We left Oslo at around 7 am for our five-hour long trip to Flam. It was raining that morning, but during our bus ride, it began to snow, and snow heavily. The further we went away from Oslo, the thicker the coat of snow on the ground, trees and cars around us. There was a long traffic holdup along the highway that kept us stalled in place for about two hours. Our tour guide allowed some of our more daring tour group mates to step out into the snowy field beside our bus to throw snowballs at each other. Eventually the traffic moved and apparently there had been an accident that caused the jam.
The road to Flam passed through mountains that were already thick with snow. When you look left, right and ahead, you see nothing but a coat of white over everything. There came a surreal point that it looked like our bus was passing through a tunnel of pure white. I cannot see anymore the edge of the mountain and the sky, everything around our bus was just white. It was something you have to experience to feel. I could not capture this phenomenon in a simple photograph or video.
Endless Sea of White
After that exhilarating stretch of road on the mountaintops, we drove through a winding road going downhill. Our bus went through a series of long tunnels through mountains. Every time we came out of one of these tunnels, there was less and less snow around, with more and more green grass. It was as if we see winter turn into spring with each tunnel we passed. I can only describe it in simple words, but it was incredible to witness unfolding.
Inside Laerdal Tunnel
We passed through Laerdal Tunnel, said to be the longest tunnel in the world. It is 29 km long and takes about 20 minutes to drive through at the speed limit of 50 kph. Because of the possible claustrophobic effect the driving through a long tunnel like this, psychologists were consulted on how to make the experience less dangerous. Every 8 km, there is a stretch lit with blue light to make it seem like you've emerged into sunlight. Interesting.
Fjord Safari Boats
When we reached Flam at around 4:30 pm, we went straight to the waterfront where the Fjord Safari staff was waiting for us. We were oriented about the activity by a guy named Thor, whose name drew a gasp among our tour mates when he introduced himself. We were divided into groups of 12, as each safari boat can accommodate only so many passengers at a time.
In Full Battle Gear
Getting the safari outfit on was one laborious task. We were already in our warm clothes. We put on another wool coat and pants. Over that, we put on a waterproof overcoat. Then we put on a woolen cap with ear flaps as well as waterproof booties on top of our shoes. There was also mitten-like waterproof gloves, but they looked unwieldy so I just relied on my own leather gloves (which also allowed me to click on my camera during the ride). Frankly, we could hardly move around at all in that outfit.
Ben orients our group
Our group was under a tall young native Norwegian guy named Ben. His driving of the watercraft was very smooth as he took us into the fjord. The beauty of the fjord and the mountains around it is very hard to describe in mere words. Ben mentioned that it was unusual that there should be snow in the mountains at this time of the year. Again, words and photos do not give justice to the magnificence of God's natural beauty in this place.
We stopped over in some points of interest, such as various waterfalls, a township called Undredal (supposedly the inspiration of Arendell in the film "Frozen") and the World Heritage Site called Nærøyfjord (where Viking cultural artifacts were found). Too bad we did not see any seals nor porpoises, but we did see an eagle in flight. Maybe because it was already past 6 pm when our group took off.
We returned for a sumptuous dinner and a comfortable room at our stately hotel called the Fretheim Hotel, located just at the foot of the mountains. They had a sitting room with a burning fire and glass ceiling there at the lobby of the hotel. I guess this if for people who were lucky enough to catch the Northern Lights there. Since we went in April, it is already considered off-season for the lights. Ideally, it should be from February to March. I guess I still have a reason to visit Scandinavia again in the future.
Elegant Fretheim Hotel