Out of the Arctic KM2922

Ah the best laid plans… We were woken by rain drumming on the roof last night and when we pulled back the blinds this morning the glacier which had so enticed us was completely invisible. All around us was a dank layer of cloud which spat rain every few minutes while a whipping wind rocked the campervan. It was not the ideal weather for an eight kilometer walk, even with a glacier in the middle of it. So we checked the ferry timetables and reluctantly got back onto highway 17 south.

The Kystriksveien bills itself as the world’s most beautiful road, which is a big claim in this part of the world but on a day like today it was merely impressive. All the big show-off views were mostly hidden from view, despite the occasional  waterfalls gushing down the rounded lower mountain slopes. Here and there we caught glimpses of the mighty Svartisen glacier, but for the most part it was invisible.

So then to Forøya and the little ferry to Åskardet which appeared out of the mist on the milky-blue meltwater that fills the fjord. When the leathery-faced ticket collector appeared at our window I ‘fessed up that Thor, at more than seven meters long, is into the next price bracket, but he gave me a wink and said “I think seven” and gave us the lower fare.

From Åskardet it was a short drive to the excitingly named Jetvika, which suggests perhaps an exceedingly fast viking or parson. The ferry from there to Killboghamn is about forty minutes and occasionally the sun burst through the cloud to light up distant bits of mountain, and smatterings of village.

At some point too, as we chugged through Sørlfjord, we crossed the Arctic Circle again, and left the Nordlands behind. Immediately of course there were apple orchards and sun-kissed meadows and people complaining about the heat. Well not so much really, but there are subtle differences between this landscape and the one we have left behind. Its not quite so pointy for a start; these mountains roll around the landscape. There are more cows – and more houses –  though the roads are still virtually empty.

The rain came and went and came again, and we drove through hunkered-down communities, past fishing boats and red timber buildings and little islands with wooden jetties. At one point Philippa spotted a fish eagle, its long-fingered wingtips spread wide, gliding over a bay. At Sjonbotn we left route 17 to continue its scenic journey down the coast while we turned towards Mo-i-Rana, which is the only place name on this part of the route that is actually listed in my satnav. Having failed to get to the glacier, Philippa had spotted that Norway’s most popular underground cavern was close by, so we made for that.

Given its undoubted fame in this part of the world, the road to Grønligrotta was surprisingly primitive. Its a muddy track, so steep that Thor’s back wheels scrabbled to get a grip and we fishtailed on the bends. But when we got to the parking lot the penultimate tour of the day was leaving in ten minutes so we signed up and went down into the cool of a system that stretches, well I’ve forgotten exactly how far, but really quite a long way… 

We walked alongside an underground river that has fish in it; swimming from one side of the Svartisen glacier to the other. They all had little helmets with lamps on, though in fact I made that up.  As we clambered through slick and narrow passageways with no safety rails or any of that nonsense, I was again grateful for the Norwegians admirable faith in the ability of people to be sensible and look out for themselves.

In the car park afterwards I checked Thor’s headlights, having had a couple of people flash theirs at me in the past couple of days. Sure enough, one of them had died and although I could see how to change it, I didn’t have the tools to do it. Back down the slippery hill and on towards Mo-i-Rana again. We pulled into an industrial estate full of car dealerships and garages, all of which were closed, it being late Saturday afternoon. Amazingly though, the one place that was open was a huge car parts place. So I bought two screwdrivers, took the old bulb out and got a new one just before the place closed. We continued the rest of the journey in full compliance with Norwegian law about running lights. Phew.


We have some time to make up and the next stretch of the journey to Trondheim is going to be one fast slog, so we pushed on south again aiming for Mosjoen. It was a pretty drive with lush green meadows dotted with white plastic-enclosed hay bales. The evening sunshine was strong and cast long shadows as the clouds thinned.

Finding the centre of Mosjoen took some doing, thanks again to the modest signage that only told us where it was once we were virtually there. But it was worth the hassle, with pretty streets lined with old wooden houses, and music pouring from lively bars.

We went to the “Provance” restaurant which was full of locals. It had every kind of food you can imagine from Mexican to Greek and appeared to be run by Iranians. It was all excellent and when Tom ordered the inevitable dessert, the waiter made a point of sneaking up like a pantomime villain to give me and P an extra spoon. Tom, it has to be said has been incredibly patient with all the driving and occasional hassles. He is nothing less than constantly cheerful and we couldn’t be more proud of him.

Driving out from the centre of Mosjean we saw an empty car park at the town hall and as its Sunday tomorrow, we decided that they probably wouldn’t mind too much if we stayed the night. We will find out I suppose!
Categories: Up to the Arctic

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