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Jostedalen, Norway

Jostedalen, north of Bergen, was five hours, one ferry and several tolls away. You would think with all the tolls that the roads would be great. They weren't - probably worst we had driven on so far. Luckily the beautiful scenery made up for this. We followed fjords and rivers the whole way, the water changing colour with the light. Driving up snowy mountains was breathtaking but a little scary, especially heading in and out of clouds at the summits on the icy roads. We gazed in awe at beautiful lakes just starting to melt, while others were completely iced over. We passed roughly 50 waterfalls coming down from the tops of mountains, some narrow, some wide, some hundreds of metres tall, flowing faster than any waterfall we had ever seen before. In the past we had paid to see waterfalls half as good. The rivers were full of world-class rapids - rafting down them would have been fantastic. 

In Jostedalen we found the Glacier Centre and saw a few other campervans parked out the front, quite clearly set up for the night despite the '"no camping" signs. We joined them, figuring there was safety in numbers. The view out the window was of a massive glacier, sparkling away in the fading sunlight. Amazing. 

Today was one of our coolest days so far (both in temperature and awesomeness): hiking on a glacier. We waited around until 11:30 a.m., walked into the Glacier Centre to pay for our trip and were told to meet our group five kilometres down the road, which of course was a toll road. About 12 p.m we met up with the team, geared up (which included a lethal-looking ice axe plus awkward ice shoes) and jumped on a boat to cross a small lake. From there it was a 15 minute walk over rocks and snow to reach the start of the glacier. Then we just needed to harness up and we were ready to go.

Despite the lengthy build up, the experience was out of this world. The shoes they provided were magic – we were climbing up and down such steep gradients it didn't seem physically possible. The top layer of the glacier was dirty white and speckled with black sand, which was not attractive to look at, however the caves and crevices were a magnificent glacial blue that didn't seem real. What we were walking on looked like ice cubes, nothing like snow at all. Little streams had formed in the glacier, carving out a blue ribbon all the way down to the lake at the bottom. A couple of times there were mini-avalanches of ice cubes flying by us, which did make us wonder a little about our safety. Our climb up was two hours long and in that time we made a significant dent in the glacier (from 300 metres above sea level to 700 metres), almost up to the point where it looked unclimbable. Here we ate a packed lunch before making the one hour hike down to the bottom.

 

The only downside to the trip was that we were harnessed in to each other in a line, so if one person wanted to stop and take photos then we all had to stop. This turned out to be every two minutes. Plus the guy behind me had a habit of standing on the rope, which repeatedly yanked me back when I tried to walk forwards. He wasn't sorry.

We arrived back at the car just after 5 p.m. and decided to make a head start on our next destination, Stockholm, about 13 hours away. Again we drove up snowy mountains, passing semi-frozen lakes with spectacular views – we couldn't get enough of them. After 5.5 hours of driving, much of it along flooded rivers and lakes, we finally gave up for the night (although it was still daylight at 10.30 p.m.). We stopped in a car park for an office building, which probably wasn't the best idea on a weeknight but we were too exhausted to care.  

At 9 a.m. we woke up to find ourselves surrounded by the cars of office workers. We then realised we were probably occupying someone's spot, so we got ready in record time then hit the road again. It rained most of the day, which meant it was a great day to be driving and not sight-seeing. The scenery was nothing special, although we did follow a river most of the way - a little more interesting than staring at bare land the entire time.

 

This time we actually saw a custom's building at the border crossing into Sweden, but we still didn't need to stop. We were not at all disappointed to say goodbye to road tolls, yet we did not welcome the toilet usage fees again. Norway was done and we hadn't completely wiped out our budget, which was a surprising achievement that I'm sure we would celebrate later (with affordable snacks and drinks no doubt).