Hello to everyone from beautiful Oslo, Norway.
I am writing this a second time as my efforts to spell check the document resulted in the loss of what was perhaps one of our best reports so here goes again.
When we last wrote we were on our way from Aberdeen, Scotland to Bergen, Norway. The bikes were not going with us as they had left on a truck some couple of days ago from Inverness destined by ferry for Norway. The flight to Bergen was on a commercial service and was one tine and very enjoyable. There was a choice of two flights and we chose the early one so as to get in a partial days sightseeing in Bergen.
On arrival in wet and rainy Bergen it was off in a bus to our evenings accommodations a youth hostel where we were put up four to a room with some enjoying two to a room c/w private bath. We ended up miles from the toilets and showers, which while not a problem for me, was a definite bummer for Mary.
We took a bus to town along with a number of other riders and began our sightseeing efforts. After getting soaked from the horizontal falling rain we decided to call it quits. All we accomplished was a quick tour of the harbor, a visit to the tourist information center, a drink of hot chocolate and the purchase of the most expensive 1/2 dozen cookies in the world. We gave up on the idea and boarded a bus for a return to the hostel to dry out and ready ourselves for the next days ride.
Dinner was scheduled for 6:00 to 8:00PM and since the lineup was already started in earnest by 5:30 we decided to wait until around 7:00PM to eat. Dinner was the national food of Norway, pasta with red sauce, and while tasty did not seem very creative. Our hats off to the hostel staff who were preparing the meal.
Bergen to Risnes, 95km
After an adequate breakfast it was into our rain gear and off for our first ride in Norway. Today's ride would see us riding past some beautiful scenery on excellent road. There was some climbing along the route but nothing killing. The farmers of Norway had decided today was the day to spread liquid manure accumulated over the past few months. For those suffering sinus problems they were soon cleared up, truly a day for fresh country smells.
We had a 1/2-hour ferry crossing later in the day and continued on to our final destination, the school grounds surrounding a local school. As we have done over the past few months we decided on alternate accommodations and shared a cabin with four others. The cabin was unique in as much as the roof was covered in grass and trees, a picture for our archives.
The dinner was at the school and was prepared by the parents. The meal was excellent and was followed by entertainment and a brief history of the region and its people. It was an opportunity to talk with the locals and we got an excellent insight into the region in discussions with the mayor's wife, a teacher at the school. Would you believe no more than 400 students to a school, and no class over 12?
After the entertainment Tim Kneeland announced that for those interested the Russia option was on and if there were more than 25 interested it would be a go. The only catch was we would have to pay again for the privilege. In respect of our guests who were still present there was no discussion or questions posed concerning this latest turn of events.
Risnes to Forde, 145km
Following a wonderful breakfast prepared by our hosts it was off on our modified ride to Forde. We along with others chose a ride that took us along beautiful lakes, up hill and down dale to the next ferry crossing. The only downer was a 0.8km tunnel that was unlit and dropped away after you entered. We now have a new respect for dark tunnels and will approach future ones cautiously. There are perhaps more tunnels per square mile in Norway than any other country some extremely long.
Arrived at the ferry, which had been described, on the route guide as running every one or two hours but on an irregular basis to find out we were faced with a 2+ hour wait for the next ferry. What we also were surprised to find out is that the schedule is known and is posted and by sharing this info with the riders we could have avoided the dilemma we all faced when the ferry would not take all cyclists. This was a function of life jackets. As a result 40+ riders were left behind to wait for the next ferry some 90 minutes later. As luck would have it the weather deteriorated and those left behind had to ride in cold Norwegian rain.
We chose to share an apartment in Forde on the harbor along with four others and returned for dinner. Dinner was held in a canteen over a Volkwaron dealer and consisted of food that had long since gotten cold and very little in the way of protein for those vegetarians. One rider called the dinner monochrome, white.
Forde to Sogndal, 128km
We awoke to the pitter-patter of rain, which by the time we had consumed breakfast, had diminished to a fine mist with some breaks appearing in the morning sky. The decision was made that we would split the ride with our friends and they drew the short straw and rode first, while we drove their car. As luck would have it they got the drizzle and the hill from hell we got the clearing skies and rolling terrain that tandem riders love.
At the halfway point and surrounded by snow we mounted our bike to start the ride into camp leaving the car to be picked up by our friends. We started with a 10km steep, twisting downhill which was made more exciting when the front tire decided to instantly relieve itself of air. This resulted in some tense moments and the use of a few words that I am sure shocked the sheep peacefully grazing on the mountainside. The remainder of the ride was beautiful and included numerous waterfalls and snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. Scenery to die for.
Arrived at the sport complex in Songdal, which is a massive indoor football field, where the riders could pitch their tents. Some chose to pitch tents while others slept on the bleachers minus the privacy of a tent, some even pitched their tents outdoors as they needed space from the noise and snoring.
When we arrived the daily white board containing information had posted on it a piece of paper outlining the Russian option and the costs associated with same. There was also a disclaimer that TK&A would not subsidize the cost. Since Russia was always on the itinerary we find it rather distasteful to now be advised it is an option, which we can exercise at our additional expense. On principal Mary & I will not participate, choosing to return at a later date to visit Russia. This disturbing turn of events does not bode well for the future countries such as China and Vietnam, we trust it is not repeated.
Dinner was held at the sports complex and consisted of a gelatinous mass of what was once pasta and a runny brown substance that was designed to add either taste or colouring to the food. Colour it did, taste it did not. There were plenty of fresh vegetables, no bread, no desert and liquids consisting of water or water. A truly memorable meal.
And yes we did sleep in a local hotel, hot showers, comfortable bed and a breakfast to die for.
Songdal to Gol, 120km
After arriving at the ferry terminal we decided that we would join our friends who were going to take an alternate ferry down a longer fjord that went to a town whose name escapes me. The fjord narrowed to 200m and we were looking up the sheer rock faces in awe of truly spectacular scenery. Following a nice lunch it was off in the car to climb the mountain through numerous long tunnels, around winding roads and past one of the worlds largest hydro facilities an engineering masterpiece.
At the summit we were greeted by moon like landscape, snow, no trees and scrub grass a remarkable change from the lush flora and fauna of the valley. Our intentions were to ride but in light of the time 2:30PM and the distance, 100+kms we decided not to, and drove into Gol with our friends.
The evening's campground was rather muddy therefore we, along with a number of others, decided to seek accommodations in Gol. Once again we shared an apartment, this one built for the Olympics, with four other riders. In light of the preceding night's dinner we opted to indulge in local cuisine.
Overnight it rained heavily and was drizzling in the early morning hours.
Gol to Oslo,
While the TK&A route was designed to take two more days to get to Oslo a 140+km to Hokksund and a 65+km ride to Oslo, we along with many others, about 50 to be exact, went direct to Oslo, some by train others car we by bike and car. We cycled 100+kms where we picked up the car another rider had driven ahead and left. The ride was along beautiful and scenic countryside on roads that smooth and glass like. This left us a 40km drive to Oslo where we proceeded to our hotel.
After checking in we joined a large number of riders on a personally guided tour of the Viegland Sculpture park where there are hundreds of granite sculptures well worth a visit by anyone visiting Oslo, the park is free and the sculptures represent the life's works of Gustave Viegland.
We are in Norway for two more days then we are off to Denmark and Sweden.
How can one describe Norway?
Beautiful, Serene, Peaceful, Hilly, Wet, Cool, User friendly as English is readily spoken, expensive, expensive, expensive (2.50 for a coke, 1.80 for a Snickers bar etc.)
Until we write again so long.
Love, Dave & Mary