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|3rd November 2013, 16:10||#106|
Join Date: Sep 2013
Thanked: 303 Times
Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora
Amazing! Enjoying each and every line of your write up, i sat gazing at each and every poster worth capture of yours!
I can only imagine how hard it would have been to drive through such scenic routes and resisting the urge to stop *click* *click* and go!
Mini's average would have dropped drastically!
|7th November 2013, 12:27||#107|
Day 2 #4 : The mountains
As I said before, Luster-Oslo is supposed to be a quick 5 hour drive, if not less. However, the route chosen was the long route.
After choosing the long route, I discovered, that by an even longer route, we could be enjoying one more scenic route.
So whats better than one scenic route.
Well two scenic routes.
That said, there is one thing we realized, scenic route or no scenic route tag, the route is always scenic in Norway.
And now, we were heading on a very scenic road, which rose gradually, giving ample opportunities to rev the engine, and use the 80kmph limit to the fullest.
We were along for the most part. Ever now and then an occasional car would pass us.
This is the off season. Here there are few cars even in "on" season, so off season is really really lonely.
Before we proceed, a not about the mountains. Europe has something called the alps, which are considered very majestic. With their lofty Matterhorn, and Mont Blanc with James bond trying to avoid bullets shot by guys who would probably miss a head shot with the gun pointed to the head of the guy being shot.
However, when the Himalayas come into the mix, the Alps look downright sorry. People pay a lot of money(we also did) to gaze at the Matterhorn. But on the Zanskar Glacier highway, 100s of "Matterhorn da piyo" rise from the road side, and that to in multi colored hues.
Mountaineers talk about AMS while climbing the 4000m high peaks, where we here worry about engine power loss at 5400meters above sea level.
To make the long story short. The Himalayas are very very big, and very very high.
Coming to Norway, the mountains are tiny. 1000mts is high plateau, and 1200meters makes for a very very high peak.
So even when compared to the tiny alps, the Norwegian mountains are quite small.
However, what they lack in size, they make up in the views. Where else would you find a snow clad mountain rising from the ocean floor. Where else would you find landscape ranging from Taiga to desert within an altitude of 200 meters.
And as we raced on the lonely black tarmac, there was one thing I could not help noticing. "Water". For a rain shadow region, Oppland mountains had a lot of freshwater. Every few hundred meters there is a small lake, and every few kms, there is a big lake.
These routes get so much snow, that post October they are not cleared till March. Of course there are other roads which can get even more snow, but being major highways, they are always cleared
The sticks on the side of the road are the "markers". Almost every road in Norway has them. They serve a very important purpose. When the landscape goes all white, there is no way to tell the shoulder of the road. So these tall sticks with reflective paint tell you, buddy this is where the road ends and tumble down starts.
Another lake on the way
Most of these lakes are snow melt accumulated, and some are glacier fed. However, all these have one thing in common. The water is crystal clear.
Much like the Pangong. That said, in India you have to go to really remote places to find clean lakes, but here, water purity is taken very seriously, and great care is taken not to contaminate the ecosystem.
Major lakes are regularly cleaned too!
And this is one of the big lakes
Quite big, eh? But the entire landscape is dotted with these.
And the ever about to cry mini. "Boo hoo hoo, I hate the speed limit"
Just a week before, this area had gotten the first snowfall of the season. The remnants still remain. And guess what, within couple of weeks, it was going to be all white
Typically, on roads like this, progress is very slow. Coz you need to stop every few minutes, just to take it all in. The mountains may not be high. they may not be grand, But what they lake in size, they make up in beauty.
