(17) Into the land of the giants
Sunday 15th July
We left our apartment and decided to ride around the town appreciating the quiet streets as it was Sunday. We road out of Alesund trying to stay off the highway and out of the tunnels. We ended up in a boat yard at one point as the cycle paths weren’t clear about the direction we needed to head in. In fact most Norwegians complain about the cycle paths so we were surprised not to find a group of them all trying to find their way out. We ended up on the highway in the end as this seemed the easiest option which was ok as it was Sunday and there was little traffic.
We stopped for lunch outside of a garage – Sharon went into the garage to get water and came out with a warm loaf of bread and a full bag of water that was bulging as the man wanted us to have nice cold water but not quite that much. We headed on and met an Austrian cyclist who we had met a few days before. He had just come from the mountains where we were heading and told us he’d had really bad weather and was unable to see the views.
The views were getting better and better
Hoping we would keep our good weather we continued up a long climb.. Tim reached the top and waited for Sharon. A family approached us and it turned out that he was English and came over as he saw Sharon’s Marmite bottle. They were a lovely couple called Matt and Gry and great to chat to, they wished us good luck. We headed off down the hill and turned right down the edge of a fjord with great views. We stopped to take photos and the family we’d just met arrived by car holding a carrier bag which they presented to us. It contained marmite, chocolate, a box of PG tips (English tea bags) and a Norwegian flag. They also gave us a lovely message on the back of a photo of the view from their house. We were so touched by this thoughtful act. We were worried about the chocolate melting so we made the difficult decision to consume it before carrying onwhich took around 30 seconds give or take 🙂
The family who bought us gifts – Gry, Matt, Elias and Jonas
By this point the wind had started to pick up so we rode on for a few miles and found a bus shelter to put the kettle on – we sat drinking English tea with a marmite and cheese sandwiches feeling grateful for our kind gifts.
We rode on looking for a camp spot for the evening and found somewhere just before a tunnel out of sight from the road. Not a great site but ok for our needs.
Monday 16th July
We had really heavy rain in the night – Tim didn’t sleep well as he heard noices in the wood – it turned out to be a bird….By the time we got up, the sun was shining and it looked to be a good day. We packed our stuff and headed through the tunnel heading to Andelsness. Our legs struggled to warm up. We stopped on the side of a road, which was built by the German’s during the war. We ate our breakfast of granola and raisans looking out across the fjord.
At one point we were diverted around a tunnel and were annoyed to see a fab camp spot which was only 10 mile on from where did camp. It’s always ‘just around the corner..’ Tim found some wild strawberrys which we devoured along with some bread and marmalade to help those tired legs.
We were worried about an approaching tunnel which we were told cyclists could not go through and because of a land slide the cycle route was blocked. We weren’t sure what we were going to do but headed on. The road was beautiful, undulating with a vibrant bird population. We got to the tunnel and didn’t see any ‘no cyclists’ signs so we clad ourselves with reflective clothing and headed on in. With lights flashing, we headed nervously into the 6km tunnel. With a gentle 3km climb it felt a bit tense coupled with the drone of vehicles. Fortunately it then was downhill for the next 3km and we popped out the other side into bright sunshine safe and sound. We arrived in Andelsness and had some lunch during which a Norwegian man approached us and gave us some packets of food from the company he worked for. We must have looked hungry!
We were about to climb the famous ‘Trollstigen which is an uphill climb to approx 850 metres. Trollstigen means ‘Troll ladder’ and was completed in 1936 after 8 years of hard labour. It has 11 hair pin bends and a 1:12 gradient. The Lonely Planet guide describes it as a ‘thriller of a road’. We headed up the lush green valley to the start of the climb and could see the road zig zagging up the mountain ahead of us. We started up the climb, stopping to take photos and eat peanuts to keep us going.
Tim nearly at the top
We noticed that many people who were driving up/down were taking our photos and even videoing us! We had lots of encouragement in the form of thumbs up and clapping. We even had one man shout ‘Le Tour de France’ at us!!
We finally arrived at the top and went to the view point that hangs out over the cliff edge.
