A long day ahead filled with lot's of activities. We got up early in the morning and rushed in order to catch the morning ferry which our host Ellsif had warned us about. We were lucky to catch the first ferry of the day and proceed towards our first destination - the Litlefjellet. I still remember Ellsif warning me about running and hiking being different and there was no greater reality check than the short climb of 0.8km which took us 20 min to complete. Once on the top, we knew why she had insisted on making this trek happen. Grand views on both sides of the mountains greeted us and the clean crisp mountain air had us spending almost an hour on top. There was something that we noticed there though - a small post with the name of the hike and a box beneath it - Everyone who visits the trail/hike writes down their name and the city they came from. A much better and cleaner way of keeping a record of I was here.
On our way back from Litlefjellet, we both remembered about a particular toll that Ellsif had mentioned. We had kept searching for someone who would be collecting the toll, but then had seen no one on our way up. While going back, we stopped at what looked like a signpost and a post box put together. Looking at the notice posted there we were shocked that a system such as this could exist. It was our first experience of Norwegian culture. This was a toll booth, where in there were some envelopes and an instruction manual. It requested the person to pay x amount if you are going to be there for a single day and some 1.5x amount if you stay overnight. The traveler was supposed to put the money in the envelope, seal it, put the car details on top of it and deposit the envelope in the box nearby. All of this with no supervision!!! And trust me, we found people doing it religiously. Not one person thought of skipping the toll as there is no one to watch them. So as all good tourists do, we followed the Norwegian tradition and deposited our share of the toll and moved on.
The plan for the day was to drive through Trollstigen, Gudbrandsjuvet, cross Gerainger and reach Laerdal by night. Trollstigen turned out to be more fun than we imagined. The drive itself was great, consisting of 11 hairpin bends taking us to the top of the mountain. One more thing that we realized was that the government ensures that each tourist place is supported with a clean and beautiful cafe, constructed in a way so as to add to the beauty of the surroundings and creatively built view points. After clicking some selfies from the view points, and dipping our feet in the cold Stigfossen waters we decided to grab some grub. Till this day, I can't forget the taste of the open prawn sandwich I had at Trollstigen. One of the best ones. We sat there enjoying the sun and the sandwich, topped it off with an ice-cream, toured through the huge souvenir shop - which consisted mostly of different shapes and sizes of trolls and made our way back to the car. Next stop was Gudbrandsjuvet - a gorge carved in the mountainside due to a gushing river. It was a crazy experience listening to the deafening noise of the river as it plummeted from one kettle bowl to another, crystal blue waters and white foam. There are also a lot of activities around the area, like river crossing and other hikes along the gorge. Since we were in the off season, we couldn't get to partake in any of that.
The rest of the day pretty much consisted of driving through the fjords, mountains and tunnels, halting to click pictures on the way and driving by remote villages. As you proceed towards the northern tip of Norway, you realize that most of the places even eat outs are closed all through the winter. The Stryn Vertshus cafe was an exception and we treated ourselves to some hot coffee, a pizza and some rice which lasted us for dinner as well. Till now we were drawing a blank on finding a place to stay for the night, but luckily we found a campsite which had a room to let. With accommodation sorted, we slowed down, stopping at various towns in between to soak in the atmosphere, enjoy the night settling in and seeing Norway light up. One thing was certain, if anyone ever has to experience beauty at it's best - Norway is the place to be.
What we thought would be an uneventful day (so to say) turned quite the opposite once we reached our hotel. We realized that probably it was one of the days where we might be able to get a chance of seeing the famed Aurora. We scrambled out of bed, only to get locked out of the hotel itself. We finally managed to wake up another tourist staying on the ground floor by knocking on his window pane and asking him to open the door for us. Poor guy was scared out of his wits by two men waking him up in the middle of the night :P.
We even tried to get over ambitious by driving a few kms out of the town in order to get a better glimpse of the Aurora. Unfortunately, the Aurora dimmed down and my tripod got stuck leaving us with no choice but to go back and call it a night.
