Wednesday, 28 June 2017

NEST - Norway 2 - Crikey Kate

It's mid June and we are driving through ice fields, still covered with metres thick drifts of snow along a high plateau with a frozen lake stretching before me. It all takes your breath away and frazzles the brain trying to concentrate driving through the rain with poor visibility on narrow roads and take in all that is around you. Today has been bleak once again and it seems only right to settle for the night somewhere equally bleak. Namely on a spit of land that divides an ice lake. Our view in either direction is frozen water surrounded by snow covered valley walls. It's pretty dramatic and after cooking a hot pot and drinking hot chocolate we hunker down in clothes under our duvet and sleep like logs.

Wow. That was a fresh night. But man is it good to open the blinds to all that nature!
Today turned out to be a day of mixed emotions. The good ones were that we were driving along the beautiful route of Guartfjell. This takes in spectacular valleys and waterfalls although it is tinged by the ever present rain or drizzle that seems to be a permanent feature in Norway. We thought this drive would be less taxing on Crawlie after the strains of the previous two days and so it proved to be until rounding a corner Rachel discovered the accelerator wasn't working.

"Oh now what?" We both cried. We pull over to the side of the road, put out our warning triangles and did some swearing not unlike John Cleese in Faulty Towers before he starts beating the car with a tree branch. 

Luckily, After a couple of minutes, a friendly mechanic comes by, identifies the problem and puts a clamp on the throttle cable which has come loose. Good as new! We start the engine. Expecting a welcoming roar but instead are greeted by misfiring. It sounds like a repeat of Germany. And since we are in the middle of nowhere we decide to limp to a nearby village and call out breakdown...AGAIN!

We go through the rigmarole of Rachel's phone not working and my Skype reception being poor on my internet only phone sim, then we give up and seek assistance from the local store. The manager lends us her phone to call England for about 20 minutes, allows us to stay in the closed shop until the breakdown lorrry was sorted and even gave us cakes for sustenance. Thank you to that incredibly kind person.

So far we have had to replace a blown head gasket, get new water pump, timing belt, 4 new sparks, new coolant and oil, ran out of cooking gas so had to buy Danish bottle and adapter and the zip on Rachel's coat we bought a few weeks ago broke. Now we have a broken throttle cable and the van sounds like it's going to die again. Great!

The breakdown guy arrives and is not worried about the throttle as the temporary fix and says it is as effective as getting the new part. However he cannot figure out what the misfiring is about. He hopes that one of the new spark plugs is faulty but hasn't got a replacement and can't get the right one until morning so we are treated to another night in a garage forecourt.

Next morning we try the spark plug. It's no better and so we have to go to a proper garage nearby. They are busy so can't look until 2.30pm and since they close at 3.30pm  are unlikely to fix it if it needs something expensive. So they look and are still not sure so order new HT leads and ignition system that will arrive midday the following day. We love spending holiday time in garages so treat ourselves to yet another one and spend our time reading, playing backgammon and hoping that it will only be the leads and not the ignition system or something worse in the most expensive country in the universe.

Bloody hell! It was just the leads. And now Crawlie is running like a dream. Better than ever and she is like a young Colt wanting to get on the road. We therefore pay the still ludicrous cost (although cheaper than we had mentally prepared for) price. £150 and get the hell out of Dodge (Forde).

You know with this latest fix our confidence has risen. Crawlie purrs along. Sure she isn't fast but she is fast enough. And without doubt we are still thrilled to have her. She trundles up and down mountains undeterred. She goes for hundreds of miles smiling the whole time. The enormous interior space hidden in a comparatively diminutive exterior is so, so .....Tardessy. We look at big fancy wagons and scoff. Yes scoff! All that wasted space...pah!. Even so. The incessant rain and strain is getting us a little down and we need to pick ourselves up. This trip has not turned out as we expected. We have not had the opportunity to socialise since it has often been drizzling or cold and due to those mechanical faults our schedule is shorted by over a week. Yes, yes Crawlie. I know you are sorry and it's all in the past....... How did I ever get to love a car? 39 years of driving and never once saw any car as more that a a vehicle and now, here I am having imaginary conversations!

We have given ourselves a talking to and we head off over the Vikafjell plateau which is all far away views and mountains and beauty and camp near a town called Voss where we decide to buy some waterproofs for a big walk we have planned. Norway prices are too pricey as you know so we find a Salvation Army store and Rachel finds a wacky three quarter length, purple, sou-wester material coat and I buy a lightweight rain jacket that turns out not to be waterproof!

The Hardanger Tourist route has all the usual suspects. Waterfalls, tunnels, views etc.
and, in one tunnel, a space agey roundabout which Rachel is very impressed with. See video in gallery. We park up in a carpark that is not meant to be 24 hours but is just a few km from the walk we are doing the next day and as other campers are staying we decide to join the herd. It's a nice quiet spot surrounded by soaring rock faces. Luckily we get talking to some Netherlanders who are driving up to the top car park to pay the exorbitant £30 parking fee in the morning and are offered a lift. We in turn offer to pay half for the parking...everyone's a winner baby ain't no lie. Come 4.45 they arrive but have themselves got a lift from their hotelier so it's all free. Good. I was regretting the 50% offer.

Trolltunga (trolls tongue) is an amazing walk. It starts with a 400 metre climb on a very steep rocky path so gets the blood flowing good and early. Overall it's 22km from base back to base and is a fantastic trek - picking your way through rock strewn flats, crystal clear mountain tarns shimmering in this day of rare sun. Past colourful lichen, ice lakes and fields of snows that are still only muddied with a single trodden path. The route only opened two days before we did it. Our early start means that most of the time there are only a few people dotted around heading the same way. Later on for our return it is a very different story with the majority starting around 9 or 10 in the hope of finishing by 8 or 9 that evening... About 3 hours before sunset. We therefore swam against the tide. A good feeling. Each hill we crest brings a new sight and the path is so diverse that even when there is nothing new the walking still keeps you focused. After 8 km of walking Rachel breaks through an ice cap over a stream and stumbles down a couple of feet. Banging her knee really hard on some rocks. It swells dramatically and fast and causes her to limp quite badly and requiring frequent stops to apply ice - luckily we got lots of that! The last 3 km was a lot slower and because there is a lot of snow and ice in this part of the trek she was rightly nervous.

Finally we reach Trolltunga, which is a fantastic geographic feature of granite in the shape of a poked out tongue that sticks out from the side of a sheer drop over a long wide mountain lake many hundreds of metres below. Here like everyone else we click pictures , watch a wedding proposal and apparently missed a male stripper before setting off down to the comfort and shower inside Crawlie. Going down takes forever! Rachel hobbling. Me trying to steal some of the thunder coz my newish hiking boots had given me several painful blisters. We take a slight wrong turn at one point and end up following a french family with a GPS who tell us that we are actually on the quickest route to the car park. Only after following this fast walking demon for about 45 minutes do we discover he has gone completely wrong and we are forced to walk an additional 2 kilometres. 

This in turn causes us to miss our rendezvous for a lift back to our van so then have to start walking another 5 km and thumb a lift after about 20mins with a heaven sent angel from Australia on a driving holiday. A long and challenging day but once back we make hot pot, turn on the heating and sleep the sleep of the righteous.

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