I knew it would be a nutty exploit driving 1,100-kilometres (around 684 miles) in two days along Norway‘s coastal road. So why did I do it?
Well, it wasn’t for the weather. It drizzled most of the time with the sun taking a sneaky tantalising peak through the clouds every so often. The elements teased right through to sundown at 11pm – a late sunset is a a quirk of Norway’s daylight cycle during the summer months.
It wasn’t a boozy trip either as a humble pint of beer knocks you back £12 and with just over 5 million people in a space as large as the UK, the nightlife was not exactly heaving.
And forget about the romance of negotiating winding roads at speed – the 80km/h (50 miles) limit is strictly adhered to and without any specific fine range, a speeding fine could empty the bank coffers.
Yet there are some compelling reasons: the roads are utterly superb – a sure sign of the expense and attention paid to the infrastructure – the scenery of fjords, waterfalls, mountains and lavish greenery is exceptional and with six road-ferry combo experiences peppered throughout the road trip from Stavanger to Trondheim, you get to see different perspectives of the scenery from the water.
So, I picked up my 2-wheel drive Mazda CX-3 in Stavanger the evening before – a car which for a mildly nervous driver like myself – seemed solid enough to steer me through some hair-pin strewn mountain roads and narrow tunnels.
With so much daylight I explored Stavanger that first evening. It’s a handsome town with a pretty harbour, wavy streets lined with white clapperboard homes. There’s a pretty lake too replete with swans, seagulls, ducks and some loitering sparrows that broke out into a frenzy at the mere hint of any bread being thrown their way.
In the morning I awoke with the birds around 5am for an early 6am start for the first leg of the trip to Loen. I braved the drizzle and got into the car with a trusty breakfast pack in hand, which I learned was a highly-prized provision since there was not a single eatery along the way other than at the odd petrol station and possibly at campervan resorts.
The ferry crossings were regular and efficient and my early start meant being able to avoid the deluge of campervans and inevitable queues that hit the road slightly later in the day.The roads were incredibly smooth and I passed miles and miles of rocky or lavish emerald green terrain and mountains rising into low hanging clouds. It was haunting yet beautiful all at once.
At Etne it was a slow crawl at just 40kms with a road climbing up to at a 10 per cent incline taking in a mountain tunnel only to find that at the other side the elevation had dropped. My ears popped several times and before they could unpop there was another tunnel and yet another which finally deposited me into a valley where a smog had moved in. And just as I adjusted to light at the end of one tunnel another appeared. This was becoming hard work.