A little intro:
Once upon a time in the evening Tatiana was getting bored. Tatiana decided that it’s enough relaxation and it’s a about time to find a next big thing. The WOW and OMG kind of adventure. The one that keeps the buttocks tense.
For a while I had a dream to go biking somewhere. The mandatory part of that idea was to go biking alone. It was so interesting to experience the feeling of lonely ride.
After visiting Denmark this summer North was like a magnet for me. I opened the map of Europe and took a brief look. There were several options:
I could go with the idea I had for a while and bike from Copenhagen to Skaagen. It was not much of an adventure.
I could bike from Berlin to Copenhagen. That would be too much Germany and not enough North.
I could finally visit Finland.
Or I could keep it rough and explore the fjords of Norway.
Finland promised forests and nice roads. Norway promised many hills and the unknown. Ofc I settled down on Norway.
I did not want to plan anything. I just wanted to hop on the bike and ride.
I bravely took 12 days off and bought a one way ticket to Oslo for Tatiana, one bag and one bicycle. After cycling in so many countries on rented bikes I finally decided to take my own black German cutie with me. It was not a perfect suit. The bike was too heavy for my trip. However it’s a reliable German piece of metal of which I knew what to expect. Also it was only 30 eu for flying with the bike. Saved me plenty of rental moneyz.
With this I was ready to pack.
At 16:30 pm I leave my little apartment, put the bags on my bicycle and bike in the direction of the S-bahn station. At 16:35, completely wet, I am soaking under the roof of the worn down tram stop using all my Russian skills to swear. At 16:40 the rain is over.
I am mostly worried about the flight. All these giant bike cases and bike bags look super depressing. They cost shit load of money and it’s not really clear what to do with them later. Carrying a huge bike bag is not fun at all. The solution I found was an CTC bike bag. This bag costs around 10 Pounds and it’s basically a giant plastic bag that fits a bike. It only weights 800 grams.
In the airport using duct tape, mad Russian engineering skills and a lot of swearing I pack the bike. This is the pure brilliance of Russian engineering mind:
Description of the bag has many comments regarding the issues of flying with that kind of package. People say they got rejected at the check-in and recommend to print out an official paper with the bag description. I am ready for the one hour battle with Germans about my packing skills. So I approach the check-in counter and… No one asks me any questions. 5 minutes later my bike is gone. Beautiful German bureaucracy, you let me down again!
I sleep all the way to Oslo. In the big and fancy Oslo airport I get my bike. Using my little pump I inflate the tires right away, turn the handlebar and I’m ready to go by 23:30. In the train I decide to attach the pedals and get a nice surprise in form of my left pedal that now has a fucked up screw. With the small multi tool I have no way to use enough force and just screw it in. I don’t want to deal with this at midnight and bike to the hotel with one pedal.
Oslo is pretty grim at night. At least the area next to the Central Station. Black guys selling drugs on the crossing, way too many prostitutes, drunk teenagers making their way home. I even see a proper fight. And that was Tue night.
For the security reasons my bike stays inside the hotel overnight.
That is the end of the organized part. I have no more booked hotels, no proper plan and no flight back. Exactly what I wanted.
I wake up in the morning rolling in the cozy bed with crispy white sheets. A peek outside of the tiny window provides me with the view on the grey wall of next building. That’s not demotivating enough and I make and agreement with myself to stay in Oslo for one more day. Luckily I can prolong my hotel room for one night.
The hotel is located on the narrow street next to some small and empty park. I take the street and ride my spectacular one-pedal bike to get a breakfast in the tiny cafe nearby. Cafe provides me with wi-fi to look for a bike store.
On the way there I’m approached by a construction worker wearing the blue pants completely covered with white paint and equally white moustasche on his face. He very politely asks if I know that my bike has only one pedal 😀 We have a small chat and he points me to the bike store nearby. There a brave and strong Norwegian man fixes my pedal.
In the big mall across the street I buy a Norwegian sim card with Internet connection for my Nexus. That is pretty much it. With the fixed pedal I do a good ride around Oslo, but honestly I don’t have much to say about it. Scandinavian city. Nice. Calm. Good. Really not much to say.
I stop in the park next to the huge Royal palace. In front of it bored seagull is pooping on the bronze head of king Karl Johan.
I have to attach bottle holders and to use the duck tape to repair the mud stopper axis that got broken during the flight. Duct tape it the best thing in the world, I must tell you. Before I return to the hotel I use the opportunity to pump up my tires with the proper pump in another bike store that pops up on the way.
Back at the hotel I pack my stuff the proper travelling way. That’s btw how the bike bag can be packed.
I put it to the bag with the tent and forget about it till the end of my trip.
I leave my bike in the hotel and spend the rest of the day roaming around Oslo downtown. I even get a train ticket properly packed in the bag for myself and the bike. Before going back to the hotel I visit opera house, beautiful white building. Something that would fit in Gondor 😀
Next day the adventure would start.
The worst way to start a day is to get up at six thirty. Get out of the nice warm bed, carry some bags to some place, hop on the train and ride to the unknown. To say I had a shitty mode in the morning is not to say anything.
Nevertheless at 7:30 am me and the bike are waiting for the train at the Oslo Sentraalstation. Norwegians, same as Germans have a tendency to combine all words into one. But unlike Germans when they speak it sounds much softer and a bit like everyone is hiking.
