Return to the land of fjords, high plains and wide horizons

Norway 1997

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Saturday 9 August Amsterdam- Stavanger - Prekestolen (39 km)
I decide at the very last moment. With the help of my accumulated Flying Dutchman points, I can get a free ticket to Stavanger. It is normally quite an expensive flight, but thanks to the "specials" I am eligible for a free ticket. In the past few weeks it has been good weather there, and the good weather looks like holding. This means I can take another look at the land of fjords, glaciers, elk and magnificent wide horizons. Six years ago I spent my first cycling holiday in the company of a group from Cycletours. This year, alone and fully self-supported, I am returning to the part that impressed me the most - the mountains and fjords of the Norwegian high country.

With my particular ticket I am allowed 20 kg of luggage. My bike alone, without any extra baggage, weighs 13 kg, and the KLM bike box around 4 kg. Over and above that, my remaining luggage comes to 17 kg, so I choose a lighter box and pack up 4 kg of luggage to go in the hold. The remaining 13 kg I stuff into 2 Karrimor panniers which I tie together into a single unit.

Jeroen drives me to the airport. First thing on arrival I collect my KLM ticket. After waiting 15 minutes it is my turn. Another passenger pushes in, but then I can claim my ticket. During check in my bike isn't weighed, and my luggage for the hold has to be put into a container, which brings the weight up to 8 kg. So despite my efforts to stay under 20 kg, my total luggage weight is registered as 23 kg. For the moment there are no further consequences.

At the check in counter I hear that we are flying in a Fokker 40, so it is questionable if the bike can travel in the same plane. A normal KLM bike box would certainly not have fitted in. After I take my bike to the over size baggage counter, I go and stand in the customs queue. There is an enormously long queue, and the customs official motions me over. They are conducting extra stringent control over the amount of hand luggage that people can take on board. Hand luggage is limited to one piece weighing 10 kg and within certain measurements, and my hand luggage doesn't seem to comply. Afraid of being ruled overweight and having to pay extra, I object strongly. In protest I put on all the clothes I have with me, and I put my helmet on my head. It's mighty warm at 30 degrees wearing 2 T-shirts, 2 cycle shirts and two fleece jerseys, but one has to make a statement. With all this, my luggage is barely a kilogram lighter. The woman behind the counter is slightly irritated, but keeps calm. There is nothing for it but to check in yet another pannier. I therefore surrender a 3 kg pannier, and I just make it under the 10 kg limit. Lucky that there is still no penalty for being overweight.

All dressed up for winter I pass through customs, after which I quickly stuff the excess clothes into my already crammed pannier. We are taken by minibus to a small prop jet. I have a great seat next to the window. From there I have a good view of Amersfoort, the IJsselmeer and the Wadden Islands. Around 11 am we land at a small airfield just outside Stavanger. The bike is delivered separately from the rest of the baggage, and without any further difficulties. After loading up my luggage I have yet another problem. I have to find somewhere to stow the bike box. At airport security I ask where I can leave the box. The man behind the counter knows a good place in the bicycle lockup. He writes the date of my return on a piece of paper and sticks that on the box. With a tranquil heart I mount my bike. The weather is rather chilly and it is quite windy. It seems that the weather is about to change. Along the bike path I take the small climbs over the lightly rolling terrain past the Hafrs-fjorden towards Stavanger. In Madla-Marka, an outlying area of Stavanger, I buy some groceries for the weekend. The prices are pretty steep. Norway is known as a country where it is difficult to get Camping gas, so, as a precaution, I have brought along Minko's spirit stove. Camping gas is only available here and there. Mostly the blue bottles are only sold in sporting goods stores in a few large towns such as Stavanger and Odda. So I buy a bottle of methylated spirits as well. Outside it is slowly starting to rain. This changes quickly into a huge downpour. After I have lunch it is a bit less wet,and I decide to cycle a bit further in towards the town centre. Having arrived in the centre I take a look at the Gamle, an old quarter of Stavanger with white wooden houses and steep, narrow streets. Down by the harbour I procure some information about the area and boat times from the tourist bureau. The cloudy weather is no invitation to continue sightseeing, and I decide to take the boat to Tau. I arrive just in time, because the barrier closes right behind me. When the boat moors at Tau three quarters of an hour later it is again raining buckets. Fully wrapped up I mount my bike. I ride through the streaming rain to the campground at the foot of the Prekestolen. When I arrive I set up my tent. The pleasant but expensive camping ground is run by a Dutch family. It costs a minimum of 80 krone (=24 guilders) for one person with a tiny tent.


