Well, who would have thought… I mean, it is not like coming home from a holiday has to be anti-climatic. Honestly, I was looking forward to the drive back, I love this road, even with its miserable speed limit of 80. It’s always great: when you go south, you’re looking forward to the trip, when you go up again, you can’t wait for the cold wall of Romsdalen to stand in front of you, when the car can smell its stable and dives headfirst into the sloping folds of the dark-grey asphalt. But really, who would have thought that the simple old E6 could top the excitement of the past days?
Let me tell you all about it. It started as usual: me taking off as a mad person, trying to squeeze all the advantage out of the semi-decent roads around Oslo. As it was, we were only getting home around midnight (we thought) and I had no time to lose. In other words, should they’ve caught me, they wouldn’t be asking me about license and registration. Which is why the frustration when we’ve suddenly hit the first jam was big. By the looks of it, something was way off: the road was almost static, and the partition that we saw ahead of us was empty, with only individual cars passing. Later we realized that they were only letting through people who lived just nearby, before the first section which was flooded and closed off.
Flood, yes. That was the word of the day, really. The fabulous weather that hit Norway with extravagant +30 several days ago, that’s what melted the pretty white fur hats of the higher mountains and turned them into streams of mud now taking over the highway.
When we got the chance to talk to the traffic police at where they were trying to manage the chaos, they explained the way around the first closed section, but hearing our ultimate destination they were not very enthusiastic about us even making it home that night. “Check online” was the advice – well, OK, thanks.
Long story short, after several excruciating hours of laboring through small streets of several villages, in the midst of sweaty trucks, after crossing several seriously flooded sections, it finally came to a full stop. Imagine a darkening narrow valley, a still lane of traffic, almost no mobile reception (and no internet, obviously), occasional helicopter in the skies, clock getting closer to eleven in the evening. Not horrible, but not exactly a fun fair either.
Eventually a random service truck brought the news of the road not being likely to get open tonight.
Some destination was required and through the magic of navigation software we set the bearing to some obscure hotel in one of the villages that we passed. However, chances of actually finding something with an open reception desk were slim, which is why I resolved to check everything on the way down and – man! – some closed down campsites were downright scary at night. Eventually, sure enough, there was a hotel ran by a Dutch family – surreal and looking like something from 19th century (not in the romantic way – more like lack of civilization way). Yeah, they were already full to the brim, with people literally sleeping on the floor in the lobby. But – mijn god! – Dutch hospitality has no limits in Western Norway – at least not for €150 per night (couches with no linen on and mattresses on the floor, next to a snoring couple whose car’s carb got drowned in one of the mud pools on the road). Well, kind of beats +4° night in the car…
The next morning… things got better. Really? No, silly! They got quite a lot worse, in fact. Not only it wasn’t open ahead, but it was also closed behind us now. And a roaring river taking over Gudbrandsdalen. At least at the hotel we were online once again, with magic of technology to confirm that everything was closed. But, as it comes, when looking for alternatives to sightseeing in a place called Vinstra (a magnificent crossroads and probably a wooden church somewhere) makes you adventurous, so we took to the mountains hoping to re-unite with E6 much (much) further up north.
The silver lining to driving into the unknown, most likely towards more road barricades, was the magnificent Norwegian nature which was now around, above and below us. Steep side of a valley took us above the clouds, quite literally.
Even quite high up in the mountains the road was flooded in several places and, as I was afraid, the situation was radically different from that on the main one: no busy excavators, no workers, no road police, in fact no one at all, at least for a while. Eventually we did collect a bit of an entourage – several explorers of the north were driving behind us, apparently quite happy about staying behind and having us as a depth probe. Then, a happy sight: somebody coming up in the opposite direction: some brave and determined Norwegian ladies were flashing their headlights and waving us down quite decisively, demanding to know whether the pass was open over the mountains. Having described the situation to them I received some good news myself: yes, it was open ahead of us and yes, there was water on the road: “quite a lot but you can make it”. Hurrah, on we went – all the way to good old E6.
There, stopping at the Dombås junction for a rest and refueling with some chicken, I felt a knot untying in my stomach. In the face of forces of nature we’re all just frightened little children. Amazing how little it is enough to be taken from us – a paved road? – so that we start running in circles. But – all well that ends well. We’re home and dry! The end of journey.