I didn’t sleep well at Høysand Camping as, despite my best efforts, I hadn’t managed to find a patch of ground that was flat. I felt myself roll off the camping mat frequently during the night and when I finally became bored of doing so, got up, showered, packed up and cycled off in the direction of… well, somewhere in the direction of Oslo. It struck me while I was walking to the wash block for my shower what a nice location the campsite was in, next to the shore with boats bobbing on the water in the distance. Very picturesque. How nice it would have been if, instead of cramming all the caravans by the side of the water, the patch of land allocated to tents could have been there instead. I had had to pitch my tent in a corner of the site with no view to speak of. It was a bit like putting the short kids in the class at the back of the school photograph. I did hope that Høysand Camping was not symptomatic of campsites more generally in Norway.
I knew that at some point in the next few days I would be in Oslo. Cycling days 68 and 69 would see me cycle there. Various campsites were marked on my map so I shouldn’t have too many problems finding one later in the day. First up, however, was Sarpsborg, the nearest town to Høysand Camping where I would pause for breakfast. Upon arrival I could see that a fair bit of the Norweigian Sovereign Wealth Fund (estimated at nearly $900 billion by the CIA World Factbook) was being used to dig up most of the main street. It did give the place a rather derelict feel but a little further into the centre work had at least been completed in the smart main square.
Money was on my mind too although not $900 billion, just enough to see me through a few days in Norway. So, actually, about $900 billion if I were to believe all those people who have been warning me about the cost of living in Norway ever since I first uttered the word ‘Nordkapp’. In fact, it’s only the cost of living for foreigners, or most of them. According to the CIA, gross domestic product per person is $68,000; in the UK it is $38,000. Just imagine how different that latter figure might have been if Britain had taken a longer term view of oil revenues rather than using them to support tax cuts… Anyway, I took out a mere 2,000 NOK from the bank or about £160. Peanuts.
Enough however to get Reggie looked at to have the gears realigned, one gear cable replaced and brake pads changed. The guy who changed the wheel in Hanburg did a good job in changing the wheel but managed to do not much else right. The alignment of the gears has been the main issue for the last few weeks but the brake pads he fitted have all but vanished already and his lack of concern with the rear tyre tread verges on the alarming, especially as he was fully aware that I was travelling to Nordkapp. Petter – the mechanic with the beard – did a good job however (note the red carpet by the way!) and while the bike was being pampered, I went to pamper myself with breakfast, coffee and a haircut.
The trim was courtesy of Mohammed, an Iraqi refugee who had come to Norway 20 years ago after the first Gulf War. He said that Norway had chosen him rather than the other way round. His preference had been for Canada or Australia. Perhaps he had spent his first few days at Høysand Camping as well. He had some interesting comments to make about living in the country – he often gets bored as here people spend much time indoors; very different to how life was in Bagdad – and the language which he now speaks fluently. Ramadan is an issue in a country which has such short periods of darkness in the summer. He only charged me 100 NOK instead of the normal 170 NOK as I was a foreigner. Perhaps he had also been reading the CIA Factbook.
I picked up Reggie and we continued north, initially via Moss on the coast as most roads seemed to head in that direction. Another look at the map in Moss told me that my potential campsites were now not far. The first two, just inland from Son couldn’t be found even after a Google Maps inspired trek through forests and along muddy tracks and a conversation with a perplexed local family that any campsites should be marked on the map in the first place. The third site, near Vestby, was equally elusive (not just because it had been spelt incorrectly on my map) so I just kept pedalling in the direction of Oslo. For the first time I was benefitting from the very long day of sunlight; the pressure to find somewhere was only because I was becoming increasingly tired. I paused at a service stationb to refuel with chocolate bars and searched for campsites near Oslo. Camping Oslo Fjord appeared. It’s still nearly 10 km from the centre of the city, doesn’t have a view of the fjord, the communal facilities are a bit crumby and is surrounded on two sides by busy roads but as a base for visiting the city, it’s not too bad. I am, however, looking forward to some better quality camping experiences as I cycle north over the next few weeks…