Sunday 10 August Prekestolen - Lysefjord - Lysebotn (29 km)
The following morning I get up early. I can leave my tent there until four pm. I plan to cycle to the Prekestolen this morning. This is a world famous rock overhang that beetles around 600 meters above a fjord. A thick blanket of cloud hangs over the Norse countryside. Despite the prevailing weather, about 8 am I start the climb towards the foot of the walking path up to the Prekestolen. The four kilometer climb goes well, but because of an incorrectly mounted front derailleur I cannot use my 28 tooth front chainwheel, and I sweat quite freely on the way up. At the end of the path there is an alpine hut with a large parking area. So early in the morning it is still very quiet. I lock my bike to a tree and climb upwards. It is still as foggy as ever. The path climbs up steeply, and leads through a wood and a muddy area where I overtake a few people. After that there is a steep passage where you have to use hands as well as feet to reach the top. According to the booklets it takes two hours to traverse the path, but after only one and a quarter hours I am at the end of it. The path ends suddenly, but there is nothing at all to be seen through the thick fog.

There are two Germans there as well, looking a bit taken aback. I decide to wait with them until there is maybe something to see, and I set my deadline at 11 am. After a while more and more people arrive, especially Germans, slightly disappointed because the promised view just isn't there.

Around 10 am the fog suddenly lifts and we are afforded a ten second peek. Then the thick cloud blanket falls again. After waiting another half hour suddenly a magnificent, spectacular fjord landscape unfolds. After taking a few photos I begin the descent. Just in time because the heavy mist returns and a huge stream of people is inching upwards. This varies from oldies, hikers with the wrong shoes, to people with prams and dogs. Many are sitting dispirited before a difficult section of the path and seem somehow to have underestimated the "walk".

An hour later I am standing back down in the parking area, and within 15 minutes I am back at the camp ground. While I am striking my tent I meet a German cyclist who started in Kristiansand and has cycled to Stavanger via the fjord coastline. He plans to climb the Prekestolen this afternoon, and I wish him success with it.

The weather has changed completely. After about an hour's cycling I am standing at the Lysefjord Information Centre in Oanes. The boat through the Lysefjord leaves from here, travelling below the Prekestolen to Lysebotn. This doesn't leave for two hours yet, so I can enjoy the good weather for a little longer. The boat arrives around 4 pm. The view across the fjord is mindbendingly beautiful and so spectacular. The steep fjord coastline rises at least 1300 meters above the water. In contrast to this morning, the Prekestolen is completely cloud free, and will probably attract crowds of visitors. The boat pulls in to numerous small jetties and harbours. Some hamlets are even only reachable by boat, and consist almost completely of holiday cottages. Around the edges of the Lysefjord there are also a number of seals to be seen. High above the water's edge we can still just make out the Kjerag. This is a large round stone wedged between two walls of rock that rise up 1132 meters above the fjord. After two and a half hours' travel we arrive at the small place called Lysebotn, consisting of a church, a campground, a small shop, and a handful of cottages. It is already six thirty, and consequently too late to cycle any further, because I am almost through my culinary supplies. At the very pricey campground (100 krone) I search out a pretty spot with a fantastic view over the Lysefjord. There is a Dutch girl working at this campground too.

Monday 11 August Lysebotn - Hoslemo (132 km)
One of Norway's most difficult climbs starts at Lysebotn. According to the King of the Mountains site on the internet:

Lysefjordveien (Lysebotn-Edneram) 950 meters/3,117 feet)
Ride information: Has been called one of Norway's "wildest climbs" because of its 27 hairpin turns - a 950 meter vertical climb, with the first 6 kilometers rising 880 meters with an average grade of about 12-13%

The climb is therefore an absolute must for me. I plan to leave early, as I want to camp somewhere in the Sirdal, about one hundred kilometers further up. The village shop and the campground shop don't open until 11am. I take the gamble and start the climb around 9am. I cycle upwards at a steady pace. After a few hundred meters I plunge into a very dark tunnel. This climbs for about one and a half kilometers, and includes a hairpin bend, but luckily the asphalt surface is good. The halogen lamp and the absence of cars makes the passage "a piece of cake". At a quarter to ten I arrive at the mountain restaurant Oygardstol, and I have the worst part of the climb behind me. Although the restaurant does not open until 10am, I am able to wangle some of Saturday's leftover rolls from the kitchen, for free.

I enjoy the lovely view of the many hairpin bends, and the fjord, and the village in the valley, towards which I am now riding. After this the climb is no longer so difficult, but the scenery remains superb. Many fabulous kilometers follow, through a virgin mountain landscape. After ten or so kilometers the road descends and the surrounding countryside turns to tundra. The broad valleys are covered with lots of small trees, and are dotted with small mountain lakes.

