Our flight to Oslo left Heathrow a little late at 4:00 pm and arrived in Oslo at 6:35 pm. By the time we had collected luggage, cleared the airport and put the bikes together it was nearly 9:00 pm. We bought something to eat at the airport and were reminded of how expensive it is just to stay alive in Norway! We had a 5 km cycle to our hotel, all along perfect cycleways and had a great night's sleep. So great in fact that we stuggled to be awake enough to get to breakfast at 9:00 am. We ended up making the most of the hotel and checked out at 11:30 am. We had to remind ourselves which side of the road to ride on! The weather was absolutely perfect and the route was wonderful. Along the flat, dedicated cycleways for 40 km! Fantastic. We were using Cycle Route 7 but would not necessarily continue on it. We had some housekeeping to attend to; drawing money, buying petrol for the fuel bottle and of course buying food as well. What a different the weather makes though! You don't crave the same foods and this is easier on the pocket in Norway.
We had a campsite we could use at the 40 km mark, but wanted to press on another 20 km to a bush camp along a lake. Things got interesting as there were major road and rail works underway where we had to try to work out our route, avoiding the tunnels of course on the busy E6. It soon became apparent that the construction of the new rail line had probably used up the route we would have taken. After avoiding the tunnel, we stopped on the road to consider our options. I took a walk back down the road to check on a gravel road that had turned off, and Mike chatted (well communicated) with a construction worker. He managed to understand that we could not use this route at all, our only option was to turn back and go past the campsite and continue along Route 7, which may or may not go where we wanted it to. We stopped at the campsite to get some drinking water and also to find out what the cost was - at 180 kroner we thought it a bit steep and anyway, we prefer the bush camps. A few kilometres after the campsite we found the turn off for Route 7 and followed this up a dirt track along a beautiful river to a lake. There was a picnic site/swimming hole with lovely benches and even a toilet. The signs advised that you could not camp inside the picnic area without a permit so we planned to camp just outside the fence. We had a lovely relaxing evening after our swim and enjoyed the view. Blue skies, green forests and calm waters of the lake. We are so pleased to be in Norway, the previous three months feels like a dress rehearsal.
We continued along the dirt road with quite a lot of climbing but almost all rideable, except for when I couldn't go up and couldn't stop, and promptly fell off my bike and then even off the actual road into the channel alongside. No damage done. The weather was warm and beautiful (can't say how much we appreciate this, remind me of that when I start to complain about the heat in a week's time) and the route was very scenic. We had great views all day of Mjosa Lake which is the largest in Norway. So blue sky, green forest, blue lake. We even rode through our first herd of Norwegian sheep, complete with bells around their necks; free range sheep maybe! The dirt road ended in Espa after 15 km and we continued along great roads to Hamar which was fabulous. It is a town right on the lake and has many beaches, diving boards and water activities. We sat on a bench with many sun-loving Norwegians, all with their faces to the sun. We were the only ones with hats on, as usual. We had lunch there and a local chatted to us sharing some good local knowledge about our route. We could not wait to get into the lake ourselves! We continued to ride along it for a few kilometres and then our route took us away from it. We had a campsite we could use in Brummunddal, but 5 km short of it came to the turn off for Verven Badde which is a series of swimming holes on the lake. What a spot! We relaxed there all afternoon, swimming in the cool water when we got warm and reading. Norway delights. As I write it is 9:30 pm with the sun still high, and we are still to pitch the tent. Feels like a summer holiday!
We hit the wilderness today! We were heading through Lillehammer which we were quite pleased about as we love the TV miniseries and also the Winter Olympics were held there in 1994. We had two options after Lillehammer: take the high road which entailed an 800 m climb to over 1000 m and experience the world normally used for snow sports, or stay low along the river which entailed being on a busier road with some climbing at the end and forgoing the more remote environment on top. You can guess which one we picked: No pain, no gain!
