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Norway

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Route Mode Miles Cycled
Halkirk to Aberdeen Train 6.00  
Aberdeen to Lerwick Ferry 3.50  
Lerwick to Bergen Ferry    
Bergen to Evanger Train    
Evanger to Voss Cycle 21.88 Gentle Incline
Voss to Eidfjord Cycle 42.36 Gentle Incline, Steep Descent, Then Level
Eidfjord to Dyranut Cycle 23.13 Steep Incline
Dyranut to Gol Cycle 69.50 Gentle Decline
Gol to Noresund Cycle 59.50 Gentle Decline
Honefoss Free Day    
Noresund to Kongsberg Cycle 62.99 Level Then Hilly
Kongsberg to Bo Cycle 45.65 Hilly
Bo to Amot Cycle 51.06 Hilly
Amot to Haukeliseter Cycle 43.00 Steep Climbs
Haukeliseter to Sand Cycle 66.78 Gentle Decline
Sand to Liervik Cycle 47.22 Hilly
Liervik to Bergen Ferry 6.25  
Bergen to Lerwick Ferry 6.93  
Lerwick to Aberdeen Ferry 3.50  
Aberdeen to Halkirk Train 4.50  
    563.75 Total Distance Cycled

Friday 18 July
I was unable to get away from work before 2000 hours last night so I only started packing up the panniers at about 2200. I eventually got to bed at 0100.

I got up at 0530, had breakfast and watched the Weather Channel which starts at 0600 and which stated that it was sunny and dry in the north of Scotland. So I set off at 0615 in drizzle and low cloud convinced that I had forgotten something.

I cycled to Georgemas Junction in about 20 minutes, in good time to catch the Inverness train which left at 0645. It was a long time since I had travelled on this train service. It was good to see all of the landmarks I had cycled past over the years from the comfort of a train seat.

As we travelled south the clouds lifted to reveal the vast, seemingly barren landscape of west Caithness.  I bought two coffees on the trip at 85 pence per cup.  At Lairg the southbound train crew swapped with the northbound crew.

I arrived in Inverness at 1005 in plenty of time for the Aberdeen train, which left at 1043. A coffee on this train costs 86 pence.

There were many signs of the recent flooding around Elgin. Many of the trees had tide marks to a height of around six feet.

It is only about half a mile from the railway station in Aberdeen to the ferry terminal. I had a few hours to wait until boarding time at 1700 hours, but the terminal was quite comfortable. I boarded the St Clair at 1700 in sunny and warm conditions (21 Celsius by the digital display across the road).

I was assigned cabin number 335 and found it contained a folding bed, a shower and a toilet. It was quite confined but it was fairly comfortable. The cabin was located at the sharp end of the boat but the view from the window was restricted somewhat by large items of equipment. If I stood on the bed I could just make out the distant horizon.

At about 2000 I had a large stodgy evening meal with wine at £2 for 25cl. Only three other cyclists boarded the ferry, one from Salt Lake City, the other two from Germany. I went to bed at around 2100 but woke up at 0300. At 0500 the sky was blue and the Shetland Islands were clear as we approached. Our expected time of arrival was 0700 when we had to disembark and go through customs before re-boarding. Breakfast was served on the ferry at 0600.

Saturday 19 July
The ferry arrived in Lerwick on time at 0700. I had to clear all my gear away and load it on the bike to disembark. I cycled to Lerwick to get some cash from the TSB cash machine. I spent some time on Shetland last year and enjoyed two cycling days. The weather today was beautiful, blue sky, sunshine and no wind, quite a contrast from the last time I was here when it was very windy.

On the way back to the ferry terminal I stopped at the Coop where a good breakfast is served from 0800. I met the cyclist from Salt Lake City and we chatted for an hour or so about our cycling adventures.

At the ferry terminal we met a few other cyclists, some Norwegians returning home and another American called Bruce who seems to have spent most of his life travelling the world. He told me he had never worked but did not say how he was financed. The other American, Dave, left Utah on the 1 May and had no firm plans; again he had no job but seemed well kitted out. Bruce had cycled along the north coast of Scotland and commented on the stark difference between Caithness and Sutherland.

We re-boarded at 1030. I was assigned the same cabin as before and slept several hours. We had low cloud for much of the way but about two and half-hours from our destination the sky cleared and we could see the distant snow-capped mountains.

The approach to Bergen is spectacular. As we neared the archipelago a pilot boarded the ferry to guide it through the narrow channels to Bergen. The ferry arrived in Bergen at exactly 2330 local time. Many houses are built along the rocky shoreline around the city. They are large and apparently affluent. The modern looking city, nestling on the shore beneath high mountains, posed a spectacular picture on this beautiful, calm and clear night. I expected some hard cycling over the next two weeks.

This being a non-EEC country, I was rewarded with a stamped passport. There were a few people hanging around the ferry terminal. An elderly gentleman approached me on a bicycle and asked me, in a heavy French accent, where I had come from. He congratulated me on coming to Norway, shook my hand and wished me good luck, such a nice welcome.

I cycled through the town to my pre-booked hotel. The town centre was packed with strollers posing and when I stopped at a zebra crossing, I looked up to see a female bungee jumper hurtling to the ground. The temperature was very warm and the night was quite humid, not what I had expected.

I found the hotel quite easily and I was welcomed with the bicycle. The room was very well equipped with shower and WC, television with many of the familiar satellite stations, and a mini-bar containing only soft drinks. The room was very comfortable but for £71.38 it should be.

Sunday 20 July
Breakfast was served in a busy room. Most of the guests wore outlandish clothes, all colours of the rainbow, garish designs and bright jewellery; the women were even more adventurous.

I left the hotel at 0900 on a quiet Sunday morning. The streets were peaceful and the weather was sunny, warm and calm. I couldn’t believe that I was as far north as Lerwick. To avoid some nasty tunnels I decided to take the train from Bergen to Evanger. The train station was quite busy when I arrived but I had just missed a train and the next wasn’t due to depart until 1310. I decided to familiarise myself with the streets of Bergen, as I would be spending time here two weeks later. When I boarded the train, an official placed my bike in the guard’s van at the rear and informed me that I should tell the conductor which station I was heading for and that I had a bike in the guard’s van.

