It was still raining this morning, taking down a wet tent is not on my list of favorite things to do. Still, we managed to be ready to leave by 9:30 - a record so far! Today we started the trip up to Trondheim, beginning with the bit Jason has been excited about - driving the Aurlandsvegan, the 42km road up and over the mountains that the Laerdal tunnel goes through. It's closed after October so we were lucky to do it. Starting at the Sognefjord watefront the road quickly winds up the side of the mountains with hairpin bends and precipitous edges. The views down into the fjord are spectacular to say the least. We stopped wherever we could (it's a single lane road) to take pictures but it just kept getting better. There was a viewpoint high up with a wooden platform jutting out over the valley. At the end of the platform was an almost invisible sheet of glass, shielding you from the platform curving suddenly downwards. At the same viewpoint there were toilets with windows that provided a panorama of mountain and fjord from the vantage point of the loo! Fabulous.
Above the tree line the road curved inwards away from the fjord and nearing the summit. The scenery was much more arid and windswept with lots of exposed rock. Almost otherworldly. By the time we reached the summit we had climbed nearly 900m and the car temp display had fallen by 7 degrees. Once over the top we started to see some pockets of ice and snow that remained from winters gone. Meg had been saying that she wanted to go ice-skating so we asked her if she wanted to touch the snow and got a yes. That quickly changed once we got outside and she was being buffeted by an icy wind!
On the descent the scenery was much changed with many trees and lots of autumnal colors. The amount of waterfalls in Norway is unbelievable. Just hope all the water is coming from rainfall rather than global warming. Nearly at the bottom, having pulled over for a photo shot, we noticed that the brake pads were smoking. A bit concerning but not really surprising considering the terrain and the road.
At Laerdal we stopped at the Borgund stave church which was an historical masterpiece. Constructed almost entirely of wood, it has survived almost 1000 yrs. So dark and small inside, but beautiful carvings everywhere. Even the roof is made from individually carved wooden tiles. Picnic in the carpark - getting used to that - and let the kids have some time out of the car.
The afternoon saw us making our way northwards along the fjords and through national parks. Passed the remnants of a glacier - very powerful even in it's seeming inertia. The valley that followed had a glacial river and the water looked green. The driving was slow and steady due to the speed limitations, muliple ferry crossings and indirect nature of the roads. Although it takes longer, I like that taking the main highways in Norway doesn't mean missing out on the views. But perhaps that's more to do with there being such an abundance of natural beauty. Jason decided to head for Alesund on the coast for the night, so we got the kids some dinner on the last ferry as it was getting late. The ferry system here is a marvel. So smoothly run, with minimal waiting time and there hasn't been a single hitch. They must have had lots of practise in this area.
Found a campsite/hostel on the outskirts of Alesund and got a room that turned out to be a studio apartment. First night with the telly on for a long while (though the girls engross themselves in dvd's on the long car journeys). Lovely, warm and dry tonight.