06.21.2009 - 06.21.2009 63 °F
We left the city early at 730AM and drove across the Kvamskogen mountain region to Norheimsund.
We made a short stop at the Steinsdalsfossen waterfall where only Sara was daring enough to walk behind the cascading water. She got lots of good pictures to share with those of us who were either busy shopping (guess who) or sleeping on the bus (guess who).
We got back on the bus again and enjoyed views of the beautiful Hardangerfjord with snow-clad mountains at a distance. Finally we arrive at the ferry point at Kvanndal and boarded the car ferry and cross the Hardangerfjord.
We stopped quick at the waterfalls just outside of Odda.
As many of you may know this trip included a very special visit with relatives in Sauda. We were all very excited when a few days ago Laura received an email from Lars saying that he got Virginia's letters and pictures and would like to meet us! What we didn't know was the adventure waiting for us on the way to Sauda.
Our travel agent mapped a route for the bus driver to take and it was only supposed to take one hour, it looked like a logical route to take. The bus driver was not familiar with this route as he usually came in from the South and we were coming in from the North. We noticed quickly that the road was narrow and did not have guard rails like the roads we were used to. We also noticed the strange looks we were getting from the goats (as they were mostly the only souls around) just kidding, there were lots of campers and snowboarders who were also giving us funny looks! It was beautiful up there.
It was at this time Lars, our relative in Sauda, called the driver to see what was taking so long. The driver informed him of where we were and how much farther we still had to go. He also expressed unhappiness that Lars did not tell him about this road. Lars, told him sorry he did not know we were coming in the "back roads" and said he wished us a safe rest of the trip ... as we could not turn around at that point.
So we continued on the trail (I can't call it a road) along the cliff edge and sharp turns that were getting shrieks and moans out of everyone on the bus. Laura nearly fainted and was hiding her face in her backpack. Sara was calm and collected as usual and mom and grandma were praying ... haha.
We thought maybe it was all over til we heard "Iey, Iey, Iey" from the driver and a few people in front. Mom and Grandma looked up from their praying positions, Sara's jaw dropped and Laura took her head out of her backpack long enough to see a very narrow bridge ahead. It was a dam crossing over part of the lake. We found out later the dam (bridge) was narrowed recently to accommodate a walking lane. The entire bus sat in total silence for a while as everyone was in shock. If we could not make it across the bridge we were stuck on the mountain because we could not turn around in the narrow steep trail.
View off the bridge:
So the driver (took a deep breath) started very, very slowly onto the bridge. Some people on the back of the bus, who were brave enough to have their eyes open, said they looked on both sides and we only had one inch on either side for clearance. After what seemed like an eternity, we made it safely to the other side. We all cheered and clapped for our brave bus driver, he was a hero! We continued on narrow passes and along cliff edges with no guard rails for another half hour before we made it to Sauda. The 47Km trip took one hour forty minutes, so it was very slow and go. We were all very grateful to those fellow Nokelby travelers who were so great to endure that trip for us. We are also so grateful to the bus driver for taking us safely across what the locals call "the Goat Trail". Apparently a tour bus had never made that trip before and probably will not be trying it again as I am sure our driver will be famous for making that trip safety and spread the word to other drivers to never go that way again.
Just a little background on Sauda, Sauda is an industrial area with a very large steel mining facility much like the one near Cook, MN. It is a very nice quiet town with a large heated swimming pool and many hiking areas. They are hoping that tourism picks up in the area, because the mining industry is very slow right now.
It was a very nice visit with our relative Lars, we won't go into detail but we will be keeping in touch with him and we are so very glad to have met him and his mother. We got to see the house where our great, great grandmother was born. It was a house my grandmother, Virginia, hadn't seen in thirty five years.
Because the trip to Sauda took so long, we did not make it to our next scheduled stop and went straight to the hotel in Rjukan. They left the buffet open until 9 o'clock when we arrived so we could eat.