As I write this blog I’m on the ferry crossing The Baltic Sea from Umea to Vaasa. It’s been a wild and adventurous month in Norway, full of stunning beauty and spectacular nature. With nearly 2000km ridden in Norway (a third of my total distance), I hope I’ve captured the host of experiences with the following photographic collection. From the mountains and fjords to The Arctic Circle, Norway became my cycling dreamland!
In one week I rode five mountain passes, including the famous Sognefjellet mountain pass. At 1434 metres above sea level (and of course you start at the fjords water’s edge so you feel each metre on the saddle), it is the highest road in all of Northern Europe. Most of these roads are only opened seasonally, and I was really lucky to arrive at some passes that had only been completely cleared of snow on the previous week. The mountain passes were stunning, and the hard riding predictably brought the greatest scenery.
Norway is simply a camper’s paradise. Unlike many other nations in Europe, in Norway you are allowed to pitch the tent almost anywhere as long as you leave after two nights and don’t leave a trace. My favourite campsites were those amongst the spectacular mountains, ideally with nearby glacial meltwater to supply me with an endless supply of pristine water!
After leaving Aurland late in the afternoon and climbing a set of twelve switchbacks I found myself stranded and utterly exhausted on the top of a snowy mountain pass. For the first time both myself and my gear camped in the chilly snow. In spite of the cold bum, I managed to sleep thirteen hours until 1pm the following afternoon!
As I rode each day in Norway I soon learnt that what goes up must come down! The Eagle Road near Geilanger is named for its sheer height, and it is supposed that before it was built only eagles could enjoy such views. The switchbacks zigzagged straight up the face of mountains, and it was always a moment of euphoria when I finally reached the summit. As well as such gruelling climbs I experienced some thrilling descents, such as the collection of switchbacks at Trollstigen.
The world famous fjords of Norway were truly stunning. The snow capped mountains fall deep into the clear waters below, providing breathtaking panoramic views. But you can be the judge of that…
The race to The Arctic Circle
After the mountainous region of Norway a new challenge had to be tackled in the form of an epic race to The Arctic Circle. Jon Maiden, leaving from his home in Yorkshire, managed to hitch hike an impressive 2000 miles in just six days to beat me by 96km. Along the way he faced a multitude of challenges, and spread the word across Europe about the fantastic work of AICR. For my part I rode sixteen hours on-and-off the bike to cover 195km, so I’m calling it a draw! My soon to be published short video captures this mammoth ride.
It was really satisfying finally reaching The Arctic Circle Centre along the E6, achieving my first major goal of this two year cycling adventure. As I spoilt myself inside the centre with refill coffees and a waffle, the words of Winston Churchill came to my mind;
‘This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning’
Norway is full of long dark terrifying tunnels, many of which are out of bounds for cyclists. On one particular day I had over fourteen kilometres of tunnels, the largest of which was 4.2km. As I didn’t have very strong lights I had to scramble quickly into the rocky sides every time I heard the monstrous echo or ominous lights approach from behind me. It was by far one of the most frightening and exhilarating experiences of my life!
I’m happy to say that reindeer really do exist, and thankfully they are usually happy to have a smelly cyclist walk up to them for a closer encounter. I also couldn’t believe my luck when I saw a bear on the edge of the woods; it was an extremely rare sighting. It took a couple weeks of scanning the roadside as I peddled, but when I finally spotted my first elk they kept appearing each day. Their somewhat out of proportion figure and bizarre strut always put a smile on my face.
My rear wheel has now had six spokes broken, and I’m anxiously riding south to try and reach an affordable bike shop in Eastern Europe. My wheels need to be upgraded for the rough road surfaces through Central Asia. In this picture I had snapped four spokes when I descended down a gravel cycling path in the Arctic Circle town of Mo i-Rana.
When I did get a moment off the bike in Norway, I subjected myself to some demanding walks to visit the glaciers of Norway. The first of these involved a magnificent walk along Austerdalsbreen inside Jostedalsbreen National Park. It took an 80km detour and a six hour walk, but the mountainous valley to reach the largest glacier in Europe was breathtakingly beautiful.
I also visited the glacial tongue of Svartisen glacier (Austerdalsisen) with Jon maiden. It was a really special moment walking to the glacier with a simultaneous midnight sunset and sunrise; and we were brave enough to briefly walk along the treacherous icy surface for a quick photo.
At the weekend markets in Vinjeora I met Jarle Auset, an adventurer who had spent four years driving between Capetown and the North Cape. Since his 12, 000 mile journey he has written and published a fabulous book about his travels, and it was great to share a moment with him to exchange stories from the road. If you happen to read Norwegian I really recommend you order yourself a copy of his fantastic book (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On the Norway Swedish border above The Arctic Circle I met Peter and Michael from the Czech Republic, and together we have joined forces to cycle all the way to Helsinki. It has been great to share the road with other cycle tourers, and as we are able to pool together our gear and supplies we have been able to enjoy campsite fires each evening.
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” Jawaharial Nehru
To see my more of my cycling images of Norway please click here.