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.
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.
Langfoss and Latefoss waterfalls
Then as easily as a baby’s smile disarms you, the dramatic Langfoss waterfall, the fifth-highest waterfall in Norway did the same. I came upon it on E134 by the ÅkrafjordIt and could feel the wind created by its incredible force ruffle my hair as its massive volume of water 2,000ft fell into the Akrafjorden.
The Laerdal tunnel connects Lærdal and Aurland in Sogn og Fjordaneis. It is a staggering 24.5 kilometres (around 15 miles) and is one of the world’s longest road tunnels. It saw 2.5 million cubic metres of rock being excavated costing $125 million over the fives years it took to build.
It could have been an extremely monotonous drive and to stop the inevitable dropping off at the wheel they built three massive, brightly-lit chambers into the tunnel which appeared every six kilometres. It is also the first tunnel in the world first to be equipped with an air treatment plant meaning drivers really can breathe easy.
The serpentine road that snakes its way down Trollstigen mountain which is part of the Interdalen valley is stunning. When I say stunning, what I actually mean is heart thumping, head spinning and nerve shattering. And more that that, there are waterfalls galore, streams everywhere and if that wasn’t enough water, it was raining. And foggy. And sensational.
Atlanterhavsvegen – The Atlantic Highway
A little more driving and I got to the gorgeous Atlantic Highway. It connects Averøy with the mainland via a series of small islands and islets spanned by several viaducts and eight bridges over 8274 meters (just over five miles).