Our Round-the-World adventure

Norway!

Land of fjords, waterfalls, mountains, and endless tunnels, Norway had a spectacular surprise around every hairpin turn of the road. We managed to repeatedly hike ourselves into full body exhaustion (really not 30-somethings anymore), drive most of the most challenging scenic auto routes, and dip into metropolitan culture in its biggest cities.

After a slight hiccup, we crossed the border into Norway from Sweden on August 19th. European countries had just re-instituted stricter COVID related restrictions. We were unaware that Norway was managing its border tightly so our first attempt at driving in failed as we reached a closed crossing - clearly, we needed to do more research. But we re-routed and arrived at a staffed border. As the first Americans to arrive, the young border control officers had to call in supervisors to see if our US cardboard vaccination cards were acceptable. A lot of back and forth and a recognition that we did not have access to the European QRC system and we were allowed to pass.

Our first cultural stop was the mountain village of Røros - one of the oldest wooden towns in Europe (because, as we repeatedly learn, devastating fires were a big deal throughout time - levelling cities, castles and cathedrals on a regular basis).
Røros, Norway - old wooden village lined with shops and cafes

Røros, Norway - old wooden village lined with shops and cafes

Not content with relying on the occasional roadside wildlife sightings, our next stop was Dovrefjell National Park - home to Norway’s only wild musk oxen herd. We hiked into the high country and were rewarded by finding a group to watch. We sat on a rock and watched as a grumpy male tried to join the females - he failed.
Watching the wild life - male musk ox in Dovrefjell

Watching the wild life - male musk ox in Dovrefjell

Leaving the musk oxen behind we drove on to Norway’s most renowned national park - Jotenheimen. On the advice of our friend Forrest Lewis we decided to hike the most beatiful trail in the park - Besseggen. It was incredible. We accessed the trail by ferry and made our way 9 miles along the ridge with incredible views.
Besseggen hike in Jotenheimen National Park - gorgeous views

Besseggen hike in Jotenheimen National Park - gorgeous views

With one epic hike done, we decided to focus on a drive next and headed to the Sognefjellet route - well worth the time, and the toe curling narrow turns shared with buses and trucks.


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The scenic drives in Norway are many and varied so we went straight on to the next one, Aurlandsfjellet. More remote than the Sognefjellet, we were able to find a scenic camping spot along the way.

Now, time for a city! We opted to stay in a hotel in Bergen for easy access to all of its culture and history. We wandered the old streets, used an app (GPSMyCity) to do our own walking tour (no organized free walking tours here) and ate pizza for the first time in three months. Not traditional Norwegian fare, but an awesome break from truck food.
Iconic Bryggen, Bergen

Iconic Bryggen, Bergen

We left Bergen to tackle another famous Norwegian hike - Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock. Compared to Besseggen it was an easy trek - five miles roundtrip with an incredible photographic reward at the end point.
View of Lysefjorden on the Pulpit Rock hike

View of Lysefjorden on the Pulpit Rock hike
His and her Pulpit Rock photos - Andy getting as close as possible to the edge.

Pulpit Rock photo - Andy getting as close as possible to the edge.


Small car ferry

Small car ferry
Driving around Norway, ferries and tunnels are a fact of life. The ferry system is incredibly efficient, treated as an extension of the highway system. Payment is all automatic by license plate. We were often just waved on as our license plate is not digitally connected to the system. The impressive tunnel network makes travel through mountainous areas simpler - although dark and viewless.


Heddal Stave Church

Heddal Stave Church

Norway is known for its Stave Churches - medieval Christian churches made of wood. We stopped by to visit this notable one in Heddal, outside of Oslo. Next stop, Oslo. We were hoping to drive into Russia in October and were finding conflicting information online about the possibility of entering right now with Covid restrictions. We had been given an appointment with an agency that processed Russian tourist visas and were feeling hopeful. We showed up with our paperwork only to be told Russia was not issuing toursit visas. Oh well, re-routing our non-Schengen part of the trip and meanwhile, time to wander around Oslo. Much more contemporary in feel than Bergen, we opted not to stay in town but explored some of the sites and got back on the road.

