Norway & Sweden 2006 Introduction
This was originally published in the Trafic Report, a Renault Trafic Club magazine. This part was written whilst we were planning the trip. Note as I revise this edition I note that many of the Ferry routes are no longer available so best read this as a general guide rather than a 'how to do it today'.
The North Cape in Norway (Nordkapp) is one of those places like John ’O’ Groats or Lands End that you feel you must visit because ‘its there’. It has been on my to-do list for a long time and in July ‘04 I read an article in MMM which made me start planning seriously.As a result this Summer (2006) in mid-June we are booked on FjordLine from Newcastle to Stavanger. Well there will be plenty of time when we get back to write up the actual journey for the newsletter, but I thought you might like to read about the planning and why its only 50/50 that we will get to Nordkapp.
Having thought about it for a while, and remembering the almost blanket 50mph speed limit in Norway, we thought we would go DFDS to Gothenberg (Goteborg), then dash for the North on the better/faster Swedish roads. Then take it gently on our way back to Bergen spending 3-4 weeks in all. We both have been to Stavanger, Bergen, and Trondheim as well as some of the Fjords by cruise ship in 2003, and went to Oslo in 2004, and I spent 10 weeks many years ago in Voss, so Nordkapp was most definitely the target.
Planning started in earnest just after Christmas, when we invited two friends around for dinner who had extensively travelled with a trailer tent in Norway and Sweden. They themselves had never got as far as Nordkapp, even though they had on occasions spent six weeks in the country. They were ecstatic about the Lofoten islands though, and after talking well into the night had convinced us that 4 weeks was to be a minimum. They left us all their maps brochures etc and gave us all sorts of handy hints, for example: alcohol limits for driving (basically if you have a drink the day before you’re probably over the limit) and the cost of ferries and tolls (reasonable for us as we are under 6 metres, increasing by a factor of 2 or 3 if you are over 6m or 3500Kg). Armed with all the maps and brochures we sketched out a rough plan based on our original intentions.
We fell at the first hurdle! DFDS was fully booked all around the time we wanted to go. This we now understand is common, if you want to go that way book very early. We then had a choice; go Fjordline to Norway, or motor across Denmark to Malmo. Well our Denmark/Southern Sweden holiday is for the future, so after using a route planning website www.viamichelin.com we booked Newcastle to Stavanger and Haugesund to Newcastle.Why not Bergen? well we’ve been there, its one of the towns that charges a toll to enter and it always rains – over 200 days a year.The new ferry timings gave us four more days so we hope that will compensate for the longer drive. It arrives at Stavanger at 1500 so with six more hours of daylight left we can get on the way. Fjordline was cheaper than DFDS so we were able to have a better cabin, also on the outward trip we got a Caravan Club discount of £75 by booking through them.
Plan B, Possible Route
The second hurdle was that when we looked at a map we couldn’t find all of Michelin’s route. Our map of Scandinavia at 1:1,800,000 was no good, and the more detailed maps that we had been given didn’t give all the coverage. Back on to the internet. The RAC route planner www.rac.co.uk/route-planner/ went a quite different way and the AA one doesn’t do Scandinavia. In mapping Scandinavia is often not considered to be Europe. We needed better maps.Maps of Norway are expensive but I made a plan to visit Stanfords in Bristol (they are also in London and Manchester) to see the available maps first hand, rather than buy them directly from the internet. www.stanfords.co.uk In the meantime I made as much use of the internet as I could and in doing so found a Swedish and a Norwegian contact both of whom were very helpful. I also have a tip. When doing a search for a place using Google, search on ‘images’. That way you don’t get the millions of hits on every bit of writing that’s ever mentioned the place and by viewing the picture in original context, and if you are really lucky, you will encounter a travelogue that will give you ideas and inspiration. I certainly did, for some reason motorcyclists seem to do the best ones that I have come across.I also set about getting up to date brochures from Sweden www.camping.se/en/Campingse-International/ and Norway www.visitnorway.com/en/ About this time I joined Motorhome facts on the internet (MHF). Lots of people there who have done similar trips and that’s where I made my foreign contacts.
I went to Stanfords and after rejecting the maps that I had thought would be best, I have bought a Scandinavian ringbound road atlas at 1:250,000 (in southern Norway and southern Sweden and 1:400,000 elsewhere). This cost £22 and compares well with the folded maps at 1:300,000 which cost £12 each and I would have needed eleven of to cover the complete route. I will be buying a 1:100,000 map of the Lofotens when I can track it down. I still haven’t ruled out buying a gps mapping system but I prefer maps.
One theme was becoming clear in all my dealings with experienced travellers and that was Nordkapp is little more than an expensive tourist trap. There’s a toll to go in, a toll to come out and you even pay to go to the gift shop! Also it is a long way away, bleak, and you could stay there a week before seeing the midnight sun, which is quite easily seen several hundred miles south say in the Lofoten islands. Lofoten beautiful, NordKapp bleak so no need for a caption on the photos.
Well I doubt that we will do a great deal more planning before we go. To fail to plan, is to plan to fail as someone once said but you can overdo it and this way we have an outline, we have some dates and a few must see places, probably it doesn’t include Nordkapp.
Mind you Nordkapp is still there, and if we get to within a couple of hundred miles of it, well it would be rude not to go wouldn’t it?
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