Lillehammer was at the 51 km mark and the route up to then was along quiet roads and often dedicated cycle paths. The quality of the road surface here surpasses anything we experienced in the UK, even on the cycle paths. We even passed some road workers actually laying down bitumen on a new cycle path! Good work. These paths are wide and spring up in unexpected places. The scenery was once again farmland and lake views. Lillehammer lies in a valley surrounded by high hills and mountains. The ski jumps were visable from a distance. We needed to stock up with food in the town as we would spend two nights up in the mountains without shops. It all weighed a ton! More to schlep up the climb. We had earlier found a shop with 2 Cokes for the price of 1 and had worked out a way to keep all our water and take the extra Cokes so it all weighed a bit. Nothing beats Coke however for replenishment so it was worth it.
The climb started at Lillehammer and we had the benefit of a cycle path for the first few kilometres. We were then up in the forest, climbing higher and higher. The views over Lillehammer were amazing. The climb would ultimately last 20 km. We passed the turn off to the ski jumps, then to the ski course, the ski huts, then to where the buses turn around. Still climbing. We reached Nordsetter and had a great rest and snack at a picnic area and then kept climbing. Norseter is all about ski-ing and there are many lodges and huts catering for the winter trade. Eventually the route became an unsealed toll road and we climbed still. We were tiring now and although it had been overcast when the sun came out it was hot. The area itself is very beautiful, all coniferous forest with grassy floors and lakes and you can see for miles and miles. We passed some rivers which were camping options but kept going. We almost stopped at one, but it wasn't quite the right spot and came across two ladies on bikes out for perhaps a short tour (very light gear) one of whose bike's could no longer engage the chain by pedaling. This is a problem that would end a tour! We had just come through the settlement of Hornsjo and she was on her way there to see if she could get any help. Amazing to come across two ladies not very geared up in these remote parts. The very next river was perfect, flat place to pitch and a bench! Pity about the MANY bugs but we still managed to spend time outdoors fully covered, and with hats and flynets. Norway is a beautiful challenge!
We have a relaxed attitude to morning wake ups now that the weather is so reliable and there's not much point getting to the end of your day early to enjoy sunshine until 11:00 pm and millions of bugs. May as well just take things as they come. So after all the climbing yesterday we were suprised to discover that we would climb almost as much today, not in one big climb but spread out throughout the day. We spent most of the day in the wilderness area and it was very beautiful. You could see for miles around, through coniferous forest to snow covered mountains. Norway is so organised about the outdoors and the facilities are amazing. There are pit toilets in some places, hikers huts complete with fuel and cooking utensils, lean to's and even row boats for use. The lakes in this area offer so much camping, you are spoilt for choice! There are many holiday huts and shacks and most have the earth roofs thick with green grass in typical Scandinavian fashion. The scents of Norway were also on display, think "pine fresh" and you have it, authentically. We saw many herds of sheep on the road today, one bunch in particular was not very keen on moving off the road and a couple ended up chasing us!
The day was slow going as we were on unsealed roads for all but about 500 m. It was tiring with the climbing but so rewarding. We had no shops today so were pleased that we had carried all that food yesterday. We found that we got hungry quickly and ate regularly. At about 60 km we stopped at what would be a great camp spot with an excellent swimming hole, but as this was not far enough for the day we contented ourselves with a swim and kept going. Shortly after this things took a turn for the worse. Our unsealed road turned into a "non-track" which was in parts unrideable. We had 3 km to go on it so we rode when we could, but it was grassy, rocky, muddy and generally unused. We stopped at a couple of camp options on the lakes before finding ours. It was beautiful and really peaceful, bugs were plentiful but we covered up totally, even donning our rain jackets to ensure a bite free evening! A long day though, we had left our camp at 8:30 am and it was 5:00 pm when we got here. The evenings last forever though. We had two great swims and then hopped into the tent.
