Published: July 5th 2008July 5th 2008
Well okay I'm not quite in Bodø just yet. Got about 120km to go - so I'll be there tonight. From there, it's a 4 hour ferry to Moskenes in Lofoten and conveniently there are ferries leaving at midnight so I'll catch the overnighter (except of course there is no night up here as I've already crossed the Arctic Circle) and have my last two days cycling on Lofoten. I've already worked out that if I get to Svolvær there's a bus to Narvik on the morning of the 8th which makes my train connection to Stockholm with an hour and a half to spare. As according to the Lonely Planet Narvik is Norway's ugliest city this should be about right! There is a ski lift 5 mins walk from the centre but alas the season will be over now... maybe next winter!
Back to the last few days. No photos today as I can't get the computer to accept my memory card (i'm in Meløy bibliotek - some i'm thankful that a) the library's open, b) they even have internet). Well I left Trondheim with the sun shining and a little tailwind on a mission to meet Nuno in
a place 25km down the coast called Stjørdal. Well how things changed as I passed through a small town called Hell (some parts of my body tell me I've been through there before though!) the heavens opened. Just in time I got the station and there waiting was Nuno. We piled into the waiting room, and watched in relative warmth and dryness some of the heaviest rain of the trip. What looked like a brief storm in the end lasted the 3 hours till my bus to Namsos arrived. It was great to catch up with Nuno and hear his side of the story cycling up the other side of Norway. Apparently he had a slightly more relaxed ride, and spent several days fishing (bought himself a fishing rod, but so far failed to catch anything) and hiking/mountaineering (he did bring his ice-axe all the way from switzerland and not just for fending of wild boar). At least he got bad rain too though and he told me he had to spend two days inside his tent! Well I'd imagined that we might have a beer out in the sun on our final meeting, but it was not to be.
Just Narvesson coffee and bread and cheese for lunch (courtesy of Nuno) stuck inside the station waiting room. It was a hurried farewell when the bus finally came (it almost drove straight off without me) on account of the rain. Poor Nuno, he had to find a place to camp in it that night.
Well I've never been so happy with cheating as I was on the bus. I think I definitely chose the best 2 day stretch to miss out. I don't know whether it was just the weather, but the scenery by Norwegian standards was very agricultural and uninspiring, till the final few turns into Namsos, when it became more dramatic albeit still in the rain.
The night I hurried out of Namsos to pitch the tent in the first sensible place. I had a nice view down a fjord and the rain finally died out by early morning. Queue the last 4 days of bright blue skies and temperatures hitting 25 degrees - a rarity this far north! So onwards I've biked following Highway 17 pretty much all the way. The Highway is interspersed with ferry crossings every 20-30km which breaks up the trip nicely
(except when you just miss a ferry and have to wait 2 hours for the next one!) and amazingly the road is pretty much flat, even though the mountains all around are as high and more spectacular than ever. So much so in fact that my 'must get the camera out and take a photo' sensor barely notices any view below stupendous rating. Have been Norway-ed out?? Sometimes I feel like it...
On the subject, I've definitely been feeling a bit like I've had enough of the road. Constantly packing and unpacking the tent (why does the stuff sack have to be that little little bit too small??) cooking on billy cans (though i've perfected the art of healthy eating, carrots and broccoli), the terrible smell of my socks in the tent, endless light though the night, being hounded by midges, and putting on a slightly (understatement) sweaty cycle top every morning. Not to mention the cycling. One last quibble while I'm quibbling is that unlike how I'd imagined it - braving the wild north of norway - this part of norway is well cultivated, farms and villages everywhere. It's not like the north of scotland where you really
can be on your own. I heard you really have to get beyond Tromsø for that... oh well, next trip maybe.
