A new year and a new adventure is waiting. Solo (whom I met in New Zealand) and I have been able to keep in touch despite the distance between us, and he has been able to finance another visit to Europe.
Instead of booking us into another supported group ride, we decided to go on an unsupported ride visiting Norway, Sweden and Denmark if time and money permitted. This time we would do it on our own. No guide to rely on, no comfortable luggage transport and no support vehicle to get into in case we would get too tired to continue.
I started making plans for this once Solo mentioned that he would like to have done this ride a year ago. So I do have a pretty good idea of where I want us to go.
Four days ago Solo arrived at my place, and we spent some time rebuilding and reconfiguring our bikes and getting the parts that we needed for our trip. Not to mention we started the real planning of our ride. I knew where I wanted to go to, at least for the Norwegian part of our ride, but I didn’t have the experience to tell how many kilometers are doable per day. I had a certain idea of what should be doable, but only the experience of this ride will show if I am right or wrong.
Today’s plan was to get to Drammen by train to start our ride from there and go all the way to a small village called Flå, about 122 kilometers from Drammen.
The first obstacle was to get on the train with our bikes, though. For regional trains, like the one going from Trondheim to Oslo, you have to book a ticket for your bike in advance. But for local trains, like the one we have to use to get to Drammen, it is the train’s conductor who makes the final decision about allowing or disallowing you to embark the train, depending on how many travelers are on board already.
But thankfully we managed to get on the first train leaving toward Drammen after arriving at the railway station.
So we arrived in Drammen as planned at around 8:45a.m. and started — after leaving the railway station — our bike ride toward Flå.
It proved rather easy to find the way out of Drammen westbound toward Hokksund, where we would have to turn north to get on the route toward Flå, even though it is not that easy reading the map from a small GPS that I had attached to my bike and onto which I had loaded all the routes for this ride before Solo arrived in Norway.
In Hokksund, though, we missed the junction where we had to turn right, and continued straight on, until the GPS map really got confusing and the street signs even more. After a double round-about we could not make out any sign pointing us toward the nearest bigger town on our route…and deciphering where I had plotted my route on the GPS and where we actually were wasn’t an easy task either. So I went into a nearby shop to ask for guidance and they pointed us back to where we came from. Not that this made any sense to me. But back outside where Solo was waiting, we decided to go back into the town center of Hokksund, get out the big map — a map of Scandinavia in a 1:800,000 scale — and figure out where we were and where we had to go to get where we wanted to go to.
Only an hour into our ride and we had managed to get lost. And still quite a few more kilometers ahead of us and days to come…
But we soon figured that our overall direction wasn’t too bad, we just had missed a junction somewhere.
So we jumped back onto our bikes and made our way back. Soon we discovered the rather small sign along the bicycle path that pointed us into the right direction, which we had missed before. This time we were on the right track.
But of course this detour did cost us time, time we would not have in the later day to make it all the way to Flå.
Unfortunately going north also meant that the weather wasn’t improving. From the nice sunshine that we had when we arrived in Drammen — and that we still had in Hokksund — we came into the rain.
And by the time we reached the village of Skotselv we had to pull into a bus stop to change into warmer rain clothes and see if we could wait out on the rain.
We wondered if there would be some cafe nearby where we could take a break and have something nice and warm to drink to get warm again, but neither of us wanted to go out into the rain and find nothing. So instead we spent around an hour in a bus stop, eating nuts and almonds which we had taken with us, and considering even if we should try to get onto the next bus with our bikes to make up for the lost time. Just that there was no bus passing by.
After an hour, at least the rain got lesser, so we decided to continue our ride.
The advantage of occasional rain for me was that the light conditions improve by it. Once the rain stopped and the sun got out again, the colors where deep and soon we did no longer just have to stop to switch into some lighter clothes again, but because I wanted to take photos of our ride as well. And the view we had upon a village called Åmot proved to be good enough for a short stop.
It was already after 1p.m. and we hadn’t had anything else but the nuts from our own storage for lunch yet. So we were pleasantly surprised when our route brought us upon a rather nice looking place at the Blåfargeverket along River Storelva* and we discovered a cafe nearby as well.
We spent about another hour at the cafe having something to eat and drink, sitting outside in the sun. But also taking a look at the map and the watch, figuring that time has passed too fast and we haven't made enough kilometers yet to be able to make it all the way to Flå today.
So we changed our plans. Instead of going all the way to Flå we will now only go to Vikersund, shortening the route for today from 122 kilometers to about 42. Seriously this could have been done in two maybe three hours, but we had spent six already and hadn't made it to Vikersund yet…There are things you can plan for, but then there are those you cannot make plans for, like the weather and the road conditions as well as missing junctions…
Just when we were ready to jump back onto our bikes to make the final kilometers and find our way to the campground in Vikersund heaven opened its watergates again and the rain was pouring down heavier than before. Thankfully that proved to be only a heavy shower and not a continued rainfall. So another thirty minutes later we finally were ready to get back on our bikes and ride on.
This time we don’t have a plotted route. So we are going mostly by the compass and road signs to make our way. Which of course lead to another detour, but this time we were fast to discover it and correct our route.
I didn’t know much about the campground that we wanted to stay on for the night, just that it is on the opposite side of Fjord Tyrifjorden. So when the road through Vikersund again led us to places that didn’t quite look like there was a bridge coming up soon, and Solo lost all hope of finding one, he asked me to ask for the way. Yea, again we had gone on a little too far. The three pedestrians that we asked for the route pointed us back toward the railway where we would also find the bridge over the Tyrifjorden and from there make it to the campground.
We pitched Solos single tent on the campground and he offered the spot in it to me, while he himself wanted to build something out of a tarp that he was carrying with him. But in these weather conditions I persuaded him that there was enough room for both of us, somehow, inside the tent.
Later in the evening, when the rain started pouring down again, I guess it turned out to be a good decision to share the space in the tent.
Unfortunately, though, our campground comes without a cafe and neither of us fancied going back to town. So the little shop had to provide us with some chocolate for dinner instead, and tomorrow we will have to find some place for breakfast before starting the ride toward Flå…are we going to make it this time? Or are we going to lose another day?
You can find more photos from Norway on my website.
* Names of geographical points of interest and the Norwegian grammar.
In the Scandinavian languages the article of a noun is added as a post-fix to the noun. This means that many geographical names that you will encounter on a map for the Scandinavian countries already include the article of the noun, as for example „Tyrifjorden“. This opens up for a conundrum when I am using these names in my travel stories. Am I to remove the article from the Norwegian word and add the English article in front of it? Or do I add a „ the River“ / „the Fjord“ prior to the name of the river/fjord?
Since it is easier to find the names in their Scandinavian spelling on a map I have decided to use the form with the article included as you would find it in a map, but when necessary add the English article as well.