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Norway – August 2014

The Norwegian MG Challenge August 2014

Words and pictures – Adrian Clifford

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For many years now the MGF Register’s representative in Norway, Steinar Braaten, has been trying to get us to visit his country. With the forthcoming loss of the DFDS ferry from Harwich-Esbjerg and the EEOTY in Denmark it was decided that 2014 will be the time to go. It was decided that the annual Norsk MG Treff will be the weekend before the EEOTY so we can combine the two events, however this was not to be the case as the lure of driving 2,000 miles in Norway was very powerful so it was decided to tag on another six days to the trip giving us ten days in all. Several members showed initial interest but in the end two British TF’s (Dawn & myself with Neil & Barbara) made the ferry to Esbjerg on the Wednesday (lining up alongside Bill & Sally Silcock on an extended journey to the EEOTY the following weekend as it happened).

Thursday lunchtime saw us take a scenic journey north through Denmark to reach the ls Color Line ferry from Hirtshals to Kristiansand later that evening but not before spending an hour with good friends of ours Alan & Jette in the lovely seaside town of Løkken. Making the ferry on time we settled in for the journey arriving at midnight where Steinar and his daughter Ingrid met us in his TF for the short drive the the Yess ! Hotel for the night.

An early start on Friday morning saw us travelling west for an hour and a half to the start of the rally in Vigeland, a quick transfer of little gifts and we were away with now 30 MG’s of all ages including Steinar’s wife Kari and youngest son Ola in their MGB. Our first visit was to the Lindesnes lighthouse the most southerly point in Norway. We had our own parking area in lovely sun then on to the Vista Fly Park as it’s now called, formerly it was a NATO Airbase flying F16’s. Here we stayed for two nights in rooms that were the aircrew quarters. We parked the cars in one of the hangars on Astroturf as it’s now used for indoor football (don’t forget, this is Norway, they have large amounts of snow through the winter). Once the cars and us were cleaned, we bought our food, previously purchased in a local supermarket, to the BBQ table were it was all beautifully cooked and we all ate together in the hangar on long tables, this is MG’ing Norwegian style (we like it !). Shortly before dusk we had a surprise when two vintage buses arrived to take us out to the nearby coast, we were then to walk through a spooky wood and watch the sun go down over the clear horizon. It was windy but very strong drinks were served on trays and many toasts were made.

Saturday morning we had breakfast in the Fly Park and set off for the days driving, what a day too. After Sande we arrived in Kjerringdalen for a real treat, we had been given permission to drive the Bøensbakken Road. It hugs the side of the mountain clinging on to a ledge dropping down to the fjord below, it is even special for Norwegians to drive this road as it has been closed since 1965 and is layered with stones and moss. Once at the bottom, we drove alongside the lake and stopped in the square in Torvet where we had reserved parking again, a lovely town perfect for an ice cream in the sun with the public viewing the cars. Next stop was Nordberg Fort, where the original defensive gun positions can still be seen and a massive sea food lunch was supplied. After lunch we made our way to the Lista Lighthouse and the breakwater at Moja to take pictures of the cars. Off to the Fly Park again for a splendid evening dinner in the old Officers Mess.

 Sunday morning, here we go again, this time a longer day on the open road, still no traffic but steep hills, mountain passes, fjords and inland seas, in fact, everything you can hope for in your MG. We are not using the traditional Tulip diagrams, you really don’t need them in Norway, as an example our instructions tell us to follow road 463 until you meet 465 then turn left, it’s that easy especially with a road map. Lunch is also purchased locally and eaten at any beauty spot, it’s traditionally Norwegian this way. After many fantastic kilometres we see the sign “Lysebotn” now the fun really starts, in 31 km’s we dropped down to the Lysefjord but the road is steep with many bends and a single lane tunnel on the way with passing places and a 90 degree bend too, amazing but it gets better as we had to drive it back up (this surpasses anything we have found before in the Alps, even the relatively flat summit looks like a different planet with it’s rock sculptures, ice and snow). We continue avoiding sheep and cows on the roads crossing the Suleskard mountain finally arriving at Groven camping where our log cabins wait. A big kettle of moose prepared by Kari is simmering on the stove, this is the Norwegian way. We are joined by Gunnar in his MGF and Bente in her beautiful Ash Green MGA for the next few days.