And then we were off again! Heading to Geiranger to see the famous Geirangerfjord.
In Geiranger, we took the regular car ferry to Hellesylt, it took us through the gorgeous fjord without paying for the higher priced tourist boats. It was still an expensive trip (about $100 US) for our budget, but well worth it to experience the fjord from the water.
Felt like the ferry was consuming our home on wheels

Felt like the ferry was consuming our home on wheels


After the ferry we drove the famous Trollstigen - crazily engineered switchbacks down the mountain.
Trollstigen road

Trollstigen road


Our last stop in southern Norway was Trondheim. Once again we used the GPSMyCity app to access a walking tour of the highlights. We visitied the old quarter of wooden buildings and walked up the hill to Kristiansen fortress.
Trondheim, old wooden houses

Trondheim, old wooden houses


Trondheim waterfront

Trondheim waterfront

Thank you for reading our adventures of southern Norway - hopefully we are providing some information and inspiration for your planned travels. And now, to the north!

Many more pictures on our website, www.roguewanderers.com and also on Instagram at, 2roguewanderers
 
Norway Part 2- the North

Svartisen Glacier as seen from the Kystriksveien coastal route

Svartisen Glacier as seen from the Kystriksveien coastal route

Our journey continued and Norway’s natural beauty was just as stunning up north. After leaving Trondheim, we set off up the west coast to drive the Kystriksveien scenic route. The views of crystal blue water backed by the jagged mountains made the slow windy drive worth it.

Our driving route in northern Norway - ten days

Our driving route in northern Norway - ten days

But you can only drive so much (at least Dawn has a limit, Andy can go forever.) To be healthy and sane, we try not to drive more than three hours a day and walk at least five miles every day. We both have short attention spans and we tend to move along quickly - probaby too quickly. We rarely spend two nights in one place. Right now this restlessness is exacerbated by the pressure of the 90 day Schengen limitation.

At least once a week we look for a more challenging hike - 10-12 miles. We found our next hiking adventure along the way going to Svartisen Glacier in Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park. We accessed it through Mo i Rana, heading north from there to Svartisvatnet lake. In prior years, a boat ran across the lake saving 6 miles roundtrip. However, the boat hasn’t been running in the past year. The campground by the lake was also closed and had gated off part of the road, so what had been in the past an easy 4-5 mile roundtrip was 12 miles for us. But it was worth it! We learned the true meaning of our favorite Norwegian hike description “squelchy.” Three miles of slow going on lake side rough boggy trail before we got to the high country beauty. We are definitely learning Norwegian hiking techniques - hopping from high grassy spot to high grassy spot avoiding the shoe-sucking moss and mud.


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And then, some of the realities of truck life in Norway. Here we are on the ferry, drying hiking shoes on the dashboard and working on our route on our Garmin Overland GPS. Dampness has been a challenge for us here and Andy works diligently wiping down the inside of the camper every morning before we pop down so that we don’t start growing mold.

The Norwegian trifecta - shoe drying, ferry riding, route planning.

The Norwegian trifecta - shoe drying, ferry riding, route planning.

We like our Garmin Overland for big-picture route planning but it is lacking details in its European database for finding places to sleep and attractions, so we use our phones for that.
We drove from to Steinkger to Bodø along the coast - fabulous -then hopped on the ferry to the Lofotens.

Arriving close to dark, tired and needing to do laundry, we booked into the paid campground near the ferry and had an easy night.

Arriving close to dark, tired and needing to do laundry, we booked into the paid campground near the ferry and had an easy night.