The train ticket cost £8 for myself and £4 for the bike for a distance of around 40 miles. The train went through numerous tunnels on the way to Evanger but I caught glimpses of the mountains and fjords as we progressed. The station just before Evanger had a sign advising cyclists not to attempt cycling to Bergen due to the dangerous tunnels. At the time I didn’t appreciate what the danger was but later on in the trip I was to find out. When we arrived at Evanger I was the only person to get off and the conductor met me on the platform, handed me my bike and wished me good luck.

At last I was able to do some cycling. The sun was beating down and the temperature must have been at least 30 Celsius. The road to Voss was quite narrow but the traffic was light. It was strange to see all motor vehicles with their dipped headlights on in such strong sunshine. Before my arrival in Norway I was worried about cycling on the right hand side of the road but it was not a problem.

I soon came across a parallel road that was sign-posted for cyclists and walkers. However it was much steeper than the main road and often detoured into the farming areas along the route. Many of the mountains had large patches of snow on them even down to seemingly low levels although I had no idea at what altitude I was.

Photo 1 Near Voss

After only 14 miles I arrived in Voss to find a very picturesque town which must be wonderful in winter. I cycled through the town keeping an eye open for suitable accommodation and just on the outskirts I saw a middle-of-the-range hotel which seemed suitable. I checked in at the Jarl Hotel, which was of the same quality as the hotel of last night but only half the price. I had a basic dinner costing about £7 and had a few beers, which cost £3.30 for 0.5litre.

The hotel manager informed me that the temperature today had been a local record at 30 Celsius. After my meal I was reviewing my route for the next day when it began to rain very heavily. I was pondering prospects for tomorrow when a middle aged Norwegian man asked if he could join me. He was around 50 and was obviously an alcoholic. I said it was OK and invited him to sit down. We had a good conversation about Voss and Norway and about the relationship between Norway and the UK. During the time it took me to drink two small beers he drank two bottles of wine, he must be rich.

I asked him why motor vehicles kept their dipped headlights on during the day. He responded that the Norwegian government had followed the lead of the Swedish government, as they always did, in imposing the ridiculous law. He did not understand the logic behind the law.

After informing my Norwegian friend that I did not wish to accompany him to his home I went to bed at around 11pm.

  • Distance cycled = 21.88 miles.
  • Insulin dose at 1900 = 24 units.
  • Blood sugar at 2340 = 8.

Monday 21 July

  • Blood sugar at 0800 = 4.
  • Insulin dose = 20 units.

Breakfast in the hotel was as I expected for continental Europe. From my point of view as a diabetic on a demanding cycle tour it was ideal.

The hotel bill was £42.46 for B&B.

I walked along the main street of Voss and bought provisions for the day ahead. Returning to the hotel I met Bruce who told me that he was heading to Flam today then on towards Oslo, maybe I will bump into him again.

I left the hotel at 0945 in beautiful weather. It was warm and dry and there was no wind. The road climbed steadily for about 8 miles before dropping sharply through a series of hairpin bends. I came across a high waterfall I remember seeing in the tourist brochures and decided to have lunch at the bottom. I was quietly eating my lunch admiring the wonderful surroundings when a coach stopped and around 50 Japanese tourists eagerly photographing the falls suddenly surrounded me. Every one of them had to pose for a photograph. After a short time I decided to depart and continue downhill.

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Photo 2 Near Voss

The climb from Voss was gradual but the drop to sea, or fjord level was very sudden. The country so far seemed to cater for tourists. I saw many information boards posted in the lay-bys giving information on accommodation and other facilities in the area.

I arrived at Granvin and headed towards Kvanndal to catch the ferry across the Hardanger Fjord. For motorists, there is a tunnel through the mountains which cuts off about 12 miles from the journey but it is several miles long and cyclists are warned not to proceed.

Photo 3 Dropping Down to Hardangerfjord

The road to the Kvanndal was very quiet but had several short tunnels and a number of steep inclines. I arrived at the ferry terminal and was charged 24Kr (just over £2) for a ticket (the bike was free). The ferry arrived after a 30-minute wait. This was my first opportunity to view the fantastic scenery from the comfort of the ferry deck, standing of course to rest my backside, basking in the hot sunshine. I took the opportunity to look at my fellow passengers. They were mostly in small family groups on holiday but there were some motorcyclists and a few lone Norwegian travellers.

The ferry stopped at Utne on its way to Kinsarvik where we disembarked, cyclists, or cyclist in this case, last. The temperature was around 28 Celsius but it was quite fresh and very pleasant this close to the fjord. The road to Eidfjord followed the fjord through good farmland dedicated mainly to crops. Up to then I had seen no evidence of sheep or cattle.

About five miles from Eidfjord I came across a tunnel with a sign advising cyclists and pedestrians to take a parallel road closer to the shore of the fjord. The road was littered with rocks but was passable

with care. After a short time I came across a tunnel which looked quite old and neglected. There were

sections of over 100m in length which were devoid of artificial or natural light. It was like entering a large cavern in complete darkness; the air was cool and there was utter silence. I had to travel slowly, relying on the narrow beam from my front cycle light to reveal stones and rocks in the road. I was grateful that the tunnel was quite short and that at the end I could see the town of Eidfjord a few miles in the distance.

I arrived in Eidfjord at 1530 after cycling just over 42 miles and covering around eight miles by ferry. I checked in at the Voringsfoss Hotel where I was charged £48.52 for dinner bed and breakfast. The hotel area was good but the rooms were very basic.

The mountains here are very steep and rocky with dramatic waterfalls cascading into the fjord. Eidfjord is in a beautiful setting. The scenery reminds me of Fort William but the town is much smaller. It has a raging river which carries melt water from the high mountains to the fjord.

Image2.gif (81718 bytes)So far my route had not involved much uphill cycling. According to the map, however, on Tuesday I would be cycling to a height of 1250m (4100 feet) up to the northern edge of the Hardangervidda, a large plateau known as the "Roof of Norway" which forms the largest National Park in the country and the largest plateau in Europe.

Photo 4 Lunchtime

Distance cycled = 42.36 miles

Blood sugar at 2000 = 4

Insulin dose = 22

Blood sugar at 2200 = 6

Tuesday 22 July

  • Blood sugar at 0800 = 4
  • Insulin dose = 18 units due to hard cycling day ahead.

