Friday, 16 August 2013

Very Rainy Day in Flam

Tuesday 6 August 2013. Last night we were told that all planned excursions for today were cancelled. The reason was a fire in a road tunnel which was the way into Flam for not only the excursion coaches, but also the guides who provided the commentary on Flam's railway.

This is a famous scenic ride up the mountains and is listed as one of the 100 things to do before you die. Doing it after you die is theoretically possible but, even if they let you on the train, the overall experience is not as good...

So we decided that we would get up really early to make the most of our sailing into Flam, which is at the end of the Aurlandsfjord which a tributary of the Sognefjord, a 204 kilometres long and up to 1,308 metre deep fjord. We had therefore entered this fjord in the middle of the night.

The weather was extremely wet. We went for a coffee and by sitting close to the Lido restaurant, managed to sit outside without getting too wet and then decided to go down for our breakfast.

As we passed through the Lido Restaurant on our way down to the waiter service restaurant on Deck 4 I noticed this little house with a water wheel, made out of bread!

We made a leisurely breakfast in the Compass Rose restaurant and were interrupted briefly when a member of the ship's Destinations Team came down to tell us that the Cunard ship, Queen Victoria, was 20 minutes behind us and that anyone who was wanting to travel independently on the Flam Railway was advised to get off the ship immediately to secure tickets as these would be very limited.

A couple on the next table immediately started grumbling. "They could have told us that last night!" he stormed. Yes I can just imagine the skippers of rival companies having those conversations over ship to ship radio, can't you?
"What time will you get in, because we want to be first...?"

We finished our breakfast and then went up on deck to watch the Queen Victoria sail in. Given the weather I expect that the view from the train was going to be severely restricted anyway and without guides to tell you what you couldn't see, we weren't about to spend on tickets. If (Fran says "when") we go back we will pre-book the Flam train excursion and hope for better weather.

Later in the day we decided we would go ashore even in the pouring rain, just to stretch our legs and have a look at Flam itself. We got to the cabin to find someone else wearing my cap...

The Thomson Spirit was moored in the middle of the fjord and was using her tender boats to ferry passengers to and from the Flam landing stage. It was strange being on a tender boat that wasn't rocking about, all of our other experiences having been on the sea!

The train was loading up, ready for its trip up the mountain. There is a small museum in the nearby station building dedicated to the railway and other forms of transport, i.e. skis. The museum was free to enter and I had a quick look round it, conscious that I was dripping water all over the wooden floors. So was everyone else, but I still felt guilty and didn't stay long. We had a look in the souvenir shops (reindeer skins and trolls) and raised eyebrows to the ceiling at the screams from the American child who suddenly realised the skins came "from an animal, Mommy!!! It's from an animal!!!". Not that we're that much better - I used to work in an agricultural college and amongst the teenage newcomers there was a depressing number who could trace milk to a bottle and then further back to the supermarket, but had no idea where it came from any further back than that...

An hour was quite enough to soak us through. We got back to the landing stage to find a lady covered in mud, who had tried to climb up the waterfall and had come down the quicker way... We got back to the ship and changed clothes. Then we gave the Horizons Bar our custom and our books our attention until it came close to sailing time.

The last tender boat comes back from Flam to the ship. We wait whilst it is winched aboard and then the ship's company go about the business of preparing for departure. We find a spot on the Promenade Deck and watch for the first signs of movement.

There were quite a lot of people out on deck to watch us leave, but because of the rain those numbers dwindled quite quickly once we had been under way for quarter of an hour or so. Flam faded into the distance behind us and we sailed down the fjord, knowing that we would be in bed before we sailed out into the North Sea again.

The continual rain of the day had served a purpose in making the many waterfalls a bit more spectacular though!

Fjordland Wonders Cruise Index Page

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