Making our way north through the towns of Sand, Røldal, Odda & Steinsdalsfossen
We left the raw beauty of Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) and the noisy, milling crowds behind us and headed off to make more than a few miles of progress north. Unfortunately, after a short stop in Jørpeland for supplies, we blindly followed our SatNav rather than sense and climbed over the mountain, not around it on the smooth tourist road. The rather hairy mountain road was unpaved in places, loose gravelled and very narrow without passing places. It was a real grind on Benny’s engine up and on his brakes coming down, but apparently it was slightly shorter, so that’s something.
We continued on to the town of Sand, where something peculiar was occurring; we initially assumed perhaps a festival or a concert, as it was approaching midsummers. There were motorhomes everywhere, in car-parks where there ordinarily would be none, in lay-bys, in every nook and cranny and spare land we could see as we passed.
We tried to park at the aire at the marina, but on arrival we found it was totally crammed with vans, double and even triple parked. There were electric cables running everywhere, with splitters off the supplies feeding all the vans they could reach. The central stack of sockets on the side of the museum building looked like a giant spider’s web. Everyone was sitting out, in the car-park, with their tables and chairs. Some vans had their awnings out, and one large A-class had a large attached tent and wind-break, looking very much like the main party tent. It was quite a bizarre and confusing sight for what we thought was a simple mixed use car-park.
We wandered around, confused as to the blatant take-over and what the reasoning was for it. We decided it was just possible, given the arrangement of all the other vans, for us to squeeze into a small space right at the entrance to the marina. We asked a few nearby van owners if we were in the way and they said we were fine, no worries. So we left Benny and wandered off to have a short explore of the town. It was a Saturday yet everywhere was closed, so we climbed the hill to the church to enjoy the views over Sand, before returning to the marina to chill for the remainder of the afternoon.
We later found out that there was a local motorhome group and they had effectively hired the entire town for a day out and a formal meal at the local hotel. There were 110 motorhomes in their group, and maybe a few other guest motorhomes tagging along, so the meal must have been for at least 200 people . That explained the massive invasion of motorhomes; no wonder there were no parking spaces in town.
Later we were relaxing in Benny, watching our now smartly dressed neighbours pile into taxi after taxi to attend their meal. At 7pm, just as we were starting to cook our dinner, we had a knock on our door. One of the party organisers told us we couldn’t stay here anymore, as the full area was a private members’ party. Disappointed, we had to pack up and leave the marina, but at least the group had the foresight to ensure regular motorhoming visitors were not left stranded, and had organised alternative non-party parking just a mile or so away, on a pleasant grass-edged field. We doodled over there and found it to be very neat and quiet place, and actually a better spot to overnight than the busy marina.
The next morning we headed off early, looking to make more miles. We skirted around blue fjords and between high mountains on good roads, growing almost immune to the deep beauty of Norway. Every bend brought a new vista that would be a celebrated highlight elsewhere, but was just more of the same in Norway. For our first stop we pulled off the main tourist road a little way to visit the town of Røldal.
It was in a very pretty alpine setting, with steep mountain slopes of pine trees and bright flowering meadows sprinkled with red and black timber houses. We visited our first Stave church, a 13th century timber construction. We’ve since learned there is some controversy over whether it actually is an official stave church, or if it was originally built in a precursor post church style. Either way, it was an impressive place to visit.
We passed Låtefossen waterfalls on route, and stopped a moment to appreciate the incredible volume of gushing water churning up the river right by the main road. We then stopped briefly in the large town of Odda. The weather had turned and a grey drizzle was falling, soaking everything. We had a quick look around the now very wet town, skirting from cover to cover as we edged along the empty streets. Every street was lined with outdoors and walking stores. It may have been the weather, but it strongly reminded us of Fort William, grey and dull, a loch-side town stuck in the grip of high granite mountains and perpetually dreich.
We next drove around to Granvin and crossed a bridge with a 150 NOK toll to reach the other side of the fjord, rather than take the two ferries necessary to cross at this point. Our final stop of the day was in Steinsdalsfossen, where we had decided to overnight in the tourist office car-park. We felt we had made good progress today, seen a lot of interesting places whilst passing through huge, wild scenery, and so were happy to stop now. After the obligatory warming cup of tea, we walked up and behind the waterfall, as tourists do, enjoying the light spray and trying to outdo each other by taking quirky, interesting photos. It was a beautiful, if noisy from the falls, place to overnight.
We hit our record daily tunnel count of 42 on this winding, long road from Sand to Steinsdalsfossen. Some of the tunnels were so long and so large that they had blue-lit roundabouts and curving junctions inside. The scale of everything in Norway seemed to surpass all expectation, from nature to travel distances to infrastructure to prices.