B(v)iking Scandinavia Part 3: Oslo to Bergen

Before leaving Oslo, we spent way too much time scanning the internet for proof that this route was in fact possible. The few people we consulted tended to shrug and ominously reference the many mountain tunnels through which a cyclist may not live to tell the tale. But a route exists! And is even marked as a bike route in many areas (albeit a rainy and sometimes treacherous one).

We finally departed Oslo after a day of derping around in the city, trying unsuccessfully to unlock our phone plan and buying some much needed camping essentials. While Oslo was charming in a lot of ways, it has that expensive tourist quality that starts to grate on weary cyclist nerves. A euro to use a public washroom? Please don’t mind me while I squat behind your dumpster.

My are-we-done-with-this-god-damned-city-yet face.

We had made the decision to ditch Google and to relinquish all navigation to our new Kamoot overlords, which aside from one exhilarating “shortcut” straight through a farmer’s field, proved to be pretty effective. From Oslo we basically took bike lanes all the way to Drammen, and then secondary roads (paved!) northish to Rodberg.

Stoked for a big down into Drammen.

It was all lakes and hills and sunshine, up until this point. Then it just became hills. And motor homes. And eventually rain. The tourists swarmed most towns and villages and we would go days without talking to actual Norwegians. And competition was apparently steep. One campsite operator chased us off his property when we stopped for a picnic at an isolated picnic table. Another hotel charged us $5 each for a shower that I will generously compare to being sprayed down with a cold hose. But in Rodberg a couple of local women read our sign and surprised us with coffee. And then, obviously, there were the views.

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Aka please be our friend and share tes choses

Alright, so after a grumpy day of waiting out the rain in Rodberg (thank you again mysterious ladies for your smiles and warm coffeeeeee), we set off to do the 60-something km ride to Geilo (the G is pronounced a little like a Y). We knew that today we would have to climb not one, but three mountains, the highest topping out at 1110m. It was several Km of steep climbing. But we did it in a day and nobody lost a spoke or cried.

Shortly out of Geilo we stumbled upon the much anticipated rallarvagen, a stretch of unpaved path that runs for over 80km through mountains, fijords and glaciers. I want to post a million pictures but even natural beauty can get redundant through a shitty cellphone camera lense.

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“If it’s not glacial water than it can suck it.”

 The first 30km of the path to Finse were amazing in every way. Quiet, sunny, hard-packed dirt roads which slowed down our pace but we’re otherwise manageable and who wants to rush those peaks anyway? The next 30 or so km were a different story. Not only did we find ourselves dragging our bikes and worldly belonging through lengthy patches of ice and snow, but our dirt path became rocky, and sometimes just rocks. Even our mountain biking counterparts were occasionally observed walking their steeds. Cycle-tourists, this route is an emotional roller coaster and will leave you both awed and feeling like every bone in your body is ready to break.

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The snow novelty wears off, I promise.

When we eventually descended deep into the valley and back down to sea level (via some wild dirt road switchbacks that make my breaking fingers ache just thinking about it), the road miraculously re-paved itself and we free-fell all the way to Flam.

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FIJORDS.

After toasting our victory in the local Viking bar (obvs), we camped behindl a kayak rental but. The next morning, we got up early to take a boat through the fijords to Gudvangen in order to pick up a secondary highway that would hopefully not shoot us through pitch black car-only mountain tunnels. Rocky roads and touristy bullshit aside, THOSE FIJORDS.

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Drooling

We opted to skip the cheesy Viking village in Gudvangen and headed Southwest towards Voss. It wasn’t too long until we ran into our first set of nasty switchbacks on a narrow one-way road for traffic coming straight towards us. It was us vs the cars and terrifying tour buses that would hurtle down and around corners, barely giving us enough space to stand. And then it started to rain. Guys, we made it all the way to Voss but spirits were low and we we had been about 10 days without a warmshower or couchsurf. We were wet, dirty, and scared that we might not survive the next 100km of switchbacks. So we took the train to Bergen (where it was also raining).