So today we were to descend 800 m to Ringebu and then climb 800 m to the Rondane. We were about as excited about it as you would be! It breaks the heart of a cycle tourist to lose all that height only to have to work at regaining it, but there was no other way! We had a great start to the day and the descent took about 15 min and 16 km. It was great, not too steep until the very end. When we got to Ringebu the plan was to stock up on food as once again we did not expect to pass a shop and we also wanted to have a rest day up in the Rondane. It was a Sunday and we had forgotten that there is no Sunday trading in Norway! Everything was "stengt". Mmmmm, the old fallback is the Statoil petrol station where you pay a lot more but there was a good enough selection. We had a second breakfast and off we went. The climb started with some crazy short switchbacks and we had a cycle path for a bit, then we turned right onto the climb proper. The road is a national tourist route called the Rondevegen. It climbed quite steeply and soon the valley floor with it's glassy lake dropped away. The climb was steeper and more difficult than the one at Lillehammer. We climbed solidly at a gradient of 9% for over 2.5 hours. At one point we had stopped in the shade at the side of the road and three guys on road bikes passed us. The road was quite busy with weekend traffic. I was mostly surrounded by a cloud of flies as my speed was so low (sometimes only 4km/h) and I was dripping with sweat. It was hot with the sun out. We climbed above the tree line and reached our maximum height of 1057 m and then came to a massive Kiwi Pris Grocery Store - "Apent"!! What a bonus; you can always buy more food! We stopped and went inside. The three road bikers were there too and we had a long chat. They were all from Oslo and had set out from Ringebu this morning. They were meeting their family about 85 km further on. It was nice talking with them. They assured us the remainder was "basically flat".
It was lovely being up so high surrounded by a wide flatlands and no trees, just ground cover. Many people were sitting at the picnic spots along the way. We had a long descent again, speeding along a river's course. The road was great. We stopped at an old water mill for lunch at about 3 pm and had a sleep. After this the road undulated gently, more down than up, beautiful forest again and we stopped at a scenic lookout. The Rondane mountains are beautiful, many still snowcapped. We passed a visitor's centre and toilet area about 10 km from our planned end point. It was in a pretty spot along the river. The person in charge gladly filled up our water bottles and also told us that rain was coming and they were expecting 50 mm in 6 hours. Oops! How close do we camp to the raging river? We found a camp spot near our planned end point, it was in the open and we could pitch the tent under a small pine tree. We "washed" our cycling gear in the rushing river and hung it out to dry. We had a couple of interesting swims as you had to struggle not to get washed away! Overnight was had some rain but not much, millions of sandflies though.
In the morning we were suprised to see that there were some pools of water in old vehicle tracks near our tent but it had not rained enough for that. The water must have come up from the ground. The river had risen a bit, our muddy tracks from the night before were now underwater. We began to get worried about the safety of spending the day in this wide flood plain as the rain had not even started yet! We decided to make the move sooner rather than later and packed up to move our camp about 3 km down the road. We were gutted about it as a rest day should be just that, REST! But now at least we were on the opposite side of the road to the river and in a much better position. Time to rest!
We chose the perfect day for a rest day as it rained almost all day so it was good not to have to cycle and also cool enough to be comfortable in the tent as the midges would have made it too difficult to be outdoors. We had a very restful day as we were no longer worried about rising river levels! The area where we camped was surrounded by a very pale green, almost white type of lichen/ground cover which was soft and very beautiful. There were also large piles of animal pellets so it seemed that elk came down from the hills behind to graze and drink from the stream. As we were there however they wouldn't have come.
We had a later than usual start as we slept so soundly and a great day's riding (almost all day). The road was very good and the area picturesque. We had breakfast at Folldal and stocked up our food supplies. The first 48 km of riding were slightly uphill as we gained height. We crossed into the Dovre National Park where musk ox are to be seen. Unfortunately we did not see any. Although we climbed back to 1000 m the area was almost all forested and we did not spend much time in the wide open plains. We were following a river upstream all the way and wow, was it full of water! Shortly after entering the park we joined the E6, the primary road in Norway. Our hearts sank when we saw that it was 50 km to Oppdal as it was a busy road with a narrow shoulder, very narrow in places. Luckily for us it was all downhill, but we had a headwind. Although the day was cold there was no rain. We had to concentrate at holding our line so that cars, caravans, campervans and big trucks could sneak pass as there was usually oncoming traffic. I reminded myself that this is what cycle touring in Australia is like, hanging onto your tiny shoulder for dear life. Out of practice I guess. After 30 km of this we stopped for a rest and lunch. We were both tired and felt the stress in our bodies of maintaining speed, direction, no wobble, etc. Tight backs! We had one close call when a idiotvan (sorry, campervan) passed VERY close. Too close. Otherwise all good. We managed to spend about 4 km on a smaller, quieter road, and then although back on the E6 as we had entered the outskirts of Oppdal the speed limit was lower and the road a bit wider so more relaxed. I forget to mention throughout this that the 50 km descent was along an amazing piece of road, rushing down a canyon alongside a raging river fed all the time by waterfalls falling the height of the surrounding hills which in turn were fed by patches of snow and ice. If it were not for having to concentrate on the white line all the way we probably would have taken more in, and more photographs!
