Leaving our aire in Beitostølen and following the National tourist Route Sognefjellet from Lom to Skjolden
As before, we awoke in Beitostølen to a dry and bright day, the heavy rain having finally stopped after the overnight deluge. We knew this would likely change, so we quickly drove north, then west, where we stopped briefly in Lom to fill up with diesel and to visit their centrally positioned 12th century Stave church. This one was of similar design to others we’d visited, but the wood was not as blackened by pitch or time; instead it had a lively, burnt-orange hue. The colour contrasted beautifully with the green hill backdrop and the hint of blue appearing in the otherwise flat grey sky behind.
We had hoped to climb Galdhøpiggen, Norway’s highest point at 2469m, but the weather had other ideas. It was looking fairly reasonable in the valley below, but apparently was -4degC on the summit, with blustering snow storms and gale force winds. It is a difficult climb and would have been a joyless and potentially dangerous hike in those conditions, so we prudently gave it a miss. After lucking out with the weather on our Besseggen Ridge walk the day before, we didn’t want to push our luck. Instead we kept driving through the now returned light rain, still enjoying the constantly changing sights of the ever-present fjords.
We continued on the National tourist Route Sognefjellet that stretches from Lom to Gaupne, a road that crosses Norway’s highest pass at 1434m. We passed by where the peak of Galdhøpiggen should have been visible, but the entire range was buried in moody, fast moving cloud. The road climbed steadily into the snow-line, back into the muted yellows and browns of wild moorland punctuated with clinging blotches of deep snow. The road was open and clear, smoothly delivering us past a long series of icy lakes and distant jagged peaks.
After an hour of similar terrain, we dropped right down a complicated series of tricky hairpins into the town of Skjolden, on the banks of Lustrafjorden, the innermost tip of the huge Sognefjorden. We were instantly back in lush, green territory with colourful flowers, blue fjords and wildly gushing rivers full to bursting with melt-water. We located the free aire just outside town on the water’s edge, surprised to find it completely empty, and parked up by our own private picnic table. Much later that night we were joined by one other van but until then the aire, and its wonderful view, was all ours.
A group of luminous runners burst past us just as we were readying to leave, enjoying their run around the fjord coast. We followed their direction, and crossed a bridge over a roaring river near a row of holiday cottages and apartments to reach the centre. We wandered around the small town, visiting the tourist office and shops, and managed to refill our depleted drinking water in a nearby café. Skjolden is a hub for walkers, with many short and long trekking routes passing through the town and the mountains behind. There was a small campsite on the other edge of town, but other than a few passing cars on the main road through, we saw little sign of life around.
Walking the other direction from the aire we found a cruise ship port, suitable for huge ships to sail right into town and dock. It was a similar set-up to that in Flåm, with a large area for coach parking set adjacent to the dock, ready to pick up and deliver keen passengers onto their tour of choice. The town was peaceful and still on our visit, but we could easily imagine the difference, bluster and noise when a cruise ship was in town. We took advantage of the dock’s current emptiness to have a very relaxing, quiet night watching the glistening water in the fjord slowly ebb.