Friday, Oct 18
Today’s outing was to Flåm and Gudvangen. Ginger was interested in taking the boat from Flåm to Gudvangen and Rob and I had planned to check out Flåm, anyway. So we all drove down to Flåm together, Ginger took the boat, and Rob & I drove to Gudvangen to pick her up (it was only a 20 minute drive). On the way to Flåm we passed through the world’s longest road tunnel at 24.5 km (15.2 miles) long. Such a long tunnel is really boring to drive through, so there were 3 spots, each about 6km apart, where the ceiling and walls opened up a bit and were illuminated with blue and green lights. I noticed as we drove along that the temperature was going consistently up the further into the tunnel we drove. When we entered the tunnel, the car said it was about 6 degrees (43F)outside. Inside the tunnel, the temp maxed out at 19.5 degrees (67 F). Our theory was that all the heat and exhaust from the vehicles passing through just gets trapped inside.
Once in Flåm, Ginger got her ticket for the boat and we spent a little time looking in the shops. The town was pretty dead and we all thought that she would be one of only a few people on her boat ride. How nice and peaceful that would be! We were, of course, very wrong. Just 10 minutes before the boat left, 2 buses full of Chinese tourists arrived and all flocked onto the boat with her. Despite the unexpected crowd, she had a wonderful time on the boat! When we picked her up at the other end, she had a big smile on her face and her hair was frozen back and plastered to her hat from the wind and the cold. The tourist brochures had claimed this boat trip was a bucket list experience, and she agreed!
Back in Flåm, Rob and I had some very nice cinnamon rolls at the bakery. Then we walked around the shoreline for a bit. We found an old, cumbling dock that we gingerly walked out on. From the dock, we could see hundreds of bright orange starfish. When it was time to head out to Gudvangen to pick up Ginger, we set out in the car through what turned out to be our 2nd longest tunnel on the trip at 11.4 km (7 miles). This tunnel, too, was really warm toward the middle, topping out at 18 degrees.
We had originally planned to take a scenic road (the old road that went over the mountain – used before they built the longest tunnel). There is a scenic viewpoint called Stegastein toward the beginning. I noticed a somewhat worrisome sign all in Norwegian as we set out on the road that, in retrospect said the road was closed over the mountain. We didn’t stop to translate the sign, though. We reached Stegastein after about 20 minutes of driving through several switchbacks up a steep slope only to find the cantilevered viewpoint swarming with Chinese tourists and monitored by 2 drones, flown by these same tourists, buzzing overhead. We waited for a while, hoping they would finish so we could go out and take our own photos without a lot of other people in the shot, but they took ages. While we were waiting, Rob explored up the hill behind the parking area. He whistled for us to join him and we made our own off-road excursion. We’re pretty sure we were following an elk or deer trail that meandered up and down through wooded land. Most of the trees were evergreens. We walked ⅔ of a mile and ended up at a really nice viewpoint, one even nicer than the official cantilevered viewpoint. When we finished our hike, the large group of tourists had gone, but the view just didn’t live up to the one we’d just had, so we headed back to the car and set out on the road that was supposed to take us over the mountains. We drove for about 10 minutes, then reached a barrier across the road, barring us from going any further. We guess they probably don’t plow the road and just close it from some date in October until the snows melt in the spring. So, back down the mountain we went, and back through the longest tunnel. Tomorrow we pack up and head to our penultimate destination, Bergen, and will drive through the same long tunnel (actually both of the long ones) that we did today. Tomorrow will be our last day of driving. We’ll be in Bergen (should easily be a walkable city) and Oslo for our last 2 destinations.