Shiny and fast train arrives half of an hour late. I put my bike in the special coach and fall asleep for the next three hours. When I wake up on the desperate quest for coffee (which is btw free in this amazing train) I pass by a special area of a coach for children. Imagine a giant aquarium with a huge playground inside. Amazing.
Train reaches Myrdal soon. My bike almost stays on the train for a nice ride to Bergen. Would have been a fail. But I do some running and now I stand on the platform high in the mountains under the pouring rain. Yep. The rain.
It’s about one pm. And it’s this nasty kind of rain that never stops. The station is approx. 900 m above the sea level. It does not have a connection via roads appropriate for cars with the main land, but it does have a fancy old train that goes down to Flam. This train is super popular among tourists.
Ofc I’m not interested in any trains. I bravely put my helmet on and ride downhill. Well… at least I think I would ride downhill. In reality I have to walk for 20 minutes with the bike helmet on my head pretending that it’s totally intentional. First part of the road is covered with wet stones and I don’t dare to try riding it with so much luggage on the road bike dressed in the road tires.
It is pretty hard to walk because it is way too beautiful around. Just a couple hours ago I was in the city and now I am walking this mountain road in the middle of this insanely astonishing land intersected by waterfalls, mountain rivers and forests. Even the air around me changes.
Soon the road gets much better and I am able to ride. The path goes all the way down to the river valley and then continues for about 20 km to Flam.
I ride and ride and try not to stop. Pedals spin smoothly, little raindrops hit my face, one turn changes another opening more and more spectacular views. It’s almost impossible to keep moving. I wish I could climb all the hills, stop to take a photo of all the views and spent a day just sitting on the river bench.
But I have to ride.
Flam welcomes me with the rainbow and a giant cruise ship parked in the harbor.
Small herds of tourists walk from one store to another on the endless quest of shopping. Also I find a railroad museum with one of those old coaches parked in front of it. I am pretty disappointed because the old Norwegian coach looks absolutely the same as the modern Russian one.
I stop for a piece of salmon in one of the restaurants and have a brief chat with some girls from Slovenia. With my belly full I head further to Aurland. The road follows the coastline, even the sun comes out for a brief moment of time. Fresh wind that smells as the recently cut grass
blows from the water. I’m happy.
I reach Aurland located on the side of the fjord really fast and my next destination should be Laerdal. And that means – climb the mountain road. There is a tunnel that connects these two cities that also happens to be the longest tunnel in the world. Obviously bikes are not allowed there. So I am getting ready for the so-called snow road.
But first I have to find a place to sleep. I start biking uphill. Then I get tired and start walking uphill. That is not much easier. The climb is pretty steep. I don’t know for how long I do that, probably it took something around one hour, may be one and a half. At some point I get frustrated and decide that it’s enough for the day. It takes some effort but I find a good place for a tent on the side of the hill. Slightly inclined, yet good enough to sleep.
And here I am, in the evening I sit on the side of the cliff next to my tent and watch clouds slowly cover the setting down sun. There is no one around and only far down the hill I can see light of someones home. Next to me my dinner is getting ready. And all this happens in Norway. It’s really hard to believe in the reality of this thing. Only 20 hours ago I was sleeping in my warm bed and now I’m here all alone.
Sun completely disappears in the clouds and the rain starts again. I, still having hard times to believe in this reality, get into a tent and fall asleep.
I wake up around 9 am surrounded by the sound of raindrops falling on my tent. A peek outside shows that its raining really hard. Well. I know the best way to solve this issue. I put my head back in the tent and fall asleep again.
When I wake up two hours later the rain does not seem to have any intentions to stop. But it definitely got lighter. I give up and go out to cook myself a breakfast. While I eat the rain stops for a while and gives me a good opportunity to pack. As soon as I am done packing it starts to rain again.
Cursing and swearing I go back to the road, switch to 1-1 and bike uphill.
The view is unbelievable. I can’t put it in words and especially I can’t put it in words of the foreign language. The wind is strong and immense clouds travel in the sky. Mountains hover over me. Forests smell of pine and grass. Somewhere in these forests fast rivers roar.
At some point I get tired and start walking again. It’s really demotivating when you can’t see the end of the climb.
Fields slowly get completely replaced by pine forests. And the rain gets stronger and stronger. My cloth starts to get wet, mostly the jacket on my shoulders. I am out in the never ending rain for a couple hours so it’s not a big surprise.
I have to stop two times to wait for the especially strong rain to calm down.
– I have to go. I have to go. – I repeat to myself
– Fuck it. I want to go home, – my willpower answers
I face another problem: my water bottles are almost empty and there are not rivers nearby to refill them. And the rain feels like a pretty mean joke on top of it. Water everywhere and yet nothing to drink. I have no clue what to expect from the mountain pass. Probably there are rivers, but I don’t want to risk it. So I decide to give Norwegian hospitality a test.
I leave the bike on the side of the road, put my best shy smile on my face and stop the next car. With the maximum politeness available to a Russian person I ask if guys have an extra bottle of water. And miracle happens. Now I own one litre of amazingly warm water in the worn down plastic bottle, hooray!
My spirit rises and I bike again. It’s getting colder and colder. And I’m getting more and more frozen.