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Hiding from the rain in Bergen

From here we took what can only be described as the world’s shittiest ferry down to Denmark. It was a grueling 18 hour ride that involved charges for WiFi, hot water and presumably oxygen. We “slept” on the floor and voilà awoke to Denmark with the sun shining (it later rained) and bike lanes for days. Currently we are staying at a magical farm not far from Aalborg and will head south this morning (it looks like rain).

LOVE

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England by pedal bike: The trip where despite the hills and rain, nobody cried (and we considered that a success). Part Two!

A million years ago, I posted a first installment of my UK bike trip.

We left off in beautiful bath, in which as I stated before, we didn’t get too many pictures, but is a reminiscent mix of Harry Potter and high society. Like, magical and unaffordable all at once.

We hopped on to the Railway Pathway, a 13 mile stretch of paved path linking Bath and Bristol. While it was quite straight and, as one of our hosts claimed “bloody fucking boring,” we enjoyed the break from roads, cars and roundabouts.

We arrived in Bristol and were greeted by our CS host who led us up hills and past Banksy street art to his flat. We stayed for two nights and played tourist for what I assume is the genuine club-hopping, bridge-sighting, card-playing Bristol experience.

This was totally Sis’s time to shine as I fell prey to much too young British men offering me far too many shots at the bar. Thankfully, being the capable adult that she is, we navigated the Bristol streets under the cover of darkness and drunk and got home in one piece.

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Bristol has a bridge over a gorge.

When it was time to say good-bye, our host took us to the outskirts of town (over the bridge crossing the gorge, our memories are like 85% sure) and we were off. Although it was slightly off route, our intrigue had us headed in the direction of Cheddar Gorge. Chedder? Like the Cheese? And let’s be real, what exactly is a gorge if not just a giant hole in the ground? FILLED WITH CHEESE? We had to see.

As with most of our biking days, it rained on and off, and somewhere in beautiful cider country Sis’ back rack snapped clean in two. Thankfully we were able to macgyver it into place with the help of a few bungee cords, and then left our bikes at a shop in Cheddar to be repaired as we took a tour of the village. Once in the village it was all we could do not to ask passersby “Excuse me, but where is the cheese gorge?” because apparently this was not as obvious as it could have been. But, since nobody else looked lost and we didn’t want to be those dopey Canadian cyclists, we wandered until we found its entrance, got a sadly underwhelming peek and headed back to get our trusty steeds.

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Bike what now.

We camped that night at what we soon learned was a typical British camping field with tents and RVs all lined up beside one another. We moved a little slower the next day and due to some creative map interpretation, accidentally found ourselves in Bridgewater (based on our own experience and chats with other Brits, it seems about equivalent to our Hamilton).

The day after was equally long/hilly/rainy and Sis was starting to feel a little bike tripped out. Thankfully that day saw us finishing in Dulverton which is just at the entrance of beautiful Exmoor National Park (Sis’ request that she would regret while we spent the better part of the next day climbing mountains).

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Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

Our Dulverton hosts were a couple of young guys who’s parents were away and seemed all too eager to invite our drenched, sweaty selves into their home. Well, kinda. I pitched our tent in the back yard while Sis was terrorized by the giant and curious chickens (“all of my greatest fears are being challenges today”). But! Fresh eggs and warm showers? No real complaints.

We took off early the next morning and got to see Exmoor in all of it’s very hilly glory.We biked, walked and cried our way through the park, reached its highest elevation, and then careened down to catch our first glimpse of the ocean.

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THE OCEAN

And this isn’t the end -I swear we did more. More biking. And even more squishing our bikes on to planes, trains and automobiles. 2017 promises to be a big year for biking so it is my goal to have this and my other past trips spewed on these pages and archived away for future emergency nostalgia. You know, to make space in my little head for the big adventures to come.

♥ ♥ ♥

 

 

 

 

It’s so easy, you should totally do it.

IT’S FALL. And biking in fall is literally one of the best things in the world. Or at least in the fall, in this soon to be ice-cube of a country. Like, light neck-tube and hand warmers weather. You know.

About a month ago, still in the sweaty throes of summer, my partner and I took a day trip to Chambly and back. Why? Because it’s not CLOSE close, but also not FAR far. And the sun was shining. And our legs were itching. And he swore that there’d be beer at the end of the line.

