Graham Laing decided to retire 10 years earlier than planned to enjoy an epic driving tour with his SLC. The plan, inspired by conversations with his Father, was to drive the SLC from the southern most tip of mainland Europe in Spain to the northernmost tip of mainland Europe in Norway.
When he told his children, they said ‘you should write a blog about it’… So that’s exactly what Graham is doing. Graham approached the SLSHOP and asked whether we would be interested in hosting his work, and we were only too happy to share his story. The SLCenic Route was born!
In this episode Graham reaches the Artic Circe, no mean feat in any car let alone an old SLC!
The SLCenic Route
Episode 20 – 23 Mo I Rana to Forest near Overbygd (find isolated village and keep going till the road stops)
The day started with a race.
No ordinary going round in circles to see who’s fastest, but a proper race with consequences, a race I needed to win!
Checked the weather last night, as usual, and the front coming from the south was now due to arrive in Mo I Rana a few hours earlier than previously predicted. No problem, you think, but this is northern Norway, we are about to cross the arctic circle and the weather front shows rain to start with, followed by snow, especially on higher ground.
Luckily the front would stop about 100 miles north, but that’s 2 or 3 hours away on Norway’s roads and getting stuck behind a jackknifed caravan in a blizzard is the last thing I needed.
Set an early alarm call and was sat outside the shops waiting for them to open at 8am to get food supplies for the day.
It started to rain. Drove as quickly as speed limits allow, but I knew the road was soon due to climb over the Saltfjellet Mountain Pass at a height of 2230ft. Not high for Alps standards, but high enough for snow still to be lying and for more to fall. Started to rain a bit more heavily and the traffic came to a stop; another set of roadworks on the E6. Sometimes, you wish they didn’t try and improve the roads. The queue slowly picked its way through the rough ground for mile after mile, eventually getting on tarmac again, with the rain easing slightly, I could use the SLCs power to get past the train of slow Campervans and caravans that are everywhere. And joy, reached the top of the Saltfjellet Mountain Pass and as is often the case, the other side was bright blue sunshine. I won, Nah Nah Ne Nah Nah.
At the top of the pass, knowing I was going to be safe, I stopped for a quick picture of a tourist place called the Arctic Circle Centre. Didn’t want to go in, it’s not what the trip is about and didn’t want to upset anyone by saying, it hasn’t been built on the Arctic Circle as the bumpf suggests, and even if it was, next year it wouldn’t be.
The Arctic Circle is moving a few metres each year, if you’re interested, planetary geology and astronomy, are fascinating.
And then on the rest of the drive something remarkable happened. Every day so far, I’ve checked the routes and kept off the major roads and Motorways as much as possible. Today this was difficult; without taking an extra day or 2, there is only 1 route north, and the detours on that route looked long and tortuous. It was only late in the day that I realised at no point had I even considered thinking about looking at the map for an alternative.
Stupidly as it turns out, I decided to do the maximum time driving today because I thought the route would be boring. There is an interesting website detailing the best scenic drives in Norway, but this part of the E6 doesn’t make the top 18. I’ve only had a chance to drive 2 of the other best drives but after today my mind is made up, I’m coming back to Norway asap to do the rest.
For 345 miles the E6 north of Mo I Rana is fantastic. Snow-capped Mountains, fast sweeping bends, icy lakes, fantastic fjords, terrifying tunnels, the best bridge ever, long steep climbs, quick descents, beautiful smooth tarmac, crystal clear lakes, fast flowing rivers, moors, forests, interesting wildlife, fabulous ferry ride. Must have missed something off, but it doesn’t matter, it was great and I should have split the route in at least 2 parts to enjoy it properly. I could talk all day about the road, so here are just a few of the most interesting parts.
Terrifying tunnels, one didn’t have any lights, even with headlights on; going from bright sunlight to pitch dark was not easy. At least the brakes got a good test. Some others were just badly lit, but by that time, I learned to go slow into tunnels.
The ferry from Bognes to Skarberget was fantastic; it just reinforced my opinion on how to do Norway. You need to drive it and take a boat trip. Each one on its own is only half the story. They do a rare thing on this ferry; they don’t load the vehicles in first come first serve order. I asked the crew what was happening; they load the cars first, then the campervans, then the cars towing caravans, then the Lorries. The road out of Skarberget is a very long steep climb, so fastest first. He said normally old cars get put back with the caravans, but the SLC is an exception, I was off 3rd.
And the best bridge ever, just north of Narvik there is a bridge over part of the Ofotfjord. Decent size interesting bridge, but it’s the views that make it the best ever. I have a suspicion there will be even better bridges in Norway, but they will be on my next trip.
I gave up stopping for pictures, just not enough time; I had to get to the Airbnb for some rest. It’s in the middle of a forest in a deserted ski jump training centre. After walking and climbing round the practice ski jumps, I was right about my previous thoughts on them. The flyers are all mad; it was terrifying just climbing up to the top the biggest jump here and I would think it’s only half the size an Olympic ski jump. But when you are young and able to slowly progress from tiny jumps, I would have loved the thrill.
The Airbnb, a disaster; owner didn’t show, so it’s the car or a small 2 man tent that I brought just in case of this eventuality. Airbnbs so far have been the best and the worst, but today was brilliant no matter where I sleep.