And what better way to shot it than a video from the dash itself? (Video is 1080p, so make sure you select the high quality view)
Last edited by tsk1979 : 7th November 2013 at 12:31.
|9th November 2013, 08:07||#108|
Join Date: Nov 2009
Thanked: 66 Times
Infractions: 0/1 (5)
Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora
Wonderful, writeup and amazing pics,
your each travelogues are a tribute to the places u visit. May u visit all the beautiful places and post travelogues.
|11th November 2013, 15:35||#109|
Day 2 #5 : Life is a highway
Two scenic routes, that is the drive for today. And at 4pm, with the sun slowly lumbering towards the horizon, we are near the end of route one, the Valdresflye
This means, we have to make haste, if we want to see anything on "THE SCENIC" route of the day, i.e. the Route 55.
Our night halt for the day lies near the end of the lovely route 55, and it would be definitely very very good to bid the sun goodbye, near the end of this, not at the beginning!
That said, Mini on the road, means, stops for photography
As far as eyes can see, its the empty road.
The cell phone shows "No Signal", and the radio crackles with static, and the only music we have is our about to cry mini, the drone of the diesel, and the roar of the snow tires.
"Boo hoo hoo, I want to do a drift in the snow"
But the snows have melted, and all she will get is black smooth tarmac
Near the end of the route, we lose some altitude, and the vegetation returns, with its mountain lakes. Autumn rules here. The snow capped mountains mock the sun "Shine all you want, but we ain't melting"
But haste or no haste, the deep blue lakes make us stop again. Water is ice cold, and clear.
Clouds give us company too, but they won't last
Lake after lake comes and goes, and finally, the Route ends at the magnificent Vagavatn
In the middle of nowhere, its a tiny little paradise.
The sun is setting, and things turn to orange, and the Route 55 is just a little bit away
Right ahead lies the sleepy town of Lom.
As the radio comes back to life, and the phone starts showing bars, it seems like a good idea to call our Host in Luster.
Till now we have only interacted by email, and its been a very pleasant interaction.
While searching for accommodations, I was looking for the cheapest accommodation with heating for 6 nights. After mailing different setups, we found out Viki Camping.
2200 NOK for 6 nights. Cottage with kitchen. Just what we need. While interacting, the owner emailed me that the 2200NOK cottage has heating, but there is no floor heating in the bathroom. Cold bathrooms are uncomfortable. So he would upgrade us to the "next" cottage, at no extra cost. So now its 2200NOK with the floor heater in the Bathroom.
He was expecting us around 6pm, but I was sure that was a long shot, so we called him up.
"No problem" Arrive when you like. Key is hidden at so and so place. Feel at home.
With that sorted, we crossed Lom, and it was time to hit the Legendary Route 55.
Some say its the best tourist route of Norway.
However, do not confuse best with the most scenic. Its called best because of the driving experience. The gentle rise from Lom, and then the drastic drop right to sea level as the route goes to its end.
Its the kind of route which should be done in a mini, and we were going to do it!
|11th November 2013, 17:23||#110|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Feb 2005
Thanked: 596 Times
Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora
@ Tanveer, your posts keep getting better everyday. Beautiful pictures and narration, adding "Aurora's" to our to do list!
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|12th November 2013, 11:28||#111|
Join Date: Jun 2011
Thanked: 96 Times
Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora
Tanveer, no words to describe your travelogue. Simply outstanding! Pictures are out of the world!
Is the Atlantic Road in Norway? Had seen some pictures, will be great to get to know more about it
|12th November 2013, 11:34||#112|
Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora
|12th November 2013, 11:59||#113|
Join Date: Feb 2007
Thanked: 98 Times
Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora
|12th November 2013, 12:04||#114|
Re: Sonata Arctica : Chasing the Aurora
I have rented in Austria and Norway
|13th November 2013, 00:42||#115|
Day 2 #6: Street Hawk
The road rises.
As expected. Its narrow.. yes, but visibility is excellent, and the speed limit, the ever delicious 80kmph. Unlike the endless straights you find in Uncle Sam's land, where even the 80mph limit lulls you into boredom, here 80kmph is enough to keep any such things far far away.