The Sirdal quickly follows. At Suleskard I turn left and make a short stop. I give directions to a couple of motorists (one a Dutchman). After this the climb out of the Sirdal begins, over the RV 45. The climb is pretty difficult , what with the hot weather and bright sunshine. Several hundred meters in front of me I see two cyclists struggling uphill on foot. They are obviously having a lot of trouble, and are pushing their heavily laden bikes in front of them. When I cycle past at some roadworks, the female cyclist calls to her companion "Hey, he's got mountain gears". They are more Dutch tourists, who have typically underestimated the mountains. I reply: "Yep, you really need them around here", and they look at me, slightly stunned. I don't feel like interrupting this difficult climb to stop and have a chat, so I just keep riding.

The steep part of the ascent goes on for another 5 kilometers. After that I find myself once more in a splendid rugged alpine landscape with many mountain lakes. This lasts for about 30 kilometers. Snow lies about in a few places, and the road is very quiet. During the steep descent into the Setesdal, where I reach a maximum speed of 71 kph, I meet a quartet of cyclists working their way up with great difficulty. The red Ortlieb panniers lead me to suspect that they are German, but I'm not in the mood to investigate further. It is just as hard to stop and chat in the middle of a fast descent as a difficult climb.

In the Setesdal I finally find a café where I can refill my bidons. To appease the worst pangs of hunger and thirst I buy a cola and a sweet pastry. It is 4 pm when I reach the village of Valle, much too early to stop. I decide to cycle on through the splendid Setesdal. The slopes beside the river are covered with deep green forests, which is quite a change from the landscapes I have been cycling through today.

In Flateland I finally do a comprehensive shop. On the map I see that there are quite a few campgrounds in the area around Byklom, and I decide to ride to one of them. The road rises gently and the landscape is once again tundra-ish. There is no campground in Byklom, but on the information board I see that there is one in Hoslemo, which means riding on another 15 kilometers. On the way I pass a number of splendid wild camping places, but I keep riding. The campground in Hoslemo is not very attractive, and is completely empty. There is no other campground in the immediate vicinity, and it is already 7.30, so I ring the bell. A middle aged Norwegian woman opens the door. She speaks no English, but it seems that it is possible to camp there. The facilities are very limited and shabby. I have to fetch the key from the woman. The shower costs 5 krone, but is over within 30 seconds. The site is definitely not worth the 50 krone I pay for it. As I am cooking dinner lots of mosquitoes arrive to keep me company in my solitude. I climb into my sleeping bag straight afterwards, and bemoan the fact that I didn't attempt to wild camp.


Tuesday 12 August Hoslemo - Roldal (106 km)

I break camp quickly and mount my bike after a reasonable night disturbed slightly by the noise of heavy vehicles driving past. After 20 flat kilometers I arrive in Hovden at 11am. It is a holiday destination and has the regular facilities. It seems my holiday will be a bit more expensive than I expected, due to the high cost of campsites and food. The local auto teller does not accept my giro pass. After doing a bit of shopping I have a good breakfast in the little square in the middle of town. Some Norwegians also have the same idea and are enjoying the morning sun.

The kilometers after Hovden climb gently. I had expected a stiff ascent, but I discover I am already quite high up. The road meanders over the plateau without too much climbing. After the highest point at 917 meters the descent into Haukeligrend cuts in quickly. The descent is a bit steeper than the ascent, and I quickly get to 60 kph. When I find myself on the steepest part I set myself up for a fast downhill run. Suddenly I hear a strange click, so I don't follow through. After the descent I inspect my front wheel. One of my spokes has collapsed under the force of the descent. Lucky that I hadn't gone any faster, for a sudden somersault at 60 kph is not a pleasant thought.

At the petrol station I inquire about the closest bike shop. It seems that there isn't one in the immediate vicinity. So I temporarily repair my broken spoke with an emergency spoke. The E 134 where I now find myself climbs gradually towards the Haukelifjell plateau. In the beginning the road is still nice and quiet, but becomes busier as I go on. The scenery is overpoweringly beautiful as before, but the sky is somewhat cloudy. The large lakes and snow covered mountains again make a deep impression. The very busy main road dives into a few tunnels, but on the bike you can follow a path that goes around the tunnels. This path is narrow, but sealed, and very scenic. The path climbs hardly any more than the tunnels, and the view is heaps better.

I only have to go through one tunnel. At that particular time the tunnel is extremely quiet, and very well lit. By Stavnat lake I take a short rest. An old Norwegian couple in an ancient Ford Taunus start chatting with me. They think it is fantastic that I am cycling through their country. She speaks very limited English, and he speaks none at all, but with the help of a few words and some sign language I can make myself understood quite well. They advise me to cycle along the Hardanger fjord in the area of Kwam and Nordheimsund. I am also given a tourist guide to the area.

