• 16th June 2017

Back in the game - Gaularfjellet, I'm coming back for you

Riding back north, to leave no stone unturned, and mile or mountain uncycled...

Hairpins on gaularfjellet pass...

Cycling north to Sognefjord

Day 20 of riding | 85 miles | 137 km | Ascent: 1,720 metres

Looks like Spanish rock faces, no?

Entering or leaving a city by bike is never a fun activity. Obviously from my road map, I knew the most direct route out, but often these roads have 'illegal for cyclist' signs on them, or illegal tunnels. There are cycle routes signposted, but they often do very long, & hilly diversions that are out of the way I plan to go. Resentfully, I had to back off an extremely busy E road, with its no cycling signs, & begun following the cycle routes. They're actually pretty good, & frequently marked.
I reached Knarvick town, which marked the waypoint for me to choose which way north: I chose an island called Radøyni.

This day marked the end of a western Norway record: 27 days straight of rain, making it their worst June in over half a century. Today, it was 18 degrees & sunny, blissful cycling conditions!

Private little island complete with yatch - living like a Norwegian

Unfortunately my gears were misbehaving. Yes, immediately after a new cable was placed (& I'd paid 70 pounds for this cable and a 'service'). Upon clicking the shifter, the gears would not change, resulting in me having to click multiple times, & then having the gears jump a few too many, or taking a few minutes to actually change. Not good, the day before going back into mountains!
After a whole weekend in Bergen, I scolded myself for not trialling the bike immediately after the service, as I was now out of bike shop access. It may just need a simple adjustment, I thought & hoped: I will sort it tonight.

The road was undulating, & the scenery was pleasant. I then arrived at a fjord crossing 10 minutes before the next ferry was about to depart, perfect!
Delightfully this ferry cost me nothing, as a fellow passenger started asking me about where I came from/am headed to (which seems to bring a surprised look to most people's faces), then told the ticket man to not charge me a thing. Win! This nice man then proceeded to explain how Norway is not great for cycling, the roads just aren't built for bikes. I thought to myself, he's either crazy, or he's never actually ridden a bike.

He's right, these roads are totally awful

From the ferry terminal, just 35km north to hit the Sognefjord coastline, before checking my ferry times for the morning, & heading 14km east to a campsite.
My gosh, the roads here literally resemble waves. Unfortunately it's quite tiring continuously riding their troughs & crests! Despite no real mountains today, I still racked up a total ascent (amount of vertical height I have climbed on the bike) of over 1,700m. Similar to a day riding the mountain passes around north Wales, crazy.

The north coast of Sognefjord, Europe's largest fjord, exhibited giant rugged rock faces, resembling that of Spain's.

I immediately spotted another tent with two bicycles outside, at the campsite, & headed over to greet them. They were Helen & Jules, from Sheffield - my soon-to-be home from next year!
They've cycled around Norway many times before, focusing on specific areas each time. This trip was about Sognefjord & its surrounding valleys & mountains. They were quite astounded to hear of my daily distances & climbing, but at the same time, I imagine they can revel in Norway's beauty a bit more than me, taking time to stop & enjoy beautiful sights as opposed to chasing miles.

Home tonight (Jules & Helen are to the right)

After cable adjustments made little difference to my gears, Jules kindly had a good look at it too. After 45 minutes it seemed unlikely a quick fix at 11pm whilst being eaten alive by midges. Tomorrow may be quite frustating!

Day 21:

108 miles
2,150m ascent
I've been here before!

Ahh butterflies - I made it back!

A nice early start of 0730 had me riding those little road waves again, back to Rutledal ferry stop.

Flattest road in Norway so far!

I love the early morning, sunny calm here. The water reflects the gentle morning haze like a mirror, & everything seems so peaceful.

On the ferry I met an interesting Dutch cycle tourer: he rides in boat shoes & beige chinos (complete with a chestnut coloured leather belt), & looks like his bike is carrying four of me, weight-wise. He seemed nice, but clearly assumed I lacked experience a little in the way he was explaining to me about how to ride in Norway (I didn't say what I had been doing, until he eventually asked).

Not to sound like a tree-hugger or anything (as that is only a part-time hobby of mine), but what an incredibly glorious morning in such beautiful surroundings! The temperature starting climbing from 18 to eventually 27 degrees, & I rode around the quietest smooth roads, hugging lakesides, & climbing up above tree-lined valleys. I saw quite a bit of wildlife, too: at one point a cat-sized creature jumped across a tree infront of me, its face looked like that of a bear's, but its black fur & long tail resembled that of a squirrel. I passed some large birds that looked like ostriches (but clearly weren't!), & enjoyed watching the bouncing rhythm of swallows as they would flit a few times, then gently glide a little, crossing the path ahead.

Casual waterfalls everywhere

The town of Dale marked the coast of another fjord, Dalsfjord, which would lead me to a road back into Sande (the place I'd had to bus to Bergen from)! There were beautiful craggy rock faces alongside me as I soared towards Sande, excitedly anticipating the Gaularfjellet mountain pass I was cycling back for.

Pretty cool tunnels only for cyclists at Dale

Begging to be climbed..

Back in Sande, ahh! I felt a kick of adrenalin at making it back to this point, & proud that I had done it. Not only that, but on their most stunning day in a whole month! Sounds like fate, if you ask me (which you didn't, but I'm telling you anyway).


The bus stop of salvation

Repeated the 15 miles that I pushed/attempted to cycle along that not-flat, flat road, until finally again arriving at the road that ascends Gaularfjellet!

Up up up, sharp down. & repeat.

The pictures & road map reveal some very beautiful & characteristic hairpins to this mountain, and so obviously that was what I was anticipating... this climb was quite challenging, & in classic Norwegian style - not only would portions of it be extremely steep & tough going, but as you look at your altimeter & think "ahh, 500m nice, not that uch climbing left!", it suddenly drops down for a bit. Then you repeat that, again, and again, and again. These road-engineers must be pretty sadistic people. It's ok, as only about 15 miles after initially starting to climb upwards, I was at the top!

Hilariously the hairpins were on the other side, so I would be going down, not up them. That probably made the hill seem so much harder/longer "my God I must have ages to go, where are these hairpins!?"

Two brilliant viewpoints are placed on the top to help us tourists experience the incredible views.
After chatting to a Norwegian couple, & them informing me of the troubles Norway has with tourists not appreciating the dangers of Norwegian conditions, & just wanting good photos (e.g. rescues from mountains, including a tourist who took her 5 month old to Trolltunga!), I started the descent.

Eventually into the very quaint & much hailed town of Balestrand. A noteworthy fact is that their English medieval church, St. Olaf's Church, was the basis for the church in the movie Frozen.

St. Olaf's Church



1,861 miles
29,279m ascent

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