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I was sorry to be leaving Loen. It was a lovely place. Today we were to move on to Stryn, where we would change buses for Grotli, and from there move on to Geiranger - said by some to be the most beautiful place in Norway. And between the two would be new vistas of mountains, lakes and scenic roads.
After the usual lavish breakfast we boarded the bus for the journey to Stryn, along the north shore of Nordfjord. The weather was a little disappointing - cloudy with bright intervals. At Stryn we turned off northeast into Strynsdal. It was very lovely - rapids, towering mountains, what I was coming to think of as the usual Norwegian "stuff", in fact. The road turned more to the east and we motored along past the southern shore of Strynsvatn, which was about 8 miles long. It was surrounded by majestic peaks, notably the 1682 metre Rindalshorn. Towards the east end of the lake, leading off from the north shore, was a brooding glen called Glomdal. Gloomy Dale?
Then we came to Hjelle and entered Hjelledal. The road along this glen (I couldn't help thinking in terms of Scottish equivalents, so "glen" it had to be) was another crazy series of twists and turns that led up to Vidseter, where a new road branched off. The new road, apparently constructed to bypass the old road which suffered extensive blockages by snow, was an engineering miracle. It plunged through three tunnels, each one longer than the last, which must have approached three miles in length. No concrete ring segment tunnel supports here, these tunnels were blaster sheer through the mountain and their walls were solid rock. In between the tunnels was a fascinating terrain of high moorland, much of it snow covered.
Once out of the tunnels we joined the Geiranger - Grotli road and motored past Breidalsvatn. The lake was exceedingly pretty, surrounded as it was by snow covered mountains and cloudscapes, which were reflected from its mirrored surface. The landscape was lunar. Grotli, at the east end of the lake, turned out to be a road junction at which stood a shack, with a forecourt where three buses met. We changed for the service to Geiranger, which set off back along the same road.
Grotli; Breidalsvatn; surrounding landscape
We passed the tunnel entrance and turned northwest along the road to Djupvass. The mist was coming down but there was clear blue sky above us. Towering peaks loomed occasionally through the mist. Djupvatn, when we reached it, has icebergs floating on its surface.
Breidalsvatn and the road tunnel entrance
We reached Djupvashytta, a mountain lodge at the west end of the lake. The bus pulled in for a half-hour refreshment stop. I had a cup of tea and browsed in the souvenir shop. From Djupvasshytta a mountain road snaked up to the summit of Dalsnibba, a magnificent peak of 1465 metres (something not far short of 5000ft).
The bus continued on the road to the northwest, down to the head of Geirangerfjord. This was where the fun started. The road was sheer craziness. It was to drop through three thousand feet in just five miles, and the journey was something like a ride on a wild stallion - the road twisted, turned, reared, bucked and almost literally threw us around. The scenery was just staggering. The lunar landscape gradually softened and acquired a veneer of vegetation, which grew steadily richer as we descended. Each bend revealed a fresh vista of loops, gradients and hairpins. Eventually we pulled in at the Flydal Gorge viewpoint, where we stopped for five minutes. There was much clicking of cameras, mine included of course. Geiranger village lay just below us and I could see the Union hotel. A final dose of hairpin bends later and we arrived.
If I hadn't just come from the Alexandra at Loen I would have been overawed by the Union Hotel, but it wasn't quite in the same class. The staff had a poorer command of English, the service was less efficient, and Geiranger as a whole seemed to have little going for it but fr its spectacular setting. The only obvious tourist attraction was a boat trip on the fjord. How was I going to fill three days? The only bus tours were by scheduled services and either covered where we'd come from or where we were going next.
The Geiranger campsite
At least the food was good. I walked down into the village and quizzed the girl at the tourist information centre. There were some walks leaflets but not much else. The bus to the summit of Dalsnibba looked most promising but it was the scheduled service to Grotli - why hadn't we been taken up to the summit yesterday? The girl assured me that it did go to the top.
The souvenir shop over the road sold Ektachrome, which enabled me to shore up my dwindling stock of film at last, The girl behind the counter looked uncannily like the one in the tourist information centre and I concluded that they might have been sisters.
I walked back up to the Flydal gorge viewpoint. It was clearer now, and I took another set of photos. There was no doubt that Geiranger was fantastically beautiful.
The Flydal road above Geiranger
The evening meal at the Union was rather good, though the waitresses here weren't as pretty as those at the Alexandra, or even at Fleischers. After the meal I went for a boat trip on the fjord, which set off at 8pm. The boat was staffed by two girls, one of whom was clearly the third sister of the ones at the tourist information centre and the souvenir shop. The cruise was lovely, although the commentary was rather difficult to hear. The fjord was lined and enlivened by a series of waterfalls, apparently famed throughout the land - the Bridal Veil, the Suitor, the Seven Sisters. Fantastic peaks soared everywhere, rent by gullies and corries. I saw three farmsteads, perched on cliffs and apparently abandoned. I also noticed a rock formation which I christened the Frowning Face. It wasn't mentioned in the commentary.
Evening cruise on Geirangerfjord
The Seven Sisters
Geirangerfjord and waterfalls
And so to bed, after another thoroughly rewarding day among the fjords.