I’m about to start writing… And here I am. I’ve showered, eaten, washed the dishes (OK, there aren’t that many) and I’m sacrificing listening to Any Questions on Radio 4 in order to write up about not just today, cycling day 73, but yesterday as well as I never did it last night. You may want to scan your eyes over the pictures for cycling day 72 (two posts below) before you start reading as they are worth a look. It was spectacular day 1 in Norway…
Done that? Good. Then let’s begin. A couple of days ago someone on Twitter asked if I’d be interested in using a particular app which would give me the route profile of a cycle before I’d started riding it. The answer was a diplomatic ‘no’ as I prefer to remain ignorant about big hills before I actually confront them. Now I’m not stupid. I didn’t ride over the border from Sweden imagining that I’d arrived in The Netherlands. I know the hills are out there, just not exactly where. If I did know then there’s a decent chance that I may not emerge from the tent that morning. Yesterday was a good example of one of those days.
It was a bit of a shock to be climbing so steeply so early in the day. I now know where the Albanians learnt to build their mountain roads. After about an hour of climbing I paused at a point where a woman in her early 20s had also paused. She wasn’t cycling but practising cross country skiing. I’ve seen this a lot and it looks a bit strange seeing someone skiing on extended roller skates pushing themselves along with a pair of sticks. All credit to the woman for attempting to do so up such a steep hill. She explained that there was another couple of hours climbing to go… Onwards and upwards, not a switchback road in sight, just one long, steep road.
I paused at a pretty wooden church painted white. It looked striking against the blue sky so I took a photo. I then noticed a ‘Commonwealth Graves’ sign just to the side of the entrance. Intriguing. In the far corner of the graveyard I found five headstones for soldiers from the Derbyshire / Nottinghamshire area. They all died in early summer 1940. No exact dates were given on the gravestones, just two dates between which they were presumably assumed to have died. Four of the men were aged between 19 and 22 and the fifth was 38. My initial assumption was that they had been shot down but they weren’t in the RAF, their regiment was, for four of the men, The Sherwood Forresters. I wonder what the story is behind their deaths. More research needed. It was poignant seeing the graves of men who were born in around 1920. Had they still been alive they would have been in their mid nineties. My step grandmother passed away earlier this week aged 96. It somehow brought the deaths of the soldiers into the present day. If nothing else it was a beautiful spot in which to be buried albeit some distance away from Nottingham and Derby.
I eventually arrived at the top of the hill and… Well, stupendous, magnificent, dramatic, breathtaking… etc… I’ll have to think of some more imaginative ways to describe what I found for the book but it was pretty special. There was no doubt that the mounts would part of Norway had now started. Not that it was a deserted wilderness. There were a good number of houses at the top (most with deep turf insulating their roofs), a supermarket (making me wonder why I had bothered to lug my evening food supplies from the one in Ringebu where I had done some shopping shortly after setting off), a hotel (where the woman on roller-skies was living – she arrived as I was having a coffee), and a café (where I was having the said coffee).
From there on the cycling was much less strenuous. A bit of a descent, but not sufficient to completely eradicate the hard work of the climb, followed by a long ride down the valley to Folldal. The traffic was light but where you could pull over and stare at the scenery, it was usually in the company of a retired couple in their camper van who were dog the same thing. The only cyclists to be seen were the cyclists out for the day in their lycra apart from late in the day when, a hundred metres or so from the road, I did spot what appeared to be two touring cyclists who were in the process of setting up a wild camp. It was too far to say for sure; they could have been tramps on bikes. The look in these parts is quite similar and I feel that I’m slowly heading in that direction.
At Folldal I had to make a decision that would affect not just the rest of the day but the rest of the cycle as far as Trindheim. Left or right? Turning left would probably be a shorter route but it would also mean reacquainting myself with the busy route 7 road that I had to contend with North of Lillehammer for a while. Turning right would be a longer ride but avoid the busy traffic. I turned right. Grimsbu, my final destination was only about 10 km along the road where I found the Grimsbu Turistsenter. That was cycling day 72.