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At a teense 32km each way, it’s an easy there and back tip ride.

Once you get off the island and do the old uppy downy on Mr. Cartier, it’s a breezy two dozen kilometers on mostly bike paths and side roads. We left sometime well past noon (as is our signature move) and got there in time for an early dinner/beers AND were back on the island before dark.

If you have a free day kicking around before the air gets cold, you should hit up this trip. Even if you are a bixi rider. I’m pretty sure you could bike to Chambly and back on a bixi without too much problem. I mean, if their invisible tethers reach that far, or whatever.

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Obligatory celebratory brews picturrrre

 

 

Bikes, Boats, Battlestar Galactica

So, two months before my initiation into the life of the chronically under-employed, I was lucky enough to visit Myanmar for a couple of weeks. It was beautiful, friendly and full of pagodas. And hot like you might imagine it is on the surface of the sun (I mean, I’m no scientist, but I’m just saying).

We took an over-night bus from Yangon to Nyaungshwe (which turned into an over-night/over-day bus due to the unfortunate breakdown in the mountains). Even though it was a gazillion degrees outside I somehow managed to convince my travel companion to rent a couple of bikes and take a tour across/around Inle Lake the next day. So, equipped with a little hand-drawn map from our guesthouse, and all the water we could carry, we set out in search of the lake, a vineyard, and those wild local fishermen who paddle with oars attached to their feet.

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If you biked fast enough, you created a breeze and sweat a little less. No joke.

We did the whole Myanmar thing and stopped at every pagoda and lookout point that we stumbled across. At least at first. I mean, after the first several dozen the heat starts to win out and there’s this little part of you that dies while screaming DEARGAWDNONOTANOTHERPAGODAPLEASE.

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This is where I dropped my phone and then proceeded to run over it with my bike.

Eventually we made it to a little village where we ate lunch in a local restaurant (which may or may not have been the culprit in the violent food poisoning we contracted later that evening). Despite the fact that Myanmar only opened to tourism a few years back, the locals are already pretty tourist savvy and wasted no time to offer us a boat ride across the lake. Obviously we were all HELL YEAH because we were hot and tired of pedaling and boats.

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All aboard.

We threw our bikes on the back and gave our driver about the equivalent of $8 US and he took us through a winding maze of houses on stilts and water gardens. I was pretty convinced that with all of our weight (which felt much too high as the driver had us sitting on chairs he had brought aboard) we were going to topple over at any of the sharp turns. But we didn’t.

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Bikes, boats and breeze. OMG.

As our luck had it, the boat broke down in the middle of the lake and i got the privilege of helping our driving get it running again by handing him tools and holding random pieces of equipment. We were stationary long enough for Andre to snap this:

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A most precarious melange of fishing and ballet.

Once on the other side of the lake, we hoisted our bikes up onto a dock taller than my head and somehow managed to climb up without incident. Guys, it was really beautiful, all the houses on stilts and water gardens and lo and behold, only a few more kilometers down the road we found a vinyard with reasonably priced Myanmar wine (much better than the even more reasonably priced Myanmar whisky) and a view.

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The view from the dock nomnomnom

 We watched the sun set, but amidst all the magic we forgot that we needed to cycle back, and then it got dark. So we teamed up with some other wheely tourists and cycled home in a pack with our cellphone lights to guide us through the Myanmar countryside. That night we proceeded to get my first bout of food poisoning in over six months of travel, and the magic stopped abruptly for a couple of days (but returned in the form of an e-bike through old Bagan. Seriously. Google it).

Stay tuned as we continue to travel back in time to the Himalayas where I wander around with a bag on my back through the mountains like it’s a great idea!

England by pedal bike: The trip where despite the hills and rain, nobody cried (and we considered that a success). Part One!

Last summer my little sis and I did something pretty cool. It was one of those last minute here-goes-nothing kinda things, and for me, the wicked result of a series of disappointments interesting life hiccups.

So we meet at the Montreal airport and have to face the typical shit-storm labyrinth associated with bringing a bicycle on an airplane. Like seriously airport guys, with the exception of Porter Airlines (who seem to have a well oiled system and an endless supply of Steam Whistle) this is not brain surgery: Bike goes in bag, bag goes on plane, everyone is kind to one another. /Rant.

