Jul 10, 2010

Norway from the inside

Our first rest day was followed by a half a day off, doing “household” tasks like baking oatmeal cookies and sending superfluous luggage, such as an extra saddle, home. Then, we took our first ferry across to Tau and made the first small detour to cycle to the famous Preikestolen rock. Specifically – to cycle until the parking lot, leave the bikes under the watchful eye of the hotel receptionists and hike up and down the mountains. Half way up was a swimming spot. If the weather had been much better, we could have taken a quick dip and called it a triathlon day.

Once up, we saw pretty much nothing in the blanket of thick, swirling mist, except for some very fat German tourists crawling up the cliffs. They made me feel sorry but at the same time happy to be comparatively fast, light and healthy. The cold, heavy rain proved that the “hurricane” slogan splashed across the sleeve of my 'waterproof' jacket is perhaps a rather exaggerated claim.

The sixth day welcomed us with 7 pitch black tunnels in the first 11 kilometers, one of which we passed shrieking with fear, Alice gripping her headlamp between her teeth in an attempt to scream less. However, we toughened up by the evening in the following 7 tunnels, and when we hit the first of the 19 tunnels the next morning, we welcomed it happily. We even started putting together the package of tunnel-friendly songs to get the most fun out of the acoustic properties of the underground. Sadly, one of the few songs that I can sing – Gollum's Song – has not made it onto the shortlist: rejected by Alice for being far too chilling and creepy.

In addition to passively observing the mountains from the inside and outside, we got to chat to and make friends with some cheery tunnel workers. First, we were stopped on the road to wait for some loose rocks to be removed from the side of the mountain. After having seen some of what the Norwegians casually refer to as “stones” - in fact huge chunks of cliff the size of my bike - flying down from the heavens, I take the warning signs more seriously (and try not to think about them). Another day, we had just merrily cycled through the 17 tunnels, enjoying the protection from the wind and rain that they offer, when we had to climb up a supposedly stunningly beautiful mountain pass. It snaked relentlessly uphill, letting the eyes of the drivers rest on the numerous waterfalls while their hands are busy numbly steering the wheel from the left to the right and back again. On that particular day, it was all wrapped in thick clouds and we pedaled hard into the white void for 40 minutes. Once we reached the top, we saw all the traffic being redirected across the summit, because the tunnel ahead was being repaired. Luckily, the tunnel carvers didn't have the heart to make us do the horribly steep detour. Instead, they made us wait a little bit, leaving us the opportunity to learn some titbits about their work, then stuffed our bikes into their little vans and drove us 6km through the tunnels. Then, wind in our ears, thin stripes of light blue sky above, green hills, dark blue foaming water and white rags of small clouds hanging below, we dashed downhill into the amazingly beautiful valley that surrounded Odda.

When asking Norwegians about the oncoming road profile – is it climbing or not – the information should be treated with extreme caution. If they say that it's flat, it usually means low hills. When they say it climbs, then this translates as steep hairpin curves, where cars crawl carefully up and down, trying to pass each other when they meet, without pushing anyone across the edge. When they say that it will climb a little bit, it could mean literally anything. We were prepared for a “little” hairpin climb before Voss, and were surprised how easily it was be done. I was proud of myself for not having to use the lowest gear anywhere but on the bends. The next “real climb” was after a ski station in the mountains the next morning, but the “it climbs a little bit” just before and after it meant 10km of sneaky uphills late in the evening and early the next morning. We call the long gradual rise “sneaky”, because at some point one's own eyes cannot be trusted – when the eyes confirm the definite downhill, only too often it actually means going straight up. Sneaky hills are the most evil climbs.

I won't tell you the personal speed record we broke, when racing dowhill on the long straight road to Vik after crossing the bright green mountain pass at snow level. You must come, try and find it out yourself.


Day 5: 42km of cycling and 3 hours of hiking, Tau-Preikestolen-Tau & a bit more.

Day 6: 102.64km, starting from Tau, going on the road 13 with a half-intentional detour through Sand. Crossing the fjord from Hjelmeland to Nesvik.

Day 7: 105km, following the road 13 through Odda.

Day 8: 95.46km, crossing the fjord from Utne to Kvanndal, cycling across the mountains on road 13 through Voss.

Day 9: 92.62km, still cycling across the mountains, crossing the Sognejord from Vangsnes to Hella, stopping after Sogndal.

Total distance cycled in 9 days: 701.8km


irve said...

Tore lugeda, et elus ja väntate. Meie lebotame Birkas ja kasutame võimalusi viikingilaevadega purjetada.

beth said...

I love the idea of you singing "Gollum's song" while pedalling through some Norwegian tunnel somewhere, (although I can understand if Alice objects to the creepiness!) missing you girlies xx