Monday, August 09, 2021

Summer Roadtrip to Norway

Norway Road-trip
11 days (July 29 - August 8)
2750 kms driven over 40 hours.

Our summer road-trip to Norway was planned last-minute because we didn't know how Matt's recovery would be from his mid-July kidney surgery (update: the tumour was benign! Hooray!) Also we didn't know which places would have Covid19 restrictions in place. 

In the end we chose Norway because we could drive there ourselves. We had no real expectations except to see some beautiful scenery, eat some fresh seafood and have a bit of getaway before we start the next school year. But when you plan to have no real plan, things just fall into place don't they? 

In a series of fortunate events, we connected with some of Matt's old high-school classmates and our Norway road-trip was starting to take shape. All this planning happened during Matt's recovery process which helped his healing immensely. Amazing what looking forward to something can do for a person's psyche.

One of Matt's old classmate, Vilde, and her family graciously offered us accommodation in their cozy Oslo flat. It provided a few nights of rest and relaxation after the drive up from Lund. Catching up with Vilde was fantastic and it was interesting to hear about her life, family and career as a lung oncologist.

Another generous invitation we received was from Hannah who invited us to stay at her husband's family farm up in Tresfjord. Context: Hannah and her family were due to relocate to Nairobi a few days after our visit and yet she still extended a warm invite to us. With all the preparation and packing that comes with moving continents we unfortunately never met up with Hannah who had to stay in Oslo tying up loose ends. Instead, her husband Tore and their 3 kids drove the 6+ hours from Oslo to the farm to welcome us and show us around. 

I cannot express how absolutely special that stay was for us. It was so interesting to talk to Tore and hear his stories about his former career as a whaling boat inspector, about his farm and the history of the area, how the six family clans of the Tresfjord valley have made decisions over the generations and how the farming and sheep industry really operate in these parts of Norway.

One day we accompanied Tore to herd some sheep who needed to be brought higher up on the mountainside. This was a hike with a purpose and all the kids were into it, not one complaint was heard. Once we had brought the sheep over the tree line, we had a rest and admired the view from the top. Words cannot describe the feeling of awe looking down at the valley we had just climbed. It was by far my favourite day of the entire trip.

Here are some highlights. I may have gone overboard with all the mountain and fjord pictures, but there were just too many not to share.

5:15am and we're on the road, trying to make it to the Sweden/Norway border before it gets too busy. We ended up still needing to wait about 90 minutes while Bonnie and the kids got a (free) fast Covid test. Matt had his EU Vaccine passport. Bonnie only had her 2nd jab a few days earlier and you need to be 2 weeks clear before you get the passport.

8am and someone is already napping.

Torrential rain followed us the entire drive to Asker, our first night in Norway. It was too early to check into our AirBnb and we just missed out on the last tickets to a nearby science museum, so we opted for the indoor trampoline park.
Cuz that's what you do when you go to Norway... 😏

First night in Norway: a treehouse! (and trampoline)

Despite finding the outdoor shower at the treehouse only ran cold water, meeting all sorts of six-legged critters in the treehouse and finding random leaks in the roof, the kids unanimously declared it the best night of the entire trip.

Sleeping in a hammock is actually very comfy.

Bliss! Also, note the pull down black out blind!!

If you only have time for one museum in Oslo, make it the Fram Museum. It depicts the exploration to both North and South Poles with interactive exhibits and fantastic story-telling.

The crew of the Fram Ship had the sense to bring several tins of
condensed milk on their expedition. Sign me up!

Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, spent time with the Inuit learning how to live in extreme polar conditions. This led to his team reaching the South Pole first and successfully navigating the Northwest Passage.
"The one who listens to his parents will live longer... and have a better life" is an Inuit expression and one many parents today could probably agree with. 

Outside the Fram Museum looking towards Oslo city-centre.

On our way to Tresfjord. We had Edvard Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King playing at full volume which was very fitting.

Known as "the road in the ocean," the Atlantic Highway stretches over 7 bridges and is considered by some to be the world's most beautiful road. We travelled it in both directions, it truly is an engineering miracle. Besides cars and motorhomes, we saw cyclists travelling on the road and even one guy on an electric skateboard!
We promised next time we will do it by motorbike. 

Ask an 11-year old boy to smile and this is a typical response.

At Tore's family farm in Tresfjord.

Even bus shelters have grass roofs!

Tore pulling the kids on the wagon.

Playing Kubb

They had to go rescue a sick sheep on the hill. Close encounters with the realities of sheep farming made T&A understand a little more how intricate the process of meat production is just for human consumption.

Teaching our new friends how to play Pit, one of our favourite card games.

Found the sheep! Now we gotta herd them UP.

And then suddenly, there were beautiful wild horses! 

Very steep climb past the tree line.

Nearly there!!

Tai patiently waiting for Matt to make it to the top.
Considering this was about 2 weeks post-op, he did really well.

Running down the hill after depositing the mineral lick (salt rock) at the top. The salt rock is for the sheep to lick essential mineral nutrients while they live on the mountain for the season.

Hello again horses.

Back at ground level, I'm pointing to the point on the mountain where we climbed to, just a few meters shy of that snow patch.

We found a chanterelle mushroom!!!! These rare exquisite beauties are delicious and will cost you a pretty penny at the supermarket. 

Just a little bonfire on our last night.

Tai's favourite road on the trip was the Trollstigen, the classic most-visited Norwegian road. Opened in 1936, there are 11 hairpin bends with 9% gradient which are named after the person who managed the construction of that particular section.
It is honestly an incredible engineering feat and well worth a visit.
Nothing can top that drive, except perhaps if you do it on a motorbike.

The Trollstigen is a motorcyclist's DREAM!!!!! 

Can you spot T &A?

And here?

If you're wondering, closing your eyes as you twist and turn through Norway's hairpin roads is cheaper than going to Disney/Six Flags/Liseberg/Canada's Wonderland.
And every bit just as exciting.

Sheep alert in the tunnel!!!!

At Dalsnibba lookout point.

Looking down at Geirangerfjord.

Want a view with your fika? No problem.

We stayed one night near Lom in the little red cabin next to the rushing river. 

Lom's iconic stave church.

Scoffing some insanely delicious pizza and burgers at Lom Bakery.

Climbing towards Jotunheimen National Park, it feels like you are going through moonscape mountains. The road becomes bumpy and twisty and we even saw a few cyclists pumping their way to the top! At the top is Northern Europe's highest parking lot at 1841m above sea level.

We went on a tour to visit an ice cave, a man-carved tunnel through 70 metres into the 7000-year-old ice. There was even an ice slide inside!

Luckily, we came prepared with winter gloves, boots and hats.

Inside one of the ice cave rooms.

In true Thornington fashion, we had a parking lot picnic. This one was a bit more memorable since it was at Northern Europe's highest parking lot.

I couldn't resist a quick dip in the glacier-fed lake.
"Refreshing" would be the appropriate word.

3 out of 4 of us braved the chilly glacial water in Aurland. 

Flåmbana, the iconic trainline from Flåm to Myrdal built between 1923-1940.
Only 20km long, the train goes through 20 tunnels (most of them excavated by hand) and has a height difference of 864m.

Flåm Railway, all aboard!

After getting off the train, we walked down to the next village and
stopped at a super cold mountain stream.

Next up, zipline!!! The longest zipline in Scandinavia which spans 1.34km, it has a height difference of 305m and a max speed of 100 km/hr. This adrenaline-fueled ride takes you through a deep valley and past flowing waterfalls. 

Aila was JUST heavy enough for the zipline and in the end,
she had some extra weight added to her harness pocket.

After the zipline, you come to the Rallarrosa Cheese Farm where we tasted some local brown cheese and creamy yoghurt.

Then we collected our rental bikes to cycle the last 15 kms back to Flåm.

After the train, zipline and cycle ride, we were parched. There were no Shirley Temples on the menu, but the bartender made a Special Mix for them. 

Beer tasting in Flåm's brewery. Highlight for Matt.

Traditional apple cake from Sognefjord. 

Cooking up some reindeer meat for dinner.

Tunnels are just a normal part of Norway's highway infrastructure, a true engineering miracle. We deliberately detoured to go through the world's longest road tunnel, the Lærdal Tunnel, which happens to be in Norway at 24.5 km long!!

One of the three 'caves' in Lærdal Tunnel with cool blue lights.

A quick pit stop to get Wifi and watch the penalty kicks in the Canada vs Sweden women's Olympic soccer final. CANADA won!!!

Matt says the drive from Sogndalsfjøra to Lærdalsøyri was his favorite because of the dramatic hairpin turns and breathtaking beauty at every single angle. It was technically challenging too with barely enough room for two cars to pass and often without guardrails. The craziest thing we saw right at the moment we turned down one of those tight turns was a truck pulling a sailboat on a trailer! Insane.

Back in Oslo for a couple more nights, we visited the fabulous Vigeland Sculpture Park.

Gustav Vigeland sculpted 200+  sculptures which attract more than one million visitors annually.


On our last day in Oslo, Matt had arranged a mini reunion with some other former classmates who were living in the area. It was fun to connect and hear about everyone's lives. See you all at the reunion next year!

In the end, Norway completely exceeded our expectations. After living in beautiful (but flat) Skåne for more than one year, it just totally blew our minds. 

If you want a bit of perspective, head to the mountains and fjords of Norway and I guarantee you'll come away a little bit more humbled.

Crossing over back into Sweden I'm surprised at how happy I was to be in familiar territory again. Swedish signs are comforting and it definitely feels like coming home.

No comments: