With the weather as cold as it was yesterday, we let the morning settle a while before hitting the road. I left camp wearing a base layer, a jacket, and leg warmers. As we warmed up, we shed layers and then later, as we rolled through shade or downhill, we’d add some more.
Temperature challenges aside though, our route today was simply stunning. Right out of the gate, we wandered past lakes and ponds, cliffs and inlets, giving us views of our first fjord. The way was hilly and cool and Ben was in Scandinavian heaven, declaring this road “better than the road to Hana.”
Soon though, our relatively flat bike route (away from the busy main highway) took a turn steeply up, and we got to work clearing the steepest road we’ve encountered so far this trip. Ben’s impressive quads carried him right up, but I struggled for ever pedal stroke, a deep ache groaning from my hip. Knowing that this climb was the first of many Norwegian hills, I felt intensely discouraged, even as I watched the gorgeous trees rise up around me and the fjord sink even deeper behind me. My legs seemed to be no match for the terrain, and with an injury, I was surely doomed.
At the top of the first pass, we cruised by mountain lakes, snow capping the peaks behind us. The going was intensely slow, but the route was among the most beautiful places we’ve ever pedaled. Sometimes we pedal for weeks at a time just for a glimpse of scenery like this and from what we understand, this is just a warm up as to what Norway has to offer.
Our second pass was upon us far too soon, this one requiring us to climb up and over a series of insane switchbacks just for the privilege of avoiding the highway tunnel that didn’t allow bikes. My quads burned as we climbed and my mood made hard swings between elation at the insane beauty of the place in which I found myself and intense frustration at the fitness level I fear I may never achieve and the injury that just won’t leave me alone.
Once we crested the hill though, the way down added up to me some of the most spectacular scenery of the day. Ben kept checking to make sure I was doing ok, and I couldn’t decide what to tell him. “This is awesome!” and “I hate this!” were both themes of my inner narrative. My hip ache had progressed well beyond the usual mild pain and was rapidly escalating into troublesome discomfort.
A summer of training for LOTOJA last year has left me a bit confused with how to proceed as a cycle tourist. The strategy finishing for a long distance cycling event basically involves “don’t stop pedaling no matter what.” That strategy just simply doesn’t hold up when you are riding a bike everywhere you go for weeks and days on end. Still, I find it ridiculously hard to override my inner voice that just wants to get going and to do it as fast as possible. In either event, I’d really overshot how difficult the cycling in Norway might be, and we’ve clearly got to take some shorter days if we’re going to be cycling such rough terrain.
Our final pass nearly ended me. The road just went up and up and up, and when we finally got to coming down the other side, a closed bike road required us to ride straight through some long dark tunnels. It took a bit of self coaching to keep myself from panicking as the cars roared past us in the darkness. We considered calling it a night twice before we rolled into our intended destination, already knowing that we’d probably be taking a rest day tomorrow. Luckily, our campground is set right on Hardangerfjord with beautiful waterfront views.
Ben: Today’s ride took significantly longer than either of us had expected. Having left around ten, we didn’t roll into camp until around 6:00 (causing me to miss a meeting) even though we covered only about forty miles. We have severely underestimated Norway’s ability to kick our trash. We are definitely going to have to revisit our route and figure out how to slow it down.
This seems to be a country of extremes. We are either sweating (when we’re going uphill) or freezing (when going down). I very rarely use my middle chainring – it’s either granny gearing it or spinning frantically in my big ring on the down. The elevations are also extreme – Today we soared to 1200 feet only to drop back to sea level. Repeat twice more, and you can call it a day.
Another general observation about Norway: We were bracing for the worst when it comes to the prices of things here. So far our experience in this regard has been mixed. Our campgrounds thus far have been as cheap or cheaper then other places in Western Europe – between 20 and 25 USD per night – not bad in a place where even a cheap hostel will run $35-40 per person per night. Groceries were a little pricier than usual – though some items were exorbitant. We poked into a souvenir shop nearby one of the dozens of waterfalls we passed today. It’s prices were also right on par with home and much of Western Europe. That being said, the warnings about Norway’s insane prices seem a bit overblown and as long as we’re careful about what we eat and where we sleep, we should come home to at least a few pennies to our name.