Hellesylt became our third port on our Norwegian fjord cruise on P&O Iona. The day before we had been in after Olden.
Our cabin was at the stern of Iona and this meant that we had more vibration in the cabin than we were used to. This was especially true as the ship was making a fast passage. The vibrations were much more than we’d had before but luckily was not enough to keep us awake but was enough to stop a heavy sleep.
Day 5: Wednesday 1st June 2022 – Medical emergency evacuation
As I was half awake, I quickly realised that what I could hear was the sound of a helicopter close by. Out on the balcony I could see a helicopter hovering behind the ship. As I watched it came overhead and we could hear it hovering somewhere above us.
Looking back at Iona‘s wake I could see how she had been making a zigzag path around another ship before resuming a straight course.
The helicopter moved back into sight and continued to hover behind the ship. All then went quiet as the helicopter dropped back and once its landing lights were off we could no longer see no hear it.
About five minutes later the helicopter’s landing lights came back on and it flew again over our heads and hovered. Then it dropped back, turned and vanished into the night.
We later learnt that there had been a ship wide announcement at about 12:45 but I hadn’t been awake enough to register what the message was.
Day 5: Wednesday 1st June 2022 – Hellesylt
The original itinerary of Iona was to drop passengers at Hellesylt who were booked on excursions. Then everyone else would have to wait until she docked at Geiranger to leave the ship. A couple of weeks before our departure we were been told by P&O that due to “operational reasons “ Iona would not be going onto Geiranger itself.
This was the second time that we had failed to make it to Geiranger. Earlier on Azura the ship had even arrived at Geiranger, dropped her tenders only to be refused access to a mooring buoy. Azura then had picked up her tenders and docked at Hellesylt.
When I was awake early in the morning I did have a look outside as Iona was coming up Sunnylvsfjorden. It was still raining and all the sides of the fjord had smatterings of mist.
Nearer Hellsylt we passed first the car ferry returning from Geiranger and then the passenger ferry on her way there.
The fjord that leads to Geiranger is on the right looking back down this fjord.
Due to our disturbed night and not expecting to have much to do in Hellesylt, we had skipped breakfast in the restaurant and instead we went for a late breakfast in the buffet. Despite being so late in the morning it was packed. Not having eaten there before we were forced to wander up and down between the food displays looking for what we wanted.
By the time the three of us were sat eating breakfast we all agreed to make sure we were up earlier for breakfast in the restaurant in future. On the positive side I did manage to get an extra smoothie and enjoy some fruit with my breakfast.
Hellesylt in the morning
The mist was still hanging on the hills around the fjord when we left the ship but to our relief the rain has stopped.
The jetty look much bigger since our earlier and unscheduled visit on Azura. However, Iona was so big that she still dominated the small village when she was docked at the end of the fjord.
The open area that was for cars waiting for the Geiranger ferry only had a couple of cars and motorhomes waiting. The large souvenir shop by the holding area was by now full of fellow passengers as we passed. Our first photo stop was the bridge over the river to look up at the impressive waterfall.
Once over the bridge, one of the buildings was now an outlet shop and on the opposite side of the road the local hotel was now fenced off. On our last visit this was where we all picked up Wi-Fi for our emails despite the hotel being closed even then.
Hellesyltfossen – the waterfall
We walked up the side of the river and then climbed up the paths alongside the waterfall.
Part way up I stopped to have a long at the remains of a “race”. This is where some of the rushing water had been divetered to turn a wheel.
and then up to the main road bridge high over the river.
Høgebrua – the bridge over the river Dala
From the bridge we could see Iona at the head of the fjord. The church can be seen on the left. This is on the old road that descends so steeply down alongside the waterfall into Hellesylt.
On the other side of the bridge we could see a gorge. This had been carved out by the river before it cascaded as the wonderful waterfall down to the fjord.
The tunnel just passed the Høgebrua bridge gave gentle wide approach to the town down the “new” road.
Time for a coffee in Hellesylt
The old narrow, steep old road is now almost pedestrianised. This leads back down to the town past the church. At the very bottom of the hill we went into the small hall to look at the exhibits and photographs celebrating the area’s UNESCO status.
To our left we walked away from the back of the supermarket and car park and came to a new (new to us) café. This was busy but we did find an empty table outside to rest our legs after exertions up and down the hills.
While I was queueing inside, a lady from the local newspaper came in and took photographs of the folks behind the counter who are making coffees for all the tourists. This was to celebrate all the business brought by tourists it seemed.
After our drinks back in the town we crossed the bridge and visited the (expensive) outlet store. A we went back over the bridge we had to dodge cars and motorhomes as the next ferry was now boarding vehicles for Geiranger.
At the souvenir shop I bought a balaclava ready for our visit to Svalbard above the Arctic Circle. This souvenir shop has survived better than the town’s hotel and was doing a roaring trade with the passengers off Iona.
Lunch onboard Iona
Our lunch was back on board was in the restaurant on Deck 6 and after a hectic breakfast was a much more relaxed affair. The rain had stopped when we came back to our cabin.
My afternoon spent exploring outside of Hellesylt
Looking out across the fjord I could see people at the waters edge below a rocky outcrop. I went for a walk to try and find where this was and hoped that the rain would hold off while I was off Iona.
Next to where Iona was docked there was a large campsite in a field. As I walked past there were only a couple of tents and a single motorhome. On the access road to my right there were factory units and ahead of me a sports stadium. Rather than follow the access road back to the main road, I followed the path between the stadium and a stream. This was signposted as a nature reserve. This bird was very anxious as I past by.
The bridge over the stream led to a farm with a two storey barn.
At the side of the barn was a caravan and behind was an abandoned house. By now the rain has started again as I pressed on along the side of the fjord.
Iona was now easily seen across the fjord as I walked along the dirt road.
I came across this boat pulled out of the water.
After the boat I came to a group of weekend cottages at the side of the fjord where the track stopped. On the side of the hill above me were more cottages. A set of steps was cut into the side of the hill and I guessed this was the path to further round the shore. I started to climb the steps but at the top I found that the path was very wet. So damp in fact over the rocks that I kept slipping, this was as far as I went.
The rain kept up the whole time that I was walking back to Iona. The fjord bank in the campsite was now lined with motorhomes and caravans.
The sides of the fjord were covered in clouds as Iona left Hellesylt.
The entrance to Geiranger fjord looked no clearer.
As Iona manoeuvred we could see a MSC ship leaving Geirangerfjord.
From our balcony we could now look back at Hellesylt.
The Seven Sisters
The ship may have been prevented from docking in Geiranger but at least we would have a very slow sail by of the famous waterfalls, The Seven Sisters. Iona slowly made her way to the turn into Geirangerfjord. Here the sides of the fjord were even more covered in clouds.
We could now see both of the ferries.
As a teaser we past other waterfalls such as this one cascading down into the fjord.
Iona sailed past The Seven Sisters then did a graceful pirouette in the middle of the fjord so that everyone could catch a glimpse.
The Keel and Cow
We decided to have a change of venue for dinner and added our names to the waiting list for the Keel and Cow restaurant in the Atrium. We only had a 30 minute wait before our buzzer went and we were called to our table.
This meal was one of the best that we on the ship and will definitely be one we go to again when next on Iona.
Our last port of call was Haugesund.