Reine, Lofoten Islands

Reine, Lofoten Islands

The next day dawned clear and bright and we made our way to Reine and the most famous Lofotens hike - Reinebringen. Steep, muddy and with over 1600 stone steps, the views from the top were beyond worth it.
Views from the top of Reinebringen

Views from the top of Reinebringen

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Our three thoughtful children had banded together and gifted us a tour of the beautiful Trollfjord so we made our way to Svolvær to board the boat. The topography was mesmerizing and we were grateful for the experience - and our perceptive children who knew what we would like.

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views coming up to the Trollfjord

Entrance to Trollfjord

Entrance to Trollfjord


Continuing our Lofoten Islands exploration, we made our way out to the village of Eggum to hike a coastal route recommended by Lonely Planet. We came upon this beatiful sculpture on the hike. In the background are ruins of an old fort. History and art on one walk.
Free Norwegian roadside potable water fill - with a view

Free Norwegian roadside potable water fill - with a view
Re-supplying has been easy in Norway. Water is readily accessible and free at roadside pitstops. We have been able to find places to re-fill propane in most cities. Groceries are plentiful - although Norway has been the most expensive country to buy food to date.

Some of the beautiful Lofoten Island beaches that had been open to camping in the past are now campgrounds with a fee. We opted to camp down the coast in our own spot. Rocky but free - and with a rainbow!

View from wild camping spot, Lofoten Islands

View from wild camping spot, Lofoten Islands

A cold night and awakening to the first dusting of snow

A cold night and awakening to the first dusting of snow


We loved the Lofoten Islands but as it was getting colder and we were losing the beautiful light, we made our way back to the mainland and up the coast towards the Northern tip.

We made one more scenic loop before heading north, driving out to and around Senja island.
Wild camping along the coast of Senja

Wild camping along the coast of Senja

Senja coastal route

Senja coastal route


Private wild spot with a view of the Lyngen Alps

Private wild spot with a view of the Lyngen Alps

After leaving Senja, we continued up the northern coast to Nordkapp with the goal of hiking the 12 km trail to the very northern tip. Along the way we stopped in Alta to see the World Heritage rock art center - incredible site with carvings 2,000-7,000 years old along the coast.

Alta Museum - rock art in its original state outside

Alta Museum - rock art in its original state outside


Stabbursdalen National Park - waterfall hike

Stabbursdalen National Park - waterfall hike

In the end, we pivoted our plans. The day of our planned hike to the northern tip (71 degrees north, 2,500 miles from the North Pole) we awoke to 25mph winds, and we were tired, (maybe a little grumpy? it happens) and decided not to attempt it. Instead we made our last Norwegian national park visit and hiked a more sheltered route to this impressive waterfall.

So long Norway, its been a beautiful trip. Onwards to Finland!
 

Lovetheworld

Active member
Nice trip! That old dark wooden church gives you a taste of what churches you might find in Russia.
Funny to see my own country here (Netherlands) and then the countries we visited last summer.
 
Nice trip! That old dark wooden church gives you a taste of what churches you might find in Russia.
Funny to see my own country here (Netherlands) and then the countries we visited last summer.
I wish! We tried getting a tourist visa from Russia this fall but they had stopped issuing them. We had fun in the Netherlands this summer
 

Lownomore

Member
Nice to see you using the truck for what you built it for and finally traveling overseas. Beautiful pictures so far, can't wait to see more.
 
Finland

We crossed from Norway to FInland with no fanfare whatsoever. The Norwegian border patrol stood ready to examine incoming traffic but the Finnish side was deserted. And we were lucky with our timing. We dropped right into a Finnish fall with full colors.

Our Finland route, 11 days driving north to south

Our Finland route, 11 days driving north to south

In northern Finland we were constantly running into reindeer, crossing the road, walking down the road, always beautiful to see.
Reindeer just minding it’s own business.

Reindeer just minding it’s own business.