But the higher I go the more beautiful it gets.
Unfortunately it also it gets even colder.
I have to make a small remark here: it’s not like I’m in the super shitty physical condition, but I don’t do any sports. Ofc I bike a lot, swim from time to time and might even get for a run once in a month. But no more than this. Gyms are really boring, you know?
So. It’s very hard to go uphill for several hours in a row. It’s even harder to go up the hill the end of which you don’t see with 30kg of bike and luggage. And constant rain, as you might guess, does not make it any easier.
And it’s not only a physical exercise. It’s also very hard mentally. Especially with no one to cheer you up and no real time pressure. It is really fucking hard. The only thing I could do was to rely on my stubbornness. To tell myself to do just one more turn, and one more turn, and one more turn. Of course the only thing I wanted to do was to turn back and ride downhill. But also I knew that when you give up in this situation it would feel like shit.
At some point the forest ends and I get to the big open land covered with grass and stones. The troll valley. And here I can clearly see for how much more I have to go up. And it’s a lot. Wind gets stronger. It gets colder again. I can’t bike anymore so I walk and walk till I reach the 1000m mark. And here it gets me. I know the height of the pass. And I know it’s 1350. Meaning that I have to do 1/3 of what I have already did. And the depression I feel at that moment is very-very strong. Probably it would have taken me 1 more hour of desperation to reach the pass. But.
… suddenly I get rescued by Frenchmen! An old blue minivan stops next to me and a guy with the curly hair and a very strong French accent asks if I need a ride uphill.
– YES! (or more like YEEEEEEEES!) – I reply and soon I’m in the bus enjoying the warmth. It’s a really nice small french family. Dad seems to be the only person who speaks English more or less. We ride the rest of the way to the top and I can’t stop saying “Thank you”.
And here it is. The valley of trolls and stones. Landscape erased by small lakes and countless rivers. Covered with patches of snow even in August. I put my hood on top of my head and secure it with the helmet. Again, the view is just astonishing.
And as if to celebrate my victory the rain stops.
I’m too tired and too cold to make photos. So I hop on the bike and ride, finally, down the hill. It’s unbelievable how good it is to feel the speed.
The sun shows up in the sky and I smile like crazy. Lakes, green moss, little boats and tiny houses welcome me to the plateau. Apart from me there are almost no one around. When I was going up I’d encounter a car at least once in five minutes. Here it’s just me and the road.
If you think that the road through the pass is a road downhill you are mistaken. Its the road up and down. I hate 1-1. I hate 1-2. Every climb send the pain through my body.
But I bike further and try to enjoy the view. Unfortunately it is clear that soon the sun would be gone. I’m pretty tired and need at least a small brake.
I stop at the empty parking lot with the fatalistically looking public toilet (ofc, Norwegian wilderness with public toilets) and plan to make myself a cup on nice hot tea. From the parking lot I see that the road far ahead turns and starts to go uphill again.
I try to lit a fire but the wind is way to strong and I don’t have any windshield with me. I try again but wind just destroys the fire immediately. Then I look at the road again imagining that I’d actually have to go now and I have to go up that fucking hill. And here I have a second breakdown. I want to give up, sit on the ground and just cry. I want to go home. I know what’s happening, I know it’s just a panic attack, I know there is no reason to panic, but it’s hard to control yourself in this situation.
Imagine that you are tired and very cold, your shoulders are wet from the rain and the wind around is so strong that you could almost feel it hitting your face. You stand alone in the middle of the huge plateau and you don’t know how much more you need to bike. Ofc it’s easy to panic.
So I do the only thing I can imagine in this situation. I put headphones into my ears, find an old song and just sit on the ground listening to the loop. It helps a little. I go back to the bike and ride forward. And when I reach the turn of the road I see that the road uphill is actually a side road and the road I need turns right and miraculously goes downhill. Just downhill. The mountain pass is over!
I switch to the second front gear, but I don’t need to spin anymore. All I need to do is to brake.
In five minutes empty rocky plateau gets replaced by the forest. Sun is out again and finally it’s getting warm. Soon the wind is completely gone and the sun is heating with the full power. It feels so good that I’m about to cry from happiness. The sense of achievement is unbelievable.
Suddenly I almost bump into a couple of sheep just casually walking down the road. There are no cars anymore, just sheep. After two more turns I see the river next to the road and many little waterfalls that drop into it. A perfect place to have a meal and to refill my water bottles.
While I’m cooking more sheep approach me. Tiny bells on their necks constantly making a sound. They act more like dogs, trying to sniff my bike and curiously looking at my food. I’m too tired to act normally so I’m really worried that sheep might eat my dinner 😀
Warm, happy and excited I continue the descent into summer. I put on We Can Make the World Stop and just enjoy the curves of the road.
On the way I meet a lonely hiker with the giant red backpack walking his way down, I’ll meet him again at the bus station next day. Benefits of cycling are pretty clear.
As every ride down, this one ends way to fast. I bike the rest of the way to Laerdal and book the first available room in the hotel. It’s already quite late and it’s raining again. So hot shower is all I need at that point.
I put “Don’t Disturb card” on the door and fill the tiny room with layers of my tent that have to dry. With what remained of my energy go out to look for food. Soon I’m back in the room, another piece of salmon lies happily in my belly and I fall asleep while drops of rain knock on the window of my room.