Ferries are another thing in Norway that you need to get used to. With numerous Fjords, the shortest routes are usually through them - either tunnels under them or ferries over them. The ferries are impeccable, arrive on the dot, in under 5 minutes or so all the vehicles drive off, new ones are onboarded and the ferry takes off. A lovely cafeteria inside, a small deck to enjoy the fjord and a ticket conductor right on board . And yes....the views on board the ferries or while you wait for it...are just spectacular! We started our second morning with this view!
As the Sun's rays start warming up the day, a couple of houses get their 5 min of extra sleep time in the valley shielded by the mountain and the dense trees
A red hut in a clearing amidst the gorgeous mountainside of Norway. Miles and miles of wilderness, with not even another house nearby and still everything looks so picture perfect. May be Norway is meant for solitude loving people like me
One of the shortest hikes in Norway, yet one of the most popular ones due to the views of the Base Jumping cliff - Litlefjellet. A small but steep hike takes us to the top of this little mountain. Our first encounter with Norway's mountains was awesome. Soft and pudgy grass land , sharp rocks, clean crisp mountain air and beautiful views!!
The splendid view that greeted us from the other side of Litlefjellet. With the soft grass and hard rocks beneath your feet, even a person like me who has vertigo, was not at all scared going out on the edge and getting some photos.
Norway has one of the most extensively marked hiking trails across the mountains. With cabins at multiple places to help hikers in need and clearly marked paths to help them find their way across the wildernest. One such path went along the bridge across this gushing stream and emerged on the top of Trollstigen.
Troll's ladder or the Troll's pathway - a series of 11 hairpin bends that takes you to the top of the cliff and the start of Stigfossen. One of the best views of the day.
The road to TrollStiegen - the Troll's ladder is made up of 11 hairpin bends and is a treat to drive on. On the way up you come across Stigfossen, a beautiful waterfall thundering down from the top of the mountain.
On top of Trollstigen is the Trollstigen Cafe. One of the places with the best view and designed such that instead of being a sore thumb in the surroundings, it adds to the beauty. Serving one of the best prawn open sandwiches I have ever tested, yummy softies a huge shop for souvenirs and the icy cool water of the Stigfossen to dip your legs into :)
These calm waters convert into the mighty Stigfossen in a matter of minutes gushing down the Troll's ladder
The mountains of Norway may not scare you, but the numerous man made view points definitely will. One of the best view points that I saw in Norway - These steps lead to an overhang constructed above the cliff and have a glass wall at the end which makes you feel like there is no fence at all! Scary as hell - yet one of the best ways to get a valley view
A roaring river carving out a gorge in the mountain side, deep blue kettlebowls in the middle, deafening noise and dense foliage on the sides!
An old arc bridge over the Gudbrandsjuvet adds to the beauty.
Another wait for the ferry. A pleasant sight to watch the ferry crossing the almost standstill waters of the fjord with the mountains in the background. Idyllic to the core. A travelers delight
Squidgy mountain grass all along, a variety of flowers along the valley floor, endless mountain ranges as far as you can see.. and yet the heart aches to trek along all of these atleast once in a lifetime to get the real feel of Norway.
Blue mountain lakes are not a rarity.. you find them in India as well, but in Norway the blue waters also give you an insight into the depth of the lake. On the banks of the same lake you find multiple cairns built by tourists. The sight is an amazing ones specially with the contrasting colors - Blue of the lake and sky, the grey of the mountains, the white snow, the green grass, the purple flowers and yes the whitish rocks.