Next, time for some national parks. Our first stop was Lemmenjoki National Park with an early fall foliage which was a sea of brilliant oranges, reds and yellows.
Lemmenjoki National Park, fall colors

Lemmenjoki National Park, fall colors

Finnish lakeside camping

Finnish lakeside camping

Finland was the easiest European country so far to wild camp in - land o’ lakes and rivers and endless forests. Camping is allowed anywhere out of site of private dwellings and property owners gate off or close roads where they don’t want people. We have started to see some controversy on Park4Night - the apps concentrate travellers in areas which have often previously been local hang outs. It is a difficult issue and one we try to be aware of and respect as we choose sites.

Our travel challenge of the week - propane. We knew entering Finland that it was one of the few countries that there is literally no way to fill your own bottle. We filled up at our last stop in Norway and entered confident that we had enough to last us to Estonia. But it was cold. Three days into the trip we had blown through our first tank and half our supply by running our furnace at night. We ratcheted back, wore hats and gloves in the camper in the evenings and cut our consumption back so much that we ended up entering warmer Estonia with extra - lessons learned.
Continuing south, still in the Arctic Circle we started to lose the reds in the fall color but were still enjoying the visual color feast and the stark beauty of the landscape. Our next hike was in Urho Kekkosen National Park, accessed through Saariselka which was right on our way south.

Urho Kekkosen National Park

Urho Kekkosen National Park

Our final stop on the mini Finnish National Park tour (there are 40 and we made it to three) was Oulanka National Park where we did what was is reputed to be the most beautiful hike in Finland, It lived up to it’s name. The Little Bear trail, or Pieni Karhunkierros, was an easy 12km loop that showcased foliage, river rapids and calm lakes.

Oulanka National Park - LIttle Bear trail

Oulanka National Park - LIttle Bear trail


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After our hike, It was laundry time so we headed to a city campground in Rovaniemi and prepared to say goodbye to the Arctic Circle. Campground nights tend to be crazy busy for us - in three hours we pulled off two loads of laundry, tire rotation, finishing the Norway blog, veggie prep for the week and downloading Netflix and Amazon Prime episodes for evening entertainment.

Rovaniemi bakery break, complete with reindeer pastry - unfortunately Dawn ate half of her cheese pastry before we thought of taking a picture.

Rovaniemi bakery break, complete with reindeer pastry - unfortunately Dawn ate half of her cheese pastry before we thought of taking a picture.

Another road side stop - Sukulanrakka or Devil’s Churns - glacial holes

Another road side stop - Sukulanrakka or Devil’s Churns - glacial holes

As we left the Arctic, we were disappointed that the magical confluence of conditions (dark sky, clear sky, solar activity) never came together for us to see the Aurora Borealis while we were in the Arctic Circle, but we are hopeful to see it on a future trip someday. As we drove south, we began our tour of Finnish cities and more urban culture. We hit the fall foliage right on target but found ourselves visiting smaller urban areas after the close of the summer tourist season so cities felt deserted and semi-shut down. Formerly bustling market squares had become ghostly empty.

We worked our way down through Rovaniemi, Oulu, Jakobstad, Vaasa, Tampere, and Rauma and despite the in between season nature of things, found something unique and fun to provide interest in each town.

Wooden side streets of Jakobstad

Wooden side streets of Jakobstad

So, our Garmin Overland does a consistently great job in finding us short cuts and routes. This day, not so much. We left our wild site in the woods and were driving an increasingly sketchy road when we hit a whomping peat bog hole.
But we had planned for this! Pulled out the ARB recovery kit, found a winch tree, hooked up the Warn winch and it all worked beautifully.

But we had planned for this! Pulled out the ARB recovery kit, found a winch tree, hooked up the Warn winch and it all worked beautifully.

The hole that tried to eat a 32” tire

The hole that ate a 32” tire

Our truck is designed to get us places we want to go so Andy made sure it could handle most conditions. But it is not really made for off roading in the traditional sense - just too heavy and it has a high center of gravity. But we were glad to have a relatively easy test of the system so that when we hit African monsoon season we will hopefully be ready for it.

