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Woken up by an erroneous alarm call from the hotel switchboard at 6am, followed by a second one at 6.45. In both cases the operator was under the impression that I spoke German, even though I answered in English. Decided to get up after the second call and went down to breakfast at 7.30. Another lavish spread. Could seriously get to like Smorgasbord.
The weather had changed. It was overcast and cooler and there was a slight drizzle. We collected our packed lunches (which proved to be surprisingly meagre), checked out at 8.50, and went down to the quayside for 9.15. A minibus was sitting there with "Sandane" displayed on its destination board. At the last minute it was changed to "Stryn", which I knew was not far from our day's destination at Loen. Asked the driver if this was the Loen bus, and he confirmed that it was.
Stream at Balestrand
The Gaular Pass
The Gaular pass was really something. What a pity it was so misty. At the far side of the pass the bus diverted from the main road to head west to Forde, where we had a forty five minute break for lunch at a roadside cafeteria. There was a very long queue for tea and coffee, and we ate our packed lunches in the bus station cafe.
At 12.45 the bus changed its destination board again. This was getting very confusing. We got under way again and travelled back to the road junction, then onwards to Jolstravatn (Lake Jolster), a body of water some 20 miles long and looking so very much like a Scottish loch. It looked eerie and magnificent. Why couldn't it be sunny today?
From Skei, at the northeastern end of Jolstravatn, we headed northwards through Vaterdale, which I immediately dubbed Norway's equivalent of Glen Shiel in Scotland. At Byrkjelo we had to change buses. By 3pm we were travelling over the Karistova pass into Nordfjord, and had a 15 minute stop at a cafe overlooking Utvik. At Utvik itself we reached the shores of Innvikfjord, the eastern extremity of Nordfjord, and turned east along its southern shores to pass through Olden. We reached Loen, at the very head of the fjord, at about 4pm.
Vaterdale; Karistova; Olden
Just like at Balestrand there was our magnificent resort hotel (the Alexandra) and very little else here. The setting was absolutely magnificent, with the surrounding mountains rising to 4000 or even 5000ft. No soft, rounded fells here - this was magnificent, craggy mountain country with soaring ridges and pointy summits. Lofjell, at 1379 metres just a tad short of the altitude of Ben Nevis, rose directly behind the hotel, while to the east the 1648m Scalafjell was just breathtaking to behold.
I walked around the village, taking in the scenery of mountain, pine forest and waterfalls too numerous to count. This was my sort of country.
I felt out of place in the hotel, though. It was just too lavish to feel comfortable in, and I felt out of my depth among the rest of the clientele. The food, though was amazing. I could quite definitely get to like smorgasbord. There was still plenty of daylight left after dinner so at 9pm I set off for a walk down the road to the southeast, in the direction of Lovatn (Lake Loen). It was reputedly one of Norway's most celebrated chunks of scenery, and I quickly formed the opinion that its reputation was deserved. My mental "wow" meter zinged off the scale. Desperate to find some Scottish analogy, all I could come up with was that it was like Glen Torridon only more so. The weather had improved - there were bright intervals now, the cloudbase had lifted above the summits, a weak sun was lighting up snowy peaks and the lips of the Jostedal glacier spilling down from Norway's central massif. The waters of the lake shimmered. The mountains, the water, the sheer symmetry of the vista added up to the most magnificent scenery I'd ever seen.
Lake Loen and Lofoss
The mood didn't last. It began to drizzle - so like Scotland, still - and I returned to the hotel. At 11pm I was in bed, looking forward to a day of leisure among these mountains on Tuesday.