I set off at 0930 after stocking up with provisions from the local supermarket. The sky was clear and the sun was hot with very little wind, not ideal for hard cycling. The road passed through many tunnels for the first few miles but there is a parallel track (the old road) for cyclists and walkers. The track was quite rough in places and it passed though a few of its own tunnels, one of which was very long and dark. It is quite unnerving when you cannot see anything in front of you and you know there are obstacles in the road.

The real climb up to the Hardangervidda plateau starts about 6 miles from Eidfjord. The first section is up to the Voringsfoss waterfall through spectacular canyons and vertical, rocky mountains. The old road is well maintained for cyclists and walkers and a train (driven by a tractor) is used to carry tourists up along the river to the waterfall.

Photo 5 Climbing up to the Hardangervidda Plateau

There were many tourists walking up from a car park to the falls. When they saw me cycling with all my luggage attached to the bike they seemed astonished, shouted encouragement and even applauded. The going was very difficult in the hot sunshine but I felt good. The road was quite narrow and often passed under or over the new road which took a much straighter path via tunnels through the rock walls.

At the top of this section, about a third of the way up to the plateau, at Voringsfoss, I stopped for a well-earned prawn sandwich and cold drink before walking to the viewing area for the falls. There were many coach-loads of tourists taking photographs of the spectacular scenery.

Photo 6 Part of the Vorringsfoss Waterfall

After a break of about an hour, I continued on the next section of the climb. The road was less steep and it passed through a broad valley containing many holiday cottages. There were quite a few patches of snow at the side of the road and, though it was sunny, it was much cooler at that higher altitude.

The third section was again very steep. In some areas the road was very rough with large stones embedded in the surface. I assumed this was to provide better grip for motor vehicles in icy conditions but it was uncomfortable for cycling.

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Photo 7 Dyranut

I eventually reached the highest point at Dyranut (1250m or 4100ft above sea level) at 1530 hours. I went into a café for soup and a roll and decided I was not going to make it to Geilo about 35 miles away, so I checked in at the adjoining hostel. The accommodation was very basic but cost only £43 for dinner, bed and breakfast, a few beers and a cold shower. In the late evening I strolled around the collection of buildings and admired the surroundings. Although the sun had set, it was far from dark. It was cool, clear and calm. I could see for many tens of miles in all directions and there was no sign of human existence, apart from the odd juggernaut heading towards Oslo. I remembered flying over the Grampian Mountains in February some years previously. There were many patches of snow on the tops of the mountains and the views looked similar to those before me now here in Norway in July.

  • Distance cycled = 23.13 miles
  • Blood sugar at 1800 = 2
  • Insulin dose = 20 units
  • Blood sugar at 2140 = 5

Wednesday 23 July

  • Blood sugar at 0830 = 9
  • Insulin dose = 18 units

I left Dyranut in warm sunshine and no wind. The top of the plateau is very much like Caithness with fairly low hills and moorland.

Photo 8 The Hardangervidda Plateau

Every now and then there were very big patches of snow; at a lake there was a large patch in a cove to a depth of at least four feet. I saw a few flocks of sheep grazing on the moors. Every time I stopped for a drink I was soon surrounded by sheep, each of them wearing a bell around its neck.

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Photo 9 Snow in July

After about 15 miles of level riding the road began a gradual descent. After about 2 hours I arrived at Haugestol where I stopped for a coffee and a sandwich. I met two Norwegian cyclists who were on a day trip from Geilo to Finse, a famous Norwegian cycling route.

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Photo 10

I reached the busy town of Geilo where I stopped for lunch. There were quite a few ski slopes around but the mountains did not seem to be very high. I recently read that Geilo is much more famous for its cross-country skiing than for its downhill skiing. The sky was clouding over a little with a few showers dotted around but it was still quite hot.

I arrived in Hol with plenty of time to spare to reach the next town of Gol but the weather

turned nasty with a very heavy hail shower. I checked in at a decent looking hotel in Gol at around 1530 hours after cycling almost 70 miles. The temperature down here was well into the eighties and it was very humid. It was hard to believe that I saw so much snow only a few hours earlier. The traffic was much heavier but it was still relatively quiet.

At 1600 hours I noticed that the hotel restaurant was full but when I was ready to eat at 1800 I was told that the restaurant was closed. Apparently, most Norwegians prefer to eat their evening meal before 1700. I went to an adjoining café and had what seems to be a popular Norwegian meal consisting of meatballs, potatoes, mixed vegetables and sauerkraut, all with thick gravy. I spent the evening at a nearby restaurant sitting in the open air reading a book and drinking a few beers. I saw some very tempting meals being eaten by other tourists and I succumbed and ordered a large sandwich to compensate for the meal I had eaten earlier.

  • Distance cycled = 69.50 miles
  • Blood sugar at 1600 = 4
  • Insulin dose = 20 units

Thursday 24 July

  • Blood sugar = 16 (due to the large sandwich last night)
  • Insulin dose = 20 units

I was quite impressed with the town of Gol, it was the most northerly point I had ever been. The main street had many interesting shops set back from the main road.

I left Gol at 0945 heading south in the direction of Oslo. The road was mostly downhill for the first hour but it then levelled off with a slight headwind limiting my speed. Around noon I encountered a heavy thunderstorm and took shelter in a small café where I had the best cheeseburger I have ever eaten. The scenery is very similar to Pitlochry but there are more trees. The traffic was quite heavy in parts but nothing like Central Scotland.

After the rain the weather became very hot and I knew I was being burned but I thought what the hell and continued cycling south.

The valley I was cycling through was very picturesque, with a river, railway line, road, towns, villages and high mountains. It was very reminiscent of Scotland.

I reached the northern shores of a lake extending 24 miles south to Noresund. The thunderstorm was crashing noisily to the north as I paused for a break in a lay-by and looked south. The view was beautiful.

When I reached Noresund I was almost passed it before I realised. When I turned around on a very steep section of the cycle path my chain snapped. I had to freewheel back to the last hotel I had seen and checked in. I decided I would get a taxi or bus to the nearest town the next day to buy a new chain. Noresund was more a collection of well-spaced homesteads than a town and there was little evidence of a centre with shops.

When I entered my room I drew back the curtains and I was pleased to see a great view of the lake through tall trees. There was a jetty belonging to the hotel from which a small pleasure boat frequently took passengers to a village across the lake. After a quite hard day’s cycling it was a pleasure to just sit on the balcony and relax in the hot sunshine.