I wake up the next morning warm, dry, happy and well rested. My brilliant plan assumed that today I’m to travel on a boat across the fjord to a place called Klaupanger. From there I was to go for something like 50 km to the next mountain pass.
My hotel even offers a breakfast! So I eat, drink a pretty disgusting Norwegian coffee (first world issues, yes), pack my things and go out to look for a ferry station. Luckily the station is in 200 meters from my hotel. Unluckily the name of the station is crossed by shiny red line, politely notifying me that the route is no more. Gz, Tatiana. My brilliant plan is definitely experiencing some issues.
Laerdal is “big” and touristic enough to have the tourist info center, so I bike there. Girls there tell me that there is another way to reach my destination and the way is to take a bus. It’s not as fun as a ferry, but there are no other ways out. The time is 11 in the morning and the next bus is at 3 pm.
I simply slack for a while. There is not much interesting around. It’s a pretty small village with some kind of the fish farm. I meet a hiker from yesterday who looks really tired and who definitely got dirtier. The rest of time I use to visit a supermarket to get some nuts, bread and ham. And, finally, before I leave I use the opportunity to eat more salmon in the small bistro next to the bus station.
One table away from me sits an Italian couple in their forties and a Norwegian grandpa who casually joined them. At least I assume he is Norwegian. Very stereotypical grandpa, with winkles around his eyes, mischievous smile and a huge snow white beard. Italians do not seem to speak any good English but grandpa does not care. He keeps telling them the stories about his youth and it’s really some entertainment. I don’t think they understood much, but for me it was a lot of fun to listen to that guy.
At 3pm my bus arrives and I put my bike into the luggage section with some help from the driver. Norwegians are amazing. Best people in the world. When I enter the bus driver asks me what kind of ticket do I need.
– I’m sorry, I don’t know, I just need to get to Klaupanger, – I say.
– OK, – he smiles, – I can clearly see that you are a student, is not that so? – he smiles even more and winks like crazy.
I agree with his student statement and get a ticket from him. Bus rushes through the tunnel and hopes on the ferry on the other side of it. I, accompanied by some group of Norwegian boy scouts (??) go out to enjoy my first tour on the water.
Some time later I’m back on the road and spinning pedals and competing with some heavy (by Norwegian standards ofc). Next stop – Sogndal is a rather big city, the weather is rather shitty, light rain still goes on, so I don’t stop and just go further.
Road follows the fjord and I simply enjoy spinning pedals for some time.
But my happiness does not last long. 30 minutes later I hide for the rain under a relatively waterproof pine tree. Sitting on the rotten stump next to the ant house and reading a book becomes my hobby. Ah, those stumps, my loyal travel companions.
A bit later clouds finally uncover the sky and I can fully enjoy the amazing beauty of road 55.
This narrow road follows the fjord though the astonishing landscape. I ride through the fields with small colorful houses scattered around. It goes though endless apple orchards and raspberry canes .Gardens fill the air with this very special smell. I encounter small towns from time to time and people there always cheer and wave when they notice my bike. I really hate small talks with strangers so this silent support is the perfect thing for me. Sometimes I meet bikers, mostly tourists from hotels and houses in the area. They always let me pass and also wave and smile in support.
It’s the amazing feeling of the “flow”. When things are just right. If you ever had that in your life you would probably understand what I mean.
I can see big mountains slowly appearing on the horizon. They make the landscape even more surreal. Old fishing huts and storages for boats. Roofs completely covered with moss appear on my way from time to time.
I ride and ride and ride till I see an small table on the side tunnel road. It’s absolutely empty and very welcoming. So I stop for a cup of tea.. Fjord reflects the setting down sun somehow making the water look like dense and warm. No one around and only far away I could see the ship crossing the sun path in the water followed by a real Norwegian dolphin.
It is about time to to find a place to sleep. And I manage to find the perfect spot. I have to climb a little to reach it but I would say it was the best sleeping spot in the entire trip.
Small rocky cliff on the side on the fjord covered with warm soft green moss. Big rock is protecting the spot from the wind and a pine tree is a great cover in case of a rain. And the smell of pine… huh.
When sun settles down completely I requalify my esbit stove into a wooden stove and sit next to the improvised tiny fire. And. It starts to rain.
Obviously it’s raining in the morning. This time it’s a proper downpour. That’s why I spend the entire morning reading a book in the tent and enjoying freshly cooked porridge with ham. The downpour stops only around noon. But it still rains a little bit. I give up and pack.
Everything is a bit damp, but honestly its way too beautiful around to complain.
I have to put some effort into managing to bring my bags up the rocks. I hid my bike behind the stone next to the road, so I’m soon fully packed and happy.
Now it’s five or mb seven km of under-rain biking to the ferry to dgragsvik.
Next to the waterfall, where I stop to refill my water supplies, another trailer inhabitant starts questioning me. Mostly he is interested in how it feels to ride in such a weather. Cmon, what kind of question is that? Mostly it feels like shit.
However after a couple days I, like any human being, adapt.
Recently once colleague of mine noticed that its much easier and nicer when you can travel with the roof above your head, suggesting that the car is a better way to do it. That’s really sad.
