Missing Military Musk Ox.

We arrived in Bergen (Norway) on the Smyril Line Norröna ferry on 2003-07-23 after an enforced three day stay on the Faroe Islands. Actually the ship goes via the Shetland Islands but you can't get off there, so they don't count. Once again there were no formalities on arrival. In fact since leaving the UK, months ago, nobody has asked to see our passports or vehicle papers.

Because central Bergen has many one-way streets and there is a toll when you enter the city centre it is not a good place to drive around whilst lost. Because the nearest official camp site is well out of town to the south, we turned north at the port gates (signed as the E16) and stopped almost immediately in a small "pay and display" car park ($1.50USA/hour maximum 24 hours) which already contained most of the campervans on the ferry. The odd thing about this car park is that it explicitly excludes campervans.

Bergen campervan car park.After consulting our map (and following Les's advice) we drove another 500 metres on the same road to a semi-unofficial campervan only, water front, car park (60.40601°N 5.32221°E). This rather strange facility can house about 50 campervans and provides water, electricity and toilet facilities but is operated as a car park. When you pay, the attendant puts your money in a "pay and display" ticket machine, in the corner of his office, and gives you the ticket (about $15.00USA per vehicle per 24 hours). The site was originally the loading area of a large, now derelict, warehouse(?) that is about to be re-developed. As it is only temporarily in use for campervans it is not on any of the city maps nor in any of the guide books. It has been in temporary use for campervans, we were told, for the last 14 years! Recommended.

Bergen is splendid city to wander round, the Bryggen trading district, the Hanseatic museum and the fish market (Torget) were all well worth a visit.

After Bergen we drove the 160km to Flåm where we took the scenic railway up to Myrdal (21km/865m) and walked back down to Flåm. Impressive scenery and reasonable weather but we met no other walkers during the six hours. We were however passed by lots of down-hill-only cyclists.

In the car park at Flåm we met a Swiss couple in a 4x4 campervan based on a Bucher Duro (described by its proud owner as a "Swiss Unimog, but better". Since he had owned a Unimog campervan before the Duro he may have a point?

Part of the world's longest road tunnel: 24,500 metres.Just passed Flåm we visited three gigantic subterranean caverns, the last one reached by driving into solid rock for nearly 20 minutes at 60kph!

In most other places such a spectacle would be a major tourist attraction but in Norway they hardy rate a mention.

The Stave Church at Borgund.There were originally about a 1000 Stave Churches in Norway but as a result of renovation, the reformation, modernization, avalanches, the careless use of candles and most recently arson, there are now only 28 (some say 31) left standing.

We visited three, the one at Borgund built in the 12th century is probably the most photographed in Norway.

The one at Kaupanger, whilst less interesting on the outside is more elaborate inside and has an English born guide with a fine resonant voice.

The one at Urnes was probably built in 1130 (by the time you get there they will know exactly) and is one of Norway's four UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

And now the moment you have all been waiting for; the Missing Military Musk Ox.

A musk ox on a road side sign.As you doubtless know the Musk Ox (Ovibos moschatus) was once common in northern glaciated areas but is now restricted to small areas of Canada, Alaska, Greenland and two national parks in Norway. We were told, by the Swiss couple in the Duro (see above) that the best place to see a Musk Ox was not in the Dovrefjell national park but in the adjoining Hjerkinn Artillery Range.

You call in at the military information office where they check to see if they are firing anything nasty at the moment and if not they give you a plastic swipe card to open the security gates ("don't bother to return it"). They also produce a map showing where the Musk Oxen are likely to be. And yes, you can camp overnight in the range, but they do warn you not to pick up any "duds" you find lying about. I think this is about as relaxed as an artillery range ought to be.

We did stay overnight, we did go for a good long walk, we did not pick up any duds, we did see the tracks of lots of musk oxen but alas we did not see the animals themselves. There are only 130 in the whole of Norway.

However the nearby Kongsvold restaurant does have "fillet of musk ox and venison cooked in lingonberries" on the menu and that is where we are parked now.

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2003-07-29.