Sharon at the view point
A Norwegian man approached us who was interested in our trip. He introduced himself as Rune and was with his family. We were making a cup of tea when he came over to us from the cafe with 2 coffees and a slice of cake each. Once again we were surprised by other peoples kindness. After enjoying our gift we continued to climb for a couple of hundred metres and decided to camp by a lake on the other side. It was pretty chilly but we enjoyed the feeling the remoteness and the stunning mountain views.
Our camp spot on the other side of Trollstigen
Tuesday 17th July
It rained heavily in the night but we had a good night sleep , we did worry that the bikes were getting wet as we’d not covered them with our tarp but felt too cosy to get out and cover them. We headed down the mountain in the drizzle and came across a beautiful gorge which had lots of white water and was used for canoeing (maybe next time….)
We continued down the valley and arrived in Valldal which was a pretty fishing town and where people take the ferry across to the stunning Geiranger fjord – which is stated as Norway’s most stunning fjord. For us though, we had to climb a 750 metre ascent. We slowly climbed up. Sharon was struggling towards the top and found Tim playing with some trolls he’d met which were sat at the top of the mountain. We rode past a great camp spot but decided to continue down the climb about 100 mts to a view point to see Geiranger fjord 600 mts below. We wanted to see it in good weather in case it turned wet in the night. It was stunning – there was a cruise ship in the fjord that looked like a toy ship against the high cliffs. While we were enjoying the views we met a lovely German couple called Olly and Khiara who were from Berlin and had come the other way on bikes and were doing a 5 week tour of Norway. We told them about the camp spot back up the road and then followed them up to spend the evening with them.
We had a lovely time with them, sharing stories about our travels and how generous people had been. Khiara said she felt bad for not having anything to give us so went in search and came back with a marker pen so we could mark our route on the map. We were delighted but didn’t expect anything. Sharon wanted to offer something in return and offered Khiara a razor (strange gift we know), she said yes with a strange look on her face and when Sharon appeared with a razor Khiara said “I thought you said eraser.” We all had a laugh and enjoyed the rest of the evening and they kindly invited us to stay when we pass through.
Our camp spot that evening
Wednesday 18th July
Woke to a nice day, dried everything and said our goodbyes to our new friends. We headed down to the town of Geiranger, seeing the fjord from different angles and now with 3 cruse ships in the fjord.
The stunning Geiranger fjord
We had another climb ahead of us so we picked up some supplies and headed uphill once again. Tim got chatting to a guy who was running up part of the hill and worked as a fitness instructor on one of the cruise ships. After he left us we continued to 500 mts where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch stop in the sunshine before continuing on to 1,000 mts stopping to take photos, pleased to be at the top. We rewarded ourselves with some chocolate noticing that we were above the snow line. Tim nudged Sharon and said ‘don’t panic’ and pointed up to another view point 500 mts above. We found out this was a one-way track up to a viewing platform that looked down across the valley. After a bit of coaxing with chocolate and the promise of a cup of English tea at the top, Sharon agreed to do the climb. We set off stopping to take photos of the glacier and the frozen lake below. The views were truly stunning and all thoughts of tired legs were forgotten.
The view from the top (the real summit this time!)
By this point the temperature had dropped rapidly as the sun was behind the clouds so we made a quick descent heading on down the valley. We found a few nice places to camp but with the cold wind and feeling cold from sweating all day we kept descending. We stopped to have something to eat to warm us up but with mozzies in the air we made it a quick break and headed on. We eventually found a spot at a rest area which was not ‘very special’ as it was stony and right next to the road. We settled down to sleep after an amazing but tough and tiring day.
Thursday 19th July
Woke up to a tourist bus arriving – despite it not being a good camp spot the views were pretty amazing. We were filmed by a guy as we left the camp which made us feel really awkward as he just stood there and didn’t say anything. We didn’t have a lot of food so headed off looking for a shop. Down in the valley we found a supermarket where we sheltered from the rain. It hammered it down while we enjoyed bread and marmalade.
We arrived at the town of Lom having endured rain on and off. We did a big grocery shop and found a tourist information which was warm and dry and had free internet ; ) We took a look around the town once the rain had stopped. There was a beautiful Norman style Stave church which is described as one of Norway’s finest. It was constructed in 1170 and still functions as the local church.
The Stave church at Lom
We cooked dinner and headed on up the valley towards Songdal, entering Jotunheimen National park to find somewhere to camp. The German couple had mentioned about a stunning road with a big climb to the highest point in Northern Europe called the roof of Norway which was where we were heading. We rode about 10 miles alongside a stunning blue glacial river. It was difficult to find somewhere to camp due to there being a river on one side and farm land on the the other. We eventually came across a camp site so pitched our tent, grateful to have a shower. It was late by this point and we didn’t get to bed until 12pm.
Friday 20th July
Woke up at 10am after a night of rain. We had really bad condensation in the tent. Fortunately the weather cleared up and we managed to dry everything. We headed on up the valley with increasely amazing views. We stopped for a snack at a waterfall where Tim presented Sharon with a snickers bar much to her delight.
We rode on to the summit at 1,434 mts (known as the ‘roof of Norway’) and had a cup of tea and some food enjoying the stunning views. We rode on where the road undulated to another rest stop where we pulled over to take pictures .
Tim making tea ‘on the roof of Norway’
The road was called Sognefjellet and was built by unemployed youths in 1939 – quite a task.
Tim on the Sognefjellet road
We got chatting to a lovely English couple called Owen and Brenda who invited us into their motorhome for a cup of tea. They asked us if we needed anything which was really kind of them but we couldn’t think of anything other then elastic bands which would be a great help for keeping opened food sealed. Sharon got a litte too excited about getting elastic bands (we were also given wet wipes, washing up sponges and extra strong mints ; 0 )We had a lovely time with them and enjoyed the stunning landscape before us . Aware we were high up we went on to find the descent with a few false ones but with amazing veiws we finally appeared at the main descent which was spectacular. We descended about 400mts to a hotel where we would turn left to climb what we thought was the last mountain pass . We got chatting to two girls who had just ridden over it earlier who told us that there was a 400 metre climb to 1300 metres, a 200 metre descent, a climb back up to 1350 meters then we would then have to descend to a fjord at sea level before climbing another 1100 metre ascent! Feeling tired from the thought of it we decided to have a camp meal with them while Tim fixed one of the girl’s wheels. We then climbed 200 meters up the hill towards the pass into the remaining sunlight before nightfall to find another stunning camp spot.
Riding up to our next camp spot
Saturday 21st July
It was cold in in the night but our home for the night more then made up for it.
Our view in the morning
It didn’t rain but we still had to try and get rid of the condensation off the inside of the tent. Once breakfast was done and all our things packed away we climbed from our camp at 1100 metres to 1300 and then enjoyed the fast descent to the next climb the other side. It ended up being steeper than it had looked on our way down. The sun was now covered and the wind was cold but the exercise helped us stay warm. We reached the summit and went past a lone man in a toll cabin collecting money from the odd car that would drive the pass. We descended for a long way which was great fun but knowing we had to climb all the way back up the other side took a bit of the fun out .
Tim descending down to Ovre Ardal
We arrived at the fjord town of Ovre Ardal and bought lunch trying to see the way up the mountain the other side noticing that the hill was so steep the hair pin bends disappeared into tunnels. After having lunch we felt quite strong and started the climb. With the previous days climbing in our legs we felt really strong and flew up the first 600 metres of height. Tim left markings on the road every 100mtrs of height which helped Sharon keep going.
Encouraging messages on the road!
We stopped for a snack and reached the plateau at 700 metres which then slowly climbed to 1100 metres. By this point we had a really strong tail wind and enjoyed being blown at speed along the plateau.
The last plateau before descending into the valley
We stopped by a lake and filled the kettle from a waterfall and had a snack. We needed to continue as the next day would be a long ride so we descended out of the mountains to a junction which was the first road sign we saw for Oslo. We had been advised to go right to the next valley but decided to go left as it was down hill all the way to Fagernes. With a great descent it levelled off in to another beautiful valley.
We got quite hungry so stopped for tea at a rest stop and washed in a pubic toilet that had hot running water. We went on to find a campspot but found it hard to find one as there was a lot of houses. After about 11 miles we found a spot behind some trees but still quite close to some houses. As it was late and tomorrow was Sunday we decided it would fine. We had thought earlier about sleeping in the grounds of a church but thought it might be too much of a shock to the congregation the following morning, so decided not to.
Miles to date: 1,936 plus tunnels (as GPS doesn’t record us in them!)
Total altitude gain: 30,157 metres (yes we were suprised too!)
We hope you have enjoyed this post –