Every curve, every dip... every crest where the Sun just comes out of nowhere to shine right into your eyes keeps you focused. Sometimes, I would steal a glace at the speedo, however, not really needed. Even 80 was quite a task. However, the mini enjoys it. Its after all, the kind of road which was supposed to be done in a mini.
And after hundreds of kms, there is a familiarity. No matter how much you drive, where you drive or how you drive, it takes time to get familiar. And now we were getting to know each other. That familiar hum of the Bavarian horses, that low drone of the snow tires, and the gentle whistle of the wind streaking by...
And when that is broken, you tend to notice. First I heard it. A different sound. More like a roar. Its getting louder and closer.
The IRVM reveals a green blob getting bigger. Cops on my tail?
Instinct is always to let go off the accelerator, and then I realize, no flashing lights. It gets closer, and guess what its a biker.
Whoosh.... its gone past us. I glance at the speedo, somewhere near 80. Our friend is doing atleast 130, if not more.
Its quite funny actually. All over Europe, motorists dread of fines and stick to speed limits with a mathematical obsession. But again, in the same very land of the hundred thousand dollar fines, bikers just ignore it... to some extent that is.
But this one is a different breed. Definitely being a local helps. You know where the cams are and where the cops us, and without telling, he has told us, road is all clear mate!
AS he vanishes, I figure I can stop looking at the speedo every second, and look around a bit more.
Well, there is a lot to look around. The sun will set soon, but then, we have done most of the route, atleast the high plateau part.
Its orange, and the air is still... time for reflections
Ideally, I would have spent a lot more time here, but we want to reach luster before it gets really really late.
So its time to move towards the crest. The scenic viewpoint near the top of the route, one of the highest altitudes you can be in Norway on a road. It isn't much though. Far less than 2000m if you are curious.
And right there sits our friend, quietly enjoying nature
Soon he walks towards me, and hands over his phone "Could you please take a picture?"
And then what? He's on the bike, and gone like the wind. But I cannot blame him. If I lived here, I would probably take the fastest thing I own, and ride up and down this road twice a day.
"Boo hooo hoo, I wanna race with the biker"
Some roads are forever, and some landscapes, so colossal that making out scale in a photograph is purely futile
The sun is still here, though weaker. We decide to hang out for a few minutes
Overhead, jets leave their contrails. The north pole is a shortcut, and Norway lies smack on this intercontinental highway
Its time to say goodbye to the National tourist route 55
It may not be as curvy as the Stelvio.
It may not be as lofty as the Susten
Its drop may not be as sheer as the Furka....
But when it comes to sheer driving pleasure, its second to none. So off we go, into the Sun... The Fjord awaits
Last edited by tsk1979 : 13th November 2013 at 01:21.
|13th November 2013, 15:24||#116|
Day 2 #7: Gravity
Gravity is a great equalizer.
Many will tell you this.
And countless have experienced this. Those falling skiers, that parkour move gone wrong, and that parachute which failed to open...
Here also, on the road gravity is a great equalizer. As you grunt up the mountain road, it makes a real difference whether your car is 90 American donkeys, or 110 German horses... but when its downhill, its Gravity.
The pull makes up for all. 10 horses, 100 horses, 200 horses. Its all similar. There is that 1G pulling. Every curve becomes an exercise of cooked brakes as opposed to screaming engines.
As I downshift to 2nd before the very tight hairpin, I realize no matter how much I try, I can still smell cooked pads. But I leave the air mode to external. This is something to relish, not avoid.
The mini agrees, as she gives me a screaming acknowledgement through her crying synchronizers. My partner on my side, well she is enjoying a quick nap coz the sun is mostly down, and there is not much to see here in the darkening valley. Keeping company is a radio jockey talking animatedly, followed by some rock from a forgotten time, interspersed with adverts for some very delicious milk. How do I know. Well, a jingle peppered with mooing happy cow voice can only be an advert for milk. If it was for beef I am sure they would have used a screaming cow instead.
