Friday, December 9, 2016

The Scandinavian Adventure: Ramberg — Svolvær

(Saturday, July 5th 2014)

Today was our last day of cycling in Norway, but thankfully not our last day of bike riding as we will continue our ride in Denmark.
For the first time on this tour I woke up earlier than Solo, so it was my turn to get us our morning cups of coffee and tea. The weather was as nice as the day before, so I was looking forward to another day on our bikes.
We had battled the wind to get here some days ago, which now seemed like weeks or even months ago, and now we were spoiled with the weather and the road conditions as well. We had left the days of gravel behind us and were now riding our bikes on paved roads, making it much easier to ride.
Solo told me he had been wondering if we should have started our ride in the north, starting here on the Lofoten and traveling south. It would for sure have been an advantage to have the wind coming from behind for the section between Molde and Kristiansand…but I wonder if we would have enjoyed the days in the south as much as we did by doing them first. On the Lofoten we got spoiled, by good weather and tasty food as well as by the beautiful scenery.
I, for my part, was glad that we had the Lofoten at the end of our journey through Norway. We saved the most beautiful part of Norway for the last two days instead of leaving it behind us after the first two.

Now we were riding toward Svolvær, from where we would try to catch the ferry back to Bodø tomorrow. But first we had to get to Svolvær and enjoy another day on our bikes.

Already after no more than 10 minutes on our bikes I asked Solo for the first photo-stop, as I had spotted the Four Naved Church of Flakstad in the distance. It would for sure have been a great sight to visit, but we still had 98 kilometers ahead of us so we could not afford to take a longer stop right now.


The church of Flakstad is the second oldest church on the Lofoten, built in 1780. It is not the original church though, as an older one, built in 1480, stood in the same spot before. In 1750 Bishop Nannestad visited Flakstad and described the old church as a lower wooden building with a stone roof, which was broken in many places by storms.
The new church was built around the older one, so that it was possible to hold church service while the construction work was ongoing, and once the building was finished, the older one was taken down and the pieces of the older one that no longer were of usage were thrown out through the entrance door of the newer.
The wood for the newer church was delivered from Russia in exchange for dried cod.

It was a custom at the time to have the church tower, as in this church, in the middle of the church building. What makes the church different from other churches is its spire with the onion shaped dome, a better known shape of domes for southern Germany or Russia

Our route today followed the E10. We wouldn’t have dared to follow a European Road on the continent due to the traffic, but here we met only a few cars so it was safe for us to ride our bikes.


Before we left Flakstadøya, near Napp, we found a little parking spot and a path up to a viewpoint, so we used our chance to have a look back onto Flakstadøya and Vareid by climbing that path. Even though we did not climb the entire way up the mountain, we found a spot that surprised us with not only a beautiful view but also a warning sign of a nearby shooting range… Well the sign also said that the shooting would be ongoing if the red flag was raised, which we could not see…so we kind of counted on the fact that no one had forgotten to raise it…
It reminded me of the days when I had studied in Bergen. During one of my first weekends in Bergen I had decided to take a tourist tour through town and went from Bergenshus down to the Håkonshallen, to be surprised by a sign stating that this was a ”military area” yet access was allowed. I didn’t really trust my Norwegian at the time, and I cannot say that I trusted it more when I was greeted by a soldier with his gun over his shoulder…yet he confirmed that I could pass through to the Håkonshallen and actually showed me the way. Some things really don’t seem possible in other countries but Norway…

Soon we jumped back onto our bikes to continue our ride toward Vestvågøy. We weren’t entirely certain if we would be able to get over to Vestvågøy, as our route would go through the Nappstraumtunnelen, a tunnel below the surface of the sea. But at the entrance of the tunnel we could not spot any sign that it was forbidden to ride through on a bicycle, so we went through. My GPS of course was not able to tell me anything about the speed I was cycling within the tunnel, and so I did not notice that I was riding downhill and getting up to some higher speed until Solo shouted from behind that I should slow down. He had no GPS on his bike but a usual speedometer ,and so he had been able to see that we were gaining too much speed. As we made our way toward the end of the tunnel and had to climb up the road again, I noticed how steep the entrance must have been.

