Salmon, Vino, and Ice

Have we really been in Norway for just a week? It feels like much longer.

Our first stop on Monday morning was the Norwegian Wild Salmon Centre at Lærdal. Before we could go in, though, Mark decided that it was time to clean Kampington’s Solar Hat:

The Salmon Centre had lots of good information about salmon, and a 20 minute film.

The statistics were impressive: of 7500 eggs laid by a female salmon, on average around 6000 are successfully fertilised, 4800 hatch, but only 960 make it to “parr” baby salmon stage, being all too easy for predators to grab. Here are some of the 960; they were 2-3cm long and very cute:

Of these, only 120 make it to “smolt” stage, heading downstream to the sea, 22 will return, but only 2-4 will successfully spawn back in the river of their birth. Not great odds…

There was information about the English toffs who started coming to Norway en masse for summer fishing trips (staying up to 3 months) from the mid 19th century as well as the challenges facing modern-day salmon populations, from commercial fishing to parasites.

They also have an “observation tank” with water from the adjoining river in it. We saw two recently caught 7kg salmon; they’ll be released soon and others will take their place. There are some huuuuge salmon in these parts; Mark struggled to lift the 35kg salmon exhibit, whilst the 7kg one was enough for me (and they were just bits of wood, not putting up any fight…).

Lærdal itself was a pretty little place, with lots of old wooden buildings in the original town centre:

Continuing North, we made a brief stop in the larger town of Sogndal, where the internet informed us there was a Vinmonopolet shop (the state store you have to go to for anything stronger than beer). The Norwegian customs limits are a bit strange. If you’re not bringing in any tobacco, you can bring in 1 litre of spirits and a total of 5 litres of beer and wine (so you get a lot more alcohol into the country if you go for wine). You can swap the 1 litre spirits allowance for 1.5 litres of beer or wine if you want (erm… no…). We ended up bringing in 2 litres of whisky, 5.68 litres (20 bottles) of Stella (which Mark is strictly rationing to one bottle every 2 days), and 4.25 litres of wine, which we’re drinking.

Mark looked horrified at the prices in Vinmonopolet, doing a very good impression of a goldfish in front of the Whisky (which we don’t need to buy at £50 a bottle as that’s also on strict rationing – one thimblefull every other evening). I decided I’d better take matters into my own hands and acquired two 3l boxes of wine for £72. That works out to £9 a bottle for wine that’d be £5-£6 a bottle at home. Oh well….

We didn’t get chance to look at anything else in Sognal as the parking was a nightmare. We’d eventually found somewhere to put Kampington, but when I’d looked at the machine it had transpired that it wasn’t “normal” pay and display where you put coins in and take a ticket. The instructions were only in Norwegian, which didn’t help. I managed to figure out that you put a credit card into the machine and parking cost NOK 17 an hour. What I couldn’t work out was how you told it which vehicle was yours or how you told it when you were leaving. Sniffing potential disaster ahead, I figured that putting a credit card in the machine would be a bad idea, and Mark suggested we just chance it while we popped to the shop. So we didn’t hang around to see what else Sogndal had to offer.

We spent Monday night at Bøjebreen, which is a finger of Jostedalsbreen, the biggest glacier in continental Europe at 62 miles long and 9 miles wide. On Tuesday, we drove further North and visited Briksdalsbreen, a much more touristy part of the glacier. It was an easy 35 minute walk from the car park up to the glacier; “troll cars” were busy ferrying cruise ship passengers up to the glacier.

As we drove East between Grotli and Polfoss, looking for a good place to stop for the night (there were lots), a moose ran across the road in front of us and disappeared into the undergrowth on the other side, too fast for me to get a photo.

Today (Wednesday) is a pit stop day. We had a 3 and a half hour drive to Oppdal, where we’d identified a camp site, with a stop en route at Vågå for LPG (the LPG Norge website is good and has a map of all their LPG stations). Fuel isn’t a silly price in Norway (though it’s a bit more expensive than in the UK). We’ve been paying about £1.25 a litre for diesel (though prices vary widely, up to around £1.50 a litre) and 81.2p a litre for LPG.

So we’re now parked up at Oppdal, hogging all the washing machines before any other vans arrive. It’s cost NOK 200, but we’ve saved up a mountain of washing and the washing machines themselves aren’t particularly expensive. We’ve also got wifi, for the first time in Norway, so we’re hogging that as well and downloading as much TV as we can (Tunnelbear does a great job of making my ipad pretend it’s in the UK to get iplayer etc, and it’s amazingly easy to use).

Here’s where we are at present, way up above the top of Scotland, about level with the Faeroe Islands:

Tomorrow’s plan is to head North to Trondheim. We skipped Stavanger and Bergen as we’re not generally that into towns and we’ve each been to both Stavanger and Bergen in the past. Neither of us has been to Trondheim though and it looks good in the book…..