On the 27th August 2022 we were up reasonably early to make our four hour drive to Bergen. We had left Bergen 12 days ago on a Hurtigruten boat that took us up the coast of Norway across the Arctic Circle to Tromso. Since then we had made our way back down through Norway by plane and hire car and today was the last leg of the return journey.
It was to be a complex day as after returning our car to the Bergen airport, we were to catch the airport train into the centre of Bergen and then catch the Oslo train all the way back up towards where we had started our day. We were to get off this train at Myrdal and catch a small train to our hotel for the night in Vatnahalsen. After a good night’s sleep here, we would be ready for our day on the Flam Railway!
It was serious mountain and fjord country for the first third of our journey. As can be seen in the images above, it is beautiful country but getting out of the valleys over the mountains was no longer an option for Norwegians. The tunnel borer would be brought in and a hole in the mountain would be created for the short cut. Below is a photo taken halfway through a mountain tunnel on this road and its colours give some hint of the strange, alien world our drive regularly became.
The above photos were taken about an hour into our journey. The photo on the right illustrates how dangerous life can be, even for a beautiful white church in this countryside. Just at the back of this white church, rests a huge boulder that has fallen off the mountain cliffs above and has slid down the mountain and come to a halt just behind the church. I am not sure if there was a congregation in the church at the time but they would have recognised it as a strong sign of higher forces at work, nudging the huge piece of rock just off course before it smashed the church and its inhabitants to smithereens.
One of Australia’s most famous novels Voss, by Patrick White, is the story of a Prussian explorer who comes to Australia in the 1840s with the intention of exploring Queensland’s torturous desert country. It is basically a rewrite of the tale of Ludwig Leichhardt who disappeared in the outback without leaving a trace. Halfway along our road to Bergen we arrived at the Norwegian town of Voss and I was convinced that there must be some connection between this town and the Australian novel. Alas, so far I have found no connection.
It was time for a morning tea break and Voss was the perfect place to stop; being Saturday, it was Market-Day in town. We found ourselves a great café and fueled our bodies and then headed out for a short walk around town. We were able to get a park not far down the main street and were able to stroll through the centre of Vossvangen where there was a large square for the weekly market. Just over the road from the market was a grey stone church (Vangskyrkja Voss) that was designed in 1277. There is some speculation that this church was built on the site of a previous building, presumably a significant site of the Viking culture of the time. This stone church replaced a wooden church that was built around the 11th century.
Voss sees itself as the “Adrenalin Capital”, the “Activity Town” or the “Extreme Sports Capital” of Norway. The image below is of Voss from up on the neighbouring mountainside, taken from a Gondola coming down from a snowy peak in winter-time. If you would like to skydive, fly in a wind tunnel, raft, mountain bike or Kayak, Voss is your destination.
It took us another couple of hours to complete our drive to Bergen airport where we dropped off our hire car. Given that we had flown into this airport once already, we were familiar with the train service into Bergen and its difficult ticket machines. The same went for the central Bergen train station and we easily found the ticket office and the departing platform for the train to Myrdal, our destination station in the hills below Vatnahalsen. It was a two and a half hour ride to Myrdal and, at one point, we found ourselves back in Vossvaggen for the second time that day.
The small hamlet of Myrdal is the Flam Railway’s connecting link to the rest of Norway’s major railway lines. We were here so that tomorrow we could catch the train down to Flam at the end of Aurlandsfjord. For tonight we would catch a local train that would take us one stop to our hotel for the night at Vatnahalsen.
We had to wait half an hour at Myrdal train station but for some unknown reason, we were entertained by a helicopter pilot who kept collecting orange bags of rubble from a site behind the Vatnahalsen Hotel and bring them down on a long rope and drop them at a point at the end of Myrdal’s train platform. He was a very skillful as well as noisy helicopter pilot.
Below is a frontal view of our very pleasant hotel at Vatnahalsen.