Alright, REWIND a moment and let me provide a little context. This happened to be my first ever overseas bicycle trip. This also happened to be Sis’s first ever bike trip. I was recovering from a broken foot. Sis hadn’t owned a bicycle since training-wheel days. And we hadn’t traveled together since we were shit-disturbing children. Context is everything.

Ready for take-off.
Ready for take-off.

ANYWAY, since flying to England means time-travelling into the future, we arrived there at 6am (or 1am our stupid sleepy time). Also, since a good night’s rest is for the weak, we had planned to reassemble our bikes and make the 60km ride to Reading that day. Nothing a couple of dozen coffees can’t fix.

Unanticipated Challenge #1? Finding our way out of Heathrow Airport. Since there is only one way out and it’s designed for those fast moving vehicles with motors, Sis and I played chicken with the cars until some nice airport employees threw our bikes into the back of a truck and drove us out of the compound and into freedom.

A cheater start, but then we were off- wobbly and powered by cheap caffeine, we were off.

We caught Bath Road (appropriately named as technically we were on the way to Bath) and headed West. This took us through places named Slough and Maidenhead. We got caught in rain, got a little turned around and were baptized by fire into the roundabout-heavy, high-hedged and narrow-laned left-sided experience that is cycling across the UK.

Upon arriving to Reading we were so very warmly welcomed by our first host and soon-to-be best mate in all of England. Here we rested our weary jet-lagged bodies for two nights.

“You guys wanna see my swords?” says the strange man we met in a foreign country.

Day #3 saw us leaving Reading and getting hopelessly lost. We took a detour off of our trusty Bath Road to visit Stonehenge and got caught in circles of nameless streets and towering hedges and had our first brush with scary-fast A grade roads. The sun was setting by the time we hit Hannington  (as my sister fondly describes it: The village in the middle of nowhere surrounded by walls of hedges) and we were fall-down happy to find a pub that would meet all of our immediate needs (food, drinks and camping in their back yard).

The next day had us waking up in Hannington to a pot of tea and a parade of hounds.

You thought I was joking.
You thought I was joking.

So we took the next logical step and hitched a ride with our new best mate to Stonehenge. And then proceeded to break into Stonehenge.

We got this close and snapped a pic before we were politely asked to get the fuck out.
We got this close and snapped a pic before we were politely asked to get the fuck out.

 

Our saviors with a motor then kindly dropped us off at our next destination after snooker and a pint. Day 4 and only 2 day of biking (4 days of rain). We were killing it. We crashed in Devizes with a lovely couple from warmshowers and in the morning we were back on the bikes for what we expected to be a leisurely 50km to Bath.

The road to Bath was predictably less leisurely than we had anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, despite the on-and-off rain, it was a beautiful ride following the Avon canal which was full of adorable longboats we can only surmise were full of hobbits. Parts of the route, however, saw us cycling through rubble and fields, particularly tricky for Sis on her shmancy road bike. All that aside, Sis happily remembers this part of our trip as the day with lots of downhill,

So quaint it hurts.
So quaint it hurts.

We made it to Bath with more than enough daylight to spare. Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures, but believe me when I tell you that this city is gorgeous. Like, totally worth the google image search. We crashed with another warmshowers host (who offered us the standard cup of tea upon arrival despite it being a zillion degrees out and him being smack in the middle of carnival prep). Sis and I spent the night consuming the standard unholy amount of pub food and drink. The we helped the carnival folks fasten CD’s to a fishnet until bedtime. Standard Bath experience, I’m sure.

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Avon Canal samsies

 And that concludes part one of our trip. Stay tuned for part two: Bristol, Brigdwater (I know, I know) and beyond!

Montreal to Ottawa (minus 30km) Holy crap.

It was May long weekend, which also happened to be my birthday weekend, and I wanted to spend it in Ottawa.

When normal people travel to between Ottawa and Montreal, they drive. Or bus. Or maybe take the train.  In what I now consider to be a moment of questionable judgement, I decided it would make a fun (and completely feasible) day-long bicycle ride at just over 200km.  I’ve known people who have done the trip in the past, so no big deal, right?

