Day 18-2. Fjærland to Vikøyri by boat and bike
As we neared the end of the fjord, where the ferry crosses Sognefjord that runs West to East from the sea to Kaupang, the light changed outside and the rain seemed to have stopped. I went back on deck to be greeted by the majesty of the fjord again and a sort of optical illusion. Damae on the other hand went straight back down to the cabin and contented herself with taking more pictures of the interior of the boat. Directly in front of us was our goal for the day, the valley that Vikøyri sits in. However low cloud had chopped off the tops of the hills on either side of the valley, resulting in this view. I guess for the local residents this is not unusual but it made me feel like the Bilbo Baggins about to embark on a new adventure in a strange place. I was quite fascinated by this view.
About an hour and a quarter after leaving Fjærland the boat arrived in Vangsnes. As you can see the ferry was almost empty as we approached the famous Statue of Freedom, which for some reason was placed here. We ummed and aahhed about visiting the statue but were distinctly not in adventurous mode today. After a short clothing adjustment session we headed along the 13 and cycled the eleven or so kilometres to Vikøyri. This part of the 13 is reasonably quiet but does not make for particularly nice cycling. The road is a car and a half wide in many places and runs right next to the water. Trucks and buses are mixed in with the car traffic and the ferry ensures sporadic bursts of traffic rather than the odd car now and again. Still the view was nice and we did not have far to go.
Once in Vikøyri we started by going to the bandstand and brewing up a cup of tea. We were a bit lost as what to do as the museum on the waterfront was closed and there was nothing obviously open. In the distance we could see the tongue of the Fjærland glacier and next to us the river was flowing strongly out into the fjord dominating the soundscape.
We cycled a little way into town noting where the campsite was, found the tourist information and the Co-op. I waited outside and tried rather fruitlessly to chat (in Norwegian) to an old lady who seemed interested in our bike bags. When Damae returned we spent a few minutes working out what we were going to do and decided to call it a day as regards cycling and put up the tent even though it was only just gone lunchtime. We knew that a long climb lay ahead of us and we just didn't feel inspired to tackle it today.
Once the tent was set up, and our bags laid inside we grabbed our bikes and went sightseeing. Vikøyri is a small place with around three thousand inhabitants, a few small farms and a small aluminium products factory. It nestles in a horseshoe shaped valley just off the Sognefjord. Its main tourist attraction seemed to be various churches and the only remaining factory making Gamleøst (as we were to discover an interesting and acquired taste).
We plumped for a trip up the centre of the valley to a 'restored' stone church, which sat in a small field . This church nearly dismantled by someone looking for a quick buck, but was saved from destruction in the nineteenth century by a Norwegian enthusiast of churches. It was a little difficult to see what bits were original and which had been restored. The church had been noted for its fine stonework particularly when compared to its contemporaries. We walked around in the light drizzle just enjoying the peace and quiet and the greenness. In the distance we were able to find the second object of our desires for the day; the Hopperstad stave church across the valley from this one.
We cycled slowly across the valley, realising that it was rather hilly indeed. Utrecht is very flat in comparison with barely a hint of an incline anywhere. We were working quite hard. Damae had heard about some green lanes for tourists that had been mapped and went off to find one. Next to tunnel greenhouse protecting soft fruit Damae claimed to have found it. I was remained to be convinced after the track we had just joined appeared to peter out, but then as Damae didn't return in a hurry I followed her. It was indeed this tourist trail and we popped out by the stave church after crossing a rather slippery wooden bridge.