Some facts about Norway. It has a population of just over 5 million, and a surface area of 386,000 square kilometres, half of which is mountain, and a further third forest, lake and river. It has a constitutional monarchy, the King being Harald V, who came to the throne in 1991. It is not a member of the EU, but has signed up to the EEA free-trade deal and the Schengen Agreement. Think seafood would be their national dish? Wrong – it is frozen pizza – the Norwegians consume 20 million of them each year. A bit like Chicken Tikka Masala being the Brits favourite go-to meal. The other fact, which Howard read out yesterday, is that Norway is the wettest country in Europe – something which we can certainly concur with. Probably Karma for being rude about people who take cruises!
When checking the Norwegian meteorological website last night, it looked like the rain might subside by mid afternoon, and so we took a chance and booked the Lysefjord ferry for the return trip down to Lyseboten at the far end of the fjord and back. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was wrong, but stoically, we did the trip anyway.
Lysefjord is a stunning narrow fjord, 42 kilometres long, known for it’s steep cliffs, amazing rock formations and blue-black colour. Many visitors come to Lysefjord to hike to it’s most famous rock formation, the Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock – a 25 metre square table of rock, that projects into the fjord and sits 600 metres above the water. Remarkably, despite all the hundreds of visitors who flock there to stand and have their photo taken, none yet have fallen off, although with no safety rail, I’m sure with the current ‘selfie’ craze, this will only be a matter of time.
We boarded the ferry after lunch as foot passengers, although many people take their vehicles along to Lyseboten, to drive the famous 27 hair-pin bend, hideously steep road at the head of the fjord. We chickened out of this one, particularly in view of the poor weather, instead opting to see the fjord from the boat. I must admit, it was a pretty damp trip in the main, having to constantly wipe my camera lens, and dry the camera with a towel. Some might say it was atmospheric, and I guess it was. The towering black cliffs and low lying cloud certainly gave the fjord quite a forboding feel today, rather like our trip to Doubtful Sound in New Zealand. The difference being, eventually the sun broke through in Doubtful, offering us a wonderful contrast between the moody greyness and the wonderful light that then followed. Today, we had no such luck. Dark leaden clouds hung around all afternoon, and although the rain eased a little, it was not ideal. The commentary was very interesting though, as we slowly chugged our way along. On passing one farm dwelling clinging to the cliff edge, we were told that the farmer’s wife used to tie her children with rope when they went outside to play, so as not to fall down the cliff. A novel form of parenting, but I guess very practical. Pulpit Rock was a bit of an anti-climax, I’m sure better viewed from above, rather than at fjord level, but we could just spy the pinhead sized people peering over the edge – rather them than me! We also watched daredevils para-ascending down the steepest part of the cliff edge onto a tiny patch of grass. It appeared that a helicopter was depositing them at the top, and a speed boat collecting them at the bottom. Again, rather them, than me!
Sod’s Law, just as we stepped off the ferry this evening, the sun broke through and we saw the first patch of blue sky we had seen all day. This seems to be a pattern in the weather here, with much brighter weather last thing at night and into the early hours.
We headed back to the campsite for tea. Arriving back, some cheeky Germans had taken our hook up lead, which we left lying by our pitch, signifying that we were coming back. They only looked mildly apologetic as Howard asked for it back. The campsite itself is sited on an ancient archeological site, which has been inhabited for over 3,500 years. To signify this, they have built mock ups of Bronze Age and Iron Age dwellings around the site – so as I sit typing, I am looking out on a turf-roofed long-house – different, at least!
Tomorrow we will head northwards towards Bergen, which has the honour of being Europe’s wettest city.
Howard had been positively gloating abut his new purchase of the sou’wester – it has hardly been off his head since he bought it. I feel like I’m married to Captain BirdsEye! Could have been worse though – at least I stood my ground, and refused to let him buy the bright orange one!