At the next tunnel the path leads to the highest point at 1148 meters. Immediately before the top the path passes by a large wall of snow. The final tunnel is encountered on the descent into Roldal. The road around the tunnel is blocked by a barrier and a few stone blocks. I decide to take this road nevertheless, and can easily ride around the blockade. The road has a number of hairpin bends, and plunges steeply down towards the small village of Roldal. In the village I hunt for a campsite at 6.30. The place has no bike shop, so I have to ride on the emergency spoke for at least another day.

The campground is excellent and only costs 40 krone. At the campground I have a chat with a family that had waved to me 130 kilometers back in Hovden. They had asked themselves if I might not have a motor in my large panniers….
In the evening I visit also the pole church and go for a short walk.

Wednesday 13 August Roldal - Ovre Eidfjord (126 km)

After pulling my tent down I do some shopping at the local service station. The climb begins immediately. The quiet secondary road splits off from the main road that disappears into the mountains via a tunnel. The climb zigzags upwards with many hairpin bends, and there is little traffic. At the top (1067 m) I meet two German cyclists who are heading in the opposite direction. They have already done quite a trip, including the Rallerveien. This famous unsealed cycle path between Haugostol and Flam is good to cycle in their opinion. From here they are going further along the path that I have come down, in the direction of Geilo. I plunge into the descent towards Odda. On the way down I come across many bikers travelling in the opposite direction. At the Latefossen I make a short stop. Here the water foams onto the road surface from the branching waterfall. A bit later two more Dutch cyclists arrive at the waterfall. They began in Kristiansand, having arrived there by cyclebus and boat. They were also in Stavanger on the weekend. One of the guys had broken a spoke, but the bike shop didn't have the tools to undo his Suntour freewheel, so they had to wait until the Monday, then they took the hovercraft to Sauda, which only took two hours. Today they are also travelling to Odda, where they will stay to do a glacier walk.

Odda is a large tourist town with a lot of shops. I have my spoke repaired at the local sports complex cycle shop. My emergency spoke has stood up to two difficult ascents, but I prefer to change it before the really difficult dirt surface work begins. The bike shop is situated on the first floor, so I have to unload my stuff before dragging the bike up the stairs by the handlebar stem. From a few newspaper articles on the wall, I see that the mechanic is an up and coming local cycling talent. He looks after my Cannondale admirably. At 100 Krone the bill is rather expensive, but compared to one night's camping it's not so bad, and you get a lot more pleasure out of it.

After taking on board some money and some food I ride further along the Sorfjorden. I can't avoid the tunnel just before Tyssedal, but it is well lit. For a long time the road follows the coastline of the fjord, so it is quite flat. For the whole distance you can see the gigantic icecap of Folefonni. Many glacial tongues and waterfalls plummet down below. The road between Eidfjord and Ovre Eidfjord is under repair and even closed at times during the day. I therefore cycle over the flat road through the Eidfjordvatnet as far as Ovre Eidfjord. Once arrived I debate whether to go wild camping, but the campground is such a steal (20 krone), that you wouldn't let a warm shower go begging. The campground is simple, but well equipped. There is also a large bus group of French children, which makes things pretty lively. Even the mosquitoes don't know when to stop, so the Jungle oil is called into service once again.


Thursday 14 August Ovre Eidfjord - Hallingskeid (104 km)

Do some shopping this morning at the local supermarket. After that I start the steep climb out of the fjord through the Mabodalen. The cycle route follows the old road, while the motor way again disappears into a number of tunnels. Only hikers, cyclists, and tourists on a little train can enjoy the view of the narrow gorge. At the 181 meter high Voringfossen a waterfall drops into the depths from Hotel Fossli with an enormous din. After the waterfall the climb is no longer particularly steep. Now and then I catch a glimpse of the Hardanger Jokulen. To the south the enormous plateau of the Hardangervidda obtrudes, the hikers' domain. No roads cross through this nature area. The Norwegians are busy trying to make the road ready for winter. Large pieces of asphalt have frozen and come off, so the road around here is not very comfortable to travel. A section of the bitumen is still soft, so a thick layer of tar remains stuck to my tyres. At the highest point, 1250 meters, I pause and enjoy the beautiful scenery all around me. After I have filled my bidons at the alpine hut I judder onwards over the bumpy surface.

