Jul 15, 2010

The Snow Road and the rain road

Just sitting on our butts day in, day out

The Snow Road

I finished the lazy day of idling away my time in the sun by dipping into a cold fjord, then plonked myself back on the saddle and off we went again. The next morning greeted us with a very heavy climb, with no alternative options available. We wouldn't have taken them anyway - this was The Challenge we had been dreading since the first stages of planning this bike trip.

The first 10km climb from 0m to ~900m altitude was the absolute hardest either one of us has ever done on a bike. It took us two hours to reach the mountain lodge in Turtagrø and as if the climb itself wasn't hard enough, hundreds of flies were constantly buzzing around our heads, while we were giving everything we had to drag ourselves uphill, half a turn of a pedal at a time. The sun was shining and the wind was not strong enough to blow the nasty beasts away. No way could we have gone faster or sweated less. Soon after reaching Turtagrø, we couldn't help but smile broadly, seeing a racing biker crawling up, cursing the flies more than the gradient. We weren't the only nuts on the road.

We recovered from the morning push for about two hours, by vegetating on the soft couches of the cafe, watching all those exhausted hikers walking in for coffee. I was drooling over the mountain views on the postcards and dreaming about conquering some glaciers or even just starting by reading through their most amazing library of the mountaineering books, written by well-known climbing heroes such as sir Edmund Hillary. I made a resolution to come back here once more. Last year - car; this year - bike; next year - hiking boots?

The moment came when we needed to go on. 10km is no distance, even if it takes 2 hours at near maximal effort, and we had another couch waiting for us almost on the other side of the Jotunheimen massif. It took us countless more hours to pedal up to the highest point of the Sognefjellsvegen - 1434m. There was a moment where I found pushing the bike for a few metres easier on the back and more comfortable on the feet, although an at least twice slower way to move on: a small difference in body position made a huge difference for a moment. My excuse was that the cold arctic wind blowing across the glaciers was shoving me off the road, which was true some of the time.

Finally, we reached the top, after having taken another moment to rest and snack on almonds and raisins in the warmth of the second mountain lodge up on 1415m. The earlier stripping break had deceived us into being warm for only a short while. For once, we asked someone else to take our picture on the obligatory photo point. The "someone" happened to be eager French messieurs, who - like many other drivers who honked at us appreciatively while we climbed - were so euphoric to see les filles les plus courageuses du monde!, that they showered us with chocolate, bread and kisses. Gotta love the French! Who else would know better how to feed some exhausted hungry bikers, than the French with their chocolate bread! Yum! From then on, it was a fast downhill ride on the road wriggling between impressive, majestic, gently green, misty mountains. I shouted with glee and I love my brakes! escaped from my lips far too many times.

We arrived at the farm deep down in a sunny valley on a side road just in time for cow slaughtering. The young German couple, their cute baby and many cows welcomed us with warm smiles, hot tea and more chocolate. What more could you wish from life?

The rain road

The next stage - to Trondheim, as fast as possible - felt like a job we just had to get done. The urgency was further pronounced by the extremely variable Norwegian weather turning vile again in Otta. The busy E6 was no pleasure to cycle on. We stopped in Dombås and sat in a cafe for about 3 hours, safe from the cold, bleak, windy, rainy, sad weather, hoping for the sun to come out again. It seemed as if the weather could get worse only if the rain started falling horizontally, so we finally had to give up hope and push forward.

Keeping our heads down and eyes on the tarmac, we didn't even notice that we had climbed up to the snow level again, onto about 1000m high plateau. The only clue to the altitude was the biting cold. Like drowned rats, we asked permission to sit in a hotel for an hour in the evening, and thaw out. Meanwhile, the rain that had calmed a little, caught up on us. It rained so hard that the water was bouncing back up to where it came from, and we still needed to keep going, if only to drop some altitude and find a warmer place to stay than out there side by side with the sledgedogs.

We felt that if anyone, at any point, should take pity on us and invite us in, then this would be the proper moment. Admittedly, the views would have been superb, if only the scenery had not been cloaked in a white, opaque shroud. The way across these mountains was historically a popular pilgrim path and the area used to be infamous for its harsh, inhospitable conditions. Before the car was invented, a large proportion of travellers never made it to Trondheim. It didn't improve too much even when the King's Road (where the E6 lies now) was built. The commuters in their cars didn't forget to encourage us...

Having slid another 25km downhill with no prospect of drying out, we decided that we would knock on the door of the first building we saw and ask for shelter, even though it was past 11pm. However, before seeing any house, we arrived at a lay-by which had a big, clean, heated toilet that became our hotel room for the night. I slept very well.

The next day we cycled with shorter breaks to arrive in Trondheim by the evening - a day ahead of schedule - and have two days off. It was especially important for me, because I had caught cold and needed to sleep it out before it gets too bad. Our couchsurfing host picked me up after we had done 136.61km, and drove me to her big ancient family farm that I would rather call a mansion. Alice cycled another 15km without the luggage (I had to skip this for health considerations). In this utterly beautiful, comfortable palace we have delighted in this dynamic and fascinating hunters family. Norwegians are great hunters. I was proudly presented a frozen furry fox roadkill, not to mention the more usual trophies. Today we've been stuffing our bellies with moose meat spaghetti bolognese, strawberries & cream, lots of tea... and we are looking forward to the city tour and a campfire night with Baileys and toasted marshmallows tomorrow.


Day 10: 49.89km - easy evening ride to Skjolden, camping in the centre of the town;

Day 11: 55.08km - the hardest and slowest day, climbing from 0m to 1434m on the snow road 55, couchsurfing in a tiny farm down in a valley;

Day 12: 101.05km through Lom to Otta, camping in a schoolyard;

Day 13: 105.2km, following E6 across a very inhospitable plateau, camping in a toilet;

Day 14: 136.61km (Triin) or 151.62km (Alice), on E6 to Byneset near Trondheim, couchsurfing in a big farm;

Day 15 & day 16: off the saddle;

Total distance cycled in 14 days: 1164.64km


Anonymous said...

Can I ask u what are u doing half-naked in the mountains? Maybe special islandic technique to be warm into the sleeping bag?

Triin said...

We're deceiving our bodies into thinking that it is warm with the clothes on...

Katrjuss said...

Triin! sul ei ole enam juukseid! väga äge soeng!!

beth said...

such lovely photos you take Triini :)