Half-term. You've got to love the concept... especially when you're both members of the school staff and able to disappear for a week! Unfortunately I had developed a serious case of man-flu so a period of R&R was in order for the pair of us. With a car at our disposal for a few days we decided to race right across the entire width of Norway to M's mum's hytte just inside the Norway/Sweden border. As we began the ten hour drive we started to notice changes in the scenery. In the space of a week the trees had started to turn, green leaves giving way to yellow, golds and reds. The curvy road out of Bergen was a continuous ribbon of autumnal confetti as a mean wind bullied the leaves from the trees. As we headed into the mountains the odd golden tree here and there gave way to clumps and then swathes of yellow on the hillsides.
I know I post quite a few 'tunnel photos' in my blog. I guess I'm still excited every time we dive in and out of these feats of civil engineering and living in Norway sometimes there isn't any other way of going ROUND the mountain so they decide they'll go THROUGH the mountain instead. Well on this trip we got to go through the mother of all road tunnels, the Leardaltunnelen. At 24.5km (17 miles and allegedly the longest road tunnel in the world) it has cavernous grottos periodically along it's length, each one bathed in different ethereal lighting themes and parking places where you can get out and takes photos of 18 wheelers thundering by at 80kmph inches from your Carl Zeiss lens.
It always amazes me how driving in Norway seems so much less tiring than driving back in the UK. I put it down to being able to drive for hours at a time on almost deserted, perfect curvy roads. Mile after mile of stunning scenery helps of course and you can stop where you want for a flask of filter coffee and sandwiches. After a slight mis-direction by our navigator based in England, relaying directions by text message, we arrived at the hytte. First job, get the wood burning stoves fired up!
The next day we enjoyed a lazy breakfast of bacon and eggs and headed out under clear blue skies to the very Swedish-looking forests around Kirkenaer to a lake we'd visited before. This time I made sure I was armed with my new Shimano travel fishing combo that packs up so small and light that it'll sit in the side pockets of my OMM packs. We parked the car right next to the lake, the temperature gauge reading 5C, and stepped out into the biting wind. 10 minutes later and I managed to winkle out a wee Perch. It wasn't going to break any records but it made me smile, my first Norwegian fish.
We spent the next couple of days doing the same kind of stuff. Sleeping late then enjoying cooked breakfasts, visiting local towns and villages, exploring the gravel 'Bom' roads that snake through the forests (obviously where Norway creates rally driving talents such as Petter Solberg) and grabbing a spot of fishing here and there. We spent hours strolling around the countryside trying to capture the colour of the season in the northern light, doing it no justice in the process!
On the last evening we had a final drive into the forest and soaked up some much needed sunshine and M indulged in a spot of fishing. I managed to lose about £20's worth of lures in sunken trees and weeds before catching a small pike as the sun dipped below the horizon.
Too soon it was time to head back across the country to our home on the west coast. The next morning we drove back through the mountains and we realised that time had marched on even further during our short trip away. Up on the hills there was the years first dusting of fresh snow. The ice warning on the dashboard was flashing and the display said 2C. Exciting stuff. Our thoughts turned to snowy adventures, blizzards, crampons, cross country skiing and down filled jackets. The seasons are truly in transition.