Travel

Jackie Harding on the road, Pt. 2: Expat bikers tour Norway’s ferries, fjords, waterfalls … and crowds

(Editor’s note: This is Pt. 2 of three installments. Netherlands-based travel writer photographer documented her trip to Norway with her expat motorcycle touring club. You can see Pt. 1 here.)

The Holland Norway Lines are the first ferry company to open a service between Norway and the Netherlands and its departure port is easily accessible for Dutch, German and even British travellers.

Leaving from Eemshaven in the north, just 30 minutes’ drive from the city of Groningen (2.5 hours from Amsterdam by car) it’s very accessible. With three ferry companies running from the United Kingdom to Rotterdam, Hoek van Holland or Amsterdam/Ijmuiden this also makes driving to Norway from the UK a doable option for camper van drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and those who have no wish to fly these days.

The HN ferry, Romantika, runs three days a week. As the ferry runs overnight, you must book a cabin, all of which are private – basic but comfortable and clean.

In the first leg of our tour, we rode from the small port of Kristiansand, Norway, where we arrived to Stavanger. The second part takes us from Stavanger to Geiranger.

Now, for the benefit of those of you who are not motorcyclists, let me just explain
the rules of such a trip
:

1) Ride, ride, ride
2) Stop for coffee and lunch at appropriate times
3) Ride, ride, ride
4) Only stop at limited touristic locations.

(I shall endeavor to add a couple of suggestions of places that I should have liked to visit, given the opportunity.)

Day 2: Stavanger to Bergen

What a way to start with an early morning ferry ride over a fjord that was cobalt blue, from Mortavika to Arsvågen. Then we followed the coastline and alongside more lakes and fjords, skirting the Hardangervidda National Park, until we stopped for a surprise visit in Ølen.

The Rosemaling store has a selection of touristic goodies on offer but Unni, the owner and artist, specializes in “rosemaling,” specific Norwegian rose painting, an ancient technique used to decorate church walls, ceilings and household items.

All photos by Jackie Harding

Langfossen

This waterfall was exceptional and has been named by the World Waterfall Database as “one of the best in the world” and is fifth-tallest in Norway. All I can tell you is that this bunch of hardy international motorcyclists were giddy with excitement when we rode past and stopped! The water literally ejects off the top of a mountain 612 meters high and the power is felt in the roar of the water which is so loud you have to shout to be heard!

There is a hike to the top that takes four hours round trip.

Låtefossen

Another waterfall and again so close to the road you are showered as you pass by. Låtefossen is a 165-meter drop and situated by the side of a lovely river next to an old stone bridge. The waterfall has been a tourist attraction since the 1800’s. There is a small hut here that sells some gifts and a spot for a picnic, although the road was very busy.

Hardanger Maritime Museum

At Norheimsund, you can visit the family-friendly Handanger Maritime Museum, where you can watch old ships being restored, new ships being built, rope making or even take a course in such specialities such as basket weaving, rope making, learning to whittle a toy boat and even box making. You can even sail on S/J Matilde a ship from the 1800’s.

The on-site café sells local produce and handicrafts.

Bryggan

Bergen

Bergen, the second-largest city in Norway, is a UNESCO World Heritage City and is known as
“The Gateway to The Fjords.” It’s also known as the street art capital of Norway. It’s a great location to base yourself for touring and is also, like Stavanger, a popular port for cruise ships.

Bryggan

Founded in 1070, the city became part of the Hanseatic League, an organization of merchant communities and became an important port in the 13th century. Bryggan, on the UNESCO protected list, is an area next to the harbor and today it comprises of the fish market, the Bergenhus fortress and the colorful old buildings that now house bars, restaurants, galleries, shops and a couple of museums.

Mount Fløyen

Bergen is surrounded by seven mountains and the closest to the town centre (5 minute’s walk from the Fish Market) is Mount Fløyen. To reach the top you can ride the funicular, the Fløibanen, for stunning views of the city.

Troldhaugen

Troldhaugen was the home of composer, Edvard Greig, who lived here for 22 years and it now is a living museum. There are guided tours, a lunchtime concert and a shop and café. It is accessible by car or tram.

The view from the last ferry ride of Day 3

Day 3 Bergen to Liabygda

The day began with stunning fjords and lush green fields, dotted with the traditional Norwegian red barns and one of our many ferry rides, this time to Lavik.

Ferry rides are a big part of touring Norway and provide a chance, if on motorcycles, to stretch your legs, grab a coffee and make use of the “facilities.” Ferries don’t take cash or cards, they just scan your licence plate and charge “FerryPay,” an account which is a must-have when in Norway and easy to set up via a QR code on the boat.

The other transport attraction are tunnels. It turns out Norway has more tunnels than any other country with more than 1,000 and some of the longest. Laerdal tunnel (we didn’t get to experience this one) is the longest in the world at 24 kilometers. We rode through many tunnels and believe me, they can go so deep into the mountains or below the fjords you begin to starting looking for trolls!

Some even have roundabouts in them!

The day’s ride started with green fields but we gradually rode higher and higher until in front of us were snow capped mountains.

Jostedalsbreen National Park

We rode through the edge of the Jostedalsbreen National Park, where Europe’s largest glacier can be found. The Visitors Centre is at Stryn and contains exhibitions and info about the Jostedal glacier, avalanches, wildlife and has a gift shop and café.

Scenery so big it swallows up a giant cruise ship

Geiranger

After the starkness of the snow and mountains we followed some winding roads down into an emerald green valley at the head of the most stunning fjord, and there at the bottom we found Geiranger. Lonely Planet have named it “Best Travel Destination in Scandanavia.”

The Geirangerfjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is truly breathtaking. Geiranger itself is a tiny village with a population of only 250 permanent residents. It is a popular destination for cruises so the crowds and number of tourist buses can be sizable at times.

When we were there, MSC Grandiosa, (181,541 gross tonnage, with a guest capacity of 6,334 passengers) was moored at the floating dock. Even a ship that size was dwarfed by the grandeur of the surroundings.

The fjord itself hosts two waterfalls and several mountain farms, a couple of which you can visit. One is Skageflå and can be reached with a 2-hour-to-4 hour hike from the village or by boat and a steep climb up 270 meters. The other farm, Knivsflå, can be reached by boat and then a 30-minute-to-60 minute climb. Both farms are near the waterfalls.

Unfortunately, due to the crowds we were unable to stop here but the views, as we rode up the steep “twisties” leaving the village, were spectacular and, as we were stuck behind several buses, we were able to enjoy them … along with the smell of hot brakes and diesel!

Another ferry ride and then we stayed the night at a super hotel, Blåtind Boutique Hotel, near Liabygda, with wonderful views down a valley. The hotel had a traditional Viking- style hut, a hot-tub overlooking the valley and a wonderful chef.

Photographer/writer Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a long-time expat, she lived in Boston for 12 years and in the Netherlands for the past 10 years.

Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.

Contributing to Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat life and issues.

She also covered the Women’s March Amsterdam.

She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.

You can read more of Jackie’s work for Dispatches here

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