Tonje's Travelogue 6: Battery-powered fun in Flåm
Hiring an electric micro-car might not be on your bucket list, but we did just that and maybe it should be. Ok, it’s not exactly a Mario Kart race through Tokyo’s electric jungle, but an El-bil safari from Flåm to Stegastein is not to be sniffed at.
As we continued our epic summer adventure through Norway, we now arrived at the beautiful village of Flåm. Flåm is located in the southwestern part of Norway, in an area known for its fjords. It sits at the end of Aurlandsfjord, a branch of the vast Sognefjord. The Stegastein viewpoint is a 30-meter long and 4-meter wide platform of steel and laminated pine overlooking the fjord below. The project is part of a national program of tourist routes commissioned by the Norwegian Highway Department.
After the 60 minute drive from Voss to Flåm we found an easy place to park in the small harbor car park and caught the first glimpse of our next activity... A Renault Twizy. With its open cab and inline seats for two, these funny-looking little things were the perfect option to explore the surrounding area.
The cars could be hired for two hours at a time and offered two customized tours to choose from. One is to Stegastein viewpoint and the other is to Aurlandsvangen and Vassbygdi. We chose Stegastein.
Twizy is all-electric, takes up little space, and is easy to drive and park. An important point to note (as we soon discovered as the heavens opened up) is that the Twizy has no windows so be prepared with warm and waterproof clothing unless it is a bluebird day with 25 plus degrees. The car is equipped with 3-point safety belts and airbags. It felt surprisingly safe and we were provided with the necessary run-through before setting off. The trickiest part for us was the hand brake but we soon got the hang of it.
Luckily the torrential rain didn’t last long and we could venture out of our hiding spot under the bridge after only a few minutes. While testing out the car we realized the guided audio tour was in German. A quick phone call to the depot soon had us into the settings page and selecting our language of choice. The literal translations and quaint English accent of our GPS made for an extremely entertaining couple of hours. With a few laps of the car park to boost our confidence (in our own driving as much as in the car), we were off.
Once out of the village we were pretty much straight onto the main highway which was a little daunting at first, but the little environmentally friendly car had plenty of horsepower to stop us causing a queue of unhappy cars behind. No sooner are you adjusting to the speed of the highway does the round head deep into the mountain and through the Aurlands tunnel. The temperature was pretty consistent inside the tunnel which kinda surprised us a little, but every so often we would pass through pockets of cold chilly air. As we popped out the other side, our increasingly eccentric English auto-guide advised us to turn off the highway into the delightful village of Aurlandsvangen and it’s population of 824.
Of course, we stopped off here for a quick photo stop beside the fjord before starting our ascent up the mountainside.
Just as we started up with the road getting more narrow with every turn, the clouds parted and the glorious Norwegian summer sun shone down on us. Now it was game on!
We really would not have wanted to drive up this mountain road in anything much bigger than what we were in. There was quite a lot of traffic coming down the other way but ample passing places to stop and pass. Sometimes we had to reverse back down, but just as often the oncoming traffic was kind enough to back-up instead.
Our rep in the rental company told us to stop half-way up the road to Stegastein at the first obvious opportunity as he personally preferred this view compared to the one at Stegastein itself. We have to say, this was great advice and definitely worth doing but for us, the best was yet to come.
After every few corners, our guide would pipe up and say something about a local building or the area and we would be cracking ourselves up trying to mimic the accent (while of course driving responsibly and paying attention to the road ahead). At Stegastein, 650 metres above sea level, there are panoramic views of the fjord and the mountains. The platform is impressive but like any viewpoint with easy access, we found it a little too busy for our liking. Having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves we squeezed back into our little Twizzy and just for the hell of it, decided to drive a little further up the mountain to find out where we could get no further.
This turned out to be our master stroke and our little English tea lady trapped inside our GPS gave us a pure gold tip. “Drive to the end of the road and leave the car in the car park on the left hand side. Take the path and enjoy panoramic views of the unspoilt Norwegian wilderness”.
Well, she was not wrong!
After an easy 10 minutes, we found ourselves on what felt like the top of the mountain with 30 meters to the nearest tourist and no need to stand in line for the best photo angles. This place was amazing! We had uninhibited access to one of the best picnic spots we have found to date. We now had clear blue skies above and emerald green waters below with mountains in every direction we turned. Heaven on earth? It just might have been.
Of course, I had no choice but to be coerced into another epic photoshoot but when I saw the results, it was most definitely worth it.
We definitely ran our clock down, but it was so hard to tear ourselves away. The drive back down the mountain was just as much fun as on the way up and with the bonus of a little less traffic. As we passed the crowded Stegastein for the final time we had such smug looks on our faces I hated and loved my expression in equal measure. Luckily the hire company didn’t mind our tardy time keeping and they were laughing about how impressed we were by their humble little cars. Like I said in the beginning, definitely not to be sniffed at.
See you soon!
Douglas & Tonje
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