My heart sank as I looked at the itinerary. Saturday 4 June – leave hotel 7.45am, arrive at next hotel 5.45pm. In between, two train journeys and a three and a half hour bus ride. Ten hours of travelling. Transfers for ten whole hours.
Who on earth would force people to go through that on a fam trip?
Then, of course, it turned out to be one of the most memorable days I’ve ever had. The Norway Cool Agency Challenge, organized by Visit Norway, saw more than 30 event professionals arrive in Trondheim a Thursday lst summer, before an action-packed Friday that saw us whizz out on the fjords on a RIB, taste beer in at a sun-kissed brewery, complete a GPS city exploration challenge and rock out at Rockheim, the Norwegian museum of popular music.
But it was the Saturday that proved most intriguing, as the group split up into four to go and explore four other cities, namely Oslo, Bergen, Tromso and Alesund.
I was in the Alesund group, and so it was that as the three other groups headed to the airport to their respective destinations, we found ourselves chugging across Norway on a train. With the run of the carriage, we found the trip to our first stop Dombas flew by as eight of us in the group nattered away and got to know each other a bit better, while outside the landscape slowly became ever bigger and more breathtaking.
Our next train, from Dombas to Adalsnes, known as the Rauma Railway, is one of those routes that regularly pops up in “Top 10 train journeys to take before you die” lists. And with good reason; it is an hour and a half of sheer wonder. The gradient is too steep to go directly from A to B, which means that the track winds its way slowly down the valley to its final destination, giving you ample time to take in the towering peaks, the lush valley, the raging waterfalls and the overwhelming beauty of Norway’s west coast.
The highlight is the Trollveggen, or the Troll Wall, the tallest vertical rock face in Europe, more than a kilometer in height and capped off with vicious jagged teeth along its extensive summit ridge.
Once we’d got our breath back from that, we found ourselves on a bus heading towards the Trollstigen (also known as the Trolls’ Path – they’re really into trolls in Norway), a series of steep inclines and 11 hairpin bends that scale the almost sheer face of the mountainside.
It felt like we could be on course to recreate the end of The Italian Job at any second, but thankfully we made it up to the viewing platform at 700 meters where we were able to finally relax and take in the mind-boggling mountain scenery.
Being up so high, the tops still had a healthy covering of snow, and so it was that a little further on we stopped to make snow angels, an activity that quickly descended into a pretty vicious snowball fight. Whether by accident or design, this wore out the group and we dozed happily all the way over into the next valley as we approached our final destination, the Storfjord Hotel in Skodje.
A secluded luxury boutique hotel on a hillside overlooking a fjord and a mountain range, the Sunnmøre Alps, I can’t think of a more picturesque place to find yourself for the night. The wooden cabins, the roaring log fires, the four poster beds – and on top of all this a high-end restaurant turning out food to die for.
Over a stunning evening meal, we reminisced about the day’s activities and one thing was agreed – in most places, 10 hours of travelling would be a chore, but when your surroundings are as staggeringly beautiful as they are in Norway, 10 hours of travelling is a very rare pleasure indeed.
Written by Paul Harvey
Feature image (on top): Dombås – Åndalsnes by train
Ten Hours with the Trolls in Norway, was published in Meetpie. We thank editor Gareth Roberts for his kind permission to reprint the article.