Weeks of research had left us with a bit of a puzzle. We didn’t have time to ride all the way to Norway, but land travel was seeming to be completely ridiculous. To get from Krakow, we’d need a long train or a car rental, a 19 hour ferry, and two seven hour train journeys. By the time we priced out all of those options, it occurred to me that flying a budget European airline might just be the answer.
Tuesday flights were impressively cheap and when we discovered that Norwegian Air accepts bicycles without even putting them in a box, the decision was made. And so it was, that this morning, we rode out of Krakow towards the airport.
Our GPS has a real penchant for taking the “road less traveled” namely, the longest, hilliest, slowest way to get almost anywhere. Our route to the airport was an obstacle course, up a ramp next to some stairs and over a pedestrian bridge, through the sidewalk, aimlessly down suburban lanes. Finally, Ben gave up and sent us down the highway where we quickly rolled into the airport, where the fun began.
To make it on the plane, the bikes needed to have their handlebars turned and the pedals removed. Additionally, we needed to pile all our panniers into large canvas bags to become our checked luggage. All of this in the busy airport terminal. We got to work until Ben noticed that we were missing a key tool- the hex key for removing my pedals never got packed. We hand tightened them when we arrived in Athens, but now we had no way to get them off.
Ben started trying to figure out where the nearest sports store was but I was convinced someone around probably had what we needed. I sent him off to go ask the half dozen people walking around with colored shirts that read “Need help?” to ask about borrowing some tools while I went to find out whether the pedals really needed to come off anyway.
The “Need Help?” team seemed like they may have been lacking in things to do, and a couple of them got right to helping us solve our problem. Meanwhile, the lady at the check in desk determined that the pedals did not have to come off the bike if the bike was in a bag, and if I wanted, she’d have someone bring some bags down for us to use. After about twenty minutes, a guy showed up with two bike bags. Shortly thereafter, someone else turned up with the appropriate wrench for us to borrow. It isn’t very often we can sort out two solutions to a problem so fast!
Bikes and panniers now all in bags, we checked in (no weight limit issues, even with our panniers stuffed to the gills with groceries!), waited for the plane and sat down. I still can’t believe the flight all the way to Bergen takes just a little more than two hours. I had assumed we’d need five days of overland travel to get there!
I slept pretty much the entire flight and soon, the plane dived out of the clear blue skies and down into the swirls of clouds below. By the time we arrived in Bergen, the clouds oozed rain in sort of a misty drizzle. The temperature was downright cold. Never before have I wanted to stay inside the cozy airport instead of going to explore, but we sure didn’t feel like hurrying. I’m already sad to have left Poland’s perfect weather!
With the weather outside seeming downright repellent we carefully reworked all of our gear on top of our bicycles, noting that one of our bags had become victim of a puncture wound. Noting that we’d need to patch it later, we secured some local currency, and forged our way into the elements. Thankfully, within a few minutes of cycling, I was soaking wet but not too cold, thanks in part to Bergen’s collection of wooded hills that left me panting to keep up with Ben.
Our first item of business was to replace our canister of CampingGaz that we’d been required to surrender at the airport. We easily found a shopping center that contained not one, but three sporting goods stores. Our first two attempts were unsuccessful, the stores carrying only the American style of canister (and of course, we only brought our European style stove but I have one that does both at home!). We were starting to get a little nervous that we’d need to either buy yet another stove or forgo cooking in Norway (Ben’s note:starve). Thankfully, our third try delivered just what we needed, and we pedaled of knowing that at least we’d be able to feed ourselves in the more remote parts of the country.
While I was busy fighting the mental battle of cold and wet and hilly, Ben was darting around wide eyed, entranced by his own version of cycling nirvana. He seems made for Norway. Meanwhile, we were also engaged in a great battle against the GPS and its bike path allies. We would hop on a path running next to the highway, stoked about having our own space to ride, and then it would veer steeply up into the woods, inevitably ending up in someone’s driveway. Then, we’d turn around and try again.
All this was actually kind of entertaining, but my lunch had long worn off and soon my hunger caught up to me. My legs felt stiff and slow and I was getting kind of grumpy. I was ready to get to camp so we could make dinner.
At one point we stopped, debating about which way we should go, when a luxury car pulled up beside us and an old man asked in perfect English us if we needed any help. We didn’t, but he offered to point us the right direction. Unfortunately, neither of us could articulate where we were going really, aside from an arbitrary point in the GPS (that said small lake) but either way, he pointed us toward the steepest hill we’ve seen our whole trip.
I watched Ben motor up the thing and then halfway, start to waver. He had slowed down so much that he could barely go in a straight line. Usually, that is my strategy, so I knew I was in trouble. I made it halfway before I could literally turn the pedals no more. I got off and pushed to the top. Norway is going to be rough. I can’t decide if I am thrilled or terrified!
The first campsite we went to was situated on a beautiful lake, the mountains leaping out of the water on either side. I went in to ask about a price, and the guy seemed almost anxious to prevent me from staying. He warned me about how the cabins were full (we have a tent), the tent sites were far away, you have to pay for internet, the internet does not work where the tents go, and on and on, until I decided we ought to try the place down the road.
Our second try yielded much better results. The ladies at the desk welcomed us right in and soon we were pitched in the grass under some trees in the land that hardly ever gets dark. Now, it is 10:52 as we sit in the tent, still illuminated by sunshine. Apparently the sun will be back up and at it at 4:30, so hopefully we’ll get used to sleeping in the light!