I arrive in Haugostol around 3.30 pm, the start of the Rallerveien, a cycle route along an old railway line. A large parking area is full of Norwegians loading and unloading bicycles. This is obviously THE bikepath of Norway. This path is mentioned in several places on the internet as one of the best parts of Norway. The start of the unsealed path is quite flat and good for cycling. There are many Norwegians who are already returning from a day's cycling. After Hallingskarvet the landscape becomes more rugged, and barren mountain tops covered in eternal snow jut out above the mountain lakes. The road surface requires me to pay closer and closer attention, but remains rideable. I then arrive in Finse, one of the few places along the path. Finse consists of several alpine huts and a train station. It is already 7pm, and I call the Netherlands to wish my brother Jeroen a happy birthday. At the station I fill my bidons with water, and my jerry can, just to be safe. There are no official camping places along the route, but I have been told there are many places where you can pitch your tent. This is certainly the case just outside Finse, but it is still a bit too early to stop. The path gets continually worse, and crosses and recrosses the railway line. Along the line there is still a lot of building activity and also a large number of barracks style buildings. After that the bike path runs through the railway tunnel, where great sheets of snow are lying around. After one small tunnel the path is so bad that I have to dismount and carry my bike for a few hundred meters. It gets dark quickly, but I can't find a flat piece of ground for my tent. Suddenly I see tents pitched everywhere, and I finally find a suitable spot next to the path at a quarter past nine. I set up my tent twenty or thirty meters from a cycling duo, a father and son. I cook my meal in the dark, and I take a minimal wash in the stream.

Friday 15 August Hallingskeid - Hornadalen (75 km)

After a good night's rest and some breakfast I break camp and proceed along the Rallerveien. My neighbours are also up and at it, and start off at the same time as me. With the ATB's they are a bit faster than me along the rough terrain, but in the steeper parts I catch up to them again. The scenery is extremely beautiful. There is water running everywhere, the view of the glaciers is fantastic, and there is even snow still covering the path. Now and then an ATBer comes along the path in one direction or the other. I also overtake two Americans who came past my camp early in the morning. Just past Hallingskeid the countryside changes. A large waterfall squeezes itself through a narrow crevice. The broad plateau becomes a narrow ravine. The path dips down steeply through the ravine, and after that through a wood, to end at two small mountain lakes. More and more hikers, and fishermen also, appear on the path. I make a short rest stop by the last lake, the Vatnahalsen. Finally, at Myrdal I am standing on the edge of a deep abyss. The road through the Myrdal clings tight to the wall, and descends with an average gradient of 17% and many hairpin bends. A sign warns against travelling too fast down hill: "Very dangerous descent, watch your speed, you never know what surprises are waiting around the bend".

With brakes squeezed tight, I make my way down at 5 kph. The road surface is strewn with large stones, and on this steep section I have difficulty keeping the bike under control, and use my foot to keep my balance. I can truly imagine that this climb is impossible to do in the opposite direction. After about three kilometers the road is again rideable, and the bike can make some speed. There are more and more hikers on the path, and after a few gates the asphalt begins.

Flam is at the end of the train line and is situated on the Aurlandsfjord. It is a tourist town, full of activity. When I get there I buy some cards for this one and that one, and refill my bidons. From here most people take the fast boat to Gudvangen through Naeroyfjorden, or to Kaupanger. I decide to cycle on to Aurland. I camped here in 1991, but now it is only used as a supply stop for those passing through. In the little square I do some shopping and eat some rolls. Enjoying the streaming sunshine, I listen to a local band who are making an appearance in the square.

Around four o'clock I remount my bike and begin the climb up the road I came down in 1991. I plan to wild camp again, higher up on the plateau. In Norway you are allowed to set up your tent anywhere you like, but in fact there is only room to do it in the mountains. In the valleys everywhere is occupied with farms, grassland and buildings. The climb is not enjoyable at the end of the day, and is mighty difficult. I have the idea that this side of the climb is steeper and more difficult than the other side. The path creeps upwards along the edge of the woods, and affords many scenic views of the distant Aurlandsfjord. The fjord disappears from sight, and a broad panorama unfolds, showing the valley and the remainder of the climb. The next 10 kilometers of climbing are in full view, and I follow the cars that are creeping upwards through the hairpin bends. After an hour's climbing I am past this section, and am cycling across the plateau. The path is still rising, but is interspersed with short downhills. There is much less snow lying around than 6 years ago and I look for a place where I can set up my tent undisturbed. The terrain around here is too uneven, and I reach the highest point (1306 meters). Quickly after that, about 8 pm, I find a good wildcamping site out of view of passing traffic. To get there I have to push my fully laden bike twenty or thirty meters up the mountain, but it is a fabulous spot.

