Friday, 14 August 2015

August 13th 2015: Norway: Bodø and a frightening drive

Monty the Motorhome is still quivering with fright after a hair raising driving experience, and to cap it all he is on a site that expressly forbids overnight camping.

The day started well as we left Saltstraumen and drove to Bodø, the most northerly point on the roadtrip. Bodø as a city was razed to the ground by Nazi bombing at the start of the second world war. It was re-built, but purely on a basic needs plan - no thought seems to have been given to restoring any kind of heritage and it is one of the most uninspiring towns we have visited.
So it didn’t take long to drive to the centre, take a cursory look and depart. However on the outskirts is the Norwegian Aviation Museum. It is huge, covering 10,000 sq metres , and crammed full of exhibits. There are examples of historic military and civilian aircraft, as well as all sorts of aviation related hardware. One fascinating display is an actual U2 plane - a spy plane from the 1960’s which put Bodø on the world map. Such a plane was being flown from Pakistan to Bodø, over what was then communist Soviet Russia, taking clandestine photos. Somehow the Russians got wind of it and managed to shoot it down. This was at the height of the cold war and it just made the frosty relationship between east and west even worse. The Russians actually threatened to bomb Bodø, but it all fizzled out in the end.

The U2 

We had lunch at the museum and set off about 1.00 pm on the long drive south - next destination Trondheim - just over 400 miles on the arctic highway (E6)
After an hour and a half we crossed over the arctic circle again, stopping at the visitor centre that marked the line. The world and his wife were there - it is a scheduled stop on various tourist runs - and the merchandise reflected tourist needs.

The Arctic Circle 'globe'. A line of paving stones (just visible behind the plinth) marks the actual  line of the Arctic Circle - it runs right through the visitor centre and shop)

We ploughed on with no particular stopping place in mind. The plan was to stop when I got  tired of driving and find somewhere to wild camp. However as we came south of Mo i Rana every suitable site had signs forbidding overnight camping. So, reasoning that this ban would only apply to the main road, we came off the E6 at Mosjøen and took a minor road shown on our map as running parallel with our route. Unfortunately there were no parking places on this road, but at least we could see a route back to the E6 on the sat nav. This route steadily deteriorated into a unmetalled surface, with ruts. We seemed to be in the middle of a vast forest, with no habitation and the weather was gloomy and dark. However it was comforting to see that in only a few kilometres we’d be back on the E6. Then suddenly the road descended at an alarming angle, and the surface was not too clever - damp from constant rain. Sat nav showed a hairpin bend at the bottom, followed by a bridge across a wide and fast flowing river. Down the bank we went, round the hair pin bend, and there was the bridge. As narrow as hell and with a maximum weight limit of 2 tons (Monty is just over 3 tons). The only option was to reverse back to the bend and re-trace our steps. That’s when the fun began. Firstly I managed to ground Monty on the damp earth in the middle of the track; then after successfully taking a new trajectory the bank had to be faced. The first attempt ended in the wheels spinning and the whole vehicle moving in an alarming sideways fashion. A very gingerly reverse brought us back to the bottom again. The second attempt got us up, though only just as there was more wheel spinning. The relief that Ruth and I felt was palpable.
So began the slow retreat back to the E6 at Mosjøen. By now it was getting semi-dark and we decided to take the first site that came up, regardless of any signage. As it happened we pulled onto a picnic site where three other vans were already parked up and looking like they were there to stay. Sure enough the sign said no overnighting, but by now we were too tired and exhausted to care.

This post was done the next day as I just didn’t have the energy to tackle it on the day.

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