In the evening I had dinner in the hotel with a half bottle of red wine followed by coffee in a large elegant lounge where I spent the long twilight reading a book. The few other guests in this large, fairly high quality hotel were Norwegian, who kept themselves to themselves and did not court conversation.

  • Distance cycled = 57.50 miles

After eating such a rich meal I did not check my blood sugar level in the evening to avoid the feeling of guilt. The physical exertions of the day made me feel justified in forgetting that I had diabetes for one night (it is much safer to eat excessively in the short term than it is to eat too little).

Friday 25 July

  • Blood sugar at 0800 = 14
  • Insulin dose = 24 units

Today will be my first day off from cycling. I had intended to cycle to Oslo by this evening and have a day in the capital on Saturday before heading back to Bergen. This was not now possible so, following a good breakfast and good advice from the hotel receptionist, I caught the 1005 bus to Honefoss, about 25 miles distant and costing £4.50 for a single ticket.

The receptionist gave me a lesson in the pronunciation of Norwegian place names. I innocently pronounced Noresund as Nor-sund in my Yorkshire accent but I was reprimanded and instructed to pronounce it as Noorra-soond

The town of Honefoss, or Hoona-foos, was quite small but had plenty of shops including a well-stocked bike shop where I was able to buy a new chain and spare links. The town square was quite busy but pleasant. After making my purchases I had lunch and a beer in the town square, spending a quiet hour watching the people come and go.

I caught the 1430 bus back to Noresund from the town’s bus station just off the town square. My fellow passengers were a mixed bunch, just like a typical group from the UK but they all talked funny – just like a typical group from the UK.

I returned to the hotel at around 1600 and used their workshop to fit my new bike chain. I re-entered the hotel with blackened hands but felt secure now that I had a means of transport to continue my journey.

In the early evening I took the opportunity to swim in the lake. The water temperature was around 23 Celsius, a little higher than the air temperature, and it felt like submerging into a warm bath.

I had another dinner in the hotel restaurant and again spent the evening reading in the lounge. It was a beautiful place.

Saturday 26 July

  • Blood sugar at 0800 = 13
  • Insulin dose = 24 units

I received quite a hefty bill from the hotel at £161 for dinner, bed and breakfast and a few beers for two nights. I left at 0945 heading for Kongsberg. This town has a strong connection with Caithness through the acquisition of the Wick based company Simrad, now known as Kongsberg Simrad.

The weather was quite hot at times then wet with the odd clap of thunder. I estimate the temperature to have been about 25 Celsius.

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Photo 11 Near Vikersund

The land I passed through today was much more arable. I saw a few deer darting across the main road but apart from these I saw no wildlife. I have not seen one rabbit or hedgehog, alive or dead, since arriving in Norway. One feature of cycling in Scotland is the amount of carnage that you find at the roadside; cats, dogs, rabbits, snakes, birds, frogs and even deer. Maybe it is due to the lighter traffic here in Norway, or maybe they have killed them all.

As I approached the town of Vikersund, a sign advised cyclists and pedestrians not to proceed along the main road around the town but to detour through the town. I required cash so I entered Vikersund intent on finding a bank at which I could exchange some travellers cheques. It was just before lunchtime and quite busy with people but all banks were closed and most of the shops were closing. I then remembered that I had read that nearly everywhere in Norway closes at lunchtime on a Saturday.

I decided to proceed to the next town of Hokksund. Up to now I had encountered very few alternative roads to get lost on, but in this region I found the many choices of roads, complex junctions, detours and poor signs difficult to contend with. I took what appeared to be the cycle track but it soon diminished to a forest trail that came to a dead end against a railway line. I retraced my tracks back to the main road and decided I would ignore cycle paths from here on.

I reached Hokksund and found an open café serving delicious sandwiches and ice-cold coke. When I left the café I made my panniers secure, mounted my bike and turned right in search of a way out of the town, under the watchful gaze of the other diners. I couldn’t find a route out so I was forced to return past the café. I could tell that the other diners were not impressed with my navigational skills by their broad smiles and disguised laughter.

The afternoon was very warm and humid and I found the going quite difficult to Kongsberg. The last ten miles seemed to be all up-hill with increasing traffic and uncomfortable conditions but at least I was cycling through some beautiful farming countryside. Quite often at the roadside I saw fruit for sale.

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Photo 12 Approaching Kongsberg

The first building I encountered on entering Kongsberg was the hospital, with the very apt name of Kongsberg Sykhus.

After cycling through and around the town several times I found only one hotel, The Grand. By this time it was 1730 and I was low in blood sugar so I had a few Dextrosol and checked in at The Grand which is a very high quality hotel. After I had dinner at the hotel I toured the town centre. In the pedestrian area I found numerous hotels and guesthouses, all much cheaper and more suitable for my needs than The Grand.

I visited an Irish Pub in the town-centre just before 2100 hours and ordered half a litre of beer for only £1.75. Although I was the only customer (don’t forget this was a Saturday night) I found out it was happy hour which ended at 2100 hours and their normal price was £3.50. A group of locals arrived later, one of who ordered a Baileys and was charged £5.70. No wonder the place was empty. The town had the feel of a very quiet Tuesday night in winter in Thurso, only quieter.

Back at The Grand I exchanged £200 worth of Traveller’s Cheques for 2500Kr (the receptionist consulted the newspaper for the exchange rate which was 12.50Kr to the £). She then had difficulty calculating how many Kr to give me. Initially she said 1650Kr, then said that she had been trained to do it a certain way but agreed with me that it should be 2500Kr (I of course neglected to mention commission and bank charges but what the hell). Whilst counting out the cash she gave me too much but I had got a good deal so I told her.

  • Blood sugar at 1800 = 4
  • Insulin dose = 20 units
  • Distance cycled = 62.99 miles

Sunday 27 July

  • Blood sugar at 0800 = 15
  • Insulin dose = 22 units

The hotel bill was £49.20 for the room and £35.90 for the meal.

I left the hotel at 1000 and, after eventually finding my way out of the town centre, I soon got into the swing of cycling again after a hard day yesterday.

Kongsberg is quite an industrial town with many factory units on the outskirts.

