Waterfalls, Tunnels, and a Church

The road North from Sand took us inland and away from the fjords on Saturday, through a landscape of mountains, lakes, and lots of waterfalls. They’re everywhere. Here’s one of the early ones we saw; we’ve given up stopping to take photos of everything we see that’s impressive as we do want to make it to Nordkapp before winter:

There’s still snow on the mountaintops; we even drove past ski lifts on one of the higher sections:

Here’s one of the well-known waterfalls, Låtefossen, that everyone stops to take photos of. It’s not particularly high but it’s nicely symmetrical:

We crossed the road across the bottom of the falls before reaching the parking area and getting out to look around. Yikes, did we really just drive across that?

We didn’t need to take any ferries on Saturday, but we did come across a road toll. We passed one earlier in the trip that charged us a measly NOK 25. We can’t even remember what it seemed to be for. They’re all unmanned; the system is that you register online, then they email you an invoice, having clocked your numberplate using cameras. Anyway, this one cost NOK 150 to cross a bridge. It was a lovely bridge, just the kind of bridge you’d want to cross for £15…. 😐

After doing a bit of food shopping at a pleasant town called Odda (more later on prices) we spent Saturday night on a car park near Voss, which is a Winter ski resort. The town itself didn’t have much to attract us, but the free parking was lovely.

We were very perplexed by the little shed in the photo. The car park was popular with tour buses carrying small camera-toting folk from the East. They seemed strangely attracted to this little shed, at first assuming it was the loo and scampering towards it en masse, then realising that the loos were at the other end of the car park but still coming back later to take lots of pictures of the shed. I know it’s got a grass roof, but there are plenty of cute little Norwegian houses with grass hairdos around…. Perhaps it had some kind of major historical significance that we had no awareness of 🤔

There are a heck of a lot of tunnels in this part of Norway (and they’re often several km long), in fact it’s probably fair to say that we spent as much time driving in tunnels as we did out of them on Sunday. This does wreak havoc with your sense of altitude; having been in the lakes and mountains on Saturday, I’d assumed that we were at a reasonable height, so was quite surprised when we popped out of a tunnel and found ourselves face to face with a massive cruise ship:

This is Sognefjorden, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord. We now had to go through the Laerdaltunnel, which at 24.5km is the longest road tunnel in the World. It’s so long that it has lay-bys in it with coloured grotto-like lighting so you can stop off and eat your butties before continuing under the mountain. We were expecting to pay a hefty toll for this but no, it was free. We’re not even attempting to find any logic in the road tolls. Que será, será and all that.

We arrived at our next free camping spot on Sunday lunchtime:

This gave us the afternoon to visit Borgund Stavkirche (stave church). From our car park, we could easily walk to the stave church. The route there was 1.5km along the “Royal Road”, built in the 1840s, the first road to link East and West of Norway, then 3km back along a different path, the Sverrestigen.

The Royal Road heads off up a stupidly steep incline for a road (though, by adding hairpins, they improved on the previous road from the 1790s, which reached a gradient of 1:4 in places), before dropping down the other side to the stave church.

There are a lot of stave churches around here, but from what we can see in the guide book, they all look exactly the same (there must’ve been some kind of medieval Ikea where you went to buy your flat-pack stave church). Vik seems very popular, and Borgund is the one that’s “unchanged since the Middle Ages”, but Urnes, which is harder to get to, is the one with UNESCO World Heritage status. Work that out if you can….

We didn’t go into the church (our book tells us there’s nothing in there and has photos of the interior construction); they wanted NOK 90 per person to go in, which can only be a cunning way of keeping visitor numbers down. There were a lot of people taking photos over the wall, and only two or three visitors inside. There’s a free-standing belfry next to the church, then next to that, another church that was locked up and clearly wasn’t supposed to be of any interest to us tourists.

Coming back, we took the Sverrestigen, what turned out to be the old bridle path / main road through the area. It was a path skirting the side of the hillside we’d cut up and over on our way to the church (the modern road runs at a level that is lower again, along the river from the church back to Kampington; you did gave to wonder why this option hadn’t occurred to early Norwegian road planners…). We found a man in a field, and a nearby sign explained that the path is thought to be called the Sverrestigen as King Sverre passed through here in 1177.

We had our first mozzie encounter of the trip on our way through the woods. Not too bad (a few bites each) but enough to ensure that we won’t be going a-wandering from now one without the bug repellent….

I’ll finish with the Norwegian food prices (so if it’s of no interest, you can give up reading now). I’ll do prices in £ at our rule of thumb rate of GBP/NOK 10. The actual rate’s a tiny bit better….

Overall, prices seem to be 2-3 times what you’d pay in the UK, with a few exceptions. Basics: about £1.80 for a litre of milk, £1.90 for a (decent sized) supermarket-baked loaf (this was bottom of the range, price code 1; they went up to price code 9), £7.90 for 800g of lean beef mince on special offer. Salmon is surprisingly dear. Three pieces of salmon (of the size you get at a standard price of 2 for £3 in Morrisons) are £7 here. Damn 😖  A medium-sized green pepper is 94p. A bag of pre-prepared salad is £2.95.

Free-froms: Alpro soya milk is about £2.70 a litre (supermarket own-brand is £2.10, a far cry from 59p at Tesco). I did spy a very small gluten free loaf for £4.95. I never thought Genius would seem cheap! Dairy-free marg is £3.95 a tub. SO pleased I stocked up on flour (to make bread) and Becel (marg.) in Germany on the way through… Mind you, rice cakes are, strangely, only 78p a pack, the same as in the UK.

Other random stuff: a larger-sized bottle of Tabasco is £4.20. We have a spare one with us. We’re now wondering whether to keep it or sell it on the black market. The cheapest beer in the supermarket was £2.59 for a 500ml can (rising sharply for some brands). You can only buy stronger stuff at state-run booze shops, which seem to be somewhat thin on the ground.

There IS a very small amount of good news though. As we’d read on some of the popular motorhome blogs, the supermarkets here do have super-cheap ranges that may not be as bad as the packaging suggests. We bought a jar of Coop pasta sauce (to jazz up into an arrabiata) for £1.28 that Waitrose would have been proud of. The only reason we’re not yet giving the super-cheap ranges an unambiguous thumbs-up is that Mark did comment that his £1.45 pack of 4 strawberry yoghurts didn’t contain a lot of strawberry, so we’ll just have to test things out to see what’s good at the cheap end of the supermarket offerings and what isn’t.

Mark does seem quite pleased with his 400g bag of crisps for £1.88. We’ll have to hope they turn out ok as we’d need to remortgage the house to afford any of the other crisps in the shop…..