My intention, after cycling just over 100 km yesterday, was to have a short day today. My map suggested two campsites in Tynset which would be under 50 km. Time to do my washing and catch up with things like writing this blog… The two cyclists you see in the pictures below are Herman and they are on a tour of Norway. They don’t look like tramps. In fact I did spend some time last night wondering just how they managed to look so clean. They had been on the road for over three weeks but everything – clothes, equipment, bikes… – looked as though it had just been delivered from the shop. An amazing spectacle to rival yesterday’s mountains. My own clothes are – sorry, there was a short break there while I moved inside as it is threatening to rain – stained by oil and sweat, the bike is looking worn as, no doubt, am I. How do they do it?
I bumped into them several times during the morning although I think my self-deprecating manner was wearing thin on the man. He seemed to have everything planned out in detail and he didn’t see the funny side of me, for example, informing him and his wife that I should rely on Google a little less when I had turned around and met them coming in the other direction.
This morning’s cycle was in great contrast to this afternoon’s. Most of the ride to Tynset was on a private road. It wasn’t tarmaced but was a decent enough surface upon which to cycle and vehicles needed to pay a toll for using it. Bikes were free and before I set off I did check with a Norwegian couple who had just driven along the route whether it was OK to cycle. As with most Norwegians, when asked whether they spoke English, they replied ‘a little’ before launching into what most people would consider near-fluency. The road was OK ‘…but steep.’ Well, could it be any steeper than the road at the start of yesterday?
No, it couldn’t, but the surface quality did add an extra challenge to the ride. Once again the effort was worth it as the road passed a pretty lake with a mountainous backdrop. Apart from the flies which gathered in their dozens as soon as I stopped cycling, it was sublime.
I reached Tynset in the early afternoon and ate s supermarket lunch. The campsite was just opposite the Coop (yes, they have them here too) but wasn’t great. Most notably it was, well, opposite a large Coop and a busy road. Mmm… I had slept so well last night in wonderfully quiet Grimsbu. A cheese sandwich, banana and apple seemed to give me sufficient energy to keep cycling despite the fact that I knew it would be another 50 km before the next campsite. I set off hoping for a flat ride…
It was flattish. Some long uphill sections but by the end of the day I had actually descended back down to 500 metres. The main road I was following – route 3 – had its busy moments but nothing compared to the route 7 earlier in the week. Some spectacular views of the fast flowing rivers next to which I first climbed and then descended. The last couple of hours were tinged by my thirst and the wind which was now blowing from the north. I couldn’t do much about the wind but I did eventually manage to buy a bottle of water from a service station. It cost me 32 NOK. That’s about £2.50. It was the cheapest bottle. I’m still trying to get a sympathetic response from people working in shops when I suggest that the price is high but so far, no reaction. I suppose to them, it’s entirely normal. When in the Coop in Tynset I walked around searching for the cheapest products but still managed to spend what I would consider to be a fortune for pasta, cheese, bread and biscuits. Everything, apart from Coop green pesto and Coop peanuts is just bizarrely expensive. Why? It just doesn’t make sense to me that you have to pay £2.50 for a small bottle of coke. Back home it would be about half that. Strange… I’m no economist.
The Norwegian flats in Kvikne were flying at half mast. Nobody important in Norway appears to have died so perhaps it was a local. Perhaps they were just expressing their sympathy with me cringing at the thought of paying £3 for a Marathon. The campsite is 7 km to the north of the town and is aimed at fishermen and their fisher wives. The guy with a beard who ‘welcomed’ me was the first person in Norway since the guy in that first campsite who was in the least bit off-hand.
“Do you have space for one person?”
“Put your tent up anywhere and come back later to pay… 200 NOK plus 10 NOK for the shower…”
It’s not a bad site although a little close to the road.