Norway - the land of mountains, tunnels, fjords, trolls and northern lights! This was the most awaited part of my journey. The true wilderness that I longed to experience. Although our earlier plans to go to Lofoten had to be cancelled, we knew that driving down from Trondheim to Bergen would more than make up for it.
The moment I boarded the flight to Trondheim, I was scanning the horizon for a sighting of the Aurora Borealis - the famous northern lights. Although the weather on the ground indicated heavy rains, (which meant that no chance of sighting the famous lights) I kept scanning the sky for a glimpse of the same. And lo and behold, there they were. A familiar streak of green in the night sky. I was so elated, that I tried every possible trick i knew to capture them in my camera to minimize the internal reflection of the plane. So while Aniket decided to catch up on his sleep and after seeing my antics, he was glad that he did :P , I kept my eyes and nose glued to the plane window capturing all the magnificence of the green aurora.
A quick check in into the airport hotel, which also served as the train station for Trondheim, we retired to bed to get an early start in the morning. I was out of bed at the glimpse of day break to soak in the view and the first sight of Norway was something I cannot forget. I had a sense of heightened excitement and immense peace at the same time. Yes there was rain in the air, but the mountains in the distance, the fjords in between and the airport situated in between them, it was a sight to behold. I couldn't wait to get out.
A quick breakfast, well definitely not a small one though - with loads of Norwegian local delicacies like pickled herring - we walked across and picked up our car - A red sporty Citroen, - which was to take us on our journey for the next few days. Aniket, took the wheel while I settled in the passenger seat with my camera gear, ready to get out and click the amazing landscapes whenever I get a chance.
20 minutes on the road and I realized that there are 2 things that are gonna be bothering me all through the trip.
1) The fact that I did not bring my 24-70 mm lens - a big blunder as most of the perfect shots fell in that range rather than the 16-35 mm that I was carrying
2) Norway like many other countries has designated stops for pulling over and you just cant stop your car wherever you wish to.
These two things meant that I am gonna lose out on some of the best snaps on the journey. But Norway being Norway, it takes you not more than 5 min to get over this thought and all you can do is keep pointing your camera in any direction and just keep clicking. Our plan for the day was to reach Molde ( a small town on the coast of Norway) via Kristiansund and the Atlantic route. The major attraction on the way being the drive on the Atlantic Route.
A couple of stops into the journey we ran into Michael and Uta - a lovely couple from Cologne, Germany who were on their yearly break. We caught up with each other for a while, discussed our plans for the day, said bye to them and went ahead on our way. Late afternoon we entered the sleepy town of Kristiansund. Most of the shops were closed due to the onset of winter and so were many restaurants. Luckily we could find one of the most famous Chinese restaurant open for lunch and we had a good meal to keep us in good stead till we reached Molde. While walking back towards the car, we again ran into Michael and Uta (talk about coincidence :) ). This time we decided to catch up over a cup of coffee. Stories were exchanged on how each of us landed in Norway. We talked about where they were gonna be put up and what our plans were. Soon enough it was as if we knew each other for a really long time. As the evening set in, we had to say good bye and proceed on our way.
By now we both were used to one thing - driving through tunnels. The average length of a Norwegian tunnel is approximately 5 km. That itself was too long for us, but as days would go by, we would realize that this is hardly anything, and there would be more surprises in store for us. I attempted a brief stint of driving the citroen but was not too comfortable, plus it meant that I had to stop too often to click pictures. So we switched back to the tried and tested formula of Aniket behind the wheel and myself behind the camera.
What followed, was one of the most breathtaking drives on the Atlantic route. Given a chance I would have loved to spend an entire night out there, but when you are on your first international road trip, you wanna cram everything you can in those 10 days trip. So with a heavy heart we proceeded towards Molde. Many more scenic vistas later, a brief stop at the town of Bud and it's beautiful jetty, and then the awesomest sunset later we reached Molde.
Aniket had managed to book ourselves into an Air BnB in Molde. Our host Ellsif turned out to be an angel. After a brief introduction and realizing that we are the amateur tourists who plan to do too many things in too short a time, she made us sit down and planned our entire journey for us. She knew all the best routes, the best places to stay and the best places to eat all along the road. Plus given the fact that she was an expert hiker, she ensured that we did not make light of the Trolltunga trek that we were planning to do. She suggested a couple of short hikes on the our way the next day which could give us an insight into the mountains of Norway. We ended up chatting quite late into the night, enjoying the fresh plums from her garden and playing with her cocker spaniel. Her education in the States and her Norwegian roots meant that see had experienced the best of both worlds and her funny anecdotes about the various types of tourists that she comes across were a delight to hear. Finally after figuring out the best time to start the next day and adjusting our alarm times so that we get to leave on time and she gets to go to work on schedule, we bid her goodnight and retired to bed.
An awesome first day had come to a great end - and I looked forward to many more in Norway!