kroner (6.20K = $1, give or take) and ultimately was let through the gate. The delightful lady behind the glass explained our error, we had taken the express train, which was about triple what the local train was we had tickets for. In our horror and fear at blowing our budget before we even reached the actual airport we explained our situation. Luckily, this lovely lady, tsk’ed tsk’ed the conductor for giving us the wrong information and assured us we would not have to pay for his mistake, letting us through. It was only later we realised that the train he had mentioned must have in fact been the local train and we had taken the wrong train assuming the board with OSLO AIRPORT was the correct train, how silly of us. The local train simply says city center and apparently the airport is a stop on the way, or something like that.

Important Traveler Information: When buying train tickets in Norway be double sure which train you are getting on. There are the public trains, much cheaper, and then private companies that offer the express trains. If you get on the wrong one the conductor will make you pay again. When in doubt ask someone, better safe than out of pocket.

Airport Nap Time

The clock was already passed midnight when we stumbled up the elevator and looked around for the most “comfortable” place to sleep. There were already a large number of airport campers scattered around, meaning most the chairs were taken. We opted to take a spot behind a particularly obscure statue, with a high potential of being phallic in nature.

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We rolled out our mats, me getting to get my first view at my new REI rails pad, super exciting. Lay down and within around 10minutes Yves was off in La-la land. Yours truly, on the other hand, snuggled down, marveling at just how well this new REI rails pad truly prevented any hip to floor contact, and the general cushy nature of it, closed my eyes, took a deep breath…and…BAM Eyes Wide Open! I am not talking, sleepy and not able to sleep, I am mean my brain was on full overload, as if it was attempting to solve a highly complicated calculus equation (and usually it can barely spell that).
I rolled,
I tossed,
I took a “bath” airport style,
I changed out of travel clothes and put on new socks
I even listened to a particular House tune that a Romanian friend gave me and helps block out thoughts
I wrote in my diary
I paced
I got irritated by some dude chatting on skype at 3am

All through this, Yves was dreaming of hiking Everest and other great adventures, waking up briefly, seeing me awake, asking if I had got any sleep and then turning over and getting another 4o winks. At one point he mentioned how a pillow would make this whole experience so much better, he promptly received mine in his face, he gladly tucked it under and went back to sleep.

Nearing the wake up hour I had managed to convince 3 of my 4 personalities to crave sleep, but that 4th one, man he was contemplating if penguins had knees or some other highly important theological topic.

Nap Time Airplane Style

Finally we were able to check in. This was a new procedure for me, as you can now, apparently, print out your own baggage labels, and check your own bag, unless of course the bag check machine decides your bag is too big. It was apparently fine after standing in line for 15 minutes.

Through security, me reaching zombie status and mumbling something about the need for coffee. I never realised my dependence on it until this trip, mornings just don’t seem complete without a cup of ‘jo. Stumbling after Yves towards our gate, which was at the very very very end of some random arm of the airport that seemed to go on forever, we waited for our flight. Thankfully it wasn’t full and I oozed into three seats, buckled myself into the middle and toppled over side ways gaining a precious hour of sleep, airplane style.

We made it, we touched ground, we found the bus to downtown and we made it as far as the tourist info before my eyes turned glassy again. From that point on until sleep it is all a little fuzzy, but I will try to continue in the next installment of Lofoten Bound

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Travel

 

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