For us, Rauma was one of the most beautiful urban sites in Finland. A UNESCO World Heritage site, each street had rows of intricately carved and painted wooden buildings.
Rauma, medieval town structure with unique wooden architecture

Rauma, medieval town structure with unique wooden architecture

Exploring the cobbled streets of Rauma

Exploring the cobbled streets of Rauma

Our final stop in our whirlwind tour of Finland - Helsinki. We spent two relaxing nights in a hotel and walked 10 miles in the city each day - seeking out the architectural and cultural highlights. Cue the photos:

Dawn looking happy outside the Finnish National Theater - waiting for stages to go live again.

Dawn looking happy outside the Finnish National Theater - waiting for stages to go live again.


Vanha Kauppahahalli - similar design for old market halls seen throughout Finland.

Vanha Kauppahahalli - similar design for old market halls seen throughout Finland.


And then just enjoying the nameless old buildings

And then just enjoying the nameless old buildings
Uspenski Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral

So long Finland - it was a fabulous fall. Next stop, journey to Tallinn, Estonia on the ferry from Helsinki. Tickets booked and passports ready.

Thank you for reading and please let us know if you have any questions. We are new to this blog world and want this to be useful to other travellers and interesting to home readers out there. Any feedback is welcome and appreciated!
 

Cruisn

Adventurer
Stunning photos, be sure to hit up Ukraine if you get a chance. I had an amazing time there and 30 days wasnt long enough. And when you swing through Turkey give me a ring, currently settled in Antalya and know heaps of amazing camping spots.
Anyways, gave you a follow on insta, keep up the good work
 

ITTOG

Well-known member
Wow, that was some bog. I have never seen one eat an entire tire. Usually the frame prevents it from going that low.
 
Stunning photos, be sure to hit up Ukraine if you get a chance. I had an amazing time there and 30 days wasnt long enough. And when you swing through Turkey give me a ring, currently settled in Antalya and know heaps of amazing camping spots.
Anyways, gave you a follow on insta, keep up the good work
Darn! We won't have enough time before winter comes to see the Ukaraine. But we'll see about next summer. Planning on being in Turkey in a couple of years after driving the east and west coasts of Africa. Happy to look you up then!
 
Wow, that was some bog. I have never seen one eat an entire tire. Usually the frame prevents it from going that low.
It was indeed! The driver's side was perfectly firm. The truck dug that hole in less than 30 seconds with both diffs locked and still couldn't climb out.
 
Estonia

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The ferry trip from Helsinki, Finland to Tallinn, Estonia was quick and easy. We booked two days in advance online, showed our passports to board and were on our way.
Although commonly dubbed “the Baltics,” a young Latvian we talked to suggested that grouping the three countries together indicates tourism laziness. The three small countries share a history of being overrun and ruled by bigger, more militaristic surrounding countries, but each has its own character and uniqueness. Estonia and Latvia still have significant populations of Russian speaking immigrants who are segregated from the country’s native language speakers. Estonia is more linguistically and culturally aligned with Finland, while Latvians and Lithuanians can almost understand each other. Estonia and Latvia are predominantly non-religious while Lithuania is predominantly Catholic. The thriving Jewish populations in all three countries were decimated during WWII. All three countries have horrifying stories and relics of the Nazi and Soviet occupations contrasted with fantastic people, art and architecture.

Our route driving through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Our route driving through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

ESTONIA
Tallinn immediately entranced us. There is a magic to its medieval streets and architecture, and you encounter centuries of history in varied layers at every street corner. It almost instantly became one of our favorite European cities. We dove into Tallinn’s past, learning about the years of oppression coupled with the years of various rulers bringing the best of their arts and artists to contribute to the building of the city. In its most recent history, Estonia has been controlled by Sweden, Denmark, various German orders, and Russia. Medieval and modern architecture co-exist well and there is also a modern city center with a lot to offer. We chose to focus on the Old Town. You can wander the streets for hours and the old city walls provide a variety of viewpoints over the rooftops, castle turrets and church steeples.