Photo 13 Kongsberg

The weather today was much cooler and quite breezy. The road soon started to climb quite steeply to well over 1000 feet and I was quickly away from the suburbs around Kongsberg.

Norway has a large number of Kommunes, equivalent to our boroughs. As you enter each one, there is an information board giving general and detailed maps and pointing out the sights and places of interest. According to my map I was soon to leave the region of Buskerud and enter the more famous region of Telemark.

At the top of a steep section I stopped at a roadside café and had a coffee and a sandwich before setting off on my merry way. After a short time I noticed a camper van approaching on the same side of the road as I was. I soon realised that I had set off on the wrong side of the road but luckily I had time to get on the correct side and wave an apology to the driver.

The road was fairly level for a few miles before I entered the Telemark region and there was a very steep descent to the town of Notodden with its steep cobbled streets. Just before entering the town, I stopped at a small shop and bought bread and vacuum-packed meat to make sandwiches for lunch.

Photo 14 Notodden

Between Notodden and Selfjord there is an almost circular range of mountains. I had a choice of taking either the north or south route around the mountain range to Selfjord, each around 40 miles in length. I plumped for the south route and left Notodden looking for a suitable spot to stop for lunch.

The road was quite steep but about two miles from the town I came upon a beautiful spot high above a freshwater fjord with terrific views to the north and south. I used my Swiss army knife to cut the bread I had bought (mutilate more like) and made some sandwiches. When I departed from the small car park I left a pile of breadcrumbs much greater in volume than the bread I had started with.

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Photo 15  

The road south to Gvarv (I noticed that some place names are similar to Scottish names – i.e. Garve) was very hilly with steep climbs and sharp descents. I had intended to stop overnight in Gvarv but the town was lacking in hotels or guesthouses so I continued on to the larger town of Bo. Initially there was little evidence of accommodation so I followed the signposts to Bo Hotel, expecting another 5 star establishment, but I was surprised to find that it was a college halls-of-residence hired out very cheaply to holidaymakers.

The room was very cheap by Norwegian standards at £18.40 per night, but by British standards it was expensive, especially when breakfast was not included.

After a good shower I ventured into the rainy evening in search of a convenient eating establishment. I did not have to walk far. I ordered a large pizza expecting a plate-sized delicacy that would replace the energy I had expended. I was surprised to find that the pizza I received would have fed a large family for a week. The waitress however, provided enough serviettes for me to take away what I could not eat.

As I was eating the pizza, it started to rain extremely heavily. After I had eaten my fill I wrapped the pizza segments that I could not eat in the serviettes, for tonight’s supper and tomorrow’s lunch, and walked back to the college. I wasn’t really dressed for the conditions and I found that I left a trail of pizza segments all the way back.

  • Blood sugar at 1700 = 4
  • Insulin dose = 20 units
  • Distance cycled = 45.65 miles

Monday 28 July

  • Blood sugar at 0830 = 17
  • Insulin dose = 22 units

With such a high blood sugar level I decided not to eat breakfast, it wasn’t included in the price anyway so it was just as well. After a good sleep (10 hours), I left Bo at 0900. The weather was much cooler and fresher with a moderate headwind.

The road was mostly uphill to Sanda and the traffic was quite heavy so I took a parallel minor road to the town of Selfjord. During the twelve miles along the shores of the fjord I saw only 12 vehicles. The road was incredibly steep in places and I arrived at Selfjord (20 miles from Bo) needing a breakfast.

I arrived at a service station cum supermarket where I bought drink and food. I had a very large hotdog and bought apples for the journey. I normally eat four or five apples when I am cycling, they provide liquid, carbohydrate, and satisfy the pangs of hunger.

The next 25 miles were uphill along some very tiring and difficult stretches with heavy traffic. One feature of the traffic was the number of motorcyclists travelling at great speed, a bit like the Isle of Man TT at times.

Since Selfjord I had seen only one hotel and no signs of other accommodation. I intended to cycle as far as the town of Amot but the information boards at the side of the road indicated that there were no facilities available in the town. This could mean either a detour south of 20 miles steeply downhill (all of which I would have to climb again the next day) or carrying on cycling through the night. After stopping at a remote shop to buy food I was even contemplating sleeping in the forest under the stars.

I was now at quite a high altitude and the traffic had diminished to only the odd vehicle. There were deep ravines at the sides of the road and the odd patch of snow. The silence was beautiful. I stopped at a picnic spot for a drink and an apple and felt a great sense of achievement. After planning this trip for nearly a year (buying maps, making train and ferry bookings, planning the route on the computer using Autoroute and Excel spreadsheets), here I was now in the middle of Norway enjoying a small portion of what it had to offer.

As I approached Amot another information board revealed that there was at least one hotel in the town.

From a height of 2600 feet the drop to the town was very steep. From a clearing high above I could see evidence of the large scale logging operations on which the town depends.

I arrived at the Turristhotel, Amot at 1630 very tired after cycling 56 very hilly miles.

The hotel had an exhibition advertising the offerings of the Telemark region. There was one item depicting the Heroes of Telemark. These were a group of British and Norwegian people who, during the Second World War, destroyed the heavy water production plant at Rjukan, 40 miles to the north of Amot. The heavy water was required by the Germans for their efforts to make an atom bomb. I remembered a lady in Leeds I knew whose husband was killed during the war. Only about twelve years ago she was informed that he had been killed in the Telemark operation.

A very large buffet meal was prepared for guests at the hotel starting at 1900 hours. By 2000, when I had finished, only five other guests had dined and there seemed to be a great deal of food left for the waste bin.

I spent the evening viewing the exhibition and reading my book. A lone Norwegian man asked to join me and told me that he was on his way to see the Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum at Rjukan. He was about my age and worked in the oil industry based in Leirvik (pronounced Lerwick). When he found out I was British, and not German as he had expected, I detected unease in his demeanour. He told me that he had direct contact with oil-workers from many countries. He feared the Finnish workers for their unpredictable nature and their willingness to fight at the drop of a hat, but he found the British workers to be the most unpredictable and difficult to deal with. I kept my extremely short temper in check, punched the bastard and told him that we are not all tarred with the same brush.

After drinking two-and-a-half pints of beer at £5.85 per pint I went to bed at 2300 hours.