Many many moons back, on our beginners trips, my knuckles would be white, and so would be her face, if I did all this. But I guess practice makes you perfect. However, here its not my perfection. Its the machine, which grips the road and turns like on rails. Note to self, never make fun of low profile tires and stiff suspension. And captain slow is an idiot. Every car should be tested on the Nürburgring.
But yes, the thin rubber makes me feel every imperfection, every small bump, every road repair bulge. If I did not know any better, I would have thought their roads are as bumpy as our own. When you drive the 747, even bad roads feel like smooth tarmac, and here, even the good road feels like it was laid by 30 mad gnomes.
The light fades more, and soon its the headlights. She's got no projectors, no xenons. Just your lowly H4. But somehow, the Germans make even this shine like the very day.
As we go down, the road narrows, and straightens out somewhat. But still,we are going along the jagged fjord, and the tunnels and curves keep us company.
And soon joining us is a very alien beast. "Traffic".
You haven't felt terror, till you come face to face with an 18 wheeler right after a blind turn. Trust me. But fear is unfounded. The kind of control and discipline these guys have, is actually superhuman. As I struggle to maintain the 80 limit, I have company. Its a truck. A big one. Well, a very very big one. I can see only twin low shining lamps in my dimmed irvm, but the outline is huge. Patiently he tails me at 80, matching every curve, every move. And then I decide its time to give way. As the cow happily moos on the radio, the behemoth rumbles past, shaking everything. How quickly it has accelerated, makes you wonder, is it horses under that roar, or charging Rhinos?
All the way to luster I try to keep up with the behemoth. 18 wheels, at 80. Its a Scania, like many others here, and it does the curves with ease. I OTOH just struggle to keep up. And keep up I do. Its tail lights offer comfort and sanctuary, and as it has passed us, its 10 aux lights have come up. Ahead is day. Pure white light day.
But there is discipline. The moment a corner is illuminated by oncoming traffic, the lights are dipped, and at high speed on narrow road, vehicles pass each other with millimeter precision.
Why are so many rally drivers Scandanavian? Well now I fully understand. Once I attended a track day driving the Audi R8 around our very own Buddh. I am quite sure, if this guy and his truck are left loose, he will take corners at higher speed than we did.
Very soon, a couple of small cars join behind me, and then quickly overtake the truck, to disappear. As for us, we will simply follow in his shadow.
The mountain has been left behind, and we are approaching luster, passing through countless villages sitting on the Sognefjord. While back in India, I had marked the position of our accommodation for the night, and noted down the Latitude Longitudes on a piece of paper. Its less than 5kms ahead of luster.
This makes things very simple. You enter the coordinates, and guess what, just let OsmAnd do its job. But things are not simple. The piece of paper with longitude and latitude is lying in some dustbin in India.
So its now the old fashioned way. As we cross luster, its time to switch off the navigation, lest it get a sour throat with its constant "Take a U turn" warnings.
With eyes peeled, we go on, and barely spot the small sign.
We have arrived.
|13th November 2013, 16:34||#117|
Join Date: Nov 2007
Thanked: 158 Times
Re: Day 2 #6: Street Hawk
Regarding the shortcut, do you mean the planes from Northern Europe fly to Canada/Alaska over North Pole?
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|13th November 2013, 16:47||#118|
Re: Day 2 #6: Street Hawk
The Polar route is a short cut. Since early 21st century, many airlines use the polar route to cut down on time and fuel cost.
|18th November 2013, 12:51||#119|
Day 2 #8 : Hello Svein
Viki Camping is a collection of huts of varying sizes and shapes, right on the Fjord. Think of it as a beach-side accommodation without beach.
Thankfully, our hut was such that we could park the mini right next to it. This is quite a boon, because dragging full suitcases is never a pleasing task.
