Out and about early again to stock up and we decided to have a look around Egersund, as we had heard it was very nice. A cute little place with a lovely little white church by the fjord waterfront. I am sure the town is thriving in the summer, but it was very dead this Wednesday morning. We indulged in early morning coffee and cake to get us started….when oh when will we learn NOT to buy cakes in Norway???…sooooo disappointing!
Anyway, we were properly on our way around 10.30 with no idea of what was ahead of us. We had a nice start along the coast and through Magma Geo park region. The landscape was everything I had open and imagined Norway would be…lots of water, waterside villages and lots of forest. It was magical, even if it was grey and drizzly…too good to be true really and photos don’t really convey what it was really like.
And it was, because shortly after lunch it was …Oh my God! The SatNav directed us inland rather than along the coast, and the hills were something that neither of us have ever experienced before. Absolutely stunning scenery but the cycling terrain was the toughest we have ever done…continuous uphill for 30+ minutes at a time and no chance to get off the bike as if I did that, the weight I’m carrying wouldn’t allow me to get back on again. Brutal! On the plus side, I learned to properly cycle hills for the first time in my life, thanks to some coaching from Nigel. Rather than grind my way to the top with pure grit and determination as I usually do, keeping a top gear until I feel I have nothing left, the secret is getting into the lowest gear early and pulling back the pressure and effort so that you can keep going to the top. Before Nigel had helped me get my head around this, I had a 30-second moment where I thought I really can’t do this. I had come off my bike on the very first hill as I had run out of steam and then it took me 15 mins to push up the hill what would have been 5 minutes to cycle. But thankfully that was only a momentary wobble, because if I had lost my nerve then it would have been the end of it for me…I managed to pull myself together to tackle the next set of hairpin turns. And it worked – made it to the top with only a slightly flushed face! And so the day continued …and for all the ups, there are all the downs….equally as scary and you also get really cold after a sweat to the top.
We actually passed through a mountain tunnel at one stage at Helleren with fabulous views and a decent that took us back to sea level.
Unfortunately that meant going back up again and this was the hardest stretch of the day with 3 x 45 minutes stints of up. Exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.
We didn’t really have an end destination in mind, but decided to aim for Flekkefjord, which we had heard good things about. 20km out we decided that if we didn’t make it we would wild camp…not sure what was more scary to me to be honest….wild camping or more hills?? So we persevered and at 5.30pm arrived knackered to a campsite that didn’t exist (recurring theme!!). A quick google to find another one which was 5km away – and yep, it was 5km of uphill track…the gods were having a laugh!! This time however we had rung ahead to be told that all cabins were full, but we could pitch our tent – so that was something…we definitely had a base! But when we got to Egenes Camping it was better than that – and Axel the manager became an instant hero. He was friendly and easy to chat to and when he found out I was Irish he told us he had just come back from a trip to Galway and Westport so we compared some experiences there. Maybe it was that, or that he felt sorry for us when we told him about our epic journey of the day but he then offered us the use of a disused bar and lounge on his campsite (awaiting renovation) where we could cook, use bathroom facilities and even sleep in when we asked if we could. From the thoughts of wild camping to having our own space that is 4 times the size of our flat in Kentish Town, we definitely ended the day on a high. It honestly felt like we had been given a suite at the Ritz, especially when it started to pour rain when we went to bed and heavy rain continued throughout the night.
When we were gushing our gratitudes Axel just said “everyone deserves a good travel experience”. So thank you Axel – we had a great experience!
Today we also met our first other long-distance cyclist, Desiree (spelling may be a bit wrong here, so apologies) a lone female traveling from Kristiansand in the south to Nordkapp, right in the very far north of Norway over ten weeks. Pretty tough going though she did say that she was planning to use other forms of transport, boats etc, for some of it and also take a week off on the Lofoton Islands. Really nice to stop and chat for about 10 minutes and hats off to her for her journey on her own. Not sure I would be that brave! Luckily for all of us we were at the top of one of the many hills and so it was downhill as we departed.
Thought of the day from Nigel: how do you keep a country clean and tidy? Having passed through a few now, the statistics say something like – England, rubbish everywhere, Germany some rubbish, but not so bad. Surprisingly there is a lot of rubbish in Norway – even in the wilds of the hills. Holland, pretty good and mainly rubbish-free, but Denmark was amazingly clean and tidy – why the difference among people who are relatively similar??? Answers on a postcard, if they still do them!
So Thursday morning it was cheery goodbyes to Axel who had given us advice on the best route to take to our next destination, and we headed off more mentally prepared than the day before in terms of the terrain to expect. Much the same landscape as yesterday….lovely woodland and mountain lakes, but just as difficult in terms of ongoing elevation for about 30-45 minutes at a time, followed by 10 minutes of freezing cold descents at about 40mph. But there were only 2 of them today and amazingly our legs were able for it.
First stop of the day was a supermarket in Feda – a tiny place with only a school, supermarket and houses. The stop coincided with the first downpour of the day and a few of the friendly locals took particular interest in us and our bikes, so we spent a pleasant 30 mins sheltering in the supermarket from the rain chatting to one of them. Onwards on our journey and the weather changed to be quite sunny and warm so we could sit comfortably in the sunshine for lunch.
Our destination for the day was Lyngdal and about an hour before we got there was our first experience of the E39 road….really busy with fast traffic including juggernauts – and at rush hour. Not a pleasant experience at all, and I did have a few “OMG what the hell are we doing?”moments…but it was the only route to take so we had to just get on with it. We spotted a tunnel ahead and were preparing to take an 8km detour on a track road to avoid it when we spotted a cyclist coming out of the tunnel towards us. Nigel called out to him and he crossed over to speak to us, and what a lovely man he was. Pastor Jim from Lyngdal who was on a training session for a trip he is doing with his brother from northern to southern Norway. He assured us the tunnel was good to travel through, and who were we to doubt a man of faith…so off we went, with his blessing, literally! Thankfully it was fine with a lull in the traffic as we passed through…doesn’t mean to say I wasn’t nervous as hell though (No pun intended!).
Got to our campsite and although it was open for tents, it was still pretty much under construction in terms of facilities – but warm showers and heated bathrooms were good enough for us so we set up for the night. The chap who served us was a bit dour and uncommunicative, so we’d gone from one end of the hospitality spectrum to the other. When the sun went in it got cold, and our camping stove had a malfunction so had bread rolls for dinner and were in sleeping bags fully-dressed with hats on by 8pm. Probably one of our coldest nights. We think it got to freezing…and then we woke to rain and a cold breakfast of bread and jam and water before heading off feeling a bit sorry for ourselves.
Destination Kristiansand….what would today bring?!