  • Blood sugar at 1630 = 4
  • Insulin dose = 20 units
  • Distance cycled = 51.06 miles
  • Blood sugar at 2300 = 2 (so I ate the two sandwiches I had bought earlier)

Tuesday 29 July

  • Blood sugar at 0830 = 4
  • Insulin dose = 20 units

I got a pleasant surprise with the hotel bill; dinner bed and breakfast was only £53.60.

I left Amot at 0930 expecting a very hard day. The weather was cool and fresh with a light to moderate headwind. At least it was dry all day.

The climb out of the town was very steep but for the first ten miles or so the trend was downhill. I saw a lot of evidence of logging with many sawmills along the route.

At one stopping place there was a number of wooden buildings, each depicting some aspect of life in the region. One building had woollen clothing and the next had national dress costumes. There were wooden carvings for sale and one building showed bread being baked. I bought two large current-filled cakes for about £1.50, ideal for my lunch. Another hut was devoted to those other Norwegian delicacies, Coca-Cola and beef-burgers.

I left the stopping place and continued north towards a group of mountains, each of which was higher than Ben Nevis. I was sure that I was going to have to climb high over the mountain range but I was pleasantly surprised to find that a gap appeared and the road remained level. The road followed the shores of a lake for about twelve miles before descending to the town of Haukeligrend at which I arrived around 1300 hours.

The terrain in this area was mainly mountainous with deep ravines and beautiful lakes. Haukeligrend is a small township with two hotels located at the junction of two main roads. At the junction, there were a few stalls assembled selling local arts and crafts. All of the stallholders appeared weather beaten and had the look of North American Indians. There were many coach-loads of tourists buying everything they could carry.

The road for the next ten miles had a few steep hills but none as steep as the subsequent five miles. Gradually the patches of snow in the hills became more numerous and soon there were a few patches at the roadside. I came to a long uphill stretch and stopped at the roadside to eat the bread I had bought earlier. It was just as well, the next ten miles were spectacular.

The road approached a tunnel but there was an alternative route over the mountain. From the top, the views were incredible. I could see the main road in the distance maintaining the same height for about four miles or so before being obscured by hills. I cycled along the shores of a few lakes above which hills climbed to a height of about 1000 feet. Everywhere there were numerous patches of snow. Needless to say the breeze was quite cold although I was warm with all the pedalling. I decided that if I found accommodation within one hour I would take it rather than risk not finding any further on.

After I had cycled 43 miles from Amot, I came upon a small collection of buildings, called Haukeliseter, high up in the mountains. There was a café, shops and a hotel in a beautiful setting so I decided to stay the night.

Photo 16 The Hardangervidda Plateau

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Photo 17 The Hardangervidda Plateau

I was assigned a room with a view of a lake which was ringed by mountains, each over six thousand feet above sea level and with snow patches along the lakeshore. A seaplane took off from the lake every hour, until about 2100 hours, taking tourists on flights over the Hardangervidda plateau.

I had moose steaks for dinner in the restaurant and spent the evening writing postcards, reading, and planning my route for the next day.

Wednesday 30 July

  • Blood sugar at 0800 = 4
  • Insulin dose = 20 units

What a beautiful start to the day, clear blue sky, strong sunshine, no wind and mountains reflected in the crystal clear lake in front of my bedroom window. The bill for dinner, bed and breakfast was only £39.76. After a good breakfast I set off at 0930 heading eastwards and joined the quiet main road. Just after I set off, a Volvo left the hotel and, as they passed me, the occupants waved enthusiastically. It was either admiration or pity. I waved back and gave them a smile.

As I proceeded, the lay-bys were dotted with empty cars. The owners were either camping in the hills or out for an early walk. I continued east for about six miles on a level road until I came to a tunnel. I took the alternative road over the mountains. An information board informed me that I was at a height of 3832 feet above sea level (622 feet higher than the highest point in England).

As I climbed the steep road I came upon a large concrete tube which initially looked like a water conduit for a hydro station but turned out to be a section of the road tunnel through the mountains. Climbing above the tunnel, my road cut through a huge snowdrift, which at one side was at least ten feet deep.

At the other side of the mountain, after re-joining the main road, I passed through the first of many tunnels that did not have an alternative route for cyclists, but this one was nothing compared to what was to come.

I was expecting a sharp descent soon after leaving the hotel but it did not come until after about twelve miles. When it did come it was worth waiting for. As I descended, the temperature and humidity increased significantly. When I reached Roldal, after about 20 miles, I was faced with a choice of three routes. The first route was up a steep hill eventually going through two long tunnels with no evidence of alternative roads. The second route was a minor road which seemed to go vertically over a very high mountain, The third route was initially downhill and was the most attractive from my point of view, so I took it.

After dropping down to a lake I cycled along its shores for about seven miles. I noticed that I had descended below the tree line and that forests were becoming more of a feature. The lake was crystal-clear with high mountains all around.

When the road left the lake it started to go nicely downhill but then came to the first of a long series of tunnels not shown on the map. The first two had alternative paths for cyclists and pedestrians but I had to cycle through the third. It was unlit and about 400 metres long. My rear light was very effective but my front light hardly seemed to penetrate the darkness. After a while, as my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, I could just make out the white lines but by then I was suddenly at the tunnel’s exit.

After passing through a few similar tunnels I came to two that were sign-posted as being 1100 metres and 1200 metres long but they were both well lit and posed no problems. The traffic was light but one or two heavy wagons hurtled past me reminding me just how fragile I was.

The next tunnel I came to was indicated as being 2300 metres (about one and a half miles) long and when I approached it’s mouth I found that it was unlit. There I was sitting in bright sunshine in front of a black hole wondering what to do. There was only one thing I could do.

After entering the tunnel, the light from the entrance quickly faded. It is not possible to cycle fast in these tunnels because you cannot see anything in front of you. Several times I hit potholes in the road which, if I had been cycling faster, would have caused damage to the bike.

Inside the tunnel it was very quiet until, that was, a vehicle approached. At first, I didn’t know if the sound was coming from in front or from behind me but eventually I saw the lights of the vehicle and hoped that the driver could see me. The heavy goods vehicles slowed down for nothing; a lone cyclist making his way nervously through a tunnel, beneath a mountain of rock meant nothing to them.