Whenever I sit in the car I feel like it’s just watching a TV. You a inside that box of steel and glass, looking through the widows on the landscape that does not even feel real. There is no smell, no wind, no real feeling of the road.
I’m complaining a lot here. Whining about the rain… But whenever you spin the pedals under the rain, when raindrops hit you in the face, you feel that everything is for real. You feel alive. When you stand on top on the mountain and know that it’s your feet that got you there, not the internal combustion engine, you can really feel like you just did something good.
Ferries are regular, approximately once per half of an hour. I even manage to buy a cup of hot coffee from the grumpy woman in kiosk next to the toilets and hop on the ferry. I still don’t know if I should have paid for these ferries. I tried to grab attention of the guys dealing with cars, but they completely ignore me and pretend I don’t exist. So I just keep using ferries for free.
On the other side of the fjord more rain awaits. In theory if I am to follow the diary of the cyclists that I used before, I have to turn right and go through another mountain pass. But honestly I have absolutely no wish to go up the hill in the rain again. And the town on the left is strongly recommended to visit by the other diary. And there are no hills there. So turn left and bike to Balestrad. And it was probably one of the best places I visited.
Road goes downhill at first and later turns to the bay uncovering another spectacular view.
A valley in front of me is bright green, with a mystic fog in the end of the lake and enormous mountains with equally enormous waterfalls. My jaw drops again.
In something like 5km away from the city in the lowland I notice a small camping. Basically it’s just 3 hut in front of the giant mountain. I was wondering how would it be to spend a night in one of those huts and I decide to stay in the area for the night.
The door of the guards house welcomes me with the nice note:
“Guard will show up at some point in the evening”.
Its something like 4pm and there is absolutely no one around.
But I’m not in a rush. Right after the camping a hiking trails starts. According the description of the trails it’s possible to walk all day. I leave my bike in next to the start and go a little bit up the mountain to reach the waterfall. Honestly it’s a bit too wet and a bit chilly in shorts. And I don’t have all day to walk all the trail. So I climb for an hour or so, check out the waterfall and go down to fulfill my only wish: I need food! Preferably something hot.
I bike the rest of the way to Balestrad. It’s hard to call that place a town, more like a village. But is has an insane density of supermarkets – two! Both closed on Sunday evening. While I’m trying to figure out where to go another Norwegian grandpa on fancy racing bike approaches me and decides to give me some hints on the town. He talks for a while and ends up with recommending me to watch Hercules in their cinema and with this he bikes away. I’m a bit confused.
Roads descends directly to the main square, to the piers. And here… I can smell mushroom soup! The smell is incredibly strong and it’s coming out of the open doors of some family restaurant right next to the pier.
Waitress, a woman in her forties speaks bad English with the inexpressible accent. At some point I can’t hold myself and ask where is she from. Instead of my expectations to hear Ukraine or Mother Russia I hear Lithuania. We switch to Russian which is not her mother tongue but it’s clear that its much easier for her to speak my language. For the next hour I eat my soup and drink my tea and she tells me stories about Lithuania, her life in Norway, owners of the place and her crazy work hours. There are almost no visitors in the restaurant so we can actually have a proper long conversation.
Before I leave she recommends me to visit the museum upstairs. Museum contains a lot of old stuff, which is really nice and a room with paintings made by the owner of the place. I don’t want to offend anyone but it looks like a lot of drugs were involved. From the color palette I would assume mushrooms. And a lot of naked women with rays of light going out of their… hm.. core 😀
I bike back to camping to see that it’s still raining and it’s pretty cold in the lowlands, so cold that I actually have to stop to put my jeans on. But the mist! Oh, that Myst. Straight out of the fairy tale, slowly moving on top of the water hiding it from human eyes.
It’s late enough for the guard to show up. We say Hi to each other and I fill in the paper to get a hut. When I’m done he notices my nationality.
– Russian? How many russians? – suddenly sceptical, he ask. Looks like the guy is not the biggest fun of russians.
– Just one. – I answer, trying to smile.
But here, I guess, he notices my adress and becomes happy again. He tells me I can pick any hut I like. The choice is insanely varied: it’s either hut number 1 or hut number 2. Apart from my and some trailer there is no one in the whole camping. Key just sticks out of the door.
I get the giant palace with stove, electricity, heating and even a plastic chair outside. It has more luxurious than my dacha :D. Finally I can dry all my stuff and I even get a rare opportunity not to do laundry in the river.
Using all the values of civilization I make myself a cup of tea and fall asleep.
Ofc I’m lying to you when I say that I have absolutely no plan. Internet regularly provided me with the smart hints on the routes created by smart people. All I have do is to use these tips.
My next task in that enchanting plan is to visit the glacier. Must see in Norway and all that stuff. In theory if I had more willpower I could to go back and climb the mountain pass. That would take me two days for sure. But I have absolutely no willpower neither the wish to revisit the cold snowy landscape. I can say that I got defeated by Norway. And the fucking morning rain played the final accord in that decision.
I poke my head out of the window. The situation outside is pretty sorrow. Relatively dirty damp sheep melancholically chew the grass under the dirty-looking sky. On the other side of the loan equally melancholic guard carries firewood from one spot to another.