After the tunnel and a few more kilometers of bike ride, we came to a junction from where we could spot a smaller town. Since it had become lunch time, we thought it would be a good idea to ride to that town, even though it would mean a detour to find a cafe and have lunch there. Unfortunately once again it turned out that the town had no cafe and that we had to go to Leknes, in the opposite direction and on our route, to find one.
It wasn’t very far to Leknes, but still the signs to the town’s center were somewhat confusing. We followed the first one for a little while, but it really didn’t look like there was a town center coming, so we turned back onto the main road. When I started following the second sign a kilometer or two further down the main road, Solo thought I was following the wrong way as he hadn’t spotted the sign that I had seen. I had led us onto the wrong paths before, so for him being a little circumspect was probably just meant to protect us from ending up somewhere in the middle of nowhere. This time, though my tactic of following signs paid off and we found ourselves in the little town’s center and soon thereafter found a little cafe to have lunch at.
From Leknes there were two options to get to Svolvær: we could continue to ride on the E10 or we could, instead, start following the southern route on the 810, a smaller road. Since neither of us had been on the Lofoten before, we decided to go to the Tourist Information and ask about the road conditions and what our best option was. This way at least we would avoid being caught on another gravel path, and they could probably also tell us which one would include the nicer views.

When we learned that following the E10 would mean that we would have a chance to visit the Vikingmuseum our decision was easy made. So we returned onto our bikes and continued our ride toward Svolvær.

Unfortunately, Solo riding in front had missed out on the sign to the Vikingmuseum while I thought he had changed his mind when he saw the parking lot filled with cars. So we didn’t visit the Vikingmuseum on this ride. But I hope that I will one day have a chance to go back for another ride and then I will also go and visit the museum.



Half way through the island of Vestvågøya we had to master another steep climb, which rewarded us with a nice view over the island.
Our ride on the Lofoten did not include as many steep climbs as other parts of our tour had done so far. So it was much easier to cover ground on the Lofoten than it had been on previous days of the ride.
Still, after 50 kilometers and almost five hours into today’s, ride we were happy to take another break at the Lofoten Touristcenter on Vestvågøya. Sitting down and enjoying a soft drink for a while gave us enough energy to continue our ride.

Soon afterward we found ourselves back on the road making our way toward Grimsøy. When we spotted the bridge that would take us from Vestvågøya over to Grimsøy, we took another short rest in a nearby parking lot because we could already see a construction site on the bridge and we wondered how we should get over on our bikes. So we waited some time until we could not see any more cars coming over the bridge or from behind us before we got back into the saddle and rode across the bridge.

Before we made it to the second bridge, crossing the Grimsøystraumen between Grimsøya and Vestvågøya, we saw two young ladies on their heavy packed bikes, who also had to cross over the same bridge. Again we decided to wait and to give them a head start. This way it would be easier for all of us to cross the bridge without fighting for the space on the road. It was a steep climb toward the top of the bridge, and I was not even sure if I would be able to make it or if I would have to get off my bike in the middle of the road and push it to the top. But I made it, slowly but securely cycling across the bridge.
Now we were not so far from today’s goal, Svolvær. We had only about 30 kilometers left of today’s ride, but it was getting late in the afternoon, so we pushed on without any longer breaks, except a short photo-stop at the Lofoten Cathedral in Kabelvåg, the capital of the Lofoten. Yet since it was already five in the evening and Solo was afraid that we would not get a room in Svolvær, we did not go inside the cathedral but decided to possibly come back in the morning of the next day.


We arrived in Svolvær at around 5:30p.m., after almost 9 hours on our bikes covering about 100 kilometers, the longest distance covered in a day so far. Now all that was left for the day was to find a hotel with a room for us…
This time Solo went to ask at the first hotel’s reception for a room, while I watched the bikes. I started wondering what was taking so much time until he returned to tell me that this hotel had no room available. But the receptionist had been so nice and had called all other hotels in Svolvær to see if any of them had a room left for two tired cyclists, and sure enough she had found the very last room for us…
We made our way to our new residence for the night, the last meters on our bikes for the day.

After the check-in and some definitively deserved showers for both of us, we figured to start arranging our way back by calling the NSB again. We thought to take the latest train from Bodø — since our ferry would not arrive in Bodø before 7p.m. — toward Trondheim and from there take the 7a.m. train toward Oslo. Again we hadn’t taken Norwegian cyclists into consideration. While we were able to book a place for both us and the bikes on the train to Trondheim, we would not be able to get onto the 7a.m. train from Trondheim but first the 2p.m. train…so we would have another day to spend in Trondheim.
Another obstacle was that we were supposed to pick up our train tickets at the railway station in Bodø…but that closed at 5p.m…
Well sometimes the NSB proves to be very flexible, as the person I spoke to told me that in this special case they would grant us an exception and we would get our tickets to Trondheim from the conductor on the train, but we would have to pick up the tickets for the second train at the railway station in Trondheim.

After all those arrangements were, made Solo and I decided to walk into town to find a restaurant to have dinner. The first pub-like restaurant was clearly overwhelmed by all the guests, so we soon started looking for another place for dinner, which we found in a nearby Italian place, where we actually were the only guests for the first hour…but their food was still very good.

After dinner we decided to take a walk through town and enjoy the evening light, before we called it a day and made our way back to our hotel room.



You can find more photos from Norway on my website.