We left our home by the waterside in Øyer and headed en route towards Tromsø. It was Tuesday morning and we were in good spirits. With no real rush, we enjoyed the sights as we drove and stopped to take a closer look when we felt like it. The views were breathtaking and ever so changing. One minute the sky was blue and the sun was shining, the next minute we were driving through mountain ranges and the snow was coming down.
The highway wasn’t busy and there was no feeling of hurry. Norwegian highways have a maximum speed limit of 90km/hr so there is no getting anywhere fast, which suits us just fine.
We spent two nights in total, parked up for the night as we travelled, with not a care in the world.
On our second night, we parked next to a fjord and we noticed the winds pick up. We thought nothing of it and guessed this was normal being by the water. As we drove off the next morning, the winds increased. We checked the forecast for the direction we were headed, using the basic iPhone weather app. It showed winds but nothing more. We continued driving, stopping at Mo I Rana (the nearest big town), got fuel and stocked up on a few essential grocery items. It was blowing an absolute gale here and we couldn’t have been more relieved to jump back into Tommy to get out of it.
We continued driving onwards, noticing the highways were even more quiet than usual. As we drove into the arctic circle, the winds got stronger and stronger, snow was being hurled up in every direction. The further we drove, the worse it got. We hoped that with every corner it would disappear. As we approached a community (and I mean tiny!), we noticed the truck stop was pretty full. I also saw a small digital traffic sign which I vividly remember it reading ‘stengt’! This is Norwegian for closed. I mentioned it to Lockie and he didn’t seem phased. We had no idea what it meant for us or what it was in relation to. As we drove further, Lockie asked me to check maps to see how far it was to the closest town. This is when I noticed the road closure symbol and alerted Lockie. By this stage we had slowed right down and were crawling along as visibility had become so bad. We came to a holt and put on our hazard lights, trying to work out what to do. As we couldn’t see more than a few metres ahead, was it safe to try and turn around on a single lane highway?!? There was no way we could continue on, so turning around was our only option. The road was closed so thankfully it was fine.
As we made our way back to that tiny village, we passed about 10 minutes earlier, the winds had gotten that much worse. We knew something wasn’t right. We pulled into the truck stop and searched for weather updates and to find out what was going on. It was then we realised that a severe storm was sweeping through Norway. We were currently located in the red zone and it was only going to get worse!
At this stage, we were both a little panicked. Lockie was relieved that we had made it back to this point as it was terrifying driving. We needed to find shelter. Lockie moved us strategically between two truck in hope that they would shield us from the high winds. We felt safer here, until we kept googling the storms severity. It was basically a low-grade cyclone hitting Norway. Due to it being winter and with heavy snow conditions, this made a low-grade cyclone a lot worse as it rips up the snow from the ground and throws it into the air making vision poor and roads extremely icy.
After sitting parked up next to the trucks for 10 minutes or so, we started to question if this was a smart idea. The trucks had tarps strapped down that were flapping constantly in the heavy winds. I was frightened that something would blow off and hit us. The more we sat here, the worse my fears got. Thankfully, Lockie was there to reassure me we were okay and that he would find us a safer place to park.
I was nervous letting him leave the van, with winds that strong, who knows what could be flying around in the air. He left and sought advice down the street where there was a café. The café was currently under renovations so it was filled with tradies. Lockie found someone who spoke English and asked them if will we be okay here? They said we would be, but this kind of severe storm is uncommon. Lockie asked about the possibility of plugging the van into power but got declined.
He came back into the van and told me what had happened. Lockie told me he had found a good spot for us to park, near some buildings that would shield us from the high winds. We moved the car and I instantly felt so much better. The wind no longer rocked the van around with each gust and the terrifying noises had eased. In that moment, I was so grateful for this human.
We set the van up ready to stay put for the next few days. Lockie walked around, what seemed to be the outside of a closed campsite, to see if anyone was around but couldn’t find a soul. We found a power outlet close to the van, so we plugged ourselves in and thought surely, given the circumstances it would be okay and that if someone found us and had a problem, we could pay them a small fee to stay here in safety.
As the next few hours slowly rolled by, the truck stop was filling fast. As this was the last point you could safely park before the highway closure, the trucks just kept coming and coming. It did make us feel at ease knowing that we weren’t here in our car alone.
As anticipated, it only took a few hours until we got a bang at the door. A lady braving the storm, to tell us we can’t just use the power here. We thought surely, anyone in their right mind would understand. As soon as we offered to pay, it was all fine. Lockie went back to the café he had visited earlier and sorted it out. When he stepped into the café, the lady said to him, ‘I see you found power’ and chuckled a little. She asked him where he was from and when he told her, she was gob smacked and stood there in disbelief for a bit. After a few more questions and making a small payment, Lockie returned to the van with snacks in arm, that the lovely lady at the café had gifted him. She also gave us her phone number in case we needed anything. Not only did we receive this kindness from a stranger, we also had some fellow Norwegian vanlifers, check in on us Aussies to make sure we were doing alright and to give us some links to use for road and weather updates. If that doesn’t restore your faith in humanity, I don’t know what will! We felt truly blessed at this point.
So here we stayed for the next three days. Watching the trucks continue to roll in, even another van and towards the end some cars pulled in. At one point, Tommy had friends parked just over a metre from his door. The truck stop was overflowing. This made us think something was happening.
It was late evening on day two, when the trucks parked at our doorsteps took off, one after the other then another and another. We watched them pull out eagerly wanting to know what was going on. After spending full days in the van, checking on the truckies activity became a habit. We thought, they are either sick of waiting and risking it or someone’s got a call about the road opening. Conditions had improved slightly but it was still windy as hell and dark by this time. We refreshed the road websites with no news until about 30 minutes later, the website now had an update that said the road had opened for one-way traffic, 20 car maximum and a speed limit of 50km/hr. It now made sense.
As the night went on, trucks started to disappear slowly, trying to make it through this horrible patch of road. The conditions were still poor so there was no way we were leaving. The weather was meant to decline again overnight so here we stayed. The wind howled that night, we struggled to sleep well. With the trucks beside us now gone, we were open to the changing direction of the winds. By late morning the following day, the winds had eased and we um’d and ahh’d on whether we should go. We checked webcams by the hour, they looked okay but there was a warning that the road is icy and that the road could be closed at short notice again. We made the call to stay, it wasn’t worth the risk to us. We are on foreign roads and our safety is more important than getting to our destination faster.
On day three, early afternoon, the wind had dropped to a normal level and we felt the calm after the storm. We jumped at the opportunity to get outside and get some fresh air. We wandered around and were truly surprised at the views we saw. For the last few days, we were unable to see the incredible mountains that surrounded us or the frozen stream nearby. Mother nature had unleased on us and reminded us of all of her power.
Its evening on day three and we are one of the last ones standing here. Most truckies have moved on by now and the road is operating as normal. We plan to set off first thing in the morning to make the most out of the day. The further north you go here, the less and less daylight you get, making trying to only travel when its light more and more difficult. Looking forward to a day of travel without weather being an issue and taking us by surprise. We definitely learnt a valuable lesson here. Norwegian weather is so unpredictable and forever changing. It can change in the blink of an eye and release it’s full force on you! Grateful and thankful we made it through storm Frank safely and we will definitely be doing more thorough checks on road and weather conditions next time!