I put my head back in the warmth of the house and make an agreement with myself to go to Olden by bus. Today is the day to get off the bike, explore Balestrad and climb one of those big hills around. The bus is at 5 pm and I have plenty of time to roam around. This was probably the most useless day during the whole trip.
Even sheep are shooting disapproving glances at me.
I once again put my bags on the bike and go in the direction of the town.
Traditionally, 15 minutes later I stand under the Norwegian pine tree and sadly observe how rain showers my bike. For a change this time rain stops as fast as it started. That was the last big rain during my journey through Norway. I did not know it back then, so obviously I was incredibly angry.
Road 55 follows the fjord further and there is not much difference with the part I did yesterday, so soon I get bored. After visiting one more waterfall I turn back to the city.
The big hill next to Balestrad promises me some interesting things. There, next to the empty playground, hiking trails start. At first I think that it would be smart to take the easy trail for non-prepared hikers. But it so boring that I can’t force myself to follow the track and start following the red track signs. I really hope to see some animals but there does not seem to be any visible life.
All these hiking trails are pretty discouraging. You are walking down some path through the forest. That’s it. Sometimes there are differently colored marks on the trees, so you don’t get even slightly lost. That’s pretty much all the adventure.
But despite all this the forest is beautiful.
Soonish I managed to climb up the hill and enjoy the view on the town downhill.
The city itself is also pretty cool. Old wooden houses decorated with carvings. Small flower gardens here and there. And those amazing Norwegian stone roofs. One mandatory wooden church. Several mandatory boats. And even the real monument!
5 British tourists, 5 Japanese tourists and 2 or 3 locals. This is probably the best description of the surroundings.
Aaaaand… I miss my bus!
I check my options and see that from Sogndal where I was yesterday I can catch a direct bus to Olden early in the morning.
And that would actually save me plenty of time. The only issue is that Sogndal is about 40 km away. But. The rain has stopped. I had a very good rest. So 5 minutes later I am on my way back to Sogndal. I even book a room in the hostel to be sure I won’t miss the morning bus.
So I just bike and bike and bike and bike, almost non-stop. Nothing special happens on the way apart from one detail. My bike finally dries. And it starts creaking like crazy. As of my master plan to not to carry any extra things I don’t have anything to oil the chain and the gears which is really stupid of me. The best solution for now is to make the music in headphones a little bit louder and to go on.
Around 22:30 I reach Sogndal, welcoming me with beautiful lights of small city reflected in the waters of the Fjord. At the gas station I make a try to buy something for the chain, but both me and the cashier girl have absolutely no knowledge about the gas station oil assortment so I leave empty-handed. That almost costs me my room. When I reach the hostel I see the closed reception door and basically bump into the girl who deals with rooms. She is kind enough to open the door and let me in.
Certainly the best day of the trip. It starts, lasts and ends so perfectly that I’m even afraid that something is wrong.
Example n1.: in the morning i notice that my hostel has a free breakfast! The unheard luxury. Hot coffee, serial and even sandwiches. And ofc another grandpa willing to share his life story. I consume the food as fast as possible and and bike to the bus station where incredibly polite driver helps me to put my bike on the bus. The road takes almost 3 hours that I spend half asleep/half awake and staring out of the window. As ill luck would have it, there is no rain. First time during the whole journey and here I am, sitting in the fucking bus.
Soon i’m in Olden biting the grilled chicken club that I got from the supermarket. On the shore I meet one more, pretty tired from his looks, lonely cyclist. We exchange greetings and I move on.
Let me remind you that my perfectly dry bike produces inexpressible trills. This issue has to be solved before I can bike further. Unfortunately I can’t find anything useful in the supermarket so I try gas station. There the guy, incredibly sad that he can’t help me, says that he does not have anything suitable as well and he did not come by car today and there is nothing he can do. Ok. Further down the road next to the huge cruise ship I notice a bike rental place from where I finally get some oil! Problem solved! I turn on the road to the glacier.
And, hell yeah, the sun is shining! The real sun! I was almost about to forget how the sunshine looks like. Road leaves the town and turns to the farmlands, following the fields. Finally it crosses the river with fiery blue water. The sun is shining all day long. Unbelievable.
25 km to the glacier take me, probably something around 3 hours. It’s just too beautiful around. When the river turns to the lake and I finally can see mountains with the glacier.
Here and there I can see small observation points where huge buses carry held of tourists and let them out for 5 mins to click cameras before the are consumed by buses again.
I don’t even know how to describe it.
Here is a hut
And a local
And the river
And more rivers
And the road
Just fucking beautiful.
Already in front of the glacier I finally understand why the road took me so long. Apparently all this time it went up the hill with the small incline. Unfortunately it’s not allowed to bike to the glacier, so I have to take my water bottle, my camera and to leave the bike at the parking lot downhill. Last five km I walk.
There is a good road that follows the river valley and it’s a very pleasant walk. At some point I notice that while I’m leisurely walking to the glacier everyone around me is hiking like crazy. From the looks of people around we are all in the middle of doing an incredibly extreme sports. It’s pretty funny. I always get a bit scared of the people who own and wear hiking shoes in environments like this. There is something unnatural in that.
On the way I can see way points indicating the areas occupied by the glacier in the past. So to say the visual proof of the global warming.
There is also a waterfall, that pours you with it’s waters from head to toe.
I don’t even know what to say.
