Thoughts at this moment

Craig asked if I wanted to go see the sunset. I said I wasn’t sure. I went anyway.

I walked and watched as the sun turned into a bright glowing orb. Like glass being heated to it’s hottest point, the colour was rich and full of anticipation. I had moments before this spectacle, realised, or perhaps always knew but never said aloud, that we actually had no idea why we were doing this trip. We don’t really know where we are going, why we are going, and what we are trying to discover while we go. There are ideas but nothing fully formed.

But then I thought, what actually matters is that we are going. We are discovering.

And perhaps, like the sun changed to glass that is now dipping below the waves, cooling to take on a new form for the new day, we too will take on a new form at the end of this process.

 

 

Well, since i last posted we have smashed out the kilometres, and have not only dispensed with Oslo, but Stockholm too on our way back south and east.

I’ve always liked having a plan, and part of the trip was to try and let go of that a bit, though its not easy. As we near ‘completion’ of each country, I find myself becoming itchy to get on with it, and get to the next place. It’s not a problem as such, but we have both flagged up the speed in which we move, and whether we are still rushing a little too much.

I loved norway; I can’t remember if I’ve Said it before, but it is the most spectacular and beautiful place I’ve been. That said, by the time we got to our most northerly point, I was desperate to turn around and start heading south again. I’ve tried to have a think about it, I don’t think I felt homesick, truth is, I’d been through a bit of a rough patch, and I guess I just wanted to draw a bit of a line underneath it all. Whatever the reason, we put in some longish stints in the van, and found ourselves high up in a campsite in Oslo days after we were in Kristiansund, our most northerly point.

Oslo was a mixed bag for me, it will be amazing, and we have said we will return, once the building work has finished. I read that an old industrial area (I’m sure it was approximately 1 square kilometre) had come into the hands of the city, and as a result, a large area around the waterfront is in development at the moment. A bit of a shame, though the vision for the future is most impressive, and the architecture is a treat.

The opera house as its centrepiece is complete. A solid wedge of white stone rises from the sea like an iceberg. Walking up the slanted side of the building affords a great view of the harbour and over what will eventually be the new Munch museum, but right now, its covered in cranes and concrete. I loved this building, and the use of space, you could walk all over the roof, makes it a real triumph.

Along the strip is a collection of high rise buildings collectively called the barcode. Designed by a trio of architects, it too is an impressive new pice of architecture in the city, the gaps between being as important as the buildings themselves.

After being relieved of £40 a night to stay on a slightly grim campsite (showers and electric are extra!) we headed off, and over the border. First stop in Sweden is an obvious one. Having been on the road for 2 1/2 months, we have compiled a small list of things we need for the van. And so, to our favourite flatpack outlet, the heart of everything Swedish, the lifeblood of the country, we found ourselves sharpened pencil and tape measure in hand, wandering the yellow (and blue) brick road around Ikea.

Returning with our swag, we needed to replenish food stocks, and so keeping the blue and yellow theme, we were pleased to see that unlike Norway, Sweden has Lidl supermarkets.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned the cost of Norway before, but shopping in Norway is depressing, food is so expensive. I guess a mixture of climate and the fact that so much of the land is un-farmable puts a strain on costs.And the fresh produce you can get your hands on isn’t the best. Hunt the most expensive thing in the shop soon got boring, So now to have a lunch of ciabatta, tomatoes, cheese, cucumber and grapes has been a joy, even if  it is all from the budget German supermarket.

Delighted with our haul of bounty, and able to breathe a sigh of relief that we may well be able to regain control of our spiralling budget, we hopped back in the van, next destination Stockholm.

Throughout Norway

Throughout Norway

The water in Norway has taken my breath away and stolen my heart.

The depth of the fjords, the translucence of the streams, the aquas and turquoise of the rivers and lakes. Not to mention the pale blues of the glacier lakes and the frothy, trubelent whites of the waterfalls. From the outset of our journey into Norway, and consistent all the way through, this element has had the ability to stop me in my tacks and make me gaze at it in admiration and sometimes awe.

Ferry to Norway

The colours of the water change with the light and depth. Like changing moods, they can reflect and effect how you see the landscape around; a very dramatic landscape. Whether the water comes as a large body or narrow strip, is still or moving, frozen or suspended in the air, you can tell that it has shaped this country and perhaps even the people who live here.

We have stayed parked by fjords and watched the water change from a deep blue to an inky green as the sun gets lower and casts it’s golden light on the houses small in the distance on the opposite shore. Below the surface of the water, you can still clearly see seaweeds of various purple hues swaying with unseen currents.

Hike to a glacier in Norway

We have climbed towards glaciers with their blue veins, awesome to see how their slow moving strength carves the landscape of rock. With the glaciers comes the melt water, feeding into pools that are a pale, nearly electric, blue.

We have ventured to swim in the cool glacier pools, with water as still as the surroundings. The reflection like a mirror until a splash from a pale body causes ripples to distort the image. Likewise we have swum in fjords as the sun has progressed towards the horizon, dipping  below the darkening water only briefly to then cast light again a few hours later.

At first you think the water divides Norway; the fjords cut their pathways far inland, the edges of Eastern Norway is made up of many islands, even waterfalls cascade along roads and so have to be accomidated to allow their course to continue.