We stopped to buy yoghurt for tomorrow's breakfast in Oppdal and Mike wanted to find the library as they usually have free wifi. We had been having trouble accessing our service since arriving in Norway and so had not been updating our website. We found the library in a cultural centre and they did offer wifi. Mike did some research and managed to adjust one of the modum settings and all appears good now, so regular updates can be made to ozisafari. We were headed for a bushcamp 13 km further on and had some climbing to do to get there, fortunately at a steady grade. When we got to the turn off however there was a boom gate down so no access. We continued on to Skarvatnet, a lake further along, still climbing. The lake was quite far below the roads and the area abounded in holiday cabins so difficult to find a campspot. We kept going until we left the lake and then found a lovely area high above the road with a stream nearby. Flat and covered in groundcover it made the perfect spot! It was very, very cold up there and the cloud cover was quickly moving down so that be the time we got into the tent we were in the cloud and visibility was down to about 30 m. We managed to have a passable wash in the little stream and then ate supper. Took ages to warm up in our sleeping bags. The forecast for tomorrow is rain. It was a long day for us, we had left camp at 8:45 am and finally arrived here at 6:30 pm. A long day, but a good day.
We woke to rain at 6:00 am and went back to sleep. Slept in 'til 8:00 am and by the time we got going at 9:30 am the rain and cloud had lifted a bit. The start of our route at least was visable from the hill where our campsite was! It would be mainly downhill as we had 750 m in altitude to lose. We rugged up as the temperature was only 2 degrees, but after 6 km realised we were too warm and took off the middle layer and were then comfortable. It rained lightly most of the time that we were riding and much of the route was on quiet, unsealed roads through forest area which were a bit muddy and sticky with the rain but great roads otherwise. We did our shopping in the town of Å (!) and then had some climbing to do away from the river in Meldal. We climbed up passed the Svartvatnet lake and a few kilometres further on we came across a perfect little campsite on a river with a bench. Too good to pass up we called it a day, albeit a short one. Tomorrow Trondheim!
Having slept wild for 9 nights in a row, the thought of a warm shower (or any kind of shower for that matter) and an en suite bathroom was too tempting to be denied. We decided that we would book into a hotel in Trondheim as this would allow us to see the town too. We love the freedom of bush camping which always outweighs any hardships and don't see that there is anything to gain by paying to camp in a campsite where you are often squashed in with other people and miles from showers / toilet block, and the midges are still there. There is however certainly a gain to be made by an en suite bathroom to ourselves and clean white linen. Throw in a cooked breakfast and we are sold! We woke in the trees to some rain (not this again!!!) and set off before 8:00 am. We had quite a bit of descending to do today and a beautiful start along a big river. I don't say it all the time but this is really a beautiful country. We did have a few rain showers and wore our wet weather gear all day, and it was very cold at between 10 and 12 degreesC. We came across our first official cycle route signs since Lillehammer (where have we been going?) which is always reassuring ("This way to Trondheim, yes, you are not the only idiots doing this!"). We had cycleways on and off, and the route took us up a climb to Heimeldal which was well graded. The road is in the process of being upgraded with a fabulously wide cycle path along it which will be excellent when open. We used it in places. We had decided to use the free wifi at the library in Heimeldal to find a hotel and picked the Comfort Inn, the same chain that we had used in Oslo on arrival in Norway. We got a great rate again and booked a room. We then headed on to Trondheim which was reached down a great descent about 10 km further on. It could not have been easier to reach the hotel, the town had a great network of cycle paths. We could check in right away, at 2:00 pm. The hotel stored our bikes in a conference room (we apologised for their dusty appearance). We enjoyed our shower A LOT and then walkied into town. It is a great town with a real frontier feeling to it. We checked out the tourism centre and picked up many brochures and maps, etc. to have a look at. Things are going to get interesting from here as we are now at the coast and so will catch MANY ferries hopping from one spot the the next. Looking forward to the next chapter and hoping for for sunshine. Also looking forward to breakfast tomorrow!