Wrong.

Thankfully I have an Ottawa-abiding soul mate who shares the same passion for cycling and who so kindly agreed to come meet me half-way.

So it all began at 7:00am on Friday morning.  I packed up my bike with two paniers and my sleeping bag (a tent was to be purchased at our friendly neighborhood Ottawa MEC).  I was on my way and totally invincible -Hawkesbury by 1pm, no problem. The ride started with a tour across the entire south side of the island, which was quaint and beautiful.  For the first dozen kilometres or so, I rode alongside the Lachine Canal, which was fantastic despite the wind being to my face.

Breakfast break.

My self-assurance (and energy) started to dwindle by the third hour, at which point I still had not made it off the island.  Yes, an out of practice cyclist is a slow cyclist. On the bright side, I got to acquaint myself with a handful of Montreal’s boroughs that I would not have visited otherwise: Lasalle, Lachine, Dorval, Pointe-Claire, Beaconsfield, Baie D’urfe and St. Anne.

I was thrilled when I finally reached the bridge and said bye-bye to Montreal.

View from Bridge to l’Ile-Perrot

Once on l’Ile-Perrot I made the first in a series of mistakes and took a wrong turn.  Thankfully this was only a minor setback, and after a quick phone call to my oh-so-patient roomie I was back on track.

Okay, so a quick sidenote to defend my cycle-adventuring honour: I brought two sets of directions with me on this trip.  The first set was acquired from what I now know to be a less-than-reliable fellow blogger.  The second set was mapped out by yours truly on almighty Google.  I figured with two sets of instructions I could not go wrong, and at the first sign of trouble I would nip into a depanneur and purchase a road map (smartphones, huh?).  I was foiled on two fronts. First, I opted to go with the shoddy blogger directions that took me on unnecessary detours and conveniently omitted important turns.  Second, while stores in little Quebec towns do carry maps, they don’t see the necessity of carrying interprovincial maps.  Lucky for me, I have a man in Montreal who works near a computer and agreed to be my long-distance navigator (in shining armor).

Bicycle lawn decorations.

Needless to say I showed up in Hawkesbury several hours later than scheduled, leaving my travel companion to cafe and curb hop (because everything in Hawkesbury closes at 2:30pm, apparently). The second half of the trip was a hundred times more pleasant and starry, despite a few minor setbacks (ie. finding ourselves on the side of the highway for several kilometres).  We reached the outskirts of Ottawa around midnight, and instead of chance the bike paths so late at night we hailed a van-cab to take us the rest of the way home.

 Paying no attention to our bike-ride fatigue, we finished the night off with champagne and plans to bike a simple 40km to Wakefield the next am.

Superheroes

Important lessons?

1. I am not cut-out for solo bike journeys.

2. 200km is too far for one day

3. Think about a smart phone.

This is how I roll.

Yoga is for rainy days.

The last week has been like summer (but in winter -wummer?).  So beautiful, that I have spent most of my free time cycling around Montreal, while my schoolwork and yoga pass sit on my kitchen table, untouched.

Sherbrooke and St. Urbain

This winter/spring heat wave has done crazy things to my brain.  I have left my home early in the morning (with every intention of arriving to work early) only to spend the extra time cycling lazily around the city. I have supported the student strike by getting lost for hours in what turns out to be Villeray (I think).  I also got the great idea to cycle up Mont Royal on my way to work one day, which was an ambitious trek for the start of the season (and thrilled my co-workers, im sure).

Following the train tracks.

Basically, this is the best time of the year to be a city cyclist for two reasons: First, there is minimal bicycle congestion due to that fact that many seasonal cyclists don’t start-up again until April.  Second, because it is only the beginning of the busy bicycle season, Montreal drivers are considerably more cautious.  Except cabs; Montreal cabs are rarely ever cautious. Third, it is pre-bixi season (more on that later).

Bicycles (and trees) against the tuition hike.

The temperature has since plummeted back to regular old March weather (drab and drizzly), which is 100% okay by me.  With the sunshine carefully tucked away behind all the gloom, maybe I will actually get something done.

St. Laurent underpass.