Day 6 - Ulvik to Gudvanger & er, that's it...

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September 4th 2008
Published: September 4th 2008
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Thursday 4th September

There is another contender vying with Norwegian post card photographer for easiest job in the world. Norwegian weather forecaster. If you predicted rain every day you'd be wrong less than 10%!o(MISSING)f the time which is a far better ratio than the venerable Michael Fish. No wonder Munch painted the Scream. Jesus, did it p1ss down today. Most days it has rained (the memory of a sunny day in Bergen all but forgotten) but at least to date you got the odd break in the rain and occasionally even a bit of sun, but today it just hosed it down all day.

Set off from Ulvik towards Voss and even though I knew it was right out of the hotel decided to trust the TomTom which was showing left. Initially I was glad I did as the road climbed high above the fjord with rewarding views. (No pics as it was raining too hard.) But quickly the road deteriorated to a badly surfaced single track, with knife edge hairpins. The combo of the road surface, vertical hair pins with no room to get round them, pouring rain and the loaded bike meant I decided to wimp out and head back the other way - cursing the TomTom, or now more aptly christened TossToss. It was do-able but it was painfully slow, mostly in 1st gear and would have just taken too long.

Anyway if you ask me hairpins are over-rated, even in the dry. I love the bends like any biker but I do not see the attraction in going round a 180° corner where the road is pitched way above your head at a 45°+ incline and with no real gap between the two parallel road surfaces. Try and get your knee down round that. Give me a flowing 90° bend on the level any day, or a 180° one but with room to ride the bike round it. The roads here in general are loaded with flowing bends and are fantastic - so you can poke your hairpins. As far as I am concerned it is another one of those biking myths - we are all conditioned to believe that hairpins are the holy grail. Probably propagated by the same tosser who managed to convince everyone that the Arai visor system is exemplary.

Voss came up in about a rain soaked hour. I managed to convince myself I needed fuel, with 72 miles remaining, because I needed a cuppa. I was cold - it was still about 8°, so warm enough when stationary but cold when riding in wet gear.

The Tourag suit hasn't been bad to be fair, but is only waterproof with the lining in. Why? Why not put the gore-tex layer in the outer suit? Berghaus don't make coats that make you have to stick in the fleece layer to be waterproof so why can't Hein Gericke? The lining also doubles as a warm layer so if it is mild and wet you can choose to be soaked through but cool by leaving the lining out, or soaked through by your own sweat with it in - choice. Obviously today and from what it seems the rest of Norway it is a non-issue, but because the outer layer gets soaked through the heat to evaporate it comes from your body, meaning that you get cold fairly quickly. My feet and hands were also far from comfortable. The boots, Alpinestar SMX3 Gore Tex, have been superb but their life at 5 years old I think is coming to a close - they are now as waterproof as a sieve. Again to be fair scraping the toes back at a recent Ron Haslam track day has probably done little to preserve their waterproof nature (so that's why you need to keep your feet tucked in on track). Anyway the net result is my feet have been swilling around in water for the last three days (and actually are starting to rot - hmm choice again!) Gloves are Alpinestar drystar which again are sold as waterproof but really only to a point. If I'd wanted gloves that were “water-but-only-if-it-doesn't-pour-proof” then that is the label I would have looked for.

I had considered staying in Voss to either mountain bike, hike or white water raft or do something more active than sitting on the bike, but the weather was so disgusting I decided to push onto Gudvangen from where I could get the ferry to Kaupanger where I would probably stay - there or a few miles up the road at Sogndal, the start of the Sognefjellet road. I forgot to check the ferry times before I set off.

It was still pouring and I was just starting to feel cold, when I came through a longish tunnel into the most amazing scenery I think I have ever seen. I even exclaimed “unbe-f*cking-lievable” out loud into my helmet. Such a b*stard that it was raining so heavily, there was no way I could get the SLR out, but I took a couple of pics with the crappy-snappy. As hopefully some of my pictures will have started to illustrate the fjords are awesome, but this was mega. The mountains on either side of the road completely dwarfed you - with great sheer sides, laced with the low cloud and waterfalls gushing down them, literally every 30-40 yards. It was crash-inducingly mesmerising. A bit like riding down the Kings Road in high summer, but unlike the scenery on offer there you don't end up donating your life savings when you pass through. I slowed to absorb it all - if God created a road for scenery then this was it. I completely forgot the weather and my body temperature and gulped in the magnificent surroundings. I have ridden in the Alps and Pyrenees and both are superb, but this blew me away.

The road was over all too quickly and I was then at Gudvangen and the ferry port which looked disconcertingly quiet. There was no ferry terminal, as I found out later you paid on the boat. But as of the 1st September the service to Kaupanger had been cut from 4 per day to one at midday, and it was now 3 pm. Arse. The elation of the road now behind me and the reality that I'd made a pigs ear of this made me remember how cold I was and I started to shiver. I was only wearing a thin technical (wicking layer) top underneath the Tourag. I inquired about the camping nearby, well more accurately the Hyttes that they have over here which are basic cabins at most of the camp sites, and also gingerly about the hotel and at 1200Kr/night (£120) it was too much - although she said I could stay for 900Kr. I just mentioned in passing that I had the Fjord pass and the rate plummeted to 690Kr. Work that out?! The thing only cost a tenner and it lasts a year. Mr Lonely Planet should be reminding you on every page to get one, but they are not mentioned - tosser. Anyway Hyttes are about 450-500Kr/night but this included brekky. It was a no-brainer. And the room is awesome - a great double bed with a reindeer skin on it. Best £69 I've ever spent - I just dived straight in the shower and sat under it for 10 minutes to warm up.

Tomorrow I will back track up the road to take some pictures, hopefully, before setting off on the ferry. Now off to get some nosebag and to upload this to the blog.


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