 Monday saw us back over the mountains again via Rjukan and the Vemork museum buried in the side of the valley amongst the trees, this was where the heavy water was procured for the Nazi’s during WW2, it is accessible only by a narrow suspension bridge where one car at a time can drive, this made it almost impenetrable during the war. Lunch in the museum and off to the old railway station at Mæl, this was a crucial factor in the war as the train carrying the heavy water from the plant terminated here before the cargo was loaded on to a ship, this upon entering the deep water of the fjord was sunk by the Norwegian resistance knowing full well that locals would also be killed. Continuing across more mountains we arrived in Hallingdal close to where Steinar lives for the next two nights in the Thon Hotel. Walking back to the hotel from Steinar’s house we saw the most amazing array of stars and a huge shooting star as it exploded.

Tuesday saw the big tour of the fjords again crossing mountains with 4 metre high snow poles sticking up reminding us how much snow they get here in the winter, it’s like touring the high Alps/Pyrennes and Dolomites as they are really winter resorts, this is close season in a way but massive waterfalls are everywhere, narrow strips of often bumpy tarmac, they salt their roads heavily here in the winter but many will close by October until May next year. We followed the historic route alongside a river until we reached Borgund to view the Stave church, built in 1180, this famous wooden church has just had a soaking in creosote so was looking decidedly black and imposing but this way it will last for many more years. The amazing scenery of the Aurland mountains I will never forget then the drop down saw us in famous Flåm with it’s much visited tourist railway, in fact looking at the hundreds of tourists there getting on and off buses and ships hurrying around the shops to get the bargains, I felt proud to be there with my MG, it was a great feeling. The next surprise was the 25km long Lærdaltunnel, it has blue lighting at the rest points, rather unusual and strange but, like all good things, it had to be driven twice to get back to where we needed to be.

Wednesday saw us heading for the famous Geirangerfjord, scene of the 2009 EEOTY, this time we had as much time as we needed but the weather had changed, the low cloud and rain made the scenery so dramatic, in fact we could not make the drive to the Dalsnibba, the highest point above a fjord you can go.

Thursday we left our cabins in Geiranger for the drive north to the Trolls Wall, the Trollsveggen and the town of Andalsnes. As soon as we left Gerainger we climbed up the Eagles Road looking back at the ships in the fjord. At Eidsdal we boarded a little ferry for the crossing to Linge then we met the awesome Trollstiggen (Trolls Path). It was cloudy, we couldn’t see the incredible hairpin bends and the waterfalls but as we walked to the observation point the clouds cleared and there it was, what a sight and a great drive, I feel honoured to have done it, twice as we returned on the same road. Later, in Andalsnes we saw the size of the Costa Fortuna, sister ship to the ill fated Costa Concordia. Back down the Eagles Road and dinner, we are now actually heading south and home for the first time.

Friday back along roads so high up they will soon close for the winter (this is only August !) but this time the weather is lovely and we take the diversion along the toll road to Dalsnibba, stunning is all I can say. Although it’s not as high as, say the Stelvio Pass, the roads start from sea level not a high road so at 1315 metres above sea level you have a good climb to test yourself and the car. Driving the Tindevegen, through Ardal and Tyin following the lake for many miles finally saw us arrive in Fagernes for the night.

Saturday, still following beautiful traffic free roads we arrive in Larvik for the ferry to Hirtshals in Denmark. Once off the ferry it was a very wet drive to Hojslev where we stayed the night at the summer house of Alan & Jette in the company of Danish friends Kjeld & Elen.

Sunday following the Danish coast down to Esbjerg made us realize how lovely (but very expensive) Norway had been. Denmark is very flat and peaceful, quite a contrast to the powerful nature of it’s northern neighbour. At Esbjerg we met many cars returning from the EEOTY, unfortunately they didn’t appear too happy, it did not appear to be very popular with them. We are so glad we decided to stay in Norway, if you ever get the chance go and drive Norway, (rumours are that there will be a Newcastle-Stavangar-Bergen and Newcastle-Kristiansand-Gothenberg ferry operating next year).

Thank you so much to Steinar and his lovely family, Gunnar & Bente, Alan & Jette and all at MG Norway.