Probably that because the valley downhill overfilled the limits of my excitement.
The small issue is that I have to go 25 km back to Olden because the glacier is located in the end of the valley that also happens to be a dead end.
Can’t say I’m sad about it. The valley is so beautiful that I can go back and forth all day long and won’t get tired. Amazingly the sun is still shining!
Guys who’s diary I use for hints say that they stopped in the camping next to Olden. But the weather is way to good to stop. I feel excited, energetic and don’t want to hop off the bike. So I bike further to Loen. The map promises me another valley and another lake.
I bike further. Sun slowly starts to go down, time to look for a good place to sleep. And options do not look any good. There are some campings on the way, but I’m not in the mood to be next to people. I bike for 10 more km or so and notice a nice field on the side of the lake. I think that it’s finally it, but its a field with nettle. Apparently I’m too tired to figure out that right away and burn my legs a bit. Not the best place to sleep.
Further down the road it’s either cliffs that go directly into the lake or some pastries. I’m not very eager to invade someones private land. Finally I find a nice forest next to a river on the side of the lake. Very-very good place. Apart from having to drag my bike through that small forest I’m really excited. As a bonus, right on my to-be camping spot I notice a bunch of big mushrooms. They would be just delicious if I can find willpower to cook them. Yep-yep, I know. Mushrooms can be poisonous. For some reasons people in Europe always freak out when I say that I ate those mushrooms. But I spent all my childhood mushroom picking with my grandpa and apparently Norwegian assortment is pretty much the same as Russian or German.
Ofc I’m WAY too tired to cook anything today. So I put them on the side, somehow miraculously manage to set up my tent before it gets completely dark. I drop dead listening to the sounds of waves, distant noise of the rapid river and wind playing with tree branches.
Everything ends sooner or later. I somehow forgot to mention this, but a couple days ago with the help of one friendly analyst I got a ticket back home. And today is the last day of my ride. On the one hand I’m exhausted. It’s my first time doing this kind of trip alone and 9 days in Norway already start to play tricks with my brain. When I write journal posts everything is nice and easy and funny. In the real life even one day is a very big chuck of time in the foreign environment accompanied by some physical and physiological challenges. It’s pretty easy to get tired of loneliness, even if you are an introvert like me. It’s harder to make yourself move. Brief talks to the strangers does not really help that much. I think for the first time it is enough.
On the other hand, this nice sunny weather and great road valleys…. I don’t really want to go back to my concrete box in the city. But I have to. I have no clue for how long more I can go on. Probably for a while, however I don’t want to test it.
Ok. Enough lyrics!
The night is really cold I even manage to freeze as I bravely fall asleep with my sleeping bag half-open. However the morning welcomes me with fluffy clouds slowly clearing the sky and sun rays playing with the water. This last nice sunny day after all the rains feels like a very mean mockery.
I cook the porridge, pick the most kawai looking mushroom and cook it with the rest of the bacon.
After the mandatory packing I have to get my bike back on the road. I have no clue how I managed to push my bike in the forest so fast yesterday in the twilight. I guess adrenalin. Now I spend a lot of energy dragging it out of the forest. It’s something like 15 km till the exit from the valley and I slowly ride back.
There is absolutely no hurry this time and I can fully enjoy the view and even check out the surroundings a little bit. Also I notice that I was biking uphill all the time yesterday.
The valley looks like the one from yesterday but with more rocky hills around it and much more dense forest.
I can see tiny old houses for boats here and there. Probably when I’d think of Norway, I’ll think of these houses with half-broken roods and old formerly red paint falling of their walls.
The water is still insanely blue decorated with the reflections of the clouds slowly moving in the sky.
I definitely don’t feel like going back to big city…
In the next village I regain Internet connection and check for the optimal route to the airport. To fly back home I need to get to Oslo. Looks like the best option is to go to Stryn and hit the direct night bus to the airport from there. Did I mention that public transport in Norway is amazing? It is. You can comfortably get from any point to any point.
Stryn is pretty close so I just go directly there. Unfortunately the road is not that fun, too many cars, so I just ride 20 km non stop and one hour later I’m walking around Stryn. It’s a pretty big place so I double check bus time at the station, visit some stores to get souvenirs for my friends. And I get myself a cup of the nice hot coffee. Bus leaves at 23:30 so I have the rest of the day.
Stryn happens to be in the beginning of one more valley so I just hop on the bike and for the last time follow the Norwegian road. I don’t know for how long I ride. Couple of hours probably.
Road goes next to the river and on the way I notice this thing, just lonely standing there.
I spend the rest of the day in the improvised camp next to the side of the river, finishing my food stash and reading a book.
Leaving is painful. Sun shines, grass next to the river is so green that my eyes burn… This valley is full of the perfect camping spots, soft grass basically welcomes me to stay. But instead of this I have to stand up and go back to the city, sit in the bus, fly home and end this adventure. These last hours feel like torture.
I repack my stuff into the airplane mode at the bus station and put my bike in the bus.
Another happy driver sells me student’s ticket. I have all night to enjoy the bus ride but luckily I can sleep in all kind of transport apart from the car where I can sick instantly :D. So I close my eyes and wake up when the bus approaches the airport. This shut down gives me a hint that I’m actually incredibly tired. It’s time to fly home.
