Thursday, December 29, 2011


This blog is for us to share some insights on our travels and share the photographs that illustrate what we see. Because we are birders, many of the pictures will be of birds. It is essentially a way for us to record for ourselves some of the things we learn on our travels and to share that and our photos with our friends and others who are interested. Feel free to share you responses and your own insights.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Driving in Norway

Any place you travel, you have to figure out the local rules if you want to survive as a pedestrian or a driver. This is even true in the US where we tend to complain about drivers from other parts of the country without really understanding that they are just using a different set of rules of the road. 
Fortunately for us, we spent a week on the road in a tour bus with a guide before we took off in our own rented car for the two weeks we would be spending on our own. Our first lesson was leaving the ferry at ...... As we climbed these 13 switchbacks, we had to trust Finn, our driver. Linda and I sat in the front for this first trip up the side of the fjord. As we approached the first corner, we anxiously awaited the turn. But the turn took a lot longer than we anticipated. Since the front tires are behind the driver, Finn could put the nose of the bus out over the abyss before turning. While perfectly safe (we think?), it was more than a bit disconcerting at first. It didn't help when he said that after the 15 years he had been driving, he did it all by feel. 
Going down the Troll Staircase was even more interesting. Somehow going down was a bit more scary than going up. I suppose that has something to do with the fact that since we are already on the way down, the drop would be faster? That makes about as much sense as being afraid when flying. Rationality has little to do with fear. Our first lesson: trust the driver.
The picture below shows how part
of the road was built many years ago.
Our second lesson came near the bottom of the troll highway on a narrow section of the road. Without enough room for the car to pass, it would have to back up. Marit, our guide, was not worried. Her comment: "This will only take a moment. The driver is Norwegian and Norwegians know how to back up." At first, I thought this was another example of her wry self-deprecating sense of humor. Then the driver backed up about 100 meters at 20 kph and we realized she was serious. Norwegians have to know how to drive in reverse because there are so many narrow roads. A few km later, we met a Danish driver who not only had trouble driving in reverse, his panic was such that he missed the first wide spot and had to continue backing another 150 meters. Our second lesson: when confronted by a larger vehicle, put it in reverse. 
Marit then explained that the lines on the road were a message. In the US we know that the style of centerline tells us whether or not it is safe and legal to pass. In Norway this is only the beginning of the message. The very fact that there is a centerline tells us that the road is at least 24 feet wide and means that the road is wide enough for two trucks to pass in safety in their own lanes. If the road lacks a centerline, but has lines on the sides, then it is too narrow for that, but probably still wide enough for two cars. If there are no lines at all, drivers need to be more careful.  
 We saw many examples of this as we drove north of Trondheim where the traffic tended to be light even on the main north-south highway. Even in August, we did not see a lot of traffic. We did see a number of turnouts. In the picture above you can see a couple of them in a distance of less that 300 meters. 
 Then there were the interesting signs. Before heading to South Africa in February, we will spend some time studying the international symbols used on traffic signs, not all of which are used in the US. We did see a few that probably are not on the official list. The one shown here we found on Lofoten Island and is probably self-explanatory.  
We saw another in Trondheim that needed explanation - a picture of a car upside down with objects falling out of it. Marit told us it was a reminder to lock youe vehicle so your possessions would not be stolen.
 The sign above suggest that the driver slow down and the ones below are reminders to wear your seatbelt.