Saturday morning, 8am… I awoke and with a little sadness knew it was time to pack my bag once more and move onwards to Ålesund. I drew back the curtain to be greeted by two enormous ships just a little way down the fjord. This softened the blow of my imminent departure. But first, there was a task to do, and one I had put off since arriving 48 hours earlier…
Actually it was no great hardship. Before I left the UK somebody had given me a tip. “Don’t miss the hot chocolate at Geiranger Sjokolade…” Now drinking hot chocolate is normally a real treat but the unseasonably hot weather had made this a slightly less appealing prospect. With the temperature already creeping into the twenties of celsius I made my way along the fjord and into this lovely shop and cafe. I was glad I did. The owner is a lovely man who is happy to talk about the chocolate he makes and offer samples. The Brunost (brown cheese chocolate) is sublime and the hot chocolate… Well, I would’ve drunk it in 40 degree heat, it was that good.
It’s fair to say I was refreshed and on a sugar rush as I set off for the ferry at Eidsdal. My plan for the afternoon was to drive up to the viewpoint at Trollstigen, take a peep over and drive back down again to Valldal to pick up the road along the Storfjord. Let’s just say there was a change of plan!
I couldn’t resist hopping out of the car at the top of Ørnevegen to admire the view one more time before leaving Geirangerfjord behind. But blue skies were beckoning me onward and within half an hour I had reached Eidsdal to take the ferry to Linge. Once again I drove on, paid easily and headed up on deck for the views. I wasn’t disappointed:
The drive to Trollstigen from the south is spectacular, trading passing moves with the Valldola river as it courses down to the Storfjord. The gradual incline is deceptive until you hit the snowline. I stopped off like many others at Gudbrandsjuvet for a walk over the river and a chance to watch it cascade down into potholes and eroded rock pathways. It was also a chance to have a cool drink. Despite the ascent and the nearing snowline, the sun was unforgiving in its intensity.
Finally the road flattened out and the Trollstigen Visitor Centre came in to view. A haven for motorcycles and camper vans alike. Follow the walkways and you reach an overhang looking down 700m into the valley. Yes, I felt in awe… But boy did I feel small!!
And so I had a lightbulb moment. Actually it was more of a thunderbolt moment. I decided not to backtrack to Valldal, but to take the bull (or troll?) by the horns so to speak and drive down the 9% incline. Just a week ago I couldn’t have imagined casting my fear of heights aside and venturing anywhere near this descent but sometimes spur of the moment decisions turn out to be the best. Stopping part way down at the bridge over Stigfossen I knew I had made the right decision. It was one of the most exhilarating drives of my life.
My change of plan allowed for a detour to Åndalsnes and Trollveggen, the Troll Wall. The sheer 1,000 metre rock face is Europe’s tallest. Thrill seekers come here to base jump. Well I’d already got my kicks for the day so I settled for an ice cream and a stretch of the legs before a protracted drive to Ålesund. I’d forgotten what queues of traffic look like since my arrival in Norway.
I rolled into Ålesund just before 7pm and was greeted by a beautiful town lazing gently by the Norwegian Sea. It was love at first sight. And whilst I yearned to explore its charms, I settled for a perch overlooking Ålesundet and that most treasured of home comforts – a cup of strong Yorkshire Tea. Ah, bliss!