A cairn of my own smile emoticon A small pile to test my own skills.. not that hard to balance them smile emoticon
The beach had a splendid view and a walk around it provided with this beautiful mirror. Appartently there also was a viking museum inside.. but closed again for the winter
As sunset approached and we hit the level ground.. so to say.. we stopped by a restaurant / cafe to refresh ourselves. Only to notice that the same had been closed for the winter. Nevertheless it did provide us with a few breath taking views... in this one, the restaurant with its own beach by the fjord
With Aniket by the side, I never had to worry about where to stop for the a quick coffee. He always had figured out a good place on the route. While driving by this small town, we came across this cozy little beautiful cafe .. a cafe which we couldn't skip at all
An inviting couch, perfect mood lighting and a slight chill in the air - what more could a weary traveler ask for at his coffee break.
Couldn't understand half of the stuff written on the board, but to order coffee and a hot chocolate you don't need to know Norwegian. The waitress was kind enough to help us choose a pizza and a sandwich and we packed enough for the road too.
Pune is world famous for its sarcastic notes and notice boards put up everywhere - right from restaurants to marriage halls, to homes and various places on the streets. Looked like this place had a Pune connect too!
The cafe manager, the new generation in Norway had big plans of making his cafe a big hit. With a sports screen to showcase sports events, ski festival and other music shows around. The beautiful cafe definitely deserved more attention.
As the sun set, and the light went down, the cafe ambience grew more and more enchanting. Quiet town, outdoor seating and lovely ambience - time for a perfect date?
care for a drink anyone?
Two chairs wait their turn to give company to a lovely couple who may like to spend a beautiful September Evening with them on a romantic candle light dinner
An empty street, pretty houses, prettier sidewalks and hardly any people around, pretty much sums up what traveling in Norway is like. Solitude at it's best
That was the entrance of the cafe that made us stop and visit inside... how could one not enter?A pretty sight in the setting rays of the Sun
The team that manages the Styn Vertshus! Guys anyone passing that way, do stop and taste the food!! It is awesome.
Norweigian people are crazy about fitness ..and sports is a way of life... seen here is one such lone kayaker on his daily fitness routine in the fjords. Little did we know that this was just glimpse of things to come our way in terms of fitness in the later half of the road trip.
The problem with driving in the western countries is that you can't stop wherever you want. So clicking photos while moving along the way is your best option to capture some of the moments. It is a hit or a miss, but I think in this trip I managed to get some really good hits -this being one of them.
A lone boat anchored in the fjords forms another pretty sight.
And while on the move, you notice these cabins lit up by the Sun's last rays and before you have time to stop your reflex action has already captured the scene on the move.
Usually after the sunset, a photographer thinks, its time to keep the camera inside... but then nature does prove you wrong... just as we made our way towards our destination, this sight made us stop. Never has the sky looked so beautiful, yet calm, never has the mountain looked so imposing yet inviting, never has the road seemed so lonely yet the perfect companion - and never have I been so peaceful yet so lonely
The light starts to fade, the magentas disappear and the blues take over the night. Slowly the remotely populated villages start lighting up, preparing themselves for the night
The red and yellow trails of the cars passing through the town, create a striking contrast with the wooden cabins and the various hues in the sky
A restaurant and a few cabins just turn on their lights to welcome the night . The Norwegian government has a great aesthetic sense and has ensured that all the man made establishments add on to the surrounding nature instead of ruining it.
One above and one below, one real and one imaginary, but in this fairytale land, the real one is much more prettier than the imaginary one!
A few kilometers ahead, we get to view this... a well light town, in the late twilight reflected in the calm waters of the fjord -
I have seen the sky turn blue, but then you say was that new?
Red, Orange and shades of pink, even the shabby gray you've seen
Desperate now for a miracle to occur, just as we are about to sleep the sky changes its color!
Bright green shades appear in the sky - just to wish you goodnight and goodbye!
And just when we thought we were done for the night... Aniket helps me with the Aurora probability and we venture out in the cold night to capture the northern lights. This time very much prominent. We even manage to get a reflection of the same in the waters nearby. Unfortunately it is too doark to realise where we have set up the camera and what lies ahead of us...and this is the best we could capture