In the distance I could see a light approaching which could not have belonged to a motorised vehicle otherwise I would have heard it. After a time I could hear voices which at first I thought belonged to workmen but turned out to belong to a group of cyclists heading north. As they passed we exchanged a hearty "hello".

After a while my front light seemed to be getting dimmer. It was, because a few seconds later it died. I had to stop. By this time my eyes were quite accustomed to the dark, I wasn’t but my eyes were. I could walk forwards if I looked back using my rear light to check my position in the road. I tentatively plodded along and when I heard a vehicle approach I pressed myself close to the tunnel wall until it passed. Luckily I was only about 200 metres from the end of the tunnel. As I came out into the warm sunlight I quickly forgot the feeling of stark terror that I had in the cold tunnel when my light expired.

As I continued south, the weather deteriorated to heavy rain. As I approached Sande, I cycled along a raging river and a steep decline down to the town at sea level. I arrived at about 1715 and checked in, soaked to the skin, at the Fjord Hotel.

  • Blood sugar at 1800 = 4
  • Insulin dose = 22 units
  • Distance cycled = 66.78 miles.

Thursday 31 July

  • Blood sugar at 0800 = 8
  • Insulin dose = 22 units

I departed the hotel at 0945 and caught the 1000 ferry across the Sandsfjord to Ropeid. From there it was a good steady cycle to Sandeid. At this level there was much more to see. There were high wooded mountains, blue inlets, offshore islands, and steep rocky climbs. This is a different kind of cycling to the last week or so. The road sticks to the coast and the hills are short but steep.

After the rain from yesterday, the morning was sunny with plenty of blue sky and wispy clouds sticking to the high mountains like steam rising from the valleys.

My destination for today was the town of Leirvik located on the island of Stord. I cycled 41 miles to the small ferry port at Utbjoa. During the journey I was rewarded with a fantastic view across the Olensfjord. There were gaps in the mountains across the water revealing views along more fjords to distant towns. The waterway was quite busy with numerous pleasure craft travelling between the small towns and settlements along the coastline. There were a few oil platforms undergoing repair in Olensvao.

The ferry left Utbjoa at 1415 and arrived several miles south of Liervik at 1520. There were quite a few oil platforms berthed in inlets along the route to Leirvik. During the crossing I felt slightly hungry and wandered into the café located at the bottom of the boat looking forward to a coffee and a sandwich. I was given a plastic cup of tasteless, tepid liquid and a curly prawn sandwich consisting of one thin slice of bread and three small prawns. I was charged £5.50. I didn’t have enough Norwegian currency but the lady eagerly accepted the equivalent of about £4.

Although Leirvik is quite a large town, I could only find one hotel, The Grand.

The hotel receptionist told me that she could not cash my TSB traveller’s cheques and it would be better if I asked the day staff. I was suspicious; the day staff would include the manager who would be after my money.

  • Blood sugar at 2000 = 4
  • Insulin dose = 22 units
  • Distance cycled = 47.22 miles.

Friday 1 August

When I asked to cash £100 worth of traveller’s cheques I was offered an exchange rate of 10.4Kr to the pound. I of course queried this and after the female manager had phoned the bank I was told that it was 12.23Kr. After they deducted their commission it came to 11.33Kr and they then told me that the bank deducted 25Kr for each cheque (more than £2). Instead of the 1250Kr I was expecting, I received only 1083Kr.

I was not impressed with the Leirvik Grand Hotel. The receptionist was surly, the prices were high, there was no bar, and I felt cheated.

I left the hotel at about 0930 and went to the quayside to purchase a ferry ticket to Bergen. I was charged 260Kr (£24) for a place aboard one of the express catamarans. The quayside was packed with people. I had seen one of the catamarans in Bergen and I knew it could not accommodate this number. Suddenly four catamarans arrived and the people formed themselves into four groups. I had no idea which to join so I just stood back and waited. As the four craft berthed they each displayed their destinations.

According to the map, the distance to Bergen is about 50 miles. The catamaran completed this in about two hours with two ten-minute stops. The engine noise and seating arrangements were very much like an aircraft. During the journey, I saw a few of the tall ships that had sailed from Aberdeen to Trondheim a few weeks previously.

As the ferry approached Bergen I saw many rocky islands and two high suspension bridges carrying busy roads from the city to the west and north. The ferry docked at 1345. The quayside was very busy with large crowds around the famous open-air fish market. Tomorrow I will have the whole day to explore the city and spend the fifty pence I have left.

I knew there were a few hotels near where I had stayed two weeks previously, so I cycled in that general direction. I checked in at a large hotel with a good restaurant. I was charged £62 for dinner, bed and breakfast. This was about twice as much as I was charged in Ullapool back in May, but I was in a much higher quality hotel near the centre of a Scandinavian city. The room was large with high quality fittings, shower, television, and a very tempting but very expensive mini bar.

When I went for dinner in the restaurant I was pleased to see an empty dining area. The waitress told me however that I was lucky to get a table, as in five minutes she was expecting three coach loads of diners to descend upon them. Just as I had made myself comfortable, they all entered. It was like watching boxing, wrestling, karate, and the Iran-Iraq war all at once. The food was of a good quality and was available from a buffet.

In the evening I went for a pleasant walk through the centre of Bergen before returning to my room to watch television.

  • Blood sugar at 1825 = 5
  • Insulin dose = 24 units

Saturday 2 August

  • Blood sugar at 0830 = 8
  • Insulin dose = 24 units

I had a full day and evening in Bergen before the ferry departed at 0200 the next morning. It was a good chance to relax, do some shopping and explore the city.

The fish market was very busy. There were more kinds of fish on sale than I thought existed. I left my bike chained to some railings and then toured the city centre on foot. It was hard to believe that Bergen is as far north as Lerwick; the weather was fantastic, it was as hot as a Mediterranean country. There were pavement cafes and bars and thousands of holidaymakers milling around.

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Photo 18 Bergen

Just to the south of the fish market there is a wide pedestrian area surrounded by shops. In the centre of the area there are a few buildings selling newspapers and magazines and just outside there were a few people setting up music equipment. When I passed later, I could hear rock and roll music and could see two dancers showing passers-by how to dance. To me the music was enticing. I know I can dance well to this music but I didn’t pluck up the courage to show them what I can do.

