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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B(v)iking Scandinavia Part 2: Stockholm to Oslo

This is coming to you directly from the Oslo burbs. Which, unsurprisingly(?) are at the top of what Norwegians probably call hills, but we cursed as mountains as climbed them yesterday afternoon.

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Even without gear I was mouth-breathing the whole way up.

(As a side note, I feel as though Scandinavia will singlehandedly bring back the scooter. They somehow seem to be the two wheeled vehicle of choice for all ages. Napoleon Dynamite ftw).

Going back about 10 days, we arrived in Stockholm all dazed and blurry-eyed from our 12 hours on the love boat. The sun was shining and it may have been the city in all of it’s shiny glory, or it may have just been the fact that we were stoked to be anywhere but on that boat, but Stockholm was all kinds of beautiful.

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Cobblestone shots are a work in progress.

 

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The bridge to MUSEUM ISLAND

On bike tours, cities are these funny things that seem far too big and complicated in comparison to the rest of your bicycle world (what do you mean I can’t put my tent up on this lawn?). So, two nights and two fabulous hosts later we were back on the road.

We had marked, with the help of Google   maps, a pretty straightforward route all the way to Oslo. We soon ran into the challenge of being inadvertently shot onto major highways (with their small roads and zero shoulder, they had me thinking almost wistfully about the TransCan, RIGHT?). Reroute please google. The other option often involved loosely packed gravel roads and sometimes grass trails through forests and farm fields. These Swedish bike paths were likely meant for mountain bikes because packed with all our gear, it was a miracle we even stayed upright.

Sweden has a lot of lakes, as any proud Swede will tell you. And a lot of farms. And a lot of little blonde children who think it’s hilarious that you only speak English. And most importantly, we were introduced to fika, a word Swedes have for drinking coffee while eating something sweet. IT HAS IT’S OWN WORD TABERNAC. Also, their affinity for self-serve buffets and pizza/kebab combos rivals Ottawa’s for midnight bagels and shwarma.

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When we eventually crossed the highly secured Sweden/Norway boarder, Jon swore that the smell of the forests changed. As did the language. And the rules for purchasing alcohol (we could buy cold beer again!!!). And for all of you debbie-downers who were all “Scandinavia is really expensive you know,” -you were right (ugh!). From here on in we shall subsist off of handouts and dirt. I hope you’re happy. Also, please send poutine.

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THIS will be my attachment style when I am blessed with children.

Today we leave for the hills. We are that excited kind of terrified that keeps you imobilized on the couch drinking one pot of coffee after the next. Wish us luck.

Love Mal and Jon