 Saturday 16 August Hornadalen - Nes (106 km)

This morning is pretty chilly. I ride down to Laerdal and ride past a few points that I recognise from 6 years back. The surrounding area has changed little, and looks as splendid as ever. On the way down I say hello to two cyclists who are just beginning the ride up. When I arrive at the fjord I see that the ferry between Revnes and Kaupanger no longer runs as a new tunnel has been built, with a crossing over the Sognefjord. Luckily there is a punt that leaves Lauerdal for Kaupanger four times per day, and I am in plenty of time for the 12 o'clock run. From the boat we can enjoy the sight of several dolphins who are playing around in the deep fjord. When the boat passes close by them they go very quiet, so that it is difficult to photograph them. I am the only one to leave the boat in Kaupanger, all my fellow passengers are going to Gudvangen.

The road climbs out of the valley to Sogndal, and then climbs again to Hafslo. The main road takes the tunnel, but I again choose the narrow road parallel with the tunnel. It is more like a footpath where I can just get through on the bike. The path keeps climbing up through a wood, to finally reach a small lake (Veitastrondvatnet) at around the 200 meter level. After Haslo the road keeps climbing through a wood, and after this it falls again into the Sognefjord. When I arive in Gaupne I check out the camping ground, but 80 Krone is too much to pay, and I decide to cycle on. Today's plan to cycle to the Nigardsbreen glacier is ditched, and I find a pleasant camping ground in Nes.

After pitching my tent I decide to take a short ride to Luster, where I also camped 6 years ago. In Luster, also, little has changed in the past 6 years. After a bit of a search I find the track to the dead-end Dalsdalen road. This is a pleasant little valley with many old farms. At the end of the road I turn around again and arrive back at the Nes campsite around 7 pm.



Sunday 17 August Nes - Sognefjellsvegen - Nes

Today is a rest day and I go for a ride without all my gear. The route runs via Luster past the waterfall at Vassbakken just before Fortun. Then the steepest part of the climb begins. At the Turtago sporthotel the toll road splits off to Ovre Ardal, the way I travelled in 1991. Today, however, I ride past, towards the highest road pass in Norway. Just after the turnoff there is a knockout view of the 2000 meter high monsters of the Jotunheimen massif. Next there follows a steep section with diverse hairpin bends that reaches up to 1200 meters and deposits you on the plateau above. A magnificant landscape opens to view, where a number of mountain climbers have set up their camp. Wherever you look there are glaciers, rugged mountain tops and mountain lakes. This is the new highlight after the magnificent Rallerveien.

After the Sognefjellshytta you come to the highest point, the Fantestein, 1434 meters, reached via the Norse Pass. I pause here to enjoy the beautiful views into the distance. Today is the weekend, so it is very crowded. Many others have also come to the highest point today. Shortly after I turn around and I ride as slowly as possible through the impressive landscape. Just before the descent begins I turn off at Hervadammen and follow a little dead-end unsealed road to the Skalavatnet storage dam. The unsealed road is pretty rough, but cyclable. The descent to the Sognefjord goes smoothly, and I arrive back at camp at around 7 in the evening.

Monday 18 August Nes - Nigardsbreen - Vangnes (155 km)

I leave early in the morning, fully laden. In Gaupne I do a bit of shopping and buy extra film at the same time. The good weather and the magnificent scenery force me to take a lot of photographs. At the supermarket I see two more cyclists. The weird thing is that while you are on the track you see a large number of (mostly German) cyclists, but at the campgrounds you can count them on one finger, and this finger I am always pointing at myself, as I've only once met another cyclist at a campground. They are probably all shocked at the highly inflated prices, and so camp wild and raise one finger (probably the middle finger) at the campground operators. Well, why should you have to pay 30 guilders for a piece of grass, when you can set up in the wild for nothing.

I am returning to Gaupne to take a look at the Nigardsbreen glacier. This one forms the lower part of the second largest glacier in Europe, the Jostedalsbreen. The Nigardsbreen glacier is situated at the end of a valley, the terminal point of a dead end road. I get ready for a difficult climb of around 25 km, but I enjoy it immensely. Inside an hour I reach the information centre where you already get a nice view of the glacial tongue. You then have another three or so kilometers to ride over a toll road, but it is free for cyclists. At the parking area you can take a boat to the glacier, or you can walk up a path. This path is very rugged and I would have to wade through many small strams. Alas, I don't have my hiking boots with me, so I choose to take the boat. It is very windy during the boat trip. A large group with climbing irons and glacier gear also gets in the boat. It is possible to make an excursion onto the glacier, at a price. Again, alas, I don't have the proper gear with me, but I probably don't have enough time for it anyhow. Arrived at the glacier I take several photos of the impressive cracks in the blue ice. When I see the group all fastened together by a rope, creeping forwards foot by foot, I am no longer disappointed that I don't have the right gear with me. The return trip through the valley to the Sognefjord is uneventful. Past Sognedal the road becomes a bit narrower. Cars drive past you very carefully, and some even wait before overtaking you. In comparison with other countries, the traffic is very well behaved and courteous in regard to cyclists. Just before Sognedal there is evidence of an accident that did not turn out well. On the surface of the road the chalk marks are still obvious and some children are laying flowers on the spot where a fatality has probably occurred. Just one more reason to be careful when cycling on narrow roads.