Surprisingly, it took only 5 minutes to unload the mini. Well when you don't have to do permutations and combinations of what fits where, its quite fast.
We find the key, and then enter our cottage. The door faces the fjord, and offers a stunning view. Star lit sky, far lights reflecting on the ocean, and a chilling breeze. Well the last part is not too pleasing.
Inside, the heating has already been turned on, and its warm and cozy. In on corner is a small kitchen.
The bedroom, well if you can call it a bedroom, is actually a closet with a double bed+ A bunk bed. So technically you can fit in 3 people, but don't think of it as a bedroom, but more like a 2-Tier AC sleeper coach with wider lower berth for two people.
But its cozy and nice, and who are we to complain at this price.
Also available is a vacuum cleaner, mop and some cleaning fluid.
Now let me digress here. When you rent cottages in Europe, you have something called "Endcleaning Charge". Its usually 50-100EU depending upon size of cottage and the vendor.
In Norway, there is Endcleaning Charge + Linen charge. So you pay for cleaning as well as bedlinens (Usually 30-50EU/stay).
But both these costs are avoidable?
You can offer to do the cleaning yourself, and carry your own bedsheets and blanket covers.
And we did just that.
As we "make" our beds and settle in, there is a knock on the door. Its Svein, our "landlord" for the week. When you interact with someone on email, you make a mental picture of that person.
I must mention here, that Svein is even nicer in person. He explains to us the electric cooking range, all the settings on the heating, the fire alarm system etc.,
He gives me the wifi password and is almost apologetic of the weak signal in the cottage. Guess skype home will have to be done from the outside, in chilled breeze. On the plus side, the view is great outside.
Then he takes me outside, and shows me the boats. The paddle boat, the kayaks and the row boat. All is ours to use. And since this is off season, its free. Totally free. He also leaves the store room open with life jackets and the oars, and then takes payment because he may not be coming back to the cottage. In off season he does a job in nearby town of Gaupne.
Actually most of the cottage and camping setup owners do regular jobs in off season, since season here lasts form May to August, and sometimes mid sept.
He also shows me around the area, and then gives me a guide book. Now, on the internet, you can find all these guide books. But this one is special. Just like other guidebooks, it has all the popular must sees spots marked. But this one has Sveins personal touch. He has scribbled notes on various attractions and added "local info".
Over the next few minutes he walks me through it all, and tells us that we have 3 days of bright sunshine after which it rains.
To be frank, I had not really made any plans for these 5 full days we had here. But now its all sorted.
And then, he is Gone.
I have gotten some great service from hosts on travels, but to be frank, this is the best till date. In the Guest book in the cottage, people have written rave reviews. And as I skim through reviews since 2005, I realize we are the first South Asians here.
And everybody has written great stuff about Svein. How he takes care of everything.
With people like this, I guess it stops to matter whether the room is small or big, or the kitchen is big or not blah blah.
And to top it all, the location is amazing.
I would have loved to get out the tripod, but guess what, fatigue and hunger wins, and tonight, its time for some warm hot noodles with potatoes and onions.
We decide not to keep it too elaborate, so crepes and all would have to wait I guess!
Tomorrow, we will go see the Glaciers, tonight, its time to sleep
|18th November 2013, 15:57||#120|
Day 3 #1 : The call of ice
Many love mountains. Many love sea. As we woke up to a very clear, yet foggy morning, the landscape presented would satisfy both sea and mountain lovers.
Holiday mornings always start with the Rush to get ready, get food into eager stomachs breaking the night long fast. This time, I had to get the camera and brave the almost zero temperature.
So still, so calm. Its calmer than many lakes I know, yet its the great wild Atlantic ocean. Norway is... well Norway.
But today is not the day when we just laze at the Fjord. Today.. we go higher.
I love mountains, and my partner, well she is a sea person. But she loves water. Be it an alpine lake, or a majestic glacier. So what better way than to visit the vast river of ice, and maybe even touch it.