I pack the bike under the curious looks of other cashiers. I don’t mind people watching me and happy to provide them with some entertainment.
My left pedal screwed in by a nice Norwegian guy earlier does not seem to get lose and neither me nor some guy in checked shirt I ask for help can’t unscrew it. I give up and simply pack my bike without removing the pedal. No one says anything about that and soon my bike stands next to the bulky luggage section with the proper paper attached to handles.
While I’m leisurely shewing my Starbucks sandwich next to the gate fire alarm in the airport goes off. Airport staff with the the expression as not serious as possible starts to evacuate passengers. Obviously the whole thing is a training and I find it amazingly entertaining. Never happened to me before. Me and my sandwich also getting evacuated to the airfield, stand there for a minute and after that the alarm is over. Pretty funny.
The flight is so short that as soon as I close my eyes I can feel the plane landing. My luggage gets there right away but it takes about half of an hour to get the bike. To prove my theory about transparent bike the bulky German guy who deals with luggage carries the bike out super carefully with the confused look on his face. It takes me 10 minutes to unpack and assemble the bike and that’s pretty much it. I’m about to leave the airport and go home.
Feeling very depressed I decide to at least bike home. Soenefeld is only 20 km away anyways, so it’s a good last ride. Back to Berlin flat realities it’s pretty easy and boring to bike. I make a mandatory stop at the soviet monument in Treptower park and one more mandatory stop to buy an ice cream.
And finally, I park my bike in front of my building and carry bags upstairs to my little flat. That’s it. Officially over.
I have nothing to say in the end.
It was great.
I need to train.
I’ll come back next year, don’t know alone or not. The North is calling.
Some gear details//
I solved the issue of route planning by finding a bunch of diaries from the guys who did Norway trips before and decided to start like they did and just to see where the road leads me. No plan, no bounds.
I was interested in the strategy of northern minimalism. Meaning as less stuff as possible but enough to keep me warm and dry. Usually I prefer a super lightweight trips. Unfortunately this time there was no way out. I guessed 90% of the things I took with me correctly. Overall I was pretty happy with the set up.
Here is what I had (bags: Ortlieb city):
First bag (5.2 kg): tent, mat, sleeping bag, stuff for cooking, flashlight, jacket and pants, multi tool, pump and tire patches (i decided not to take any bike parts with me, if something was to happen, i’d just stop a car and ask for help.) I used the red bag for groceries later on.
Second bag (5.7 kg): cloth, medicines, gopro camera, battery, some wires and nexus 7 tablet.
It was around 11 kg in total.
Additionally I had 1,5-2,5 litres of water and about 1,5 kg of food, the bag for the bicycle (800g), dslr camera (heavy as hell) and the helmet.
Reg. food: I did not carry that much and just stopped at supermarkets from time to time to restore the food stack. Mostly bought ham, apples, cheese and some dried fruits or nuts. I had a pack of oatmeal porridge with me as the main dish. Usually once a day I stopped at a cafe for a lunch, the rest of the time I cooked some porridge with ham.
It was something like 15 kg in total plus the stuff I was wearing.
I could and should have reduced the total weight a little by leaving the second pair of shoes and an extra pants at home. Unfortunately it was my first time in Norway and first time doing a trip like this so I did not really know what to expect.
It turn out to be that there was no need in the second pair of shoes. I used them only once. My main pair, 3 years old pair of leather converse sneakers, that served me well on my motorcycle trip to Vietnam, endless bike tours in Europe and even survived the rain in the mountains on Shri-Lanka were good enough as a single pair.
I had two proper parts of the outdoor gear. First one – these amazing pants. When I was checking for waterproof bike pants I learned that they are all expensive, big, and well, expensive. I don’t think I’d have much use for such a pants in my normal life so spending 100 eu on something I don’t need is quite stupid. Then I found this beauty:
20 eu, super light, super small.
The other proper thing was the North Face jacket that I got on a sale for the ridiculously low price.
My top priority for the weight reduction was a tent. I spent the enormous amount of time reading about lightweight options and catching up with the progress. Last time I had to buy a tent was almost ten years ago. I did not want a piece of crap but also did not want to spend a thousand on something fancy like a for example a Hilleberg tent. So I got Vaude Hogan UL Argon. Which performed just astonishing. It is a perfect balance between the price and the quality. The only problem I noticed was that the ventilation is only available through the entrance and sometimes it’s not sufficient so there might be a lot of condensate from your breathing. Which is not a big surprise when you buy a siliconised tent 😀
Also I was really interested to try an esbit stove. I had a normal gas burner, but esbit was something I’d never seen before and I’d definitely try. It is super light, produces a lot of heat, costs 10 eu including the stove and the stove itself can be used as a small wooden stove. So I got that thing to try and I must say I really liked it.
One small problem: I mentioned before that I have Ortlieb city bags. And the lock on these bags assumes that your roll like 1/3 or it which means that a lot of space in the bag is lost. Ortlieb also has touring bags of the same volume but with the better lock. Ofc it was not an option to buy the second pair of bags just for that, so with the help of the rope and 4 carbines I resolved my packing issues. It worked very well and was really easy to use.
Ty for reading 😉
One thought on “Solo cycling through Norway”
Great read and amazing pictures! Makes me want to go right now.