From Sognedal I ride 37 kilometers along the fjord. With the sun low and with really tired legs I complete the stage. Around 8pm I arrive in Hella where I catch the ferry to Vangnes. The first two campgrounds don't look very pleasant. The first is completely empty, the second is completely full, of Germans. I pitch my tent in the third one around 9 o'clock. It is a pleasant campground on the edge of the fjord, and not too expensive either. A terribly strong wind starts up, perhaps a sign that there's a change of weather in the air.

I have a bit of a chat with a Dutch couple who are touring around by car. They have already been to Trondheim, and will finish their three week trip at Hadangervidda. Trondheim, Geiranger, and the Trollstigen are too far away for me, so I will keep them for next time.

Tuesday 19 August Vangsnes - Granvin (115 km)

The day begins with a quiet ride along the fjord to Vik. Here I do some shopping and take a look at the pole church. The sky is very overcast, but it remains dry. The climb up out of the fjord is a bit more difficult than expected. During a large part of the climb I can see back over the valley and the Vik pole church. I pause momentarily at a tunnel which is just before the start of the Stolsheimen plateau. The tunnel is unlit, but the light of the Specialized head lamp takes me safely through this dark cavern. The highest point (986 m) is quickly reached and I am again cycling through an inhospitable mountain region full of lovely lakes. A tandem and a pair of cyclists ride towards me. They have been riding across the plateau a bit longer than me, as they are dressed warmly. After that I pull on my red fleece jersey, because it is beginning to cool down quite a bit.

After ten or so kilometers the road drops quickly by way of a number of hairpin bends down past Helgatun. The narrow gorge is very impressive. At Vinje I turn left into the busy E68, and just before Voss I take another cycle path. Voss lies at the edge of the Hardangervidda. In touristy Voss I get a few supplies and some more money. I start to cycle off in the wrong direction, but correct myself just in time. The cycle path runs along the old railway line, and I keep a look out for suitable wild camping spots. At Skerjevossen the road again drops steeply down a gorge with numerous hairpin bends. A few lorries are having difficulty in the sharp turns and are driving through at a walking pace. I decide to camp at Granvin. I pitch my tent at the Granvin lake, next to a Dutch couple who are giving their mobile home a thorough test. I have to ride in to the village to make a phone call, but alas, no one is home in either house.
Wednesday 20 August Granvin - Matre (136 km)

After the lake I ride into Granvin beside a tunnel. This is a very small place, consisting really of a church and a petrol station. The road follows the fjord for a long time. Past Alvik I cross a narrow bridge over the Mjasuna and shortly thereafter arrive in Norheimsund. I do my daily shopping here and afterwards visit the Steindalfoss which is on the RV 7 just outside the town. This is a spectacular waterfall that you can walk in behind. It is still really peaceful, and while enjoying a pineapple and cream cheese roll I take in the view of the waterfall. Then I follow the quiet RV 49 and stop at several rock drawings depicting reindeer and viking longships. I don't really get to see the latter, as the road runs through private property, and it is locked up.

The landscape looks very rural and cultivated. Here it is less rugged than the everchanging mountain wilderness of the last week and a half. The route follows narrow little roads that rise and fall, so that forested sections alternate with cultivated fields. Some road works at Strandebarm hold up the traffic, but as a cyclist I can get through OK. While negotiating this section three cyclists come along in the opposite direction. Judging by the Ortlieb panniers, I would say they were probably Germans. I pass by the tiny Omastrand, and hurry along to catch the 18.35 boat to Gjermundshamn. At a quarter past seven the boat arrives in Lofallstrand, after which it is but a short ride to Rosendal. I decide to look for a wildcamping site high up in the mountains. The road climbs sharply and my speedo suddenly begins to act up. I register speeds anywhere between 20.5 and 0 kph. I cannot find the cause of this phenomenon, but when I look up I can see huge high tension cables hanging directly over the road. Probably it's these cables that are sending my computer haywire. I cannot use the computer for the rest of the journey. After the top I start looking for a good place for my tent. It is really difficult to find a flat piece of grass. I try several times in vain to set my tent down on some tussocks, and in other places the ground is too swampy. So I cycle on a bit further and turn up a gravel path. Around 9pm I finally find a flat bit at the edge of the path, on the gravel. I anchor my tent with four large stones.