So we get ready, prepare our sandwitches, and set out. The day is young, the day is bright. The day will bring pain and fear, but, that story is to come. For now, its time to start the dear mini.
Even with the cold, she settles quickly to a muted idle, with the subdued thump only indication of the fire within.
So off we go, on the twisting mountain roads.
Our destination for the day is Nigardsbreen.
So what is nigardsbreen, you may ask. Well its a glacier. Breen, Glacier. The name is a dead giveaway. However... There is a catch. Technically, its not a glacier. Well its a glacier, but its not "THE Glacier". The glacier is Jostedalsbreen.
The largest glacier in mainland Europe. It sits on top of a mountain, and you have to trek for days, or take a very expensive helicopter drive to see this beauty. However, for mere mortals like us, it throws down its arms, like a Giant Octupus sitting on the top of the big mountain.
And today, we will see Nigardsbreen, the most accessible Arm of the Glacier. Its big, and its melting, so as we reach the Parking lot, we see the big blue glacial lake. The lake called Nigardsbrevatnet, quite understandable
However, something is amiss. Right at the start of the country road which takes you to this glacier, there is supposed to be a self serve toll.
Basically, you go to the toll booth, put money in a box, take a slip, and put it on your windshield.
There is no such booth there today. However, it sits right at the end of the parking lot.
So there begets the question, toll or no toll?
As I roam around with my camera I try to figure out. There are few cars, and about half of them have paid the toll, and half have not.
So when in doubt, ask the locals. Thankfully there is a nice looking guy with a camera taller than me sniping at the glacier. Its a white L. I hide my Nikon(I am told sometimes L lensers will smack you in the head with an L if they see your Nikon gear), and proceed.
The gentleman speaks halting English, and since Nikon is not visible, is very excited to talk to me. Over sign language and common words, he tells me that yes there is a toll in season. At the end of season they transport this toll gate to the end of the road because road is officially closed and they are not maintaining it now. Since there is no maintenance going on, there is no toll. Only when season opens, you pay toll.
Whoopie 40NOK saved = ice cream.
I chat up some more, and make a small plan about what more glaciers we have to see today.
While the glacier is visible from the parking lot itself, the real adventure is getting to the very glacier.
Once upon a time, not many years ago, the glacier was till the parking lot itself.
However, it has retreated to the base of the mountain from where it falls. So this means trekking over rock left behind. Its smooth slippery rock, with wooden stepladders thrown in here and there so that you don't break your neck, and become another statistic in the Norway trek damage index.
Slowly and with great fear, we start treading.
Far far away lies the glacier, and near is the ladder, over which we climb. Many such ladders are strewn here and there. Without these it would be full on mountain climbing
The icy winds bring autumn even to the most stubborn
At times, it gets so bad that we have to crawl on all fours. We have trekked quite a bit on Himalayan paths, but this is different. Its not really taxing as you don't really gain altitude, but every rock is as smooth as silk. Slipping here can be very very nasty
Its also quite cold. The lake has started freezing. At this altitude of barely 300mts ASL, freezing happens very late. But on this lake, its quick, thanks to the ice
As we progress, the paths becomes wet, and sometimes, you have to wade in or jump over
On the far side, there is little vegetation, and it basks in the little sunlight it gets. Mountain position and low sun angle means it gets only a few hours of sunlight even with 12 hours of sun.
So how big is this arm of the Giant octopus?
Pretty big I would say. This is a zoom shot. It looks near, but its quite far. Look at the size of people relative to the glacier
And over these slippery wet mountains we must toil
Few tourists. I can count a handfull. Being the most popular its usually teeming with crowds, but I guess, the perks of off season means you have little company... and little help if needed.
Slowly and slowly we climb, sometimes on all fours and we are almost there.. Looking back... Can you spot the tiny tiny white spec? Thats a vehicle on the road
Finally, we are there, at Nigardsbreen!
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