Oslo -> Stavanger -> Stockholm -> Helsinki: 2.081 km in 37,50 hours
Part 1 Oslo – Stavanger cross country, 541 km 09h30 on the E134
When House of Nerds Oslo invited me to go to Stavanger I thought why not? Well, there’re a few reasons why not, but at the same time, there’re the well yes! reasons too, let’s talk about the E134.
Arriving in Oslo I was captivated by the beauty of the city and the country. Getting a chance to go cross country seemed like a really good idea to learn more about Norway, so off I went taking the advised scenery route, highway E134. The thing is, I didn’t realize Norway exists of mountains and one lane highways only (apart from a small Oslo area which has 2 or more lanes). This one lane cross country highway is used by a lot of people. I repeat, a lot! Not only by people in cars, but more so by trucks and campers. Although allowed 100km/hour on some parts, the average advised km/hour is 70-80, however, remember the mountains and the trucks & campers: they can’t go 80km/hour uphill, they do 50km/hour tops. Have you ever driven 541 km doing 50 km/hour, 70% uphill? The route-planner says it takes 09h30, but I promise you it takes more than that, around 11 hours if you take 2 short brakes.
At the beginning of the trip, when you’re still unaware of what lies ahead, you go oh and ah because it is truly beautiful, however, after an hour or 2 you get impatient and want to step on it a bit, so you wait and wait some more and 3 hours pass, you’re still doing 50 km/hour. Annoyment (self made up word) sets in, you can’t really look at the landscape because the uphill road has lots of curves, traffic is busy, cars going the opposite direction on your left, abyss on your right, you need to focus on the bloody caravan in front of you and wish the two lane road would start already, still ignorant to the fact it will never come. Up in the distance you can see snowed mountaintops and you’re feeling lucky you’re at least not that high. The scenery starts to change, the road is becoming a roller-coaster going up and down and always a little bit higher up than down. Sometimes you take over a truck in front of you, pointless really, cause there’s always another truck there, but at least you did something!
Slowly, a feeling of entrapment creeps over you, you want out of the lane of endless trucks & campers, you want out of the mountains, you want to speed, but you can’t. The snowed mountain tops seem closer than 2 hours before, you can see more ‘ski area’ signs, there seem to be more tunnels, wait, what’s happening, are you seriously going that high? Yes you are! You’re about 6+ hours on the way, having crossed -300 km and you realize you’re going to see snow in June. Suddenly you do get somewhat excited for 2 reasons: snow in June is cool but also, heaving reached the top, it can only mean you’re now going down, maybe even doing 60 km/hour, speeding at last!
The top is really beautiful. After you’ve gone through one of the many tunnels, there’s a small parking lot at the top (you’ll recognize it) where you can get out and do what every proper tourist does: stand bare feet in the snow. Of course it’s a mountain basin, so you can’t overlook ‘the country’, but only some miles of the mountain, but still it’s a nice thing.
Also, people actually live there. Why? What do they do for a living? I looked around, there’s no cattle, there’s no skiing possible nor farming, why should you live there? It will always be a mystery to me.
All refreshed and happy again because this has to be the end of the torment, you get in your car, ready to go down. This is when depression sets in. First there’re the tunnels. They are dark and very narrow. You actually think it’s a one way lane until big truck headlights come closer and you’re just in time to shift to the right, barely avoiding the high curb at the side. There’re endless tunnels and they’re all dark and narrow, some a couple of 100 mtrs. some at least 4 km. Scarcely hanging in there, only still somewhat positive by the fact there’s no more snow around and you seem to go down, you start noticing you’re going up again. No, it can’t be, we’ve just been up, it’s a mindfuck. Nope, it’s not! All of a sudden you’re in snow mountaintop area again. Disbelieve takes over for 10 minutes, then realization hits you, followed by being on the edge of a mental breakdown: you will never ever get out of the mountains, ever! You actually want to cry, wish you’d never taken this route, curse at yourself for being this stupid, pet the dog beside you who’s looking at you with big eyes wondering what’s wrong and surrender to the situation you’re in.
That moment of hopeless surrender is the exact moment things start to change. There’s less traffic for some reason and you realize you’re doing 80 km/hour, 80! and you can overtake trucks as well. You’re going down, no more tricks this time, you’re going down and have escaped the mountains. There’s actually time to look around you again, less sharp turns, you can see waterfalls right beside the highway and deep and dark mountain lakes. Houses are changing, there’s cattle in the fields, happiness is back again. It smells like manure, Evi the dog notices too and takes a look out of the window.
Your head is still dizzy by all the curves and ups and downs of the road, just to give you a heads up, you will stay dizzy for at least 1 day, but all is fine cause you’ve made it. It’s only a 50 minute trip to the boat that takes you to Stavanger now, but it’s a beautiful 50 minutes. I always like bridges, there’s a soothing symmetry in bridges, perfect balance and exactness in lines and you will cross some really nice ones and be all oh and ah again until you get to Stavanger and finally get a well-deserved drink. You feel victorious, you’ve conquered the mountains of Norway, it was hell but you’ve made it and that feeling makes it worth it. Of course, so does the landscape when it’s safe enough to look around you. So travelers, beware of highway E134 Oslo – Stavanger, only take it if you’re a very positive person, don’t get carsick and like being trapped between trucks and campers. If you can handle all that, taking the E134 is well worth it!
Evi the dog touches snow for the first time: https://www.facebook.com/pg/inyourspace/posts/