Thursday 21 August Matre - Sand (102 km)

I ride down to Indre Matre. I have to wait an hour for the ferry, which gives me an opportunity to freshen up and have some breakfast. I am able to do my daily shopping in Skanevik. After that I have quite a bit of difficulty making my way up the rising road against a headwind. My rhythm as well as my computer is upset. At the Stordalsvatnet I try to find a shortcut through the mountains to Sauda. The small grey road on the map seems to be a steep footpath in reality. I visit a few more rock drawings, and then turn back to the old road. The whole way the wind is trying to make it as difficult as possible for me. It is possible that the tiredness of a week and a half of very exciting cycling was also taking its toll. Again the scenery is beautiful, but not as varied as before. The green slopes and the heavy clouds give the surroundings a completely different feel. It seems more like Scotland or Ireland. I pass by the harbour town of Olen, an industrial town. Large tankers, and even an offshore drilling rig are moored in the fjord. After that the road climbs again over the 514 meter mark and I try to keep up with a mountain biker, but I have to let him go. In the area around Sandeidfjord the road continues to undulate. Finally around 8 pm I reach Ropeid where I catch the ferry to Sand. Here I again opt for the luxury of a regular campground.


Friday 22 August Sand - Holane (85 km)

It rains the whole night and a large part of the next morning. It's after ten before the weather dries off and I can leave my tent. It is twelve o'clock already before I mount up. My original plan was to do another quick mountain trip, but the clouds are threateningly low, so I choose a road along the fjord that is somewhat less hilly. This road is really far from flat, and goes up and down. At the high Josenfjorden the countryside becomes interesting again. In Nesvik I again catch a ferry, this time to Hjelmeland. In Ardal a fabulous mountain landscape. The climb that follows is very enjoyable and the scenery is again unbelievably beautiful. The Tysdalsvatnet is enclosed by two high mountain ridges, and around 7 pm I choose a campground with a glorious view over this countryside.

Saturday 23 August Holane - Olberg (40 km)

I realise I am almost in Stavanger. I have actually arrived in Holane a day early, but the weather looks like it is about to change. After the good weather of the last month, yesterday brought a big change. So the outcome of my planning ir really quite good. This morning I take the ferry from Tau to Stavanger. Stavanger is a bit busier than on the first day of my holiday. Originally my plan is to transfer across to the Stavanger camping ground, but because of the high price I decide to cycle on a bit further. I again cycle to the outer town of Madla-Marka, where I do some shopping again, just as I did on day one. I cycle out around the Hafrs-fjorden. After the bridge near Tananger it starts to rain, and I take refuge in a bus shelter for a long time. When the shower has passed I ride on further past the airport, and around 4pm I arrive at the Olberg campground which has a real sand beach, where it suddenly starts to rain again. I spend the rest of the day in my tent. 

Sunday 24 August Olberg - Sola - Amsterdam (60 km)

Before the plane leaves today I want to make another small trip. It is dry when I break camp and pack up my things. I already have my ticket for the return flight, so I divide my baggage strategically over my panniers. I pack up all the heavy things into one front pannier, to 10 kilos, and the rest goes in the other three bags. First I visit two medieval crosses standing out in the meadow. After that I ride over country lanes in the direction of Sandnes. My original plan was to follow the RV13, but because of lack of time I choose instead a little circuit past a number of small lakes. I pass by the arboretum, a large wood, which has many visitors this Sunday, but which is not accessible for bikes. I follow a bike path that quickly turns into a sandy track. After my experiences on the Rallerveien, this is nothing. At a gate I have to dismount, and I step with both feet into freshly deposited cow custard. I try to rid myself of the cow dung as best I can, but I can't help thinking that a little bit of the smell remains. The return trip to the airport passes without incident.

Once arrived at the airport I go directly to the bike lockup where I left my box. To my surprise there is no box to be seen. A bit uneasy I go to the security desk. Yes, they had seen the box sitting there for ages, and had it taken away. They hadn't seen any note and thought that it was rubbish. Well, that then creates a problem, for there are no other pieces of cardboard I can use to protect the bike. So I go to seek assistance at the KLM desk in the hope that they still have a box available. And, sure, I can buy a box for 115 krone. While I am preparing my bike the security officer comes along and asks if I found my box. I answer that I had to pay 115 krone for a new one, at which point he immediately offers to pay the cost for me. That's what I call service! This is typical of the friendly and helpful character of the Norwegians that I have experienced once more in the last two weeks. TAKK! 

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