Monday, 24 July 2017

Monday 24 July - Stryn and NE of Vassenden

Where's Bertie? He's at a picnic area just off the E39 to the NE of Vassenden (exact location: 61.51098, 6.15764)

If we'd had a crystal ball at our disposal last night, we would not have gone for the easy option of spending another night in Oldendale. In the absence of such a device, however, and with all weather forecasts telling us we had 24 more hours of sunshine to enjoy, we had no idea that we were about to experience an extreme weather event.

The rain started around 7pm and it was so unexpected that we assumed it was just a passing shower. About an hour later it started to thunder and the rain picked up to torrential levels. Little did we know that the thunder storm was going to continue for 16 hours.

It didn't make for good sleeping conditions (aside from rain battering a tin roof just above our heads, those claps of thunder didn't half echo around the valley and some were big enough to rattle the crockery). There was thus some tiredness this morning as we set off down the valley at around 8am, with the SatNav set for a spot 61km away. We intended to stop there for breakfast.

A couple of minor land slips were passed on our way out of the valley, but a passage through each had already been cleared and the remaining debris coned off, so we didn't think much of it (other than the promptness with which it had been cleared).

Down on the main road, we were only about 18km from our destination when a flashing police car came past us - a remarkable event as it is the first time we have seen any police presence since Oslo, five weeks ago.

Unfortunately, we soon caught up with that car again - at the point where it had just shut the road. Or, the absence of a road. Gushing out onto the fjord was a very long trail of trees and debris, including, apparently, bits of road and house. A major landslide had taken out a chunk of hill and everything in its path.

We wasted no time with photos, as not far back along the road we had gone through two streams which had spilled onto the tarmac which were also carrying rocks and debris. It suddenly seemed important to get back past those ASAP.

A 40km backtrack to Stryn was made (that's where we were 2 days ago) and we settled into the Strynhalle car park for a day of doing not much, accepting that we were going to have to take a detour.

Much sitting around was done until finally, just before noon the thunder stopped. With the rain easing to just light showers, we ventured out, first to the supermarket across the road, then, after lunch, to the tourist office for a bit of wifi. The latter excursion was of particular benefit as there we learnt that the alternative route we were planning to take was also closed. We were now looking at a really long detour.

Leaving the tourist office what should we find outside but sunshine! That was unexpected! It continued whilst we visited the service point and made our way out of town.

The new route required a ferry and the queue seemed long, filling the waiting-lanes and spilling right back up the road. We turned out to be the last vehicle to fit on the second ferry and thus once the ticket chap had taken our money, he was at liberty to chat, starting by telling us he was half English. He confirmed that, with the road closures, the ferry was ridiculously busy today, but said he thought it was worse for those heading north. He wasn't wrong. That queue went back a looooong way down the road on the other side.

Checking (roadworks and road closure info) whilst on the ferry it seemed that whilst our original route was closed until further notice with only a statement of 'will not reopen today', the closure on the E39 had disappeared from the listing. I took that as news that it had reopened. So it had, but the extent of the damage was evident as we went along. The carriageway itself was undamaged, but every dirt track or driveway which met the road (and there are lots of those) had deep water grooves torn into it, and a pile of gravel and grit piled next to the road where it had been scraped out of the way. In one area a coned off lane contained boulders and tree trunks. Elsewhere I saw a scattering of big, round, plastic-wrapped bales of hay against trees at the bottom of a field. Looking around they had clearly come from a pile outside of a farm on the other side of the road. Crops and meadows had flattened areas where fast flowing water must have been just a few hours before.

Over ninety kilometres of driving (plus a ferry) took us to the place where we had intended to have breakfast this morning (a total diversion of 130km to get to somewhere we were only 15km from when we had to turn back this morning). We got there to find it unsuitable for a night stop in the current conditions (it was raining again by this time and a dirt track next to a river seemed ill advised).

The picnic area/swimming beach where we've ended up should do the job nicely for us (even though all the best spots were already taken) and hopefully the weather will be fully calm again by tomorrow. The forecast says it will be, but then it also told me last night and twice this morning, whilst rain was battering us and thunder shaking us, that we were sitting under blue skies with no chance of rain...

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