One Man Went To Mo – A Road Trip Like No Other

Grab the first flight you can find to Stavanger on the southwest tip of Norway, then hire a car to indulge yourself in a drive of a lifetime that is a total assault on the senses, whichever route you choose.
It will take you completely by surprise until you settle in and enjoy the sensational ride. Imagine you are travelling through the most stunningly beautiful countryside you have ever seen and suddenly someone cruelly pulls a blindfold down over your eyes to kill the experience in its tracks.
A few minutes and miles pass and the veil is lifted to give you another dramatic snapshot of even more startling scenery.
Then, just as you are taking it all in once more, the shutters come down again.
It’s like that when you hit the tarmac to cruise north in this country that’s bigger in scale and visual impact that any brochure can convey. This is breathtaking – as majestic and ruggedly impressive as wildest Alaska.
The problem is that to get through countryside so wild and wonderful, you must negotiate fjords and mountains. And that means a fair amount of driving in the dark, even in daytime, through tunnels – black holes into which you are plunged as the road plays a visual game of tease and cheat, snatching the fantastic views away just as more oohs and aahs were beginning to flow.
When the tunnels spit you out again, there’s always another knock-your-eyes-out scene to top the last. For those with a fair amount of miles to travel, this is the quickest and most surreal way to get from A to B.
There is another more relaxed route though, where it is a slowly-does-it wonderland all the way, if you choose to ferry-hop up over the archipelago between Stavanger to Bergen and beyond.

West coast fjords

Each sailing is very reasonably priced for car and two passengers. You will have seven crossings – some of them over Norway’s legendary west coast fjords – if you take the E39 route and follow it all the way to Alesund (best to split the journey as a leisurely two-day drive).
Planning to reach Øystese in the heart of Hardangerfjord country on the first day we pulled in after eight hours of easy-as-you-go travel, made to feel quite effortless thanks to the visual feast of scenery changes and the welcome periods of relaxation from the interlinking ferry breaks.
The people are so courteous that, driving there from a country where road rage, impatience and ill manners are too often witnessed, is a fair eye opener. Courteous motorists all observe the speed limits. In no time at all, you begin to adjust, settle in and tag along. After all, with a SCO sticker on the rear bumper, it just wouldn’t do to let the side down, would it?
There are other points too, which make as much impact as the fantastic scenery. There’s no graffiti and no litter. Public rest facilities and toilets are all spotlessly clean.

It seems as if Norwegians all just take a pride in being Norwegian. How civilised these Vikings have become!
If the people are the icing on the cake, the land – big, giant slabs of pristine wilderness – is simply phenomenal.
Every one of us can imagine what a fjord might be like. But, take yourself right inside one of these truly awesome chasms and the sheer scale and grandeur of the surroundings really does take your breath away.
You are not dwarfed by these things. Ant-like, that’s how you feel as you admire them, open-mouthed.
The second leg of the drive north to Alesund, was even more adventurous, leaving behind tarmac roads whenever possible to clamber up and down over narrow passes made from compacted crushed rock with passing places every few hundred metres.

Brightly painted

There was a little fishing village at the end of a fjord called Mo with brightly-painted wooden clapboard houses lining the quayside and youngsters pulling big fat mackerel in straight from the edge. And, of course, pressing on through pine woods and gorges peppered with giant boulders smothered with lichen, there was a spontaneous chorus of “One man went to Mo…”
At Alesund, which had a disastrous fire in 1904, leaving ten thousand townsfolk homeless, guided tours reveal art noveau properties which sprung up when the town was rebuilt, several designed by young architects who studied under Charles Rennie Macintosh.
This fascinating outpost has another strong link with Scotland (well, Shetland, actually), as it was the main nerve centre of the Resistance Movement, little craft sailing between Lerwick and here braving the North Sea at the height of the German occupation in World War II.
At the great folk museum with beautifully-preserved old wooden buildings, and a fine collection of Norse sailing vessels on display, don’t miss the restaurant for a taste of the rich, creamy soup which has cauliflower and cheese, and a hint of nutmeg as its base.
Another treat lies in store when fishermen return to the harbour with catches such as crayfish, shrimp, prawns and crab, prepared and cooked aboard to sell direct to the public once safely back in port.
Seafood never tasted as fresh as this.

* It would be easy to spend an hour or two browsing the website to take in all of the mouth-watering suggestions, each deliciously illustrated to tempt us all to get booked up straight away. Brochures featuring accommodation options, including everything from fabulous fishermen’s cabins, inexpensive b&b establishments and the full range of budget to 5-star hotel options, available from Alesund Tourism at the website.