But then, after many twisting and winding roads, and many, many ferries,

you realise it is part of this land. Like a circulatory system; it brings life to the landscape. From the melting snow at the top, to the he trickles of streams, to the  rushing rivers over white stones, through the calm majestic fjords, right out to the ever changing sea.

It feels like we have experienced all four seasons here. The weather, the landscape, and the water changes so dramatically from one day to the next. Rain and wind, with seas of grey.

Clouds heavy around tall peaks we hiked for amazing views.

And other days full sunshine illuminating waves and distant shorelines.

By traveling in our van, we have spent nearly every night in Norway with a view of some form of water. Calm, dramatic, reflective,

 

Norway’s water makes you stop and reflect.

 

more cycling in norway

following on from the trollstigen, and a great overnight at the visitor centre, allowing for an early morning wander before the coaches arrive, we set off heading for Geiranger. A stunning and gradual roll off the top of trollstigen down to our ferry over to eidsdal and on our way along a beautiful winding road to Geiranger.

We zig-zagged down the 11 hairpin bends of the ornesvingen-eagle road, knowing full well that later I’d be going up (and down) again on my bike. As the cruise ships loomed, and we neared the town it became clear that our plan for a campsite on the water was not what we hoped it might be.

i’m not writing the blog with a view to cause offence, but i am in the business of being honest. As we pulled up in the car park before the entrance to the site, i turned to Liz, and informed her, “I’m not staying here tonight, i need to get out of here, it’s a shithole and its already doing my fucking head in”

fortunatly Liz hastily found us a great little spot about 4km out of the town, sitting in a little bowl up the side of the mountain, the campsite afforded us hot showers, and chance to reset the van, and me the chance to take a cooling dip in the stream that was 20 meters from where we pitched after my epic ride.

Ive tried to describe Geiranger four times, and deleted it each time, but allow me to say, look at the pictures on google, read the descriptions online, but if you ever get the chance to go, don’t bother, really, just don’t. Norway has so much to offer, you don’t need to end up here.

the only positive thing i can think to say, is that it gives you great motivation to leave, and so i did, twice. As mentioned, i climbed the eagle road, which was a punchy bunch of switchbacks which affords a pleasant view from the top, and a fun descent. Switchbacks always allow a good opportunity to mix it with the cars, and i claimed a good few scalps on my way back down.

The following morning i was up fairly early, had my tea and cereal (with extra oats) packed my banana and puncture kit,  and headed back down into the town (which is a shithole by the way). Today, i was going to ride up Dalsnibba. Fortunately my usual casual attitude, and lack of knowing what was coming paid dividends. I set off knowing it is quite a big climb (category 1 no less) but had no idea, it was probably the single largest climb I’ve ever done. Starting at sea level (if you can see it through the cruise ships exhaust fog) it climbs for 20km to a total of 1500 meters above sea level (though for some reason this link and profile stops short https://www.cyclingcols.com/col/Dalsnibba maybe they got cramp :)) as i make my way to the top 2 hours later, and the terrain flattened off, i allowed myself that same moment to enjoy the view, and feel pleased with my effort. Ahead, the lake at the top stretches out before me, and then i see it, the brown tourist sign telling me the viewpoint is 5km to my left…….

the last 5k was 10%, and though I didn’t have much more left, i made it to the top without stopping. Being the great tourist and athlete that i am, i briefly had a glimpse at the view i’d Worked so hard for, ordered and scoffed a hotdog from the catering van at the top, text Liz to say I hadn’t died, and hammered it back down.

Trollstigen

Trollstigen

“And this is the trollstigen” I say, waiting for the page to load on my phone so I can show my cycling mates.

They all acknowledge the image, and my phone goes back on the table as I carry on selling them my pipe dream.

That was last year as I was cycling in the alps. This trip was just beginning to become a reality. The house went on the market after I returned from France, and there was a chance that I meant what I said  back in bourg st Maurice.

366 days later, I take Mabel’s seat off the back of my bike, give the chain a squirt of wd40, swing my leg over the bike and set off. It’s a warm day, but with a stiff breeze blowing. I ride for a while, and though I know the climb is looming, I still cant see it.

The rocks are rising up all around me, the stream tumbling down, and soon I am surrounded, except for 10km of 8%.

I love the foot of a climb. I love the intimidation. Little me is going to go up that huge mountain under my own steam. Am I? I’m not very fit, and it does look steep!

Cars, motor homes, vans and coaches grind their way up the narrow pass, the smell of burning clutches around each hairpin. “Fuck it, its to late now mate, best get on with it!”, I say to myself.

Trollstigen is a wonderful climb. Compact, consistent, and amazing views.

As I near the visitor centre at the top, I briefly allow myself to feel proud; I feel relief, I realise I enjoyed myself, and I get to tank it back down as fast as I can as a reward.

Back at the van, I upload my stats to my garmin account, and in the evening scoff two Daim bars as a little well done to me.

We drove the van up today,

and after we got out to take some snaps at the visitor centre, we climbed back in, and onwards, upwards….eh? hang on, what’s this? It would appear the visitor centre is not at the top of the climb, non?

“Oh for fucks sake” I say to Liz, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. “It doesn’t count”. Liz is looking around thinking of photo opportunities, then we both say almost simultaneously “We could stay here tonight, and travel on tomorrow”

And so it was; I got to do the troll ladder all over again. This time reaching the top.