View down on the rooftops of old town Tallinn

View down on the rooftops of old town Tallinn


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Toompea Castle. Ever pragmatic, the Estonians renovated it into the current parliament building with the medieval turret still attached and standing

Toompea Castle. Ever pragmatic, the Estonians renovated it into the current parliament building with the medieval turret still attached and standing
Exploring Tallinn - so much to see, sometimes we can’t believe we are actually doing this

Exploring Tallinn - so much to see, sometimes we can’t believe we are actually doing this

Old town Tallinn central square

Old town Tallinn central square

Once again our favorite city experience - the free walking tour with a local guide. Here our guide, Kadri, teaches us some Estonian. Apparently one of these phrases is “there is a moose asleep in the bush.” We did not have an occasion to use it.

Once again our favorite city experience - the free walking tour with a local guide. Here our guide, Kadri, teaches us some Estonian. Apparently one of these phrases is “there is a moose asleep in the bush.” We did not have an occasion to use it.

We spent several hours with Kadri, our Tallinn Free Walking Tour Guide, who shared stories of the history and culture of Estonia interspersed with personal stories of her family. From her we learned that 30% of the population of Tallinn are Russian immigrants who live separate lives from Estonian speakers, speaking only Russian and attending separate schools. She explained the generational viewpoints through her family - a grandma who was exiled to Siberia and will not talk about Russia, a father who is actively angry and refuses to interact with Russians and her own viewpoint that there are relationships to be built - once her generation works past the language barrier and the geographic siloing.

Gorgeous architecture everywhere

Gorgeous architecture everywhere

Posing the truck - currently our favorite photographic model with no children along to force into the role. Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral.

Posing the truck - currently our favorite photographic model with no children along to force into the role. Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral.

Old wooden houses of Tallinn, outside the old town

Old wooden houses of Tallinn, outside the old town

Finally we managed to tear ourselves away from Tallinn and headed out into the country to find more castles and national parks.
Rakvere Castle, built in the 14th century by the Danes (as were so many things in this region.)

Rakvere Castle, built in the 14th century by the Danes (as were so many things in this region.)

In our brief education in European castle history, our simplistic synopsis is that they were mostly initially built in the 13th or 14th century, repeatedly destroyed by fire and artillery through the 18th century, added to and embellished in the 19th century (or left to crumble), and then brought back to life by a combination of reconstruction, renovation and rebuilding in the 20th century. No matter what state each castle is in, there is a magical moment when you first see it on the skyline (because they are almost always at the highest point.) Rakvere castle was mostly in ruins, but that led an authenticity to its view.
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In Tallinn, we had camped in a city parking field - $2 for the night. Such a deal, but definitely lacking in aesthetics. We were pleased to find our own spot (and our own WCs) in Lahemaa National Park, beautiful woods right on the Baltic Sea.

Hiking in the Oandu old growth forest in Lahemaa National Park

Hiking in the Oandu old growth forest in Lahemaa National Park

Our next stop was the university town, and second biggest in Estonia, of Tartu. The first thing we learned was that the university was initially built by the Swedes and Estonians were not allowed to attend. That has changed and students were everywhere.
It was also laundry and grocery time so a day was spent taking care of business (although we found a laundromat and supermarket in the same parking lot, easy!). With the free walking tours only available at the weekend, we instead stopped by the tourist information office and got our own map and guide of the highlights - very complete and informative - and set off to explore.

Cobbled old side streets of Tartu

Cobbled old side streets of Tartu

Town Hall Square

Town Hall Square

Back out to the National Parks to camp. Found a great spot on a lake in Karula National Park.

Back out to the National Parks to camp. Found a great spot on a lake in Karula National Park.

Karula National Park - woodlands, farmlands, creeks and lakes

Karula National Park - woodlands, farmlands, creeks and lakes

Karula National Park - woodlands, farmlands, creeks and lakes
 
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