I left the area to look inside a bookshop, one of my favourite pastimes. There were numerous English-language books on display and I selected the novel "esau" by Philip Kerr about an expedition to the Himalayas, to read on the journey home.

I spent some time in the large department stores surrounding the central area but then returned to my bicycle to check that my belongings were still there. I wasn’t too worried because most of the luggage consisted of dirty washing.

After a lunch of smoked salmon from the fish market, I visited the old part of Bergen called The Bryggen. This is a group of wooden buildings depicting life in the city in the last few centuries. There were many opportunities to part with your money but apart from buying a few T-shirts I resisted.

Later in the day I needed to cash some travellers cheques. At the hotel in the morning I was advised to cash my cheques at the tourist information office. They didn’t try to fleece me and gave an exchange rate close to that quoted in the daily papers. It is strange that they don’t have to pay charges for each cheque like The Grand Hotel in Leirvik.

Adjacent to the fish-market there is a large wooden structure that I found contained a few bars and restaurants. Around 1600 I ordered a beer and sat at the quayside to view the busy waterways. Most of the boats were Norwegian but I saw one or two British registered boats.

Photo 19 Bergen

In the evening the area soon livened up. The restaurants gradually filled and live music was played in the main bar. Just outside, there were many boats moored at the quayside and many of the occupants were out enjoying themselves. I had a meal at an Italian restaurant and then walked along the quayside towards the sound of familiar music. It was a band playing Neil Young songs. I was in my element. I spent an enjoyable two hours sitting in warm sunshine listening to good music until around 10-o clock.

I returned to my bicycle and did a final tour of the city centre before joining the queue for the ferry to Lerwick. There was a group of British vintage car enthusiasts returning to the UK. They were driving an old Jaguar MK6, a Ford Popular and an old car I could not identify.

When I entered the check in area it was deserted. I approached the counter and asked the receptionist to exchange my ticket for a boarding card. She refused. She told me, in broken English, that I must be in possession of a queue ticket before she could serve me. I looked around. There was one other person in the building being served at an adjacent counter. I returned my gaze to the receptionist and she told me that I must take a ticket from the machine at the entrance, join the relevant colour coded queue and present it to her before she could serve me. I refused. The Norwegian man at the next counter went to the entrance, got a ticket and gave it to my receptionist. She then smiled broadly, gave me a boarding card and wished me a pleasant journey.

Sunday 3 August

The St Clair left Bergen on time at 0200 local time. I was assigned the same cabin as before and had a good sleep.

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Photo 20 Lerwick

As the ferry approached the harbour in Lerwick, a jet skier, darting across the path of the boat, welcomed us. We arrived on time at 1400 hours. The weather was incredible for Shetland, it was warm and sunny and there was no wind. I spent a few pleasant hours in Lerwick before I re-joined the ferry at 1800 hours.

We sailed at 1900 hours. The normal route south takes the ferry well to the east of the islands.

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Photo 21 Sumburgh Head Shetland

Tonight the captain took us on a detour through a narrow channel between the uninhabited island of Mousa and the Mainland. We were rewarded with the sight of many seals and we saw a group of swimmers who were swimming from the town of Sandwick on the mainland across to the island of Mousa, a distance of about two miles.

Monday 4 August

  • Blood sugar at 0640 = 4
  • Insulin dose = 24 units

The ferry arrived in Aberdeen on schedule at 0800. I had over three hours to wait for the train to Inverness. It was a beautiful day with unbroken sunshine and warm light winds. I bought food for the journey at the station and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the goods for sale.

The train departed at 1135 and arrived in Inverness at 1348 after passing through some beautiful countryside.  I had three and a half-hours to spend in Inverness before the train to Thurso departed at 1715. I left my bicycle in the railway station and spent most of the time in bookshops.

I like Inverness. It is large enough to have a good selection of shops and is located in an area that attracts many tourists. My favourite part of the world however, lies to the north.

The train left on time and for the early part of the journey it was packed with people. As we approached Beauly there was a strong farmyard smell. A young American passenger complained to his mother and she told him, in a loud voice of course, that the smell was common in the Scottish countryside. He wasn’t impressed.

I woke up at Helmsdale determined to enjoy the wonderful scenery to Georgemas. The sky was clear and the terrain was very dry. Many of the tourists indicated their amazement at the surroundings.

The train arrived at Georgemas Junction on time at 2040. I packed my panniers on the bike for the last time and cycled the four miles to Halkirk. The evening was wonderful. The air was warm and full of the scent of summer. I arrived home at 2100 with a blood sugar level of only 2. I had cycled 565 miles in a mountainous country for two weeks without any problems and the moment I arrived home I needed food. I was fine after I had eaten a sandwich but I felt that if I don’t make demands on my body I am less aware of its needs.

My tour of Norway was very successful. I can clearly remember the events of each day and recall the sense of achievement I felt as I lowered my head to the pillow each night. Most beach-holidays I have had in the Mediterranean countries have provided me with relatively few memorable events. As long as I am capable I intend to continue cycling for pleasure. On my journeys I have met many people, some much older and in much poorer health than me, who were undertaking very arduous activities. One 68 year old I met in a café in Dornoch was cycling to John o Groats from Lands End not long after a triple heart bypass operation. Another gentleman of pensionable age I met in Lairg was on his way from the northernmost tip of mainland Britain at Dunnet Head to the southernmost tip at The Lizard in Cornwall. He was doing it on foot. He had spent a day of heavy rain walking from an estate worker’s cottage at Loch Choire Lodge to Lairg. He told me that he had spent most of his life in the British army and that, after his wife had died, he needed to set demanding objectives to maintain an interest in life. Walking the length of mainland Britain certainly provided him with that. I spent an enjoyable evening in his company at the Sutherland Arms Hotel in Lairg. I wonder what he is doing now.

Norway was everything I could have wished for. The weather was fantastic, the facilities were of a high quality and the scenery was breathtaking. Throughout the two and a half weeks from leaving and returning to Halkirk, I felt a great sense of adventure. Using the foreign currency, negotiating the Norwegian road system, eating the food, speaking with the people, and seeing the countryside provided me with experiences that I will remember for many years.

I am currently planning my next trip. I intend to cycle along the Pyrenees from Bilbao to Portbou and then return to Bilbao by train to catch the ferry back to Portsmouth.

Last modified: Sunday August 26, 2018 21:29