Anyway on the road north there've been many highlights. The first really stupendous view comes at Vendesund. From there you can see countless islands and mountains stretching into the distance. You can see Torghatten, the mountain with a hole right through. Now you can't pass a mountain with a hole in it without taking the hike up to investigate which I did (extra 30km round trip from Bronoysund). Alas it seems you can only see straight through the hole from distance out to see with the orientation of it. But the short hike up and through the hole was well worth it. Amazing! I'm not sure how it formed, but there's some Nordic folklore about trolls which says that one evil troll wanted 7 beautiful troll sisters (this was all explained to me by a very friendly guy with his wife and small baby + campervan on one of the ferry). The sisters ran away so the evil troll shot an arrow at them. A passing good troll threw his cap in the air. The arrow pierced the
cap and was deflected. But while all this was happening the sun had come up and all the trolls (and their clothing) turned to stone. The cap became Torghatten and the sisters became the 7 Sisters mountain range (more on that). My Norwegian friend couldn't remember the mountains the other two trolls turned into. I had an amazing campsite right by the water that night next to two small islands connected by land bridges. I hopped and skipped over the water to the closest one and checked it out for places to camp. In less than 5 mins I just decided to camp there and turned back - hopping and skipping was no longer possible and Ihad to get my feet wet to get back across to the mainland. I decided it'd be best to camp on the mainland side after all. In the morning I packed up happy at my campsite all on my own and rounded the corner back to the road to be met by the naked rear end of an gnarly german cycle tourist. He looked a bit embarassed to be caught like that and once full clad deflected the conversation onto the compatibility of UK
wheel rim sizes.
Leaving the ferry that I met this friendly couple later that day (the most amazing ferry journey on account of the scenery and the absolute stillness of the water), already 10:30pm, I bumped into a couple of female bike tourers. Now there's a first! We chatted a bit about our trips. They were Norwegian and doing the north to south cycle. I told them to their surprise that the far south was hardest bit. They were going to sleep in the ferry waiting room for the first ferry in the morning, and I sensed that 3 might be a crowd so cycled another couple of miles and found a nice forest again by the water and under the looming 7 Sisters mountain range.
The next morning I cycled under the Sisters - another amazing view (you'll have to wait for the photos to go up) and into Sandnesjøen. There I opted for an express boat to some of the small islands nearby. In the end I visited both Træna and Lovund and managed to cut out half a day's cycle up the coast in so doing (but spent a day doing it, so lost half
a day overall). Træna is the most amazing island group you've ever seen. Huge towering cliffs and I camped right at the viewpoint (just below it so as to get some early morning shade) overlooking the whole island. That evening I did a small hike up a mini tower at one end of the island (the road from end to end is only 2 miles long) which had some hairy bits, looking 50m down into the sea below. I'd hoped I might find a pub somewhere (in fact Træna has a now famous music festival every year and also lots of winter student workers in the fish industry) but I didn't. Just as well probably as the only ferry off the island yesterday was the 6:20am. That dropped me off at Lovund, famed for it's puffins. I had a look for puffins, but fell asleep halfway up the mountain instead (despite some very noisy ravens). As I woke I saw a group of puffins fly over, but none stopped near me.
It was the slow ferry off Lovund to the mainland at Sokkvagen and then 2 more ferries interspersed with more amazing scenery yesterday afternoon and evening. I passed
through the longest tunnel of the trip (3.2km) but it was lit and all downhill so no problem at all! And now just another 120km to Bodø. Better get going! There's the worlds largest maelstrom at Saltstraumen which i'm hoping to intercept at 19.49 (it happens every 6 hours and I just looked up the timetable online) this evening (it's about 20km before Bodø). It's formed as sea water rushes through a narrow gap between fjords and I think the road bridge goes right over it.
Day 36- Trondheim to Stjørdal, Namsos to Sørenget - 30/6
Dist (miles): 30.29
Ave speed (mph): 12.1
Max speed (mph): 27.5
Time on saddle: 2h29
Day 37- Sørenget to Vendesund - 1/7
Dist (miles): 76.49
Ave speed (mph): 11.8
Max speed (mph): 32.5
Time on saddle: 6h29
Day 38- Vendesund to Tjøtta - 2/7
Dist (miles): 67.73
Ave speed (mph): 12.1
Max speed (mph): 28.0
Time on saddle: 5h36
Day 39- Tjøtta to Træna - 3/7
Dist (miles): 30.85
Ave speed (mph): 11.4
Max speed (mph): 24.5
Time on saddle: 2h41
Day 40- Træna to Vassdalsvik - 4/7
Dist (miles): 50.91
Ave speed (mph): 11.5
speed (mph): 32.5
Time on saddle: 4h24
Day 41- Vassdalsvik to Bodø - 5/7
Dist (miles): 75.67
Ave speed (mph): 11.4
Max speed (mph): 32.0
Time on saddle: 6h35
There are more photos below