Posts Tagged With: Road trips

One Road Trip When I Didn’t Unwind

There was one infamous occasion when our desire to see a lot of places (and consequently not doing them justice) in one day, proved winding rather than unwinding.

The day started well. We had camped in Millau, France not far from the Millau Viaduct over the Tarn River valley that we wanted to see. We rose early, hopped onto the E11

Millau Viaduct

Millau Viaduct

La Meridienne motorway and traveled south towards the bridge. Before we got onto the bridge itself there was a viewing platform from which we could take some photos. The bridge is both beautiful and spectacular. I had always wanted to see it “in the flesh” after having watched a documentary on its construction. It was well worth the trip.



From here we wanted to travel to the lavender region in Provence.  Our first stop was Arles.  We flew past signposts to many other famous places such as Avignon which we would have loved to visit. But a coffee in a van Goghesque cafe seemed the way to go. We visited the Roman  amphitheatre and then headed to Sault in the middle of the lavender district. By the time we got here it was well into the afternoon. We were starving but at least there were quiches in a local shop. How French! Except we weren’t in Lorraine.

But there was still one long leg to go on today’s’ journey.  We needed to get our daughter to a train station in Geneva via Grenoble – a mere final sprint of 324 Kms. The route was beautiful but becoming increasingly mountainous. With the mountains came dark ominous clouds.  At one very high point we were encased in cloud when it got worse. A blizzard started unexpectedly. We saw a number of accidents occur around us with cars sliding on the suddenly icy roads. We could see only a few metres ahead but there was nowhere to pull off the road and stop.  Stopping wasn’t an option because there was traffic, somewhere, behind me. My daughter said comfortingly that Grenoble, if she remembered right, was in a valley, and as we were going

The lavender fields near Sault

The lavender fields near Sault

down in altitude we might get out of the clouds. After, what seemed like an interminably long time,  thankfully she was right.  By this stage my whole body was taut with the tension of the drive. However we needed to press on.

Geneva was still a couple of hours away. When we got to the outskirts of Geneva, being a tightwad, I didn’t want to use the motorway because of the very expensive vignette (tax/toll) so we took the backroads.  We dropped off our daughter at the station and started looking for our camping place – which we couldn’t find.  We had remembered a hotel in a large shopping centre on the French side of the border – so drove back in that direction. By this stage I was exhausted.  When we got to the hotel they said a room was 150 Euros per night but there was a minimum stay of three nights. 450 Euros = $A650.

The incoming clouds

The incoming clouds

So we went to the Scottish restaurant, ate their food, used their ablution facilities and slept, once again, in the car, in the carpark at the front of the hotel. Exhausted! Tomorrow would be another day.

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How I Unwind

Now for something a bit lighter!

Driving through clogged city traffic is not my idea of fun, but driving on country roads for hours is a delight.  There is nothing better than to have a full tank of fuel, nibbles, music and good companion (in my case, wife) and to head out.

A drive to Wilpena Pound in South Australia, 1800 kilometres to Queensland, a trip to the wineries in northern Victoria – are all ways to relax and unwind .  And it is even better if one can get a few nights in a tent along the way – especially on the bank of a river or lake. That is living! But let me start overseas.

Over the next few weeks I will reflect on some of our the best road-trips:

1. Driving to the Arctic Circle.


A Stave Church

It had always been a dream of mine to travel to the Arctic Circle. I can’t even tell you why. A few years ago I got my chance. My wife and I picked up a car in Gothenburg in Sweden – a Volvo of course, and headed north. We crossed the Oslofjord by ferry, the first of many delightful crossings, and headed to Drammen.  Misjudging our accommodation we spent the night “sleeping” in our car at a truck stop.  Our original intention had been to travel south to Kristiansand but the weather turned nasty so we headed directly north instead, visiting any and every stave church that we encountered. I would have to forgo my intended visit to Pulpit Rock or Preikestolen near Stavanger.

Our first night in a tent was at Roldal.  From Roldal we headed to Laerdal via the Hardanger Folk Museum which gives visitors a great picture of the Norway of old.  My wife loved this place because of the beautiful traditional craftwork(including Hardanger) on display.  The fjords in this part of Norway are amazing. From our camping spot in Laerdal we drove to Orsta, but on this evening the snow was too mushy to pitch a tent so we had to hire a cabin.  The valley was cloud bound but the next morning it was bathed in brilliant sunshine –  a different place!


The Atlantic Road

We made our way to Alesund famous for being one end of the “Shetland Bus” route during WW2  which transported agents and others between Nazi occuppied Norway, and alllied ports in Shetland and Scotland.  We continued northward to another place I had always wanted to see – the Atlantic Road – a stunning, even artistic,  8 kilometre section of road that island hops towards Kristiansund (not Kristiansand) where we camped.

Orsta after the sun came out

Orsta after the sun came out

All the while you can hear your wallet emptying because the Norwegians know how to do toll roads.  They also know how to do tunnels.  One near Laerdal, which we had travelled through earlier is about 25 kms in length. Emerging from a tunnel is nearly always spectacular. It is like being a mole for moment and popping out into another beautiful part of Norway. Then we made our way towards Trondheim, the old Viking capital, with its 800 year old Nidaros Cathedral and the C18th wooden palace.

But there was still further to go. Before we camped about 160 kms south of the Arctic Circle  we had an unexpected treat – we encountered a large herd of reindeer. The camping ground at Mosjoen had its own 6 lane bowling alley and mini golf course. What more could you want?  We used neither. That night we camped on a light sprinkling of snow. The following morning we travelled to the Arctic Circle via Mo I Rana – with my wife doing her “feet in the water” ritual in the harbour.  The further north you go the less mountainous it becomes and this is accentuated by the reduced height of the trees. For Norway it seems very falt. We arrived at the Polar Circle Centre on its first opening day for the season.  Two metres of snow had been carved out of the carpark but we were the only visitors at the time.  Two young men were setting things up but I think they were pleased to have some company. Inside there was a great display of the flora and fauna of the area. I had achieved my driving ambition!

Picture 118

We made it! The Arctic Circle

At this point we turned around and headed back the way we had come. At Mo I Rana we turned east and made our way into Sweden – the land of pine trees and lakes. If ever I visit Norway again I would still try to get to Pulpit Rock, Narvik and the Lofoten Islands.  Even if I don’t, which is more likely, I have great memories of the coolest road trip!


If you are really, really bored and want to pretend to sit in a car for 15 minutes from Kristiansund to the Arctic Circle, the following clip is for you:


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