SCANDINAVIA: Driving up through Norway

The morning was amazingly bright and clear. As we loaded up the car, our spirits were soaring about the incredible fresh air, and we headed off northwards. The first stretch of road, from Kongsvinger (just NE of Oslo) up to Trondheim started out as rolling hills, then followed an enticing river upstream into the low mountains, and eventually through a long valley and way up into the highlands. This river was captivating, with waterfalls, pools and amazing scenery. We made dozens of stops just to check out the views and catch imaginary fish in the pools in the river. There were other amazing sights, including an old church built in 1674 with an ancient graveyard.

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Once we reached the summit of the range, the road dropped quickly down the fjord into Trondheim. Our initial plan was to spend the night in Trondheim, but once we arrived it seemed like 8pm was far too early to stop moving, and the town itself did not seem too appealing, so we continued North for a few more hours. The road followed the coastline, so we had been hoping for great views of the sea and green farmlands and fjords. The magnificence was blocked by clouds, however, as the afternoon rains had settled in and obstructed the views.

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Around 10pm, we started looking for a place to stay. Norway was proving to be very expensive (our first night hotel cost $200, which felt like about three times what it was worth, and gas is about US$7 per gallon), so we decided to find a place to pull over and bushwhack for the night. We both had tents with us, hoping to take advantage of the Scandinavian policy of ‘allemansrätten’ (“all man’s Right”), which gives everyone legal permission to camp anywhere they want with the caveat that they are not too close to someone’s dwelling, and that they leave the land in at least as good condition as they found it. The result is that you can find anywhere that looks cozy…along a stream, on a woods road, on an old road cut…and pitch a tent and stay for a night or two without fear of getting in trouble.

We soon found a great pullout where the old road left the new one and followed along a stream. About 200 meters down this old tarmac was a great flat spot with the sound of tumbling water to mask the road noises. Since it was so rainy out, we decided to not put up tents and just sleep in the back of the rental. To our pleasant surprise, the seats folded completely flat and the back made a totally flat space about as large as a double tent. We moved our gear bags into the front seat, stretched our sleeping bags and pads, and within minutes were sound asleep with the noise of the rain on the roof.

The next morning, I awoke in the misty dew and stretched. It felt pretty early, so I packed my stuff quietly without waking Kevin and got up to just enjoy the solitude. A minute later, a sleepy voice asked from the back of the truck “Morning. Hey man, what time is it?”

I guessed about 7 or 7:30, so imagine my surprise when the dashboard clock said 11:30. No way! I checked my phone and it agreed…we had slept for almost 12 hours! One of the problems of being somewhere with 24-hour daylight is that your internal circadian clock gets pretty out of whack. But good thing it was 24 hour daylight!

Packing up the truck, we headed off in search for a cup of coffee. The next town on the road was Mosjøen, where a signpost the previous day had said it had a lot of nice coffeeshops. We parked near the center of this small village, and wandered off to find breakfast and coffee. It felt like a ghost town, with the drizzle and overcast skies and almost no one there. We eventually found a little cafeteria that looked potential, but when we went in, they only sold things like hamburgers and pizza; not what we wanted. So we asked some locals hanging out in the doorway if they knew of a good coffeeshop or bread bakery and they laughed and said “not in THIS town’ and pointed us up the road towards a small restaurant. We went it, and it wasn’t as dingy as the previous one, so we had a couple of cups of coffee and an omelet that was on the lunch menu. The owner was Turkish, so I swapped stories about places I had visited in Turkey, and we left after our meal with full bellies, jacked up on coffee, and a great feeling.

IMG_8983Kevin saw an interesting little house down a side alley, so he said “Hey, lets explore down here”. We walked down the alleyway, and emerged in the Old part of town, with fishermen’s houses, boat buildings, and…wouldn’t you guess it…a great little coffeeshop. Kevin bought another cup and I took some photos, then we wandered along the street until we found an old museum.

The museum manager was a nice guy, late 20’s, and he asked up where we were from. When we told him America, he asked “So…what do you think about the possibility of another Bush in the White House?”

Kevin said, “God, I hope not!” and the conversation instantly went to American politics. For a Norwegian, he was very up-to-date on the issues in the States, and shared some very common perspectives that I have heard from so many non-Americans through the years. Among them was total bewilderment that Americans would fight against a movement to provide them with free healthcare, that they have an unhealthy and irrational fascination with guns, and that they have no idea how respected and honored President Obama is in the rest of the world. When I pointed out that a great number of Americans, mostly Conservatives, are convinced that he is not only ridiculed in the world, but that he has made the US look weak and indecisive, he was astounded. He said that in his own opinion and the opinions of pretty much everyone he knows, the only President who has done more for the American image abroad was Clinton, who was renowned as a great compromiser and able to help all sides realize their goals.

IMG_8993I told him that he would see a very different America if he visited, then we headed off to continue our road trip.

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