When you look at a map and try to figure out where you think you can get on a bike each day to it is very easy to over- or underestimate this. We came from flat countries where the going was tough when the wind was against us, but the rest of the time it was a breeze really. Norway has taught us some valuable lessons. The first day out of Stavanger lured us into a false sense of security as it was only tough (ish) towards the end of the day. Then was the shock of big hills for three days and then the aftermath! Looking at the map to Oslo now and it looks to be easier than what we have done previously, so it would be easy to say we’ll be able to do 80-100km a day, but I’m much more cautious than I was back at home planning. Underestimating is, of course, not so much of a drama, as you just end up hanging around somewhere, for example the beautiful town of Hirtshals for a few hours!
So, the route from Kristiansand to Oslo doesn’t look as difficult riding as we have done recently and in fact we left today and cycled 81km without too much difficulty. We initially went into Kristiansand itself and had a cycle around the old town which was very quiet as it was fairly early on a Sunday morning. Nice enough though. The rest of Kristiansand is industrial and urban sprawl and not that inspiring and we (I) had a bit of a navigation faff getting us out of town as there were a load of criss-crossed roads, bike paths and road works all of which we conspiring against me!
Finally free of the town we headed north up a river valley – nice riding through mainly agricultural land and woodlands.Crossed the river Flakksvann about four times, which is mainly a benign peaceful river except for a couple of monster falls (see the picture of one of the falls).
For any kayakers there are numerous great whitewater rivers that I have seen in southern Norway especially in the grade 3-4+ region. One in particular was almost continual grade 3 for about 5km near Flekkefjord as we followed it up one of the many hills we did that day. The picture shows a grade 4-5 fall with an easy(ish) bumpy route to the right, a tough route in the middle and a very scary route to the left that would need seriously big b***s to attempt!
We snacked our way up the river valley and had a very pleasant lunch in Birkeland; the weather was great, sunny and about 15 degrees, which is perfect for cycling. The road from there to Lillesand was not as nice, but thankfully nothing compared to the busy road of a few days ago….just rather dull! Lillesand itself a really quaint little sea side town with a lovely harbour area, so we had a little break to take it all in and decided to go further as we had more energy in our legs.
We moved on to some really great coastal roads with more wow scenery, met a local retired chap who we had a chat with for a few minutes and generally had a nice ride to a campsite we’d looked up earlier.
Feeling that we hadn’t quite finished with the cycling day we pushed on for another 12km to a second campsite on a peninsula by the sea near Grimstad. Of course there were the obligatory hills before we got there!
A few recent observations: Martina and I had a chat about how our gear selections in Norway have differed so much from the other countries we’ve visited so far. Where we’d once been languishing in gears 5 to 10 we have been using gears 1 to 3 and 12 to 14 much more recently. Sometimes the change from 1st to 14th has been a matter of a few seconds as we crawl to the top of a hill and then plummet to the bottom and then reverse the gear change at the bottom.
I bought a new pair of cycling shoes in Aalborg as my old ones finally gave up and one of the soles detached. The shoes were surprisingly close to the priced I’d pay back home which was a bit of a bonus. The chap in the bike shop warned us of motorists poor attitude to cyclists in Norway with tales of people being run off the road and also of the lack of cycle paths. Both of these are in fact myths! He’d never actually been to Norway but there’s nothing like spreading a good rumour! The drivers have generally been pretty good, even on the busy E39, some have even tooted encouragement when we have been fighting particularly big hills (at least we think it was encouragement!) and there are loads of bike paths except when you’re right out of town, so for people that come